2nd straight year of calls for a lawmaker’s ouster

Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

For the second year in a row, the House hovers on the edge of moral turmoil and the potential ouster of a member.

Twice this year, Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, has been recorded making inflammatory comments about race and immigration, and stories of private comments he made away from cameras and recording devices have come to light.

In June, he lamented that there aren’t “enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s public schools.

In November, he said African Americans “don’t blend in.”

Now he faces numerous calls for his resignation, including from prominent members of his own party, and suggestions that he be recalled or expelled from the House if he refuses.

The controversial episode has parallels to the lead up to the 2018 legislative session.

In November 2017, the Arizona Capitol Times reported on a series of sexual harassment accusations made against then-Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. Soon after, he was suspended from his duties as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee amid calls for him to leave the Legislature altogether.

Shooter wouldn’t quit, and ultimately he was expelled February 1 by his fellow House members by a 56-3 vote.

Unsurprisingly, Shooter was among the three who voted against the motion. So was Stringer, who lamented on the House floor the process that had led his colleagues to that point.

“I must vote no,” Stringer said that day. “And I hope that this procedure is never followed again. I would hate to be a victim, I would hate for any of you to be subject to this kind of a process.”

Stringer’s sin differs from Shooter, whose expulsion stemmed from graphic sexual comments he made toward women and men, including lobbyists and his fellow lawmakers. Investigators hired by the House also determined his actions, including lewd hand gestures and notes left for a fellow lawmaker, created a hostile work environment in violation of House policies.

Although Stringer’s words weren’t sexual or graphic, they have also had an impact on his colleagues and constituents, leading some to believe he simply cannot be an effective lawmaker anymore.

Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa. (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Special for Arizona Capitol Times.
Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Special for Arizona Capitol Times.

Swift action

House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, was quick to take action after the Phoenix New Times reported on Stringer’s latest comments on November 30.

In a written statement, Bowers said the comments were “vile” and had personally offended him. He asked Stringer to resign as chair of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee that day and removed him entirely from the committee Stringer had fought for years to create.

Bowers has since dissolved the reform committee, and the issues that would have gone before it will be absorbed into the House Judiciary Committee, from which Stringer was also removed. Bowers additionally stripped Stringer of his seat on the chamber’s Education Committee, though he remains on the Government Committee.

Not everyone has been satisfied by the punishment, but Bowers told the Capitol Times he believes he has sanctioned Stringer appropriately and will go no further.

“The Constitution permits the Legislature to expel a member for their behavior but not for their beliefs or views, however repugnant they may be,” he said.

Instead, Bowers will leave the decision up to the voters of Legislative District 1, who just a month ago overwhelmingly re-elected Stringer. They could now choose to launch a recall effort against the lawmaker five days after he is sworn into office.

“That’s up to the people of District One,” Bowers said. “It sounds like they’re plenty upset and that that’s a course that they could take.”

On December 6, the newly elected House Democratic leadership – Reps. Charlene Fernandez, Randy Friese, Reginald Bolding and Athena Salman – sent a letter to Bowers saying he had not gone far enough. They agreed with his “well-reasoned rationale” for removing Stringer from three of his committee assignments, but they argued the same logic must apply to his remaining seat.

Additionally, they asked that Bowers call for a vote to censure Stringer if he does not resign before session begins on January 14.

“In November, Arizona voters chose to send one of the most diverse groups of legislators that we’ve ever seen (to the Capitol),” the Democrats wrote. “What our caucus celebrates as a symbol of our country’s unique strength and progress, Rep. David Stringer clearly sees as an existential threat to the American way of life.”

Friese, the incoming assistant minority leader, said while Stringer has already proven himself an ineffective legislator to his district, it’s too early to determine if he’ll be a drag on the entire body of the House.

If that turns out to be so, Democrats could make the case that Stringer is creating a hostile work environment in violation of House policy, Friese said.

“I think that there will be a hyper focus on how Mr. Stringer interacts with the body… as a whole, and what environment does that create,” he said.


Stringer’s views may have attracted widespread attention this year, but they came as no surprise to some in Yavapai County who’ve known the Republican for years.

Long before either recorded episode, Stringer reportedly made numerous other disparaging remarks that left the impression he was, as Prescott City Councilwoman Alexa Scholl put it, “morally flawed” and unfit for office.

Jonathan Conant, treasurer of the Yavapai County Bar Association and a Republican in LD1, said Stringer has been more careful with his words in the past, but he’s been emboldened the longer he’s got away with it.

“I feel dirty when I’m around him,” Conant said, describing Stringer as a man who is easily frustrated and quick to lash out with “morally reprehensible” speech.

He recalled several conversations with Stringer that suggested the lawmaker holds anti-Semitic views in addition to the disparaging beliefs he has expressed about people of color.

In July 2017, Conant’s wife Ali was a teacher and felt personally attacked when a conversation with Stringer about education turned “scary.”

She wrote about the interaction in a Facebook post, recalling someone present during the conversation who told Stringer he didn’t know who he was speaking to.

“At this point Representative Stringer looked directly at me and said, ‘I know exactly who I am speaking to,’” she wrote. “‘I see the San Francisco t-shirt with the peace sign and that… that…. that…Star of David. Oh, I know exactly who I am speaking to. She’s advertising it!’”

Even if giving Stringer the benefit of the doubt, Conant said Stringer’s choice of words tells a different story.

“He could be doing the best thing for the state, but if the appearance is not that, he’s not serving the state,” Conant said.

What’s next?

Following Stringer’s comments about “white kids” in Arizona schools in June, Gov. Doug Ducey called on Stringer to resign, arguing his words disqualified him from serving in the Legislature. It’s an opinion Ducey reiterated after Stringer’s latest episode.

AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines has also sought Stringer’s resignation, and the Prescott City Council voted on December 4 to pass a resolution adding to the demands that he step down.

Despite the outcry, Stringer has given no indication he’ll yield.

Over the summer, he defended his June comments as an honest attempt to discuss race, and appeared at Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles to deliver an apology some found lacking. Since the Phoenix New Times report on his latest comments, Stringer has made no public statements, nor has he returned multiple requests for comment.

His fate may rest in the hands of his constituents, as Bowers and some Republicans balk at further punishment.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he doesn’t see representatives going so far as to expel Stringer. While Shope said he personally has no love for the lawmaker, expelling Stringer for what amounts to his beliefs is a step too far for most lawmakers.

“I don’t think he deserves to be there,” Shope said. “But by God, the people in his district knew what he said a few months ago, and they sent him back.”

“Voters can be wrong,” Conant said.

The results may be different if given another chance, Conant said. That could happen if Stringer were ousted, be it by recall, impeachment or expulsion. Conant suggested that Stringer could be impeached under Article VIII of the Arizona Constitution, arguing his conduct constitutes malfeasance. And a petition is being circulated among attorneys in Yavapai County to ask the House to expel Stringer.

“People are tired. Do something once, shame on you. Do something twice, shame on me,” Conant said.

Pressure to do something may mount as more reporting on Stringer emerges. He has already been caught on tape twice, Shope noted, and more could come.

“Don’t you gotta think there are other recordings of Stringer that are going to come out? This is just going to be a slow leak that continues,” Shope said. “Do we get to the point where somebody’s personal feelings on race are an expellable offense? I don’t know.”

Ben Giles contributed to this report.

4 Republican lawmakers line up for race to run House

Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa)
Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa)

At least one candidate for speaker of the House hopes the crowded race plays to his advantage.

Up until the August 28 primary election, the speaker’s race appeared to be a two-way contest between Reps. Darin Mitchell and Rusty Bowers.

But with Mitchell’s defeat in the primary, several other candidates have declared their intentions to run for the chamber’s top position.

Republican lawmakers will meet right after the general election to elect the new speaker and other leaders. Democrats will also meet to elect their leadership team.

The speaker’s race is now shaping up to be a four-way contest. Bowers, who previously served as majority leader in the Senate in the late 1990s and helped lead budget and water policy discussions this session, is joined by Majority Whip Kelly Townsend, Rep. Mark Finchem, a prominent member of the most conservative faction of the House, and Rep. Noel Campbell, who hopes members look to him when they can’t come to a consensus on any of the other three candidates.

Townsend, a three-term lawmaker from Mesa, said she is interested in running for speaker to continue building off of what current House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, has done in the past two years.

Unite the caucus

As speaker, Townsend said she would work to unite the GOP caucus and build an effective team that utilizes all House members’ strengths to push through legislation that will positively affect Arizona residents.

She said she has always been inclined to lead the chamber and this being her last term in the House, she jumped at the opportunity. She said she has proven she is a strong leader through her work as an aviation mechanic in the U.S. Navy, as whip the past two years, and as the lead organizer of the Arizona Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention last fall.

Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa)
Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa)

“If you want to know Kelly Townsend and how I run as a leader … if you want to see how I would be like as a speaker, look at the convention,” she said. “I put everyone to work. It wasn’t the Kelly show. There were a lot of people involved in making that a success.”

If Townsend is elected speaker, she will become only the second woman to hold that position. Jane Dee Hull served as speaker from 1989-1992.

But her decision to seek the speakership comes after a tumultuous tenure as majority whip. In February, Townsend said rumors of an effort to oust her as majority whip were true. She said at the time that several of her colleagues were unhappy that she called for Don Shooter’s resignation following the release of the House’s sexual harassment report, and that some of her colleagues felt like she was “protecting” Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, whom they felt should have been reprimanded for having a relationship with former House staffer Brian Townsend.

In March, The Arizona Republic published a story about an inappropriate comment Townsend accused Mesnard of making about Ugenti-Rita’s clothing, which opened the door to a renewed effort to oust her as majority whip.

Finchem said he is running for the chamber’s top spot with Mitchell’s blessing, and that the move was part of a contingency plan that the Liberty Caucus, a self-identified group of conservative members, had in place in the event that any of its members who were seeking a leadership position weren’t re-elected.

The Oro Valley Republican had previously announced that he was running for majority leader. Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, who had also announced he is running for majority leader, has said he will not jump into the speaker’s race, which Finchem said made him the “natural” choice to replace Mitchell.

He said while Bowers boasts a lot of support, he believes he can get the necessary votes to win.

‘A solid bloc’

Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley)
Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley)

“I already have a solid bloc of votes that are hard ‘yesses,’ some from elected members, some from candidates yet to be elected. And I think there is a pathway for me to collect enough votes to become the next speaker,” he said, adding that some of the votes are from people who were supporting Mitchell.

If elected speaker, Finchem said two of his major goals are to improve the image of the House and develop members’ and staffs’ skills. He said he would be a pragmatic leader who could appease both conservatives and moderates.

Campbell, of Prescott, said that while he thinks his candidacy is a longshot, he views himself as the “compromise candidate” and he hopes other members see him in the same light.

“Between you, me and the fencepost, it’s not very likely to happen. But if things get drawn out, I’d like the members to know that they can look at me and consider me for the position,” Campbell said. “The way I look at it is if it’s not him, and it’s not that guy, maybe it’s Campbell, the compromise candidate.”

Campbell said he isn’t actively campaigning for the speakership or trying to line up votes.

Both Campbell and Finchem said with Mitchell out of the picture, it has opened up the speaker’s race and given members more options.

A healthy discussion

Rep. Noel Campbell (R-Prescott)
Rep. Noel Campbell (R-Prescott)

Campbell said the crowded race will lead to a healthy discussion among members about who will best lead the chamber, rather than having the position come down to a two-way race or it being a “slam dunk” as it has been in the past.

He said the competition will force candidates to present their case for why they should become speaker rather than just lobbying their friends for support.

“Whoever wins, wins and I’ll support them,” Campbell sid. “I know what I bring to the table. I’m not the smartest guy and I’m not super knowledgeable about all of the procedures, but I bring common sense. I get along with people and I can understand their viewpoints. And that comes from being an old guy. I would hope that I can do it well and I just thought there should be more of a choice for the members.”

Though at the moment it appears to be a four-way race, the field could be narrowed down by the November general election as candidates begin to line up votes. And the speakership could again be upended if any of the candidates fail to be re-elected.

It’s also not unlikely that other members might jump into the race leading up to the general election. Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Phoenix, denied rumors that she is seeking the speakership, though she didn’t completely rule out the idea.

“It’s not something I’m thinking about right now,” she said, and added that she is focused on her re-election bid in Legislative District 18. “Frankly, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from members and from constituents about running for speaker, but at this time, I’m not interested in running for speaker. Granted things might change. It’s still months away.”

ACLU to spend big on voter education of Maricopa County Attorney race

From left are candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Democrat Julie Gunnigle and Republican Allister Adel
From left are candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Democrat Julie Gunnigle and Republican Allister Adel

The ACLU of Arizona is going to spend nearly $1 million to inform 300,000 registered voters about the Maricopa County Attorney’s race.

Analise Ortiz, campaign strategist for the ACLU of Arizona, said the total is closer to $850,000 and will be evenly distributed between campaign mailers, digital advertising and phone banking. She said the spending has been ongoing since the August 4 primary election, where only the Democratic race was competitive, but the bulk of the money will come for the general election between appointed incumbent Allister Adel, the Republican, and her Democratic challenger, Julie Gunnigle. 

“It will be a nonpartisan voter education effort to inform voters about the importance of this race and policy differences between the two candidates,” Ortiz said. 

The County Attorney race is widely seen as one of the most competitive races in Arizona this election cycle where the county, which has one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation, has an open seat for a full four-year term and is guaranteed to elect the first woman to lead the office. 

The ACLU does not endorse candidates, and Ortiz said the progressive organization’s efforts will only aim to inform voters on who is running, what the office does and oversees and what issues are on the ballot this year.

“There is so much at stake when it comes to reproductive freedom in the county attorney’s race and the reason for that is because Roe v. Wade is at risk,” Ortiz  said, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett who the left believes will be the deciding vote to overturn the landmark 1973 decision that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. 

“It’s very important to understand how states respond to reproductive freedom –– and what we know is, in Arizona, if Roe is overturned, abortion could become illegal,” she said. 

Ortiz said when Gunnigle was asked in March, she committed to not prosecuting abortion whereas Adel said she has an ethical and legal obligation to enforce the law.

To help address other issues for the two candidates, Ortiz said the ACLU is relying on a questionnaire the group sent candidates during the primary, but Adel did not participate. The other issues they want voters to know are ending prosecution for low-level drug offenses and creating a completely independent prosecuting unit for cases of police brutality.

On marijuana charges, Ortiz did mention how a ballot initiative, Proposition 207 –– formerly known as Smart and Safe Arizona, is on the ballot and would decriminalize marijuana up to 2.5 ounces and create a path for record expungement which does not currently exist in state law.

Ortiz reiterated that this voter outreach program will be “policy driven” rather than candidate driven, since the ACLU does not endorse candidates.

“We really want to push both candidates to commit to ending the prosecutions of low level marijuana offenses … to commit to creating an independent prosecutor unit for cases of police brutality [and] we want voters to be aware that if Roe is overturned, their county attorney could charge someone with a crime for seeking an abortion,” Ortiz said. 

Digital ads began running on October 6, one day before ballots are mailed to voters, addressing police brutality and reproductive freedom and voters in Maricopa County can expect to see mailers soon.

Allen holds off Dem challenger Carlisle

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake)
Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake)

Despite Democrats’ best efforts, Sen. Sylvia Allen isn’t going anywhere.

The Snowflake Republican surged to a commanding lead overnight against Democrat Wade Carlisle, continuing her biennial tradition of holding the Legislative District 6 seat for the Republican Party.

Allen has now won three consecutive terms in the northern Arizona district, and did so again in routine fashion.

After early ballot results gave Allen a narrow lead of a few hundred votes on election, day-of voting reports from Gila and Navajo counties helped her surge to a commanding lead. Allen also narrowly won the majority of the vote in Yavapai County, while Carlisle, the vice mayor of Holbrook, handily won in Coconino County. A nearly identical scenario played out on election night two years ago, when Allen beat Democrat Nikki Bagley.

Carlisle, a railroad worker, was backed by a healthy dose of independent expenditures hoping to boost his campaign and harm Allen, a conservative Republican who’s routinely targeted as a beatable candidate.

Allen has proven immune to those efforts, thanks in part to her own penchant for fundraising – she raised nearly $70,000 for the campaign – and a healthy dose of spending by the Senate Victory PAC to help ensure the chamber stays in control of Republicans, as it has been for more than a decade.

For Democrats, the loss is a blow to their chances of picking up any seats in the Arizona Senate, where they’ve spent the better part of the last six years on the short end of a 17-13 split.

—LD6 Senate by the numbers

100 percent of precincts reporting in Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai counties


Sylvia Allen 52 percent


Wade Carlisle 48 percent

APS withholds spending in Corp Comm primary elections

Light bulb on black background with copy text
Light bulb on black background with copy text

The state’s largest utility is staying out of the Republican primary race for two open Arizona Corporation Commission seats, risking a shakeup that could have serious ramifications for the company.

Whether the literal powerhouse that is Arizona Public Service has had a change of heart about its history of election spending or recent events have given the company pause, only company insiders can know. A representative of the company declined to comment for this story.

But by not spending in the primary, APS leaves itself vulnerable to unfriendly newcomers and a commission willing to take another crack at retail electric deregulation.

That would open up the energy retail and generation markets to competition for utilities like APS that are currently allowed to operate as regulated monopolies.

Eight candidates are vying for the open seats this year, five of whom are running as Republicans.

Tom Forese (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Tom Forese (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Incumbents Tom Forese, commission chairman, and Justin Olson were running in the Republican primary as a slate but recently parted ways. Though Forese pushed back on rumors of the rift earlier this week, their split became clear when Olson criticized him during a Republican primary debate August 14.

Commission observers have speculated that Forese’s lackluster campaign could cost him the election.

That could be enough to pave the way for Rodney Glassman, who has staked out a clear anti-APS position on the campaign trail. Also in the running are Jim O’Connor and Eric Sloan, both of whom support reviewing last year’s APS rate hike.

Olson has also been known to take positions that conflict with the company’s interests, expressing willingness to dig into election spending in 2014 and opening the door to the deregulation conversation. Both are topics Commissioner Bob Burns is fond of as an ardent APS foe.

Three Democrats are also facing off in the primary. Former Commissioners Bill Mundell and Sandra Kennedy have teamed up against Kiana Maria Spears, who has been criticized for her campaign treasurer’s three-decade history with APS. Mundell previously served on the commission as a Republican but has said he switched parties because of APS’s influence over his GOP colleagues.

Ultimately, seven of these eight candidates are likely votes in favor of at least entertaining deregulation.

Competition would radically alter the environment in which APS currently operates.

As a legal monopoly regulated by the Corporation Commission, APS has guaranteed customers, guaranteed growth and guaranteed profits. The latter translated to spending power in the 2016 election cycle, during which APS was not shy about backing its allies and spending against its foes. However, the company has categorically refused to say if it was the source of millions in dark money spent in 2014.

But such activities have brought APS and its benefactors under scrutiny.

Vernon Parker
Vernon Parker (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker said it was a bad move for APS to start spending in the Corporation Commission elections to begin with. Parker ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the commission in 2014. He said he has no doubt APS was the source of nearly $900,000 in dark money that was spent against him in the Republican primary that year – ironic because he said he likely would have sided with the company more often than not.

He said APS’s spending has tainted the commission and those perceived to be beholden to the company, offering Forese as an example. Now, Parker suspects the so-called “Ghost Lobby” trial in particular has made APS reticent and waiting to see what more could unravel.

“Operation Ghost Lobby” was the name given to the federal bribery case brought against former Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, his wife Sherry Pierce, lobbyist Jim Norton and utility owner George Johnson. The case went to trial but ended in a hung jury, and has since been dismissed.

Parker said that case just scratched the surface, and there’s more not yet known that could expose APS.

“Ghost Lobby” stemmed from “Operation High Grid,” a larger investigation into spending in the 2014 elections, widely believed to include APS’s involvement.

“Hopefully, they’ve seen that being involved in the Corp Comm races can drag them into things that they probably should not be involved in,” Parker said.

Then there’s the far more optimistic possibility he entertained: “No pun intended here, but hopefully they’ve seen the light that it’s best to let the voters make up their own minds.”

But attorney Court Rich, of Rose Law Group, scoffed at the notion that APS has “seen the light” and decided that it’s inappropriate to spend in elections.

“Someone was seriously making that statement?” Rich said. “The idea that APS has decided to get out of politics – there’s no evidence to support that.”

Rich is the director of Rose Law Group’s Renewable Energy Department. His solar energy clients have fought APS for years. While APS hasn’t gotten involved in the Corporation Commission races just yet, it has spent millions on a campaign to keep the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative off the ballot.

If approved, the initiative would mandate that 50 percent of electricity generated in Arizona come from renewable sources by 2030. APS and its allies argue that such a high mandate, which far exceeds current Corporation Commission mandates, would increase power costs.

And Rich anticipates APS will “continue to spend like crazy in the general election.” For now, the company seems comfortable with the race and is simply waiting to see who comes out on top after the primary. Perhaps then a negative campaign against its least favorite candidates would be the most prudent use of the company’s money, Rich said, or maybe APS doesn’t anticipate a major shakeup at the commission in any event.

No candidate will ever say he or she is beholden to APS, Rich said, but even an unwilling Republican would likely be better for the company than a Democrat on the commission.

“Certainly it’s fashionable for candidates on either side to not speak highly of APS right now,” he said. “But maybe they have a better feeling about some of the primary candidates and they don’t think they have to worry.”

With deregulation back on the table, though, APS may have to rethink its strategy entirely.

Bob Burns (Photo by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services)
Bob Burns (Photo by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services)

Commissioner Bob Burns, who will leave office in 2020 because of term limits, insists it’s re-regulation.

“That was a $5 million-plus word fought over in 2013,” he said, referring to the last time the commission considered the issue.

At first, all five commissioners at the time were on board, Burns recalled, but APS turned it into a “public political campaign.”

“And then all hell broke loose, and money started flying,” he said. “I guess you could say it was never in the control of the commission.”

The effort died soon after.

Then-Commissioner Gary Pierce flipped and moved to end discussion of the issue after the commission was advised that deregulation would likely require a voter-approved amendment to the Arizona Constitution. Then-Commissioner Brenda Burns was the only dissenting vote as her colleagues voted 4-1 to end the debate.

Bob Burns said APS sees the prospect of competition as a significant threat to its income.

He’s heard the phrase “utility death spiral” thrown around in years past, but he doesn’t hear that anymore and disagrees with the premise anyway.

Burns sees technology on the rise and capable of altering the status quo. Even if that means APS won’t be in the energy generation business in the future, he said distribution needs will still give the company space to function.

And that space may well be APS’s future: a distribution monopoly but perhaps not much more.

Arizona House Speaker Mesnard poised for move to Senate

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (Photo by Katie Campbell/ Arizona Capitol Times)
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (Photo by Katie Campbell/ Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard is likely going to be a senator, and perhaps the next Senate president.

The Chandler Republican spent the last two years guiding the House of Representatives through a tumultuous period that saw lawmakers make history by expelling one of their colleagues. Termed out of the House, Mesnard is now leading the race in Legislative District 17 to represent it in the Senate.

With early ballots reported, Mesnard is handily defeating Chandler Democratic Steve Weichert, who also ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2016.

If Mesnard’s lead holds, he’s got another race to run on Nov. 7: He’s vying to become the next Arizona Senate president, and would succeed the current senator from LD17, Republican Steve Yarbrough, in that role.

Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, is also running for the top leadership role in the Senate.


LD28 Senate by the numbers

Early votes  


J.D. Mesnard 52.8 percent


Steve Weichert 47.2 percent

Arizona Legislature closes session with big issues undone


The Arizona Legislature adjourned its 2018 session early Friday, leaving without taking action on two of Gov. Doug Ducey’s biggest initiatives of the year, a water policy overhaul and an ambitious school safety proposal that fell victim to concerns about the civil rights.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also failed to repeal a contentious school voucher expansion law that is set to be on the November ballot after opponents of the 2017 measure gathered enough signatures last summer to block its implementation. The fate of the voucher expansion was caught up in a momentous push by public school teachers who rose up in early March and eventually went on strike, forcing the Republican governor and lawmakers to award them with big raises and more school funding in the budget, although not enough to meet the demands of teachers who are ending a six-day strike and heading back to class on Friday.
Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Bob Worsley both went on record Thursday opposing any repeal, with Worsley calling the issue “kryptonite” and Brophy McGee simply saying “it needs to go to the ballot.” With all Democrats opposed, there was no way it could pass the Senate.
“The huge grassroots group, and I’ve talked to them multiple times, checked with them multiple times, they’re willing to take it to the ballot,” Brophy McGee said. “That’s where they want it to go.”
Teachers and other education advocates banded together as Save Our Schools Arizona gathered more than 100,000 signatures to block the universal voucher bill last summer, a move that kept it from taking effect until voters statewide could weigh in.
They argued that private school vouchers siphoned money from the state’s cash-strapped public schools, while backers said they give parents a choice about where their children attend school.
There has been talk all session of majority Republicans repealing or replacing it to negate the ballot measure.
Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard presided over their final sessions Thursday afternoon and evening, after shepherding a $10.4 billion budget through the Legislature in a marathon session that began Wednesday night and ended after daybreak. The budget provides $300 million teachers for 9 percent teacher raises in the fall, with a promise of 5 percent raises in each of the next two years.
The school safety proposal died because of a provision that would allow family members to obtain a court order to remove guns from a person at risk of committing a shooting, and allowing them to be ordered held for a mental evaluation. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that was a bridge too far because it essentially could incarcerate someone without adequate due process.
“The members in the House were just concerned with the due process,” Farnsworth said. “One of the real challenges we had is that it was a civil action but it looked very much like a criminal action in its consequences.”
Democrats also opposed the measure because it didn’t contain universal background checks and other provisions they wanted.
“We don’t have any support at all,” Farnsworth said. “The Democrats are off, probably most of the Republicans are concerned and off, so…”
Lawmakers made final decisions on several hot-button pieces of legislation Thursday evening, including changes to the state’ redistricting and clean election commissions.
The changes to the redistricting commission approved by voters in 2000 failed in the Senate late Thursday. It would have asked voters to boost membership to nine from five and require that all legislative districts are within 2 percent population differences.
Lawmakers did pass a measure that will ask voters to make major changes in the state’s public elections financing system. The measure would allow a committee appointed by the governor to review rules adopted by the Citizens Clean Election Commission. It also would bar candidates who run using public financing from using any of that money for services provided by political parties.
The commission opposes the measure’s provision requiring rule reviews by the governor’s regulatory review commission. Democrats opposed to the measure say that puts a politically-appointed agency in charge of the independent commission’s authority, while Republicans said it prevents gaming of the system and adds oversight other state offices must follow. The bipartisan five-member commission was created by voters in 1998, and the measure will be on the November ballot.

Arizona public schools find ways to adapt to funding cuts

Students in Tucson's Amphitheater district receive Chromebooks paid for by the nonprofit Amphi Foundation to help them learn. The foundation funds programs the district would not be able to cover. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)
Students in Tucson’s Amphitheater district receive Chromebooks paid for by the nonprofit Amphi Foundation to help them learn. The foundation funds programs the district would not be able to cover. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)

Arizona consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation for its per-student funding, a fact often cited by advocates hoping for a better financial picture for the state’s schools.

But, as funding levels continue to lag years after the Great Recession, schools find ways to make do.

Some turn to the internet, searching for donations. Many crowd kids into classrooms or have principals step in as teachers. Others go to four-day weeks.

Environmental innovations, like solar panels and artificial grass, can help cut costs. And there’s even a company dedicated to helping schools find ways to save money on things like utilities.

The most obvious way to adjust for low state funding is increasing taxes at the local level through bonds and overrides. But voters aren’t always willing to support tax increases, especially in a Republican-led state like Arizona.

Even so, don’t discount the creativity of educators, say those who have worked in schools and found ways to save money.

There is, of course, the question of whether schools should be forced into cutting costs creatively by low funding levels.

“It’s getting old, and it’s high time that our Legislature steps up to the plate and starts funding public schools the way they should,” said Jim Lee, superintendent of the Paradise Valley Unified School District.


Dozens of teachers ask friends, family and strangers to pitch in on basic classroom costs through crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and DonorsChoose. Do a simple search for your city and the word “teacher” and you can find a seemingly endless stream of teachers to help.

Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom, so he created a GoFundMe to ask for monetary help. (Screenshot from GoFundMe)
Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom, so he created a GoFundMe to ask for monetary help. (Screenshot from GoFundMe)

Tanner Nielsen, a 21-year-old new teacher, wants to create a Super Mario Bros-themed classroom to excite his future students. The second grade teacher at Union Elementary School in Tolleson has raised more than $300 so far.

He said he has wanted to have a Mario classroom as long as he’s known he wanted to be a teacher. The money will help him buy the supplies needed to make the dream a reality.

“I want to be the teacher that I wish I had when I was in second grade,” he said.

One GoFundMe takes a big swing, asking for $14 million to match Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed teacher raise. The campaign, started in February, has raised $195 so far.

But crowdfunding is hit-or-miss and requires legwork – including near-constant sharing on social media – from teachers or their supporters. There’s also a certain level of fatigue from people on social networks, who are always being asked to give money to GoFundMe campaigns for everything from health care to overseas adoptions.

In some cases, the easier ask may be for specific items, like library books.

More than 30 Arizona schools have received donated books from Kids Need to Read, a 501(c)3 that donates 200 books to libraries in high poverty communities through its Grow Your Library program.

Program director and Phoenix resident Gary Mlodzik was at the Globe Public Library, according to an April blog post, where donations satisfied the area’s “dire need of non-fiction books.”

The local elementary and high schools, he noted, have no libraries of their own.

And William T. Machan Elementary School’s library may be closed this fall after the library aide was fired following federal funding cuts. According to The Arizona Republic, volunteers need to raise $15,000 to keep the library doors open to its largely impoverished student body.


Budget constraints and the state’s ongoing teacher shortage go hand-in-hand. Schools struggle to attract new teachers in large part because of low salaries. In turn, the methods they use to adapt to missing teachers end up saving some money, though educators say they would rather find teachers to fill those vacancies.

Lee, the Paradise Valley superintendent, said there are three main ways schools adapt to vacancies, which end up cutting costs: increasing class sizes, skipping teacher prep periods, and putting principals in front of classrooms.

A few principals in the Paradise Valley district will teach classes, Lee said. One principal has a background in special education, so she filled in in that area when the school couldn’t find substitute teachers, he said.

Classes in the district’s high schools average 35 to 38 students, he said. The class size in smaller for middle and elementary school and depends on the specifics of each school in the large district, Lee said.

Numerous teachers don’t have a prep period and instead teach a class during that time, which increases their take-home pay, but saves the district overall because the person is already on the payroll, Lee said.

“We get awfully creative when we need to,” he said.

Most schools use some of the techniques Lee mentioned to some degree. They all find various ways to help their bottom-lines and do the best they can with the money they’re given, Lee said.

And while he’s proud of the way his district has found new ways to save and earn money, there’s a philosophical question about whether they should have to find gimmicks to get by. State leaders simply must do a better job of funding schools, he said.


For Tucson’s Amphitheater district and many others across the state, a foundation jumps in to help with costs that, under better financial circumstances, would be covered by the schools themselves.

Teachers in Tucson's Amphitheater school district get money for technology and other classrooms needs from the Amphi Foundation, a nonprofit that fills in funding gaps for the district. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)
Teachers in Tucson’s Amphitheater school district get money for technology and other classrooms needs from the Amphi Foundation, a nonprofit that fills in funding gaps for the district. (Photo submitted by Matt Stamp, Amphi Public Schools)

The nonprofit Amphi Foundation started in 1983 and was mainly funded by district employees for many years, though Executive Director Leah Noreng said it’s now mainly supported by the community, from parents to local businesses to corporate sponsors to grants.

“The sad reality is that we’re supporting some things that are otherwise unfunded. We’re not just adding to the top, we’re filling in where these things wouldn’t be funded otherwise,” Noreng said.

The foundation provides some services typical of charities, like a clothing bank and shoe program for needy students. But it also helps fund technology in classrooms, like laptops and 3D printers. And it recently started a mini-grant program, topped out at $500 per teacher, to help pay for equipment or new programs.

The foundation will be giving a $200 startup grant to every new teacher in the district to help them fill their classrooms with needed supplies, she said.

“We don’t want our teachers to have to pay for things out of pocket. No other profession exists where you’re expected to pay for things out of pocket and not get reimbursed by your company. Teachers are doing that every day,” Noreng said.

If the Amphi Foundation didn’t exist, the programs would simply go unfunded, she said. And while she’s constantly trying to grow the fundraising base, it’s impossible to keep up with demand in the 14,000-student district.

“Every year, I feel that the burden is even bigger,” she said. “The reality is, I will never be able to raise enough money because the need is so great.”

Partnerships with local businesses have also helped bridge financial gaps through ongoing investments.

Garden Lakes Elementary School students enrolled in the GCON Design and Build Academy gather around a guest speaker. Sponsors like the construction management company invest in a variety of educational programs across the Pendergast Elementary School District. (Photo courtesy of Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir)
Garden Lakes Elementary School students enrolled in the GCON Design and Build Academy gather around a guest speaker. Sponsors like the construction management company invest in a variety of educational programs across the Pendergast Elementary School District. (Photo courtesy of Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir)

Pendergast Elementary School District spokeswoman Nedda Shafir said her district started STEAM (STEM plus arts = science, technology, engineering, arts and math) academies three years ago with the help of business partners that give money to classrooms bearing their brands, building hands-on curriculum without additional costs to the district.

Maricopa Integrated Health Systems sponsors a medical academy exposing students to forensics and medicine, and architecture firm Orcutt Winslow adopted the building design and construction academy where students work with CAD software, a design tool used by professionals in the field. The list goes on.

Those same partners sponsor field trips to their facilities and guest speakers to offer guidance to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders in their elementary programs.

“The businesses are invested. They’re training the workforce of the future, so they’re excited about that,” Shafir said.


A simple Google search will show there’s no shortage of Arizona schools cutting costs with environmentally friendly features, like artificial turf and solar panels.

Shafir from Pendergast Elementary School District said cutting back on appliances like coffeemakers and mini-fridges in classrooms has saved about $20,000 on electricity alone, and other efforts to be more efficient are estimated to have cut the district’s energy costs in half.

But Arredondo Elementary School’s facelift, to be unveiled on August 3, strives to be the model for cost-saving solutions that also create a more comfortable learning environment.

Principal Alison Bruening-Hamati said some classrooms in the old building did not have windows, and lights had to be kept on at all times. Now, in the new facility, every classroom has energy-efficient light fixtures and access to natural light through windows or solar tubes.

Courtney Quesada, a project manager with the Tempe Elementary School District’s facilities department, described the tubes as mini-skylights going from the ceiling of a classroom to the roof where the sun enters the reflective tube.

The added tubes and windows allow the school to “harvest” daylight, Quesada said. Sensors in the classrooms measure how much natural light is allowed in and dim the artificial lighting to save energy.

The cafeteria was equipped with garage doors to let in fresh air in the cooler months rather than relying on A/C, and students are incentivized to turn off unnecessary lighting or utilize outdoor spaces with a weekly Clean and Green Classroom Award.

The upgraded Arredondo Elementary School in Tempe includes an amphitheater with artificial grass. The turf was intended to reduce maintenance costs while also providing an outdoor alternative to indoor classrooms during cooler months. (Photo by Amy Garza/Tempe Elementary School District)
The upgraded Arredondo Elementary School in Tempe includes an amphitheater with artificial grass. The turf was intended to reduce maintenance costs while also providing an outdoor alternative to indoor classrooms during cooler months. (Photo by Amy Garza/Tempe Elementary School District)

Artificial grass in the campus’ outdoor amphitheater and a paved area featuring shade trees have made the school’s outdoor spaces efficient alternatives to indoor classrooms.

While faux turf may be more costly upfront, Quesada said, it pays off over time with little maintenance required.

Bruening-Hamati credited Tempe taxpayers for making the renovations possible through bonding. Without those additional funds, her school and others in the district may not have been so lucky.

“In the state of Arizona, this is really an anomaly at this time because there isn’t a lot of money,” she said. “When it comes down to it, Tempe is really dedicated to their schools.”


Some districts switch to four-day school weeks, hoping to save money on transportation, utilities and administration.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, 53 school districts have four-day weeks – that’s approximately 8 percent of all districts in the state. Most of the four-day districts are in rural areas.

There isn’t a lot of long-term study into how the shortened school weeks affect students, though some research suggests morale and attendance improve for educators and kids. The instructional time remains the same, just in the form of four slightly longer days.

At first blush, it may seem like a district could shave off one-fifth of its budget by cutting out one-fifth of its school days. But the biggest line-item for schools – pay and benefits for teachers – is largely not affected by moving to a four-day week because many still work the same number of hours per week.

A 2011 analysis of the cost-savings aspect of four-day weeks by the Education Commission of the States, a policy think tank, found costs were reduced, albeit minimally. The report said the most a district could save is 5.43 percent by moving to a four-day week, though schools it reviewed saved between 0.4 percent and 2.5 percent on their total annual budget.

The Bisbee Unified School District moved to a four-day week in 2009. According to the ECS report, the district saved $154,000, or 2.5 percent, in its annual budget.


Keith Laake built his entire business on helping other organizations save money.

For a percentage of the savings his staff ultimately identifies, Laake’s Cost Control Associates combs through utility and telecom bills for errors and missed opportunities for less costly rates. Past unnecessary charges can be refunded and ongoing costs can be reduced.

“Even if we were to work with a school district and find nothing, they feel better that they’ve had an expert look it and make sure everything is being billed right and that their costs are optimized,” Laake said. “Fortunately, for most school districts, we do find things.”

And for districts working hard just to “scrape by,” every dollar counts.

The Gilbert Public School District saved more than $40,000 in the first year after the Cost Control Associates audit. The company found more than $10,000 in telecom refunds and an additional $23,000 in annual savings thanks to a rate change. Laake’s staff also saved the district $6,500 annually on electricity.

Teddy Dumlao, finance director for the district, said he believes the savings are really even greater than the initial dollar figure Laake quoted – perhaps tens of thousands of dollars each month when all is said and done.

Because of the audit, Dumlao explained, the district was able to justify energy-efficient updates to facilities, like lighting and air conditioning units, and access federal funds to cover the cost of those improvements.

Dumlao said school districts have been left “hurting and scrambling” in the wake of cuts to state capital funding, so being able to take advantage of more efficient technology has allowed his district to cut costs that could very well cover someone’s salary.

Other districts have seen even greater savings. At Chandler Unified School District, Laake estimated his staff found more than $100,000 in reduced costs there.

And even in smaller districts that may not yield such high dollar figures, Laake said something as simple as cutting utility costs could save jobs.

Arizona Senate race goes to overtime with glacial vote count

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Arizona’s knock-down, all-out Senate race is heading into overtime, as a neck-and-neck contest between two congresswomen collides with Arizona’s sometimes glacial vote-counting procedures.

Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema were separated by a small fraction of the votes tabulated as of early Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots still outstanding.

Though the vast majority of Arizona voters cast their ballots early by mail, those who receive early ballots but then drop them off in person at polling stations on or close to Election Day can jam up the system.

That’s because the state’s most populous county, Maricopa, can take days to count those ballots while they simultaneously tabulate Election Day votes.

The so-called “late earlies” may not be counted until Thursday in the county, where about 60 percent of Arizona’s voters live. Arizona counties with far fewer voters may also face long delays processing those ballots.

That leaves the contentious Senate race a cliffhanger in what’s otherwise shaping up to be another banner Arizona year for Republicans. The GOP has won every statewide race in Arizona over the past decade, and Democrats were hoping Sinema could break that streak.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick was elected to the Tucson-area swing district seat vacated by McSally. Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s mainly northern Arizona seat was too close to call early Wednesday, and the outcome will determine which party gets the majority of the state’s nine member U.S. House delegation.

The election featured heavy statewide turnout of about 60 percent, more in line with a presidential election than a midterm.

The Senate contest was the marquee race, a contest between two champion fundraisers who are no strangers to tight races. McSally lost her first general election by less than 200 votes and won her second by about that many, and Sinema also represents a competitive swing district.

The two are battling over the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who decided not to run for re-election because he realized his criticism of President Donald Trump made it impossible for him to survive politically.

McSally and Sinema have both remade themselves politically. McSally, 52, is a onetime Trump critic who has embraced the president since his election. She has tried to rally Republican voters by emphasizing her military background as the first U.S. female combat pilot while touting her support for the president’s tax cut and other parts of his agenda.

Sinema, 42, is a former Green Party activist who became a Democratic centrist with her first election to the House of Representatives in 2012.

She’s one of the congressional Democrats most likely to vote to back Trump’s agenda but has spent the race hammering McSally for casting a vote for the health bill backed by the president. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which didn’t become law, would have weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In response, McSally criticized Sinema over her shifting views, contending she was still a closet liberal who disrespected the military. Republican ads publicized a 2010 video of Sinema repeating a comedian’s description of Arizona as “the meth lab of democracy.”

McSally also accused Sinema of treason for an offhand comment in a 2002 radio interview with an anti-war talk show host who suggested hypothetically he might join the Taliban. Sinema had responded it would not bother her if she did so.

During her 2016 campaign to be re-elected to her Tucson area swing district House seat, McSally criticized Trump for attacking the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and for a videotape in which the future president bragged about sexually assaulting women.

That earlier criticism of Trump hobbled McSally during this year’s three-way Republican primary for Senate, when challengers attacked her not supportive enough of the president.

Sinema faced no real opposition in the Democratic primary and had months to define herself as a nonpartisan, problem-solving centrist on the airwaves while her allies slammed McSally with attack ads over the Republican’s health care vote.

The candidates and their allies spent more than $90 million in a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Also at stake is Arizona’s role in national elections. Democrats have repeatedly hoped the state’s growing Latino population and influx of more educated professionals would make it competitive.

The Senate race will test that theory and may help determine whether Democrats target Arizona in the 2020 presidential election.


For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Big bucks, negative ads besiege LD17 Senate race

close up of Benjamin Franklin on a hundred dollar bill
close up of Benjamin Franklin on a hundred dollar bill

Four years after Democrat Jennifer Pawlik was told she wasn’t a viable candidate in the Chandler-based Legislative District 17, and two years after she won a House seat, the road to control of the state Senate runs through the Southeast Valley.

And at this point, that road might as well be paved with gold.

With just over two weeks to go before the election, incumbent Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard, Democratic challenger Ajlan Kurdoglu and outside groups have already spent a combined $1.7 million, most of that from deep-pocketed national Democratic organizations intent on flipping the Arizona Legislature.

In LD17, registered Republicans still outnumber Democrats by about 9,500. But Democrats have made significant gains in the district in the past four years – about 10,000 new Democrats registered between 2016 and 2020, compared to just under 4,000 new Republicans. 

Independent voters who supported Mesnard and Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger when they defeated Pawlik in 2016 clearly broke for her in 2018. A general suburban shift from the Republican Party caused by distaste for President Donald Trump, and an influx of transplants drawn to the Southeast Valley by a booming tech sector have made the district a reachable goal for Democrats. 

“LD17, just like our state is changing,” Kurdoglu said. “Our priorities are changing. Frankly, the only thing that is not changing is the stale approach of our current state senator.”

Ajlan Kurdoglu
Ajlan Kurdoglu

In Kurdoglu, who party leaders recruited to run against Mesnard, Democrats found a fresh-faced, enthusiastic candidate who draws on his own experience as a Turkish immigrant to describe the American dream he found in Arizona and how he wants to make that dream a reality for would-be constituents. 

This is Kurdoglu’s first campaign, against a formidable incumbent who has spent almost his entire adult life drafting state policy. Mesnard is counting on his decade of experience in state office to be a selling point for voters during an unprecedented health and economic crisis. 

“You have someone in office now, whether you agree with him on every issue or not, who knows the stuff, who has the experience,” Mesnard said. “We can’t afford the learning curve of someone brand new, who’s never served in any capacity in public service, and is now going to step into one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime.” 

Mesnard, 40, showed up at the Senate almost two decades ago for a research internship and has basically never left the Capitol since, going on to spend eight years as a Senate Republican policy adviser before he resigned to run for an open seat in the House in 2010.

He served eight years in the House, the final two as speaker, before winning a Senate seat in 2018. His roots in the Senate basement showed in the 27-page blueprint he drew up as his campaign for speaker, and in the way he spent last summer drawing up an intricate property tax cut plan that looked like it would move forward before COVID-19 wrecked the state’s budget plans.

Mesnard’s tenure as House speaker was marked by a #MeToo-era reckoning that led him to launch an investigation into several representatives and ultimately lead the call to expel then-Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma — a historic vote Mesnard now features in some campaign ads. He also presided over the chamber during 2018’s massive “Red for Ed” protests, and ended up carrying legislation to raise teacher salaries by 20% over three years. 

The main story of his two years in the Senate, meanwhile, has been perpetual conflict with Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott. Fann narrowly beat Mesnard for the Senate presidency in 2018. Relations between the two have remained frosty, as Mesnard and other conservative lawmakers were stymied in their attempts to pass a different tax cut package in 2019 and prevent the Legislature from adjourning this year. In 2019, he was the sole Republican to vote against the state’s budget because he disliked the tax cut package it contained.

This year, Mesnard also sponsored and passed the bill that has become one of the biggest triggers of attack ads against Republican incumbents – a bill supported by 89 of Arizona’s 90 lawmakers that states that insurance companies in the state cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. 

The new state law lacks the interlocking protections of the Affordable Care Act that were designed to prevent insurance companies from charging patients with pre-existing conditions more or refusing to pay for medical care they need, leading Democratic PACs to use the bill to hammer vulnerable Republican incumbents as bad for health care. 

J.D. Mesnard
J.D. Mesnard

Independent liberal organizations have spent nearly $1 million to attack Mesnard, while GOP organizations have spent just about $400,000 to help him. More than $500,000 of the anti-Mesnard spending appeared in the past week, on top of about $160,000 spent the previous week. 

“Pouring in $160,000 in a single week into a legislative race, even a state Senate race, that is a lot of money,” Mesnard said. “You’ve never seen anything like that before. So that can make a difference, mostly by bringing up my negatives and tearing me down. It’s not really helping the other guy so much as it’s just hurting me.”

Even hardcore Republicans in the district have been targeted by push polls suggesting Mesnard is part of a crime syndicate and wants to forcibly sterilize transgender people. (The sterilization charge stems from the involvement of one of his employers, the conservative legal outfit Alliance Defending Freedom, in a European human rights case over whether countries could require transgender people who wished to change the sex designations on their birth certificates to first undergo sexual reassignment surgery; Mesnard said he still doesn’t know what crime syndicate he allegedly belongs to and that charge has not been repeated in other attacks.) 

A million dollars goes a long way in a district with about 150,000 voters, and voters and candidates have been inundated with internet ads. Mesnard, a self-described Trekkie who keeps a Star Trek channel on streaming in the background while he works from home, said nearly every commercial break now brings at least one ad bashing him.

He said he remains optimistic about his chances of returning to the Senate. 

“I think it could go either way, but I feel like on the whole, I have more working in my favor than against me,” Mesnard said. “I feel like I’m gonna win and we’re working hard, but I also acknowledge that I don’t know how much they’re gonna spend to get through this race. I mean, they seem to have unlimited funds.”

Kurdoglu, likewise, said he is confident that he’ll be sworn into the Senate in January.  

Republican independent expenditure groups, led by a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Doug Ducey, have worked to paint Kurdoglu and other Democrats running this cycle as too far-left for Arizona. 

“I brush it off,” he said. “My life story is out there. What I want to do is out there. I explain everything as much as I can.” 

Around the same time Mesnard was starting a legislative internship, Kurdoglu arrived in Glendale to begin master’s courses at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He fell in love with the state and decided to stay, eventually starting retail furniture stores and becoming a naturalized citizen. 

Those early years as an immigrant building a life and business from scratch left Kurdoglu with an unfailing sense of optimism, leaving him confident that he and fellow Democrats will be able to pass legislation to improve health care and education in the state with bipartisan support and a signature from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

“I’m sure if we really put partisan politics, gamesmanship as they call it, aside, and we put our heads together, we can find a way to make that happen,” he said. “Come on, this is the United States of America, the biggest country on Earth, so we should be able to solve these problems.” 



Bill to deregulate hair styling introduced

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)

The way Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita figures it, no one ever died from a bad hair style or blow dry — at least not literally.

So the Scottsdale Republican wants to repeal a state law which says you can’t style hair in Arizona without at least 1,100 hours of training at a state-licensed school.

Ugenti-Rita said she was approached by lobbyists for Drybar, a decade-old national firm that specializes in quickie blowouts. That can include everything from a shampoo to simply putting someone’s hair up with pins.

The firm already has three locations in the state.

Only thing is, to do even just that in Arizona requires a state license, something Ugenti-Rita said could cost close to $10,000.

“When they told me about the scope of their business, you could clearly see that it was an impediment to them hiring, and for someone to be hired, simply to hire them for blowing out hair — blowouts they’re called — and style,” she said. Ugenti-Rita said what’s being done there is far different than a beauty salon.

“You can’t even get hair cutting,” she said. “They don’t have scissors there.”

Nor do they do things like hair coloring or use chemicals to make a perm.

“They blow it out, style, arrange, they curl,” Ugenti-Rita said. “Maybe they use some bobby pins.”

Bottom line, she said, is her belief that nothing being done there should require a state-issued license.

“I don’t see a public health or safety issue,” she said.

Her HB 2011 would create an exception from licensing for those who “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot iron or shampoo and condition hair” as long as there are no “reactive chemicals to permanently straighten, curl or alter the structure of the hair.”

“The worst that can happen is you don’t like the way your hair is styled,” Ugenti-Rita explained, as there would be no cutting and no permanent change to someone’s hair.

Prior efforts to create exemptions have been met with sometimes fierce opposition from the cosmetology community — the people who already have the licenses and the board which regulates them, which is dominated by those in the field and those who teach at schools which are now the precursors of licensing.

As far back as 1983, Douglas Norton, who was the state auditor general at the time, recommended to lawmakers that they scrap all laws requiring licenses of all cosmetologists or barbers.

“Licensing is not justified because of possible harm from the use of barber implements or chemical solutions because such items are readily available to and routinely used by the general public,” Norton said. But legislators ignored the report amid stiff opposition from the regulated community.

There has been some move toward deregulation more recently, albeit on a piecemeal basis.

In 2004, over the objection of cosmetologists, lawmakers decided that people who only braid hair for a living no longer have to be licensed.

Seven years later, the board agreed to stop trying to regulate “threading,” the practice of using thread to pluck eyebrows. But that came only after the Institute for Justice filed suit.

And earlier this year, Gov. Doug Ducey personally interceded when the board sought to shut down the operation of Juan Carlos Montes de Oca for giving free haircuts to the homeless in a Tucson park.

There was no immediate response from the cosmetology board to the proposal.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss has not yet seen the measure. But he suggested the proposal would get the approval of his boss if it makes its way through the Legislature.

“The governor’s bias would be toward making it easier for people to do it, especially if we’re not talking about anything that would jeopardize public health or safety,” Scarpinato said.




Bowie holding on to Senate seat in East Valley

Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Early voting poll results show Sen. Sean Bowie defending his Senate seat against his old rival, Republican Frank Schmuck.

A Chandler Democrat, Bowie last beat Schmuck in 2016, when the two ran head-to-head for the open Senate seat in Legislative District 18. Now Bowie, the incumbent, is leading Schmuck again on election night.

Bowie spent the last two years in office carving a place in the Senate as a moderate Democrat, knowing that in a competitive swing district like LD18, which spans parts of Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, a bipartisan streak is a necessity. A voting analysis, conducted by the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, found that Bowie voted alike with Republican senators more than any other Democratic lawmaker in 2017.

The vote that perhaps best demonstrated Bowie’s willingness to buck party trends was his yes vote on Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget plan to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent raise over three years. Bowie was one of a handful of Democrats who cast votes in favor of the proposal, avoiding a potential attack from Schmuck on the campaign trail.

While Bowie touted his votes for public school funding, he attacked Schmuck, a Tempe Air Force veteran, for a position Schmuck took in 2016: A proposal to phase out the state’s income tax.

Bowie labeled Schmuck’s prior support of the plan as untenable given the need for even more funding for K-12 schools.


LD18 Senate by the numbers

Early votes 


Frank Schmuck 44.1 percent


Sean Bowie 55.9 percent

Brnovich re-elected despite expensive attacks from clean energy group

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich easily defeated Democratic rival January Contreras Tuesday, but his victory speech on Election Day made it seem like the real victory was against progressive billionaire Tom Steyer.

An onslaught of attack ads from the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona campaign against Brnovich did not have their desired effect as he beat Contreras by more than 6 percentage points.

The clean energy campaign spent more than $3.6 million on television ads calling Brnovich “corrupt” and alleging the attorney general has a cozy relationship with Arizona Public Service — Arizona’s largest utility company and the chief opponent to Proposition 127.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona was backed by Steyer, a California progressive who may seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Brnovich had strong words for the California billionaire, closing out his speech with, “kiss my ass, Tom Steyer.”

But Brnovich made numerous digs at Steyer throughout his speech. His campaign party, located in the courtyard just outside the hotel where the Arizona GOP was having its Election Night watch party, even had a dunk tank where people could be dunked wearing Steyer masks.

“My mother can now watch ‘The Price is Right’ again,” Brnovich said. “She stopped watching because a California billionaire spent $6 million attacking me and my family.”

The pro-Prop. 127 group started spending against Brnovich when they discovered his office changed ballot language for the measure that would mandate that most electric utilities get at least 50 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Brnovich defended the language changes and in turn, sued the clean energy campaign for defamation over their attack ads against him.

In the attorney general’s race, Brnovich faced Contreras, a former assistant attorney general and adviser to former Gov. Janet Napolitano. While Contreras hit the campaign trail hard, the two candidates were unevenly matched when it came to name recognition.

Contreras outraised her opponent and picked up endorsements from Democratic heavyweights like former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, but it wasn’t enough to catapult her to victory.

Brnovich’s long term political path could take him beyond the Attorney General’s Office. Political pundits often list Brnovich as someone who could be a top contender for the Governor’s Office in 2022 when Gov. Doug Ducey, who is overwhelmingly leading his race, is termed out.

Attorney General race by the numbers
Early votes  

*Mark Brnovich:  53 percent

January Contreras: 47 percent

* Denotes incumbent

Brnovich, Contreras debate on cases AG has taken

From left are Attorney General Mark Brnovich, debate host Ted Simons of KAET, and Democratic AG candidate January Contreras. Brnovich and Contreras squared off in a televised debate Oct. 10, 2018. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
From left are Attorney General Mark Brnovich, debate host Ted Simons of KAET, and Democratic AG candidate January Contreras. Brnovich and Contreras squared off in a televised debate Oct. 10, 2018. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich found himself defending the decisions he made to challenge various federal laws, challenges that his Democrat foe said Wednesday worked against the interests of average Arizonans.

During a televised debate on KAET-TV, January Contreras lashed out at Brnovich for working to overturn a decision by the Obama administration to put about a million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon off limits to mining. Federal appellate judges did not agree with him.

Brnovich has had no better luck in joining with other Republican attorneys general to overturn the Affordable Care Act and its mandate to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions.

And Brnovich also sided with Americans for Prosperity in challenging a California law that would require the organization, part of the Koch brothers network, to disclose its donors.

All that, Contreras charged, showed that Brnovich during his four years as attorney general was more interested in pursuing cases that helped special interests than those that help average Arizonans.

Brnovich said that Contreras, a former assistant attorney general under Democrat Janet Napolitano, would follow her own political agenda if she was in charge of the office.

His prime example is the challenge his office filed against the Maricopa community colleges over the decision to charge resident tuition to “dreamers.”

“I would not have litigated that case,” Contreras conceded. She said that’s because she believed that they were entitled to in-state tuition if they met other Arizona residency requirements.

Contreras pointed out that those accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were entitled by the federal government to not only remain but also to work.

But Brnovich said that ignores the role of the Attorney General’s Office.

He pointed out that Arizonans voted by a 2-1 margin in 2006 to spell out that any person who is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident, or is “without lawful immigration status,” is ineligible to be charged the same tuition as residents at state colleges and universities.

“Even if you don’t like the policy, you have to defend it,” Brnovich said.

“As prosecutors, we enforce the law,” he said. “If you don’t like the law, you run for governor, you run for the Legislature or you run for Congress.”

Ultimately the Arizona Supreme Court sided with Brnovich and concluded that DACA recipients are not entitled to resident tuition.

As to the other cases Brnovich did pursue – and lost – the incumbent defended his decisions.

Take the mining case where he supported a challenge by the National Mining Association to the 2012 decision by the Obama administration to put a 20-year moratorium on new mining claims around the Grand Canyon. The Department of Interior said that would provide the time to study the effects of new mining on the environment, particularly water quality.

“As Arizona’s attorney general, when the federal government and the Obama administration tried to unilaterally remove one million acres of land without any congressional veto, I thought it was important,” Brnovich said. “We want to make sure we have a check on the federal government.”

Contreras said she has no problem with an attorney general seeking to exercise a check on the power of the federal government. But she argued that Brnovich was choosing the wrong issues — and the wrong side.

“You look at the separation of kids and parents at the border,” she said, noting that some attorneys general – but not Brnovich – went to federal court to protect the constitutional rights of those involved.

“What is alarming to me is how often, in the case of the cases I’m talking about, it’s aligning with political donors,” she said.

That question of money and politics spilled into the decision in August by Brnovich to alter the description of Proposition 127, a mandate that utilities use more renewable energy. The Secretary of State’s Office originally wrote the description. Brnovich added language that some considered to be unfair and uneven.

Contreras charged that Brnovich was influenced by money that Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service, has given to the Republican Attorneys General Association; RAGA, in turn, helped Brnovich get elected in 2014 and is spending money on his reelection campaign.

Brnovich responded that California billionaire Tom Steyer, who is financing the Prop 127 campaign, is now funding a $3.6 million media campaign urging Arizonans to turn him out of office. He called such out-of-state influence to help Contreras win the race “improper.”

“I think it’s funny coming from you when you have Arizona in a California courtroom defending the secrecy of donors to the Koch brothers network,” Contreras responded.

In that case, Americans for Prosperity sought to overturn a California law that requires certain nonprofit corporations to submit on a confidential basis a report of their large donors to that state’s attorney general as part of enforcing its laws governing tax-exempt groups. While Arizona was not affected — and Arizona has no similar laws – Brnovich submitted an amicus brief urging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that California had no “legitimate governmental interest” in such a mandate.

The federal appellate court concluded otherwise.

After the debate, Brnovich defended his decision to intercede on behalf of Americans for Prosperity. He said forcing release of the names of donors amounts to “trying to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Brnovich said even if he did take positions on these cases that does not reflect the vast majority of how his office has operated.

“My opponent wants to point out one or two or three cases,” he said.

“We have almost 500 lawyers in our office,” Brnovich continued. “What we do touches people’s lives every day.”

Brophy McGee comes through with GOP win as vote count ends

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)

Editor’s note: This story has been revised multiple times since the original publication because of the changing vote tally.

It took nearly two weeks, but it’s finally safe to declare victory for Sen. Kate Brophy McGee.

The Phoenix Republican was left waiting thanks to a slow vote-counting process by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, which released its final batch of tabulated ballots late Monday afternoon. That final count left Brophy McGee’s lead at 267 votes over former Arizona Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh in Legislative District 28.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both candidates since Election Day. What started as an 808 vote lead for Brophy McGee that night nearly doubled to 1,458 votes the morning after. By November 9, that lead would be down to 616 votes.

From then on, Brophy McGee’s lead steadily shrunk as Maricopa County elections officials counted late-early ballots, mail-in ballots that were turned in the day of the midterm election, as well as provisional ballots.

Some days, Brophy McGee earned more votes than Marsh. But more often than not, the updates favored her Democratic challenger, who relied not only a surge of support for Democrats while President Trump occupies the White House, but also strong backing of the #RedforEd movement and public education supporters leary of Republican representation at the Capitol.

Brophy McGee gained some breathing room over the weekend, when a 280-vote advantage grew to 347 votes on Saturday evening. It was enough to help ensure she’d win with enough votes to avoid a recount, which would’ve been triggered by a lead of 50 votes or less.

LD28 candidates, particularly its state senators, routinely face tough elections in an area of Phoenix where Republicans hold a voter registration advantage, but independents often sway races and have a history of electing at least one Democrat to serve at the Capitol.

In Marsh, a high school English teacher riding a groundswell of support from fellow educators amid the #RedforEd movement, Brophy McGee faced arguably her toughest challenge yet.

Brophy McGee has gotten this far by walking a fine line on the campaign trail as a moderate Republican, and overcoming a rash of GOP infighting in the district.

Having finished her first term in the Senate, Brophy McGee isn’t always popular in GOP circles for her political positions, which skew toward bipartisan results. Even her own brother has contributed to her political rivals in the Republican Party, with Brophy McGee explaining her brother and sister-in-law favor more conservative candidates.

Her candidacy was at one point threatened by a fellow Republican, Rep. Maria Syms, whose husband sought to run against Brophy McGee as an independent. Throwing a third candidate, one aligned with a Republican like Syms, could have pulled votes away from Brophy McGee and swung the race in Marsh’s favor.

Following a lawsuit and the discovery that hundreds of the would-be candidate’s signatures were invalid, Brophy McGee was back to the campaign trail, where she told voters she has done all she can to boost funding for education.

Brophy McGee has boasted of her push to extend a sales tax for education, her support of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 20-percent pay raise over three years. She’s even threatened to sue a political committee that accused her of slashing education funding while in office.

Marsh, who has spent 26 years in the classroom, most recently at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, has criticized Republicans like Brophy McGee for not doing enough for teachers. And her pitch, like many other Democrats, focused in part on taking control of the Senate from Republicans, who she accused of leaving schools in a constant state of underfunding.

By surviving Marsh’s challenge, Brophy McGee is now the last remaining Republican legislator in the district. Syms and GOP newcomer Kathy Pappas Petsas were swept in the House race by Democrats Aaron Lieberman and Rep. Kelli Butler.

Candidates can’t count on recount in close races

Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a "vote" sign outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a “vote” sign outside a polling station prior to it’s opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Any losing candidate in the general election who is counting on an automatic recount needs to come close to winning.

Really close.

In statewide races, there is a general law that requires a recount if the margin of votes between the two candidates is one-tenth of one percent. With perhaps 2.3 million votes already counted or yet to be tabulated in the race for U.S. Senate between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, that would translate out to about 2,300.

But here’s the thing.

The same law says a recount is based on the lesser of that 0.1 percent or 200 votes. And given the number of votes cast statewide, it would be the 200 votes that would trigger a new count.

That same law applies to the race for school superintendent, though that contest does not appear close.

But the final tally in the race for secretary of state could come within that margin. In fact, at one point this week the difference was just 150 votes, with Democrat Katie Hobbs in the lead over Republican Steve Gaynor.

It could take days before the final tallies are in.

Recounts on legislative races require an even closer margin, with the process being triggered by a 50-vote difference.

State Elections Director Eric Spencer said there can be no action on a recount until the official canvass of votes. That’s set for Dec. 3.

If one of the races falls within the margin, don’t expect to see rooms full of workers examining ballots by hand. Instead, the machines that tabulated the ballots in the first place are reprogrammed and the ballots are fed back through them again.

There is a check of sorts on the machines.

Officials from both political parties select 5 percent of the precincts where the ballots cast there are then examined by hand.

If that hand count comes within the designated margin, then the machine recount is certified as correct. That designated margin is 2 percent for early ballots and 1 percent for polling places.

Spencer said if the hand count is outside that margin, an even larger random batch of precincts are added to the mix. And if that count also comes outside the margins, then Arizona would be looking at a total hand recount.

Recounts are not rare in Arizona.

Two years ago Andy Biggs won the Republican nomination for Congress after his margin of victory over Christine Jones came within the 200 votes. As it turned out, the recount added four votes to his tally and subtracted seven from hers, giving Biggs the win by a margin of just 27 votes.

McSally is no stranger to recounts. She got her congressional seat in 2014 by ousting incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by just 167 votes following a recount.

And in 2010 a bid by the Legislature to change the Arizona Constitution to reduce the amount of time people had to file initiative petitions failed on Election Day by 128 votes, triggering a recount. In the end, the margin of defeat was 194 votes.

Spencer said there is no provision in Arizona for an unhappy candidate or political party to demand a recount, even if offering to pay for it. But he said there are other sections of state law that allow someone to sue to contest the results.

But the law has only a specified number of grounds to support litigation, ranging from evidence of bribes and illegal votes to the candidate being ineligible to hold office.

Spencer said those challenges also have to wait until after the formal canvass.

Cathi Herrod

Cathi Herrod
Cathi Herrod

The historian Garry Wills once mused how Americans are periodically astonished to see evangelical Christians blazing on the national stage in what he described as a “cyclic pattern of flarings and fadings.”

No such musings are necessary in Arizona, where evangelical Christians’ influence on policy has been consistently palpable for decades, much of which can be credited to the Center for Arizona Policy and its president, Cathi Herrod.

Much of that success is owed to the Legislature’s decidedly conservative and aggressively pro-life leanings, but also fueling it is a savvy strategy, a keen understanding of the nuances of the legislative process, and a powerhouse in Herrod.

Herrod, who earned her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, has her share of critics. But to supporters, she is a smart strategist, an effective articulator of the center’s agenda and a fearless apologist of the conservative right.

Love her or hate her, Herrod gets the job done. Indeed, in the past two decades, the center, which was founded in 1995 as the vanguard in the fight to preserve traditional values, has successfully persuaded the state’s leaders to enact more than 100 measures — from restricting abortion to giving heterosexual couples adoption preferences. The courts have also struck down several laws for which the center advocated.

“She’s tenacious. She’s a hard worker,” said Senate President Steve Yarbrough, who met Herrod before he became a legislator and who quickly found out she provides better arguments than he could come up with.

Sen. Nancy Barto, a Republican from Phoenix, met Herrod while they were both moms with young children at a church in Scottsdale. “What was so impactful for me was to see a mom with whom I could identify, getting involved in issues impacting the family with such passion and energy, as well as from a place of knowledge,” Barto said. “She was inspiring and made me want to learn more. “

Herrod grew up in Texas but always considered Arizona a second home, as her dad lived here, which meant she got to spend her summers and holidays in Arizona.

She was drawn to politics early on – she ran a relative’s campaign for a local school board and city council as a high school student.

“To me, engaging in public policy is admirable and necessary, also fascinating. I stay because of my deep concern for the future of our state and country,” Herrod said.

CD8 – where GOP winner can hold the seat a long, long time

With a nearly 2-1 Republican advantage over Democrats in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, the recently vacated seat offers job security to the victor of the special primary election.

Although Democrats Dr. Hiral Tipirneni and Brianna Westbrook are also seeking the seat, Republican consultant Chris Baker says neither will win.

“Not only is it a heavily Republican district, the independents are generally conservative and the Republicans in the district are not of a type who would even remotely consider voting for a Democrat,” he said.

And that means the winner of the Republican special primary election on February 27 can expect to hold onto the seat for as long as he or she wants it. The district includes many of the suburbs west and north of Phoenix.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., takes his seat before the start of a House Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, on Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Franks says in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff. Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Former Rep. Trent Franks (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Baker speaks from experience. He worked for former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks when he was first elected to serve the district in 2002.

Franks held that seat until December when he resigned after allegedly asking female staffers to carry his child via surrogacy.

Baker said this primary will not require the same level of name recognition as in other congressional races. The candidates also don’t have the time or resources to cultivate that image.

Instead, it will be about who can reach the magic number of voters and hold on tight with a socially conservative message.

Baker said Franks won the primary in 2002 with 28 percent of the vote.

He said the winner now will have to worry less about standing out in the crowded Republican field and more about fostering a coalition of voters that can get him or her to around 30 percent.

Twelve candidates are seeking the GOP primary nomination, including  Chad Allen, Brenden Dilley, Stephen Dolgos, David Lien, Richard Mack, Christopher Sylvester, Clair Van Steenwyk and Mark Yates.

However, Debbie Lesko, Phil Lovas, Steve Montenegro and Bob Stump, all former state legislators, are widely considered to be the top competitors.

Republican consultant Ryan O’Daniel narrowed the presumptive field even more. He said Lovas, Montenegro and especially Lesko will have an advantage because of their experience in CD8.

“It’s going to be an insider election,” he said. “The people who pay attention to politics and already have some loyalty to one of the candidates are the ones who are going to vote.”

He predicted there won’t be many undecided voters on Election Day, and fewer minds will be changed.

The short time frame on the special election will not allow for wiggle room.

By Katie Campbell
By Katie Campbell

Challenge filed against ballot measure to tax the rich

(Deposit Photos/Alpha Baby)
(Deposit Photos/Alpha Baby)

Saying voters are purposely being misled, organizers of the #InvestInEd initiative asked a judge on Friday to force lawmakers to recraft the description of the measure that will go to voters.

Attorney Jim Barton said the ballot measure which seeks to hike income taxes on earnings of more than $250,000 will not affect a 2015 law which indexes tax brackets to account for inflation. Yet that is what the Republican-controlled Legislative Council voted last month to tell voters.

“Not only is this a misunderstanding of the initiative but it was designed to discourage voters from passing the measure,” he told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes.

But that isn’t the only problem Barton has with the description that will be mailed out to the homes of the state’s 3.6 million registered voters.

He said lawmakers are describing the tax increase that will be imposed on high-wage earners in a way designed to scare people into rejecting the measure, designed to raise $690 million a year for education. And Barton said lawmakers added other verbiage that also has the same goal.

All of that, he is telling Contes, runs afoul of state law which requires the council, made up of legislators, to prepare not only an “impartial” analysis of all ballot measures but one that does not contain false statements.

This new lawsuit is just one hurdle for initiative organizers. A hearing is set for later this month on a separate legal bid by foes, led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to keep the issue from ever getting to the ballot in the first place.

Arizona has a tiered tax system, with different tax rates for different levels of income.

An individual pays 2.59 percent on the first $10,000 of taxable income, $2.88 percent on the next $15,000, 3.36 percent on the next $25,000, 4.24 percent on the next $100,000, and 4.54 percent on anything over $150,000. Those amounts are double for couples filing jointly.

The initiative would impose an 8 percent tax rate on individual earnings above $250,000 — double for couples — and 9 percent for anything over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for couples.

Since 2015, the current brackets have been indexed for inflation. So, for example, the break point between the 2.59 percent and 2.88 percent bracket for individuals is now $10,346.

Challengers say the way the initiative is crafted undoes automatic indexing and resets the brackets to where they were before 2015.

That’s not true, Barton tells Contes, asking her to order that the ballot pamphlet not tell voters that’s what they are being asked to approve. And he said even if there is any “ambiguity” in the wording of the initiative — something he does not concede — the judge must side with initiative organizers.

More complex is Barton’s complaint about the math used by the Republicans in describing the tax increase.

It is clear that the top tax rate would go from 4.54 percent to 8 percent for some earnings and 9 percent for others. Barton said that should be explained as an increase of 3.46 percent and 4.46 percent, respectively, the mathematical difference.

But the GOP lawmakers on the council chose to list it as a percent change of the percentages, telling voters that tax rates will go up 76.2 percent and 98.2 percent.

“It is highly misleading,” Barton told the judge. “A voter might mistake the analysis as meaning that income over a half-million dollars is taxed at a rate of 98 percent.”

No date has been set for a hearing in this new case.


Chris Herstam: One of the last moderates calls it quits

Chris Herstam (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)
Chris Herstam (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

Chris Herstam, 68, spent 35 years at the Capitol, first as a lawmaker and last as a lobbyist at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, but the longtime public policy fanatic is ready to call it quits.

Herstam a longtime moderate Republican, who only recently declared himself a Democrat, will retire at the end of the year.

A familiar face in state politics, Herstam was elected in 1982 to his first term in the House, where he served for eight years. In 1991, he joined then-Gov. Fife Symington’s administration as chief of staff, and from 1993-96 he served as Symington’s Department of Insurance director. In 1997, Gov. Jane Hull appointed him to the Board of Regent. And he served on the transition teams for multiple governors.

Cap Times Q&AWhat will you do after you retire?

I don’t really know. When you work for a big law firm and you have 20-plus clients that you represented at the state Capitol, you really, from an ethical standpoint, cannot program your life once you hang up your lobbying shoes because there are conflicts of interest involved.

You can’t line something up from a professional standpoint while you’re still representing clients. It’s just not the way to go. I’m not a registered lobbyist for the first time in a long while, and the feeling is wonderful. Free at last! It’s thrilling not to be a registered lobbyist because the world has changed so dramatically politically at the Capitol and life as a lobbyist is so different than it used to be.

I hope I’m still going to be very involved in the political world, especially public policy. I’m a public policy wonk. I help teach a public policy class at the Flinn Foundation, and have done so for the last seven years. I hope to continue doing that.

It also used to be that my family and I were able to spend two or three weeks each summer up in cool Pinetop, Arizona. Now we’ll be able to spend two or three months in cool, Pinetop each summer. That’s the major lifestyle change.

Why is lobbying nowadays so different than it used to be?

Lobbyists have disgustingly become the backbone of Arizona’s election finance system when it comes to the state Legislature. At least 80-percent of all campaign contributions raised by privately financed legislators come from registered lobbyists. That’s appalling. Republicans at the state Capitol, each year, pass Draconian election reform laws that rely more on lobbyist contributions, and hide corporate contributions. The spread of dark money in Arizona is the most politically corruptive force that I’ve seen in my 35 years at the state Capitol. That’s what I won’t miss one bit.

Where did all the moderate politicians go?

The moderate politicians have been killed in GOP primaries. In fact, many moderate Democrats have been exterminated in the Democratic primaries. The two parties have become more litmus test oriented.

In my day, you were taught in political science classes that parties existed only during elections and they had to maintain a big tent theory in which they were inclusive and wanted different viewpoints on all issues. Over the years now, the parties have become pup tents as opposed to big tents. They each have litmus tests, and you can’t get out of a Republican primary for any office unless you’re pro-life and you can’t get out of a Democratic primary for any office unless you’re pro-choice. It’s a more polarized political atmosphere. As a result, not a lot gets done. I think that’s the number one frustration of citizens in Arizona is they don’t see problems being aggressively solved in a timely manner at the state Capitol. It didn’t used to be that way.

Do you miss the way things were in Arizona government and politics?

I miss Arizona elected officials coming into office for one major reason, and that’s to make Arizona a better place and to solve problems. Now, too many elected officials come into office with the major goal being to get re-elected and they have to toe the party line. That destroys the art of compromise and that destroys our ability to solve problems.

Please reflect a little on your time working in government.

First I experienced the legislative branch, and when I had the opportunity to experience the executive branch, eventually as chief of staff, how could I turn that down? And when I was burnt out, doing that after a year and a half, I said, “I’ve got to move on.” I went and worked for a health insurance company, Symington went and brought me back to be his Department of Insurance director. For the same reason, I came back. I thought, “God, I can run an agency. This is like the trifecta for me.” I’m very fortunate, I really am. Now that I sit here thinking about this, I’m very fortunate to have had many unbelievable public policymaking experiences. I’ll never regret them.

Having worked in government for so long, you must know where all the bodies are buried.

Yes. I know the graveyard very well. I know where a lot of wonderful, centrist, moderate legislators are buried. That’s the sad part, but it’s the political reality of today.

Tell me about your switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

I’ve been voting Democratic for 15 years, but I was stubborn and I wouldn’t change my party registration. Then, when I saw Donald Trump going down the escalator to the lobby of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president, I realized – this is it. This guy fits this party tragically and I’m embarrassed to still have the term Republican by my name. I went online and changed my party affiliation.

I sincerely believe that by 2030, which is only 12 years from now, Arizona will go blue. We will have a Democratic Legislature, we will have a Democratic governor and it will be the norm in Arizona. The demographics are what they are. We have increasingly become a Latino-oriented population. There’s nothing wrong with that. One of the reasons I switched parties was because the Democratic Party was inclusive. The Republican Party to this day relies on its aging, white base.

What were some of the highlights of your career?

The very first bill I got passed in the Legislature was as a freshman. Majority Leader Burton Barr told me I’d never get it through because it had failed in the past. When it got through the House, Barr turned around, I was sitting in the back row. He stood up and applauded me, which I’ll never forget. The bill was mandatory child restraints for children up to five years old. We did not have them back then, in 1983. Of all the legislation that I’ve touched in my career, what could be more important than that? I will always consider that a highlight. My very first bill!

I think impeaching Evan Mecham was also important because it sent the message that nobody is above the law, and a sitting governor that misuses public funds, and lies … it tells you that there is a day of reckoning.

Clodfelter out, DeGrazia in for LD10 House

Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson)
Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson)

The single-shot strategy did not pay off for Republicans in the Legislative District 10 House race this year.

Early ballot results put Republican Rep. Todd Clodfelter in third right away, and he stayed there behind Democratic newcomer Domingo DeGrazia, a juvenile court trial attorney, and Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel who got the most votes.

Clodfelter’s loss was not entirely shocking. The single-shot strategy paid off for him in 2016 when he was first elected, but the number of registered Republicans in the district has since shrunk. Democrats outnumber them by nearly 6,900 voters.

The district now returns to the status quo before 2016. Clodfelter lost election bids in 2014 and 2012 when the district was represented by two Democrats in the House.

DeGrazia was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Jennifer Jermaine ousted Rep. Jill Norgaard in Legislative District 18, and Aaron Lieberman outdid Rep. Maria Syms in Legislative District 28. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.

And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.


LD10 House by the numbers

Early votes


Todd Clodfelter 29 percent


Kirsten Engel 35 percent

Domingo DeGrazia 30 percent


Joshua Reilly 6 percent

Coalition of voters takes Ducey to court over filling U.S. Senate seat

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The former leader of Arizona’s Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit against Gov. Doug Ducey Wednesday, arguing he must immediately hold a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by John McCain.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Arizona, alleges that Arizona laws dictating how to handle a vacancy in the U.S. Senate violate the 17th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and deprive Arizona citizens of their 14th Amendment and First Amendment rights.

Michael Kielsky, an attorney at Udall Shumway, former chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party and frequent candidate for public office, brought the suit on behalf of a coalition of five Libertarian, independent, Republican and Democratic voters.

Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s chief of staff, dismissed the suit as “another frivolous lawsuit.”

But Kielsky said that leaving the seat with an appointee until 2020 is unreasonable, and a judge will decide if the suit is frivolous.

“As with a lot of constitutional provisions, we have to apply a reasonable standard… (An election in) March would be reasonable, May would be OK, but two years is unreasonable,” he said.

He noted that a lawsuit challenging the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois that former President Obama vacated in 2009 was successful on similar grounds.

Arizona law states that if a vacancy occurs in the U.S. Senate, the governor shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy, and that person shall serve until the next general election. But if the vacancy occurs less than 150 days before the next primary election – as happened with McCain – the appointee “shall serve until the vacancy is filled at the second regular general election held after the vacancy occurs,” meaning the 2020 election.

The suit argues that law violates the 17th Amendment, which granted voters direct elections of U.S. Senators. That amendment states that in the event of a Senate vacancy, the state governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies, “Provided, that the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

But the suit argues that the state Legislature has no authority to mandate that a temporary appointee serve in lieu of a Senator directly elected by the people, “beyond any period necessary to hold an orderly election.”

The suit argues that by keeping in office a “temporary” appointee far beyond the period within which an orderly election could be held, Ducey has deprived plaintiffs and other citizens of their right to vote under the 17th Amendment and to determine who shall represent the people in the Senate.

As a result of the state law, “citizens of Arizona will be deprived of elected representation in the Senate for over twenty eight months, and will suffer irreparable injury from such a lengthy loss of elected representation in the United States Senate,” the suit argues.

While some states dictate that U.S. Senate vacancies must be filled by special election, most states employ similar delays in filling a vacancy that occurs shortly before a scheduled election, though most use shorter timelines than Arizona, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

In Virginia, if the vacancy occurs fewer than 120 days before the primary election, the appointee serves until the following election cycle, according to the NCSL. In New Jersey, if a vacancy occurs more than 30 days before the next primary election, it’s filled that year, otherwise the appointee serves until the next election cycle.

Commissioners reject Burns’ request for subpoenas

The Arizona Corporation Commission today voted down one commissioner’s requests to greenlight subpoenas and allow him to question utility executives about their election and lobbying expenses.

Commissioner Bob Burns, a Republican, has sought for nearly two years to disclose electioneering spending by Arizona Public Service or its parent company, Pinnacle West.

Today’s vote is the latest in a lengthy battle between Burns, his fellow commissioners and APS, which has spanned from subpoenas to no votes on other APS projects to the courtroom. But it was the first chance for all the commissioners to vote yes or no on Burns’ quest.


The utility openly spent millions through an independent expenditure group on the 2016 election, including money that boosted Burns. It is also alleged that the utility funneled funds to dark money groups that spent to help out Republican commission candidates Doug Little and Tom Forese in 2014.

The commission’s latest vote clears the way for Burns to go back to court and seek disclosure that way, now that his fellow commissioners haven’t allowed him to pursue his request further through Corp Comm proceedings.

APS and Pinnacle West officials did not attend the meeting today nor argue against Burns as part of the proceeding.

Burns wanted the commissioners to direct an administrative law judge to make APS officials appear at a hearing to answer questions about the company’s political and spending on lobbying over five years, and to allow Burns to question them through an attorney.

He also said the other four commissioners, all Republicans, may need to be disqualified or have to recuse themselves from APS’s ongoing rate case because of utility spending on their behalf during the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The questioning would come as part of APS’s ongoing rate case, in which the utility has asked to increase customers’ rates by about 4.5 percent on average, equaling about $6 per month.

Burns also wanted the commission to halt the rate case proceedings until an investigation into disqualification was completed.

Critics of the commission say the APS spending issue has cast a shadow over the regulatory body, as speculation over the utility’s involvement in the 2014 election has continued to swirl since then.

Earlier this month, the commission quickly moved to investigate Johnson Utilities, a water company that federal prosecutors allege was involved in a scheme to bribe former commissioner Gary Pierce.


The commission approved an order, written by Commissioner Boyd Dunn that says Burns didn’t show disqualification was needed for the other four commissioners. Dunn also wrote that Burns doesn’t have the standing to recuse commissioners because he isn’t a party in the case, meaning his due process rights aren’t violated.

APS argued in a filing that Burns’ subpoenas weren’t relevant to the rate case because the test year for setting new electricity rates was 2015, and none of the type of spending he sought were included as expenditures in the rate case. The commission’s order agreed with the utility’s assessment, saying the subpoenas seek information that is irrelevant to the rate case.

Instead of using the rate case, the commission could look at external influences on the commissioners as part of its ethics review, the order says. The subpoenas “blur the lines between ratemaking and policymaking,” Dunn wrote.

And Burns’ attempt to question utility executives was “overly broad, irrelevant to the rate case and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery or admissible evidence,” the order says.

Burns responded in a letter, saying Dunn’s order “misses the point entirely” and “appears to mirror APS’s talking points,” which he claims are riddled with “factual inaccuracies and incorrect legal conclusions.”

Burns said he wants to protect the rights of all parties in the rate case, which he believes every commissioner should be concerned with. Burns said he found it “highly insulting” that Dunn wrote the commission couldn’t legally protect ratepayers from undue influence by a monopoly utility.

“I ask and demand that my fellow commissioners answer – ‘if not us, then who?’ Commissioner Dunn’s order answers, to APS’s delight, ‘let them protect themselves if they can.’”

Burns also demanded that the commissioners who voted against his disqualification investigation detail any interactions and communications they had with APS, Pinnacle West or any affiliated entities or lobbyists during their campaigns. He wants them to also tell the public when and how they learned or even suspected APS or Pinnacle West had financially supported their campaigns.

The commission’s vote allows Burns to demonstrate to a Maricopa County judge that he has exhausted all non-judicial remedies in his quest to unveil the utility’s rumored dark money campaign.


The primary purpose of today’s meeting was to show Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley that he has been unable to compel APS and Pinnacle West to produce documents he’s seeking related to the 2014 election.

Kiley in May declined Burns’ request to force the companies to comply with his subpoenas on the grounds that it would be premature for him to rule on the matter until after the commission votes on it.

The long-awaited vote today led to some harsh rebuttals from commissioners, who have increasingly clashed with Burns as he has become more and more laser-focused on disclosing election spending.

Commissioner Doug Little, in explaining his vote against Burns, said he disagrees that he would need to recuse himself from the APS rate case. He said Burns’ allegations that he has a conflict of interest in the case were based on “supposition, rumor, innuendo and unfounded media reports.”

Commissioner Andy Tobin took multiple swipes at Burns during the meeting. At one point, he said he would vote to support the other commissioners who also recognize “how out of control Mr. Burns is.” Tobin said he had “no interest” in explaining his votes to Burns.

“Nothing surprises me with him, except for a desperate need for constant attention,” Tobin said of Burns.

Committee chairs seek balance between gatekeeper and ‘God’

The first major hurdle every piece of legislation faces in the House or Senate is a committee leader with the ability to unilaterally kill bills, and some chairs are more willing to do it than others.

While the vast majority of Democratic bills languish in committees, chairs typically let their Republican colleagues’ bills be heard. An Arizona Capitol Times review of data from Legislation On Line Arizona shows that a handful of committee chairs are difficult gatekeepers even for their GOP peers.

To some extent, that’s the job of a committee chair, Senate President Karen Fann said. As the Senate president and chairwoman of the Rules Committee, the Prescott Republican also has great leeway in keeping bills from getting votes on the Senate floor.

“This has gone on since day one and will go on for a long time as long as the system is the way it is,” Fann said. “As chairpersons of our committees, one of their responsibilities is in fact to not hear bad bills if they’re just plain bad bills.”

The risk, though, comes in making sure committee chairs don’t “play God” by deciding to kill bills because of their personal preferences, Fann said.

“There might be a perfectly good bill out there that 60, 70 percent of all the members think that it’s a really, really good bill and we’re all OK with it,” Fann said. “But when it comes to a committee where there’s a person who says, ‘Well no, I just personally don’t like it, I don’t care what the majority of the other people do,’ that’s wrong. That’s just totally wrong.”

Eddie Farnsworth
Eddie Farnsworth

The committee chairman who came under the most fire for holding bills that had support from a majority of lawmakers also proved to be the one with the third-highest kill rate for Republican bills. Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, killed 24 percent of the Republican bills referred to his Senate Judiciary Committee.

Farnsworth’s refusal to hear a bill written by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, to expand opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers contributed to a bitter showdown at the end of session as Boyer and Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, refused to vote for the GOP budget until they got a vote on their bills.

This year, Farnsworth also prevented a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, supported by at least three Republican senators along with the entire Democratic caucus, from being heard in his committee. And he refused to hear a bill from Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, that would have prevented criminal defendants who have never before been sentenced from being charged as repeat offenders.

Toma and Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, succeeded in getting around Farnsworth by replacing one of Mesnard’s bills that had already cleared the Senate with the repeat offender legislation. An attempt to bring the ERA ratification to the floor failed.

Farnsworth did not return a message left with his assistant, and several phone numbers he has provided in response to Capitol Times questionnaires and on candidate filing forms with the Secretary of State’s Office have been disconnected. But earlier this year, he said he tried to kill Boyer’s statute of limitation bill because the founding fathers intended committee chairs to serve as gatekeepers.

“We are gatekeepers,” he said. “There are chairmen that hold bills.”

And in a 2011 interview with the Capitol Times upon his return to the House after two years away, Farnsworth said too many lawmakers were proud of the number of bills they got passed.

“The question for me is how many bills did I kill as a chairman?  In four years, I probably killed 500 bills,” he said. “I’m far prouder of being a gatekeeper of freedom than voting for a bill that tells people what to do. I’m very proud of my reputation.”

Boyer said he found Farnsworth’s refusal to hear his statute of limitations bill “frustrating,” though he acknowledged he probably frustrated plenty of members during his four years as chairman of the House Education Committee.

As a chairman, Boyer said he’d count votes on his committee ahead of time to avoid scheduling bills that wouldn’t pass, particularly if they were bills that would garner a lot of testimony or debate. And he said committee leaders’ personal opinions about bills shouldn’t determine whether they get heard.

For instance, Boyer had a bill this session to allow graduating high school students who have achieved a high level of proficiency in the fine arts to have a fine arts seal added to their diplomas. Rep. Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican who chairs the House Education Committee, was not a fan of the bill, but the rest of her committee supported it so she heard it anyway.

“I think she was the only ‘no’ vote, to her credit,” Boyer said. “That was just a great illustration of a chairman doing their job.”

Anthony Kern
Anthony Kern

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, came under fire more than once this session for his role as the gatekeeper of the House Rules Committee. Bill after bill went there to die without explanation, and his colleagues noticed.

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez made a point of calling attention to Democratic bills being held “hostage” in Rules on more than one occasion this year. She accused Kern of being vindictive toward her caucus’ bills, a charge Kern said impugned his motives and that prompted a defense from House Speaker Rusty Bowers who argued each chair was an extension of himself as speaker.

Nonetheless, after even some of Kern’s own Republican colleagues complained that he was negating some of their work on committees and overstepping, Kern began freeing dozens of bills in early March.

Kern did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he has gone on social media in the interim to note some of the casualties of Rules.

On June 14, he tweeted, “As Rules Chairman, I joined fellow House Republicans in making sure HB 2414 was held in committee. It would have made AZ part of an interstate agreement to decide presidential elections by popular vote alone. Founding Fathers had it right, every state matters!”

HB 2414 was sponsored by Tucson Democrat Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley and assigned only to House Rules in late April, when many bills were assigned to Rules strictly to comply with a requirement that all bills be assigned to at least one committee.

John Allen
John Allen

And Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, got more than he likely bargained for as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Before session kicked off, criminal justice reform measures were expected to go before the Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee Bowers had created for Prescott Republican David Stringer. As scandal unfolded around the now former representative, though, that committee was dissolved, leaving the Judiciary Committee to pick up where Stringer had left off.

Allen’s views then fell in line largely with Farnsworth’s, and bills aimed at restructuring aspects of the criminal justice system from fellow Republicans like Toma and Rep. Walt Blackman of Snowflake weren’t heard. In sum, 29 percent of the Republican-sponsored bills assigned to Allen’s committee never rated a hearing.

Like Udall, he did hear one bill despite his opposition and the impossibility of its adoption: freshman Democrat Rep. Raquel Terán’s HB2696, a bill she admitted had gone far beyond her original intent to repeal a law requiring a physician performing an abortion to use any means necessary to keep alive a fetus that is delivered alive.

Allen did not return a request for comment, but he explained his reasoning for doing at the time.

Realizing her mistake, Terán repeatedly asked Allen not to hear the bill after all. But he did not relent, and in the hearing held on the bill, he said this: “What we’ve talked about today shows the true nature of what some of the political conversations are,” he said, adding that the inclusion of House Democratic leaders as co-sponsors on the bill demonstrated how the issue is a core value of the Democratic party.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, did not grant hearings to nearly one-third of the Republican-sponsored bills assigned to her Senate Education Committee.

“If I’m not going to vote for it on the floor, I’m likely not going to hear it,” she said.  “I’ve had plenty of my bills held by chairmen, and I understand the process.”

Among the bills held in Senate Education were several of Allen’s own bills, which she said she realized needed more work. And in many cases, she said she talks with members ahead of time about issues with their bills and they agree that it’s not ready for a hearing.

“If I’m holding something, usually the member is not too upset that I’m doing it,” she said.

Members, particularly Democratic members, find that success often depends on what committee their bills are assigned to, said Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, one of only eight Democrats who sponsored a bill that was signed into law this year. That bill, which deals with suicide prevention training in schools, was assigned to Allen’s committee and Bowie said she worked with him to get it out.

On the other hand, a bill he sponsored with Republican co-sponsors to ban conversion therapy landed in Farnsworth’s Judiciary Committee.

“Like a lot of bills that were introduced to that committee, it didn’t get a hearing,” Bowie said.

Congressman Franks resigns

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks announced today he will resign from the House of Representatives after two female staffers said he discussed surrogacy with them.

Franks said his resignation will be effective January 31. Gov. Doug Ducey will call a special election for both the primary and general elections to fill the vacated seat.

In his statement, Franks said he should have been more aware of how his position and openness discussing infertility and surrogacy would affect those who worked for him.

“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,” he said.

His statement confirms the House Ethics Committee was looking into the allegations, and he said he didn’t want an inquiry, which he feared would be unfair and sensationalized, to interfere with his office.

He is the third lawmaker to announce his resignation this week.

Franks has been a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. He’s a staunch social conservative who sponsored House-passed legislation to make it a crime for any person to perform an abortion if the age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.

Earlier December 7, liberal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced his resignation after facing allegations of sexual harassment by at least eight women. Franken said some of those accusations were false and said he remembered others differently than his accusers did. He said he’d depart in a few weeks.

On December 5, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned effective immediately. He also faced accusations from women of improper sexual behavior that he’s contesting.

Franks drew a sharp response from Democrats during a 2013 House committee debate when he said “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” He sought to clarify the comment, saying later-term abortions linked to pregnancies caused by rape are infrequent.

He’s a strong backer of President Donald Trump and has embraced some of his stances on social issues. Franks has harshly criticized some NFL players for not standing during the national anthem, calling them “arrogant and overpaid Lilliputians who dishonor America.”

Franks represents a district encompassing suburbs north and west of Phoenix. He serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees.

Before winning election to Congress, he served in the Arizona Legislature and founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family.”  The institute advocates for policies designed to protect children and families.

Franks’ full statement is below:

I have always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office. It is my deepest conviction that there are many staffers, former and present, who would readily volunteer to substantiate this fact.

Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.

However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.

My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three miscarriages.

We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth.

A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth. The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos.

My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.

When our twins were approximately 3 years old, we made a second attempt with a second surrogate who was also not genetically related to the child. Sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in miscarriage.

We continued to have a desire to have at least one additional sibling, for which our children had made repeated requests.

Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.

I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.

We are in an unusual moment in history – there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims. 

But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting. I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made. My time in Congress serving my constituents, America and the Constitution is and will remain one of God’s greatest gift to me in life.

County attorney race shaping up to be competitive

From left are candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Democrat Julie Gunnigle and Republican Allister Adel
From left are candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Democrat Julie Gunnigle and Republican Allister Adel

Anticipation around the Democratic primary for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office race was shaping up to be a two-person race between Julie Gunnigle and Will Knight, but when the county uploaded early ballots at 8 p.m. on August 4, Gunnigle won by a landslide. 

Gunnigle’s victory, where she still maintains 60% of the vote, puts her in prime position to lead the office as the first Democrat since Charles Hyder in 1980, and the first woman elected to the seat.

But she has to take down Allister Adel, the Republican appointed incumbent first. 

Adel was appointed in October by the Board of Supervisors after Gov. Doug Ducey tapped Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court a month prior. She is the first woman to hold the top prosecutor role in the county. 

Neither Gunnigle nor Adel has ever won a general election, but Gunnigle at least had prior experience running a campaign when she tried for the state House in Legislative District 15 in 2018. The two candidates seem to be doing alright in fundraising for county offices, too.

Gunnigle raised the least amount of money of the three Democratic candidates, but kept the most on hand. She brought in $122,000 overall with $48,000 left in the bank. Adel raised $268,000 and has almost $100,000 heading into the general election cycle, but she did not have a primary opponent to spend against. 

This race to lead the nation’s fourth largest county prosecutor’s office is a far cry from the 2016 election that pitted now-Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, against Montgomery, the Republican incumbent. Montgomery won in a special election in 2010 and then again in 2012 for his first full term, but never faced a real opponent until Rodriguez, a relative unknown at the time. 

Bill Montgomery
Bill Montgomery

Rodriguez mustered enough support to cut Montgomery’s margin of victory to 5 percentage points, which for a political newcomer was quite impressive given the larger Republican hold the county had at the time. Four years later, Democratic turnout has skyrocketed with the party picking up seats left and right, meaning Gunnigle very well could flip that office if she runs a similar campaign that she did for the primary, consultants say.

Roughly 210,000 more voters participated in the County Attorney primary races this year than the 2016 primary, with still tens of thousands of ballots to count. 

Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant with Marson Media, said one aspect that could play well for Gunnigle’s chances is if Joe Arpaio, the convicted and pardoned former sheriff, is able to overcome his 500-vote deficit from his former chief deputy Jerry Sheridan.

“Sheriff and county attorney go hand in hand,” Marson said, adding that if Arpaio is not on the ballot then the outside spending that affected the 2016 county races won’t be the same this time around. 

That outside spending he’s referring to is mostly credited to Democratic billionaire and hedge fund tycoon George Soros, whose political groups typically target county/district attorney races around the country. Soros-funded groups contributed around $1.3 million to an anti-Montgomery group called Arizona Safety & Justice. He also spent heavily to defeat Arpaio, which came to fruition. 

“If they’re going to stay out of the sheriff’s race, I think that would bode well for Allister,” Marson said. “Neither Allister nor Sheridan are the same type of polarizing figures as Arpaio and Montgomery, so the risk or threat of outside money may be less.” 

Democratic consultant Chad Campbell, with Strategies 360, doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think the other county races will have much of an impact on this race,” Campbell said.

The national conversation around criminal justice reform has put Maricopa County in somewhat of a spotlight and coupled with higher Democratic turnout could mean it’s time for a Democrat to control the office, he said. 

In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Campbell said if Arpaio does pull off a win, the sheriff’s race will become a circus and will draw attention away from Gunnigle and Adel. 

Arpaio being on the ballot with President Donald Trump could also play into an even higher turnout for not only Democrats, but also Latinos, which would likely play into more down ballot races. 

Campbell said Trump is still the biggest factor for turnout this year, and that alone could spell victory for Gunnigle. He said he wasn’t surprised that Gunnigle won the primary or won by a lot because “she ran a better campaign” than Knight or Robert McWhirter. 

“On a national level people are looking at Arizona as a state that’s changing top to bottom … the turnout [in the primary] exceeded everybody’s expectations,” he said, adding that Democratic enthusiasm in that race will only increase for the general election. 

He said what will win Gunningle the election is support from suburban voters who see public safety as a priority. 

 “She will have some crossover appeal to those moderate Republican, suburban female voters that a Democrat will need in this county,” he said.

 The turnout in Maricopa County during the 2018 election was really the first time Arizona saw a significant increase from Democrats or Democrat-leaning independent voters and after picking up two seats from Republicans in 2016 (Sheriff Paul Penzone and County Recorder Adrian Fontes), Campbell thinks Gunnigle remains in good shape four years later. 

 More than just the turnout having a major factor is the element that stakes cannot be higher, progressive lobbyist Marilyn Rodriguez said. 

 “Electing Gunnigle would end a dynasty of mass incarceration in Arizona’s largest county. Julie has shown that she can win and brings an ability to unify the support she needs from the community behind her,” she said. 

 Unlike Gunnigle’s predecessors, who Rodriguez said oversaw a culture of discriminatory practices and shutting the public out, “we know Julie will bring changes to the office driven by actual community voices.” 

County supervisors choose Sine Kerr to fill vacant Senate seat in LD13

Sine Kerr
Sine Kerr

Republican Sine Kerr was appointed Jan. 4 by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to replace former state Sen. Steve Montenegro in Legislative District 13.

Montenegro resigned Dec. 15 to focus on his candidacy for Congressional District 8. The appointment was made during a special  meeting of the board of supervisors, ensuring that the seat is filled by the start of the legislative session on Jan. 8.

“I’m ready to push up my sleeves to work hard for the people of LD13,” she said following the appointment.

She will be sworn in at 11 a.m. on Jan. 8 in the office of Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

Kerr, of Buckeye, was one of three nominees chosen by the LD13 precinct committeemen during a Dec. 28 meeting to fill the seat. Royce Jenkins and Goodyear City Councilwoman Joanne Osborne, who had previously filed to run for the House in LD13, were also nominated.

A self-described conservative Republican, Kerr and her husband run a dairy business and she serves on the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Maricopa County Air Quality Hearing Board.

She had filed to run for election in the House, and told the Arizona Capitol Times that she would decide “soon” whether to run for election in the Senate or continue with her House campaign.

County: Senate making ‘mockery’ of audit

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, surrounded by other county elected officials, explains why he believes the results of the 2020 election were correct and everything else pushes "the Big Lie." (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, surrounded by other county elected officials, explains why he believes the results of the 2020 election were correct and everything else pushes “the Big Lie.” (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Maricopa County supervisors on Monday accused Senate President Karen Fann, of allowing a “mockery” to be made of the election process with her audit.

On one hand, the board and County Recorder Stephen Richer prepared a 14-page letter responding to specific questions — they called them accusations — about everything from handling of the ballots to whether a database had been deleted after the election but before files were delivered to Senate-hired auditors. In each case, they said either that the information is false or that they cannot or will not provide what she wants.

But, one by one, each official lashed out at Fann and the Senate for perpetuating what several said amounts to a hoax on the public. And they said she has effectively given over the Senate’s powers to Cyber Ninjas, an outside group that not only has no election audit experience but is now using it to raise money.

And if the message of Monday’s meeting is lost on Fann and other senators, board Chairman Jack Sellers put it succinctly.

“As chairman of this board, I want to make it clear: I will not be responding to any more requests from this sham process,” he said.

“Finish what you’re calling an ‘audit,’ ” Sellers continued. “Be ready to defend your report in a court of law.”

In doing so, Sellers and the Republican-dominated board confirmed what had pretty much been clear since last week; Board members will not show up at the Senate Tuesday, as requested by Fann, for a televised question-and-answer session with her, Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ken Bennett, a former secretary of state who Fann tapped to be her liaison with the outside contractors.

In fact, Supervisor Bill Gates said there’s good reason to stay away.

“This board was going to be part of a political theater broadcast on livestream on OAN,” he said, a reference to One America News Network, a pro-Trump cable news outlet which not only has fueled the theories that somehow the former president did not lose the election but also is helping to raise money to fund what is supposed to be an official, government-conducted audit.

Monday’s response now leaves it up to Fann on how to respond.

The Senate has gone to court before to force the supervisors to surrender the 2.1 million ballots and the election equipment. But a maneuver to actually hold the supervisors in contempt — a move that could have allowed the Senate sergeant-at-arms to take supervisors into custody — failed when Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, refused to go along with his other 15 GOP colleagues.

Boyer in recent days has indicated even more hesitancy about pursuing the issue. And Richer, a Republican like Fann and the majority of the Senate, said he thinks the tide is turning.

“I guarantee you, there are Republicans in the state Senate … that do not believe a word of it,” he said.

And with Democrats firmly against the whole process, that could leave Fann with few options to force further compliance.

There was no immediate response from the Senate president as to what, if anything, she intends to do now.

Political charges aside, there was a response to what Fann asked.

For example, Fann — working with questions provided to her by Cyber Ninjas — said there are “a significant number of instances in which there is a disparity between the actual number of ballots contained in a batch and the total denoted on the pink report slip accompanying the batch.”

“They don’t know how to read transmission slips,” Richer said of the auditors.

For example, he said some ballots out of any batch of 200 might be pulled out because they can’t be read by the tabulators. And that, said Richer, creates a duplicate ballot.

As to claims of deleted databases, he said “that’s just fundamentally not true.”

“If they were professional, certified auditors they wouldn’t be asking those questions,” Sellers said.

Ditto, Richer said, about the demand for the county’s routers, the computer equipment that acts like traffic directors for data between computers.

“We do not know why Cyber Ninjas would need the routers, as they have no election information,” Richer said. Aside from the $6 million cost of pulling them out and putting in temporary replacements, he said Sheriff Paul Penzone is concerned that what is on them could provide a “blueprint” of computers used by law enforcement that could allow someone to compromise the system.

Richer also said that Cyber Ninjas has no need for internal passwords to get at the source code for the tallying machines. Anyway, he said, that information belongs to Dominion Voting Systems. And he said Dominion gave them directly to the two certified auditors the county hired — again, Cyber Ninjas is not — and does not share them with election officials.

Sellers said he sees a pattern in the requests.

“It’s become clear that some of these people are only going to be happy when they get the results they want,” he said — meaning a finding that somehow Trump won the election, regardless of whether there is actual evidence to back that up.

Gates said it is possible that the Senate at one time had a legitimate reason to review the ballots and equipment. He noted that Fann said the whole purpose was to review the process and determine whether changes are needed in state laws on how elections are run.

But Gates said that stopped being the driving force long ago now that “outside forces” have taken control. That, he said, has become obvious because everyone admits the audit can’t be completed for the $150,000 the Senate allocated.

“Tell us where the money is coming from,” Gates said. So far, though, neither Cyber Ninjas nor Bennett has provided details. And Fann, who is supposed to be in charge, said she doesn’t know.

Gates acknowledged that he and his GOP colleagues are in some ways bucking the partisan tide.

“We recognize … that a large percentage of Republicans believe that the election was stolen in 2020 and that Donald Trump actually won,” he said. But Gates said he does not share that belief.

“And the reason that I feel confident in saying that, particularly in Maricopa County, is that we overturned every stone,” he said. “We asked the difficult questions.”

Now, said Gates, is the time to say that enough is enough.

“It is time to push back on the Big Lie,” he said. “Otherwise we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 that we can all believe the results, whatever they may be.”

Richer said there’s another reason people should believe his assurances that the 2020 results are accurate.

He pointed out that he wasn’t even running the office at that time. Richer took over in January after defeating Democrat Adrian Fontes who did run the election.

“Why would I stand here beside these gentlemen to say, ‘It was a good election’ if it wasn’t?” he asked.

“Why wouldn’t I just throw the guy that I spent the past 12 months criticizing, Adrian Fontes, under the bus and say, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a new sheriff in town’ ”? Richer continued. “So it’s just facially asinine.”

Court dismisses Ward election suit

Cork, Ireland

A federal judge has tossed out a bid by Kelli Ward and other Arizona would-be Republican electors to force Vice President Mike Pence to use a different procedure when counting electoral votes this coming Wednesday.

In a 13-page order, Judge Jeremy Kernodle said that Ward, who is chair of the Arizona Republican Party, and her fellow plaintiffs lack standing to even sue Pence in the first place.

He said what they want is for him to order the vice president to ignore the procedures set forward in the federal Electoral Count Act, one that should result in a finding that Democrat Joe Biden won the race with 306 electoral votes versus 232 for President Trump. That would set the set the stage for Pence, as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, to reject the election results, certified by Gov. Doug Ducey, which found that Biden had outpolled Trump in Arizona by 10,457 votes.

Kernodle said that, in the minds of the Arizona challengers, that would open the door for Pence to decline to give the state’s 11 electoral votes to Biden — and possibly do the same in other states where Biden won. At that point, the way Ward and the other GOP “electors” see it, Pence could either count their votes for Trump despite the fact they’re not the electors certified by the governor, or refuse to count either slate, setting the stage for the House, with one vote per state, to choose the president.

But the judge said their lawsuit is based on the premise that Ducey unlawfully certified and transmitted the votes of the Biden electors. And even if that were true, Kernodle said is not the fault of Pence who is named as the sole defendant in the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that the vice president had any involvement in the certification and transmission of a competing slate of electors,” he said.

“That act is performed solely by the Arizona governor, who is a third party not before the court, the judge continued. “The vice president’s anticipated actions on Jan. 6 will not affect the decision of Gov. Ducey regarding the certification of presidential electors — which occurred more than two weeks ago on Dec. 14.

And Kernodle said there’s something else.

He pointed out that what Ward and the other electors want him to do is order Pence to follow a certain procedure when opening the votes, one they contend gives the vice president the “exclusive authority and sole discretion in determining which electoral votes to count for a given state.”

But Kernodle pointed out that even if he were to do that, that still doesn’t guarantee they will get the result they want: rejection of the 11 Democratic votes, whether by Pence or the full Congress. And that, he said, means they lack legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

The judge reached a similar conclusion that Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, who also is part of the lawsuit, lacks standing to sue.

He said Gohmert intends to raise an objection on Wednesday when the electoral votes are counted for Arizona and several other states where voters chose Biden over Trump.

The Electoral Count Act then requires each member of the House and Senate to vote to resolve the objections. But Gohmert contends that violates the Twelfth Amendment which he said requires state-by-state voting, with each state having one vote, for which slate to accept, a process that likely would favor Trump.

“Members of Congress lack standing to bring a claim for an injury suffered solely because they are members of Congress,” Kernodle wrote. “And that is all Congressman Gohmert is alleging here.”

He said Gohmert is not alleging that he was denied the right to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

“Rather, he asserts that under the Electoral Count Act, he will not be able to vote as a congressional representative in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment,” the judge wrote, something Kernodle said he is legally powerless to address.

The judge also said that Gohmert’s claim suffers from the same flaw as does the one by Kelly and the other would-be GOP electors: It is based on what Gohmert believes would happen in “a series of hypothetical — but by no means certain — events.”

That ranges from what Pence will do on Wednesday in opening and counting the votes, whether any member of Congress would object, how members of Congress would vote individually if that were the process and how a one-vote-per-state result might be different.

There was no immediate response from Ward to the ruling. But the attorneys representing her, the other would-be Arizona GOP electors and Gohmert already have filed notice they intend to seek review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is the second federal court defeat for Ward and that Republican “slate.”

Last month Judge Diane Humetewa tossed out claims of fraud and irregularities based on theories that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs conspired with various foreign and domestic individuals and companies to manipulate the results and allow Biden to win.

“The allegations they put forth to support their claim of fraud fail in their particularity and plausability,” the judge wrote. “The various affidavits and expert reports are largely based on anonymous witnesses, hearsay and irrelevant analysis of unrelated elections.”

That is among more than four dozen lawsuits filed by Trump or his supporters that have been rejected by state and federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court also has turned away several appeals, though Ward is involved with two more which technically remain on the court’s docket.

Court says Wendy Rogers may run for Congress

Wendy Rogers can run for Congress in the Republican primary despite an error on her nominating petitions, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled Thursday.

Smith acknowledged that state law requires that petitions list the county of the people who are signing them. The aim is to make it easier for recorders in each county to be able to verify the signatures of local voters.

Wendy Rogers, a Republican candidate for Arizona Senate in District 17, calls potential voters during a phone-bank event at her campaign headquarters. Rogers completed the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series training program in June. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)
In this photo, Wendy Rogers, then a candidate for the the Arizona Senate, calls potential voters during a phone-bank event at her campaign headquarters. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

What happened here is that many, if not most of the petitions that were circulated on Rogers’ behalf, were labeled as coming from Coconino County. Attorney Mike Liburdi said that was an apparent error on the part of campaign workers who thought the requirement was to list the county of the candidate’s residence.

Attorney Alexander Kolodin argued that error invalidated the petitions from other counties. There are 11 in the sprawling congressional district. That would have left Rogers short of the signatures needed to qualify for the August 28 primary.

But Smith agreed with Liburdi that the error is not fatal. More to the point, the judge said nothing about the error confused those who were signing the petitions.

“There is no dispute that the petitions correctly identified the candidate, the office she seeks, her party affiliation, or the date of the election,” Smith wrote. And he said that the signatures – other than those already disqualified for other reasons – all lived within Congressional District 1.

Smith noted that Pima County officials, in a statement for the court, said getting a bunch of petitions all with “Coconino County” on the top made it more difficult for them to analyze the signatures of their own voters. But the judge said that does not require that the signatures on the petitions from the wrong county be thrown out.

“There is no competent evidence that any county official did not accurately review signatures,” he wrote.

The judge also was not persuaded by Kolodin’s arguments that having petitions submitted with the wrong county information threw a hurdle in the path of those who were trying to keep Rogers’ name off the ballot. He pointed out that the lawsuit challenging her candidacy not only listed thousands of challenged signatures but even identified signers who did not reside in CD 1 or were not registered Republicans.

Smith also took a slap at the challengers for trying to use what he regarded as a technical violation of having the wrong county name on petitions as an excuse to thwart Rogers’ congressional run.

“The election statutes and case law regarding nominating petition information are intended to prevent candidates from confusing electors who sign the petitions,” the judge wrote. “They are not designed as tools for challengers.”

Attorney Timothy La Sota, who also represents the challenger to Rogers’ candidacy, said no decision has been made whether to appeal.

Rogers, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and one of the first woman pilots, will face off in the GOP primary against state Sen. Steve Smith from Maricopa and Tiffany Shedd, an Eloy farmer and small business attorney. Whoever survives the primary gets to go up against incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran.

The congressional district is the state’s largest by geography, stretching from the state’s northern border through Flagstaff to the eastern edge of the state, then down through Graham, Greenlee and much of Pinal county, finally reaching into Marana, Oro Valley and the suburbs of Tucson.

This year’s race marks the fifth bid by Rogers to get public office.

She made a 2010 bid for the state Senate, along with bids to get elected in CD 9 in 2012 and 2014. A 2016 run for the GOP nomination in CD 1 also proved unsuccessful.

Court voids 2017 ‘dark money’ law

Gavel and scales

A judge has slapped down efforts by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature to create new exceptions to laws that require disclosure of campaign finance spending.

In a ruling released Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer said the 2017 measure unconstitutionally conflicts with a 1998 voter-approved law designed to reduce the influence of money on politics.

Wednesday’s decision most immediately limits the ability of political parties to spend unlimited dollars on behalf of their candidates without disclosing the expenditures. It also voids some exemptions that lawmakers created in campaign finance laws, like allowing people to pay the legal fees of candidates without it counting against the legal limit of how much financial help they can provide.

But attorney Jim Barton who represented those challenging the 2017 law said the most significant part of the ruling is it restores the right of the voter-created Citizens Clean Elections Commission to police and enforce campaign finance laws against all candidates and their donors, not just those who are running with public financing.

That is significant because the 2017 law stripped the commission of that authority, giving it to the Secretary of State’s Office. But it is the commission that has adopted — and has enforced — rules requiring any group that is spending money to influence campaigns to publicly disclose which candidates they are supporting or opposing and how much they are spending.

Wednesday’s ruling, however, leaves intact the ability of groups established under the Internal Revenue Code as “social welfare” organizations to continue to shield the identities of their donors as long as they report their expenditures. The lawsuit did not challenge that “dark money” exemption.

There was no immediate response from the Secretary of State’s Office, which was defending the law, on the ruling or whether there will be an appeal.

The 2017 law, known as SB 1516, was championed by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler. He said that existing laws interfered with the rights of free speech and people to participate in the political process with their dollars without giving up their right of privacy. It was approved on a largely party-line vote and signed into law by Ducey.

But the flip side of that, according to foes of the law, was that any decrease in disclosure requirements denies voters of at least some indication of who is spending money to try to influence the outcome of campaigns. That, they said, is why voters in 1998 gave broad powers to the commission to police campaign contributions.

Palmer agreed. In fact, he took a slap of sorts at state lawmakers for failing to enact such comprehensive regulations themselves.

The judge pointed out that the people who crafted the Arizona Constitution directed the first state Legislature to “enact a law providing for the general publicity of campaign contributions to and expenditures of campaign committees and candidates for public office.”

“The Legislature has never complied with that directive,” Palmer wrote. He said it took approval of the Citizens Clean Elections Act to even begin to comply.

One of the key provisions of that 1998 law, was that requirement for “independent expenditures” on behalf of or against candidates to be disclosed.

Since voters approved the law, the commission has pursued several high-profile cases when there have been TV commercials attacking candidates with no disclosure of what group was financing the effort. Barton said that Palmer’s ruling “confirms the Clean Elections Commission’s authority” to continue enforcing those requirements.

“We believe that that’s the answer to fighting dark money,” he said.

Barton said one of the biggest loopholes SB 1516 created was the ability of political parties to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of their candidates without disclosure.

In just the most recent election, for example, the Arizona Republican Party ran TV commercials on behalf of the reelection efforts of Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich. But the exact amount they spent on behalf of each was never reported because of the exemption created in the 2017 law.

This became particularly significant this year because Ducey raised money not only directly for his own campaign but also took corporate and large-dollar contributions, which he could not accept personally, through a separate Ducey Victory Fund committee. And any dollars Ducey could not keep himself were given to the Arizona Republican Party, which then was free to use it to help the governor’s reelection, all without detailing how much was spent on his behalf.

This isn’t just a practice of one party.

The Arizona Democratic Party also put $3.3 million into the effort to elect Katie Hobbs as Secretary of State. But that figure became public not through campaign finance laws. It was only because iVote, which promotes the election of Democratic secretaries of state, the group that gave the money to the state party to promote Hobbs, put out a press release detailing the expenditure.

Court: ‘Ballot harvesting’ ban not 1st Amendment violation


A federal appeals court has rebuffed yet another attempt to void the state’s 2016 ban on so called “ballot harvesting.”

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by Democrat activist Rivko Knox that making it a felony for her to take someone else’s ballot to polling places interfered with her First Amendment rights. And the judges were no more sympathetic to her contention that the Arizona law illegally infringed on the right of the federal government to regulate who can deliver mail.

This is the second appellate court defeat for those who are opposed to the law. The judges have previously rejected arguments that the statute banning ballot harvesting is legally unjustified because there is no evidence that the practice resulted in fraud.

The fight is over what had been the practice of some political and community groups of going door-to-door ahead of elections to ask people if they already had mailed back their early ballots. If not, the volunteers would offer to deliver them, especially if the election were only a few days off and there was no guarantee that mailing them would get them to county election officials on time.

In 2016 the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to make the practice a felony, with penalties of up to a year in state prison and a $150,000 fine. Backers said they were concerned that allowing just anyone to pick up ballots could lead to fraud or mischief.

When the first challenge was rebuffed by a federal judge, Knox came back with a new legal theory.

In essence, she argued, the collection of early ballots is “expressive conduct” protected by the First Amendment. The message, Knox said, was her support of widespread voting by mail and that voting is so fundamental that she is committed to helping people exercise their right to vote no matter for whom they vote.

But appellate Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the court, said Knox failed to prove that the conduct of collecting ballots “would reasonably be understood by viewers as conveying any of these messages or conveying a symbolic message of any sort.”

Ikuta, a President George W. Bush appointee, was no more sympathetic to Knox’s claim that she was engaged in delivery of something newsworthy entitled to First Amendment protections. The court acknowledged that early ballots, once filled out, do constitute the speech of the voters, that does not mean that Knox, had a constitutional right to deliver that “speech.”

Crane increases lead over O’Halleran in CD2

From left are Tom O’Halleran and Eli Crane

Eli Crane, Republican candidate in the red-heavy Congressional District 2 increased his lead over Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran overnight. Crane now stands with 53.7% of the vote and O’Halleran with 46.3%.

O’Halleran served three terms in Congressional District 1 before the Independent Redistricting Commission redrew districts in 2022. Congressional district 1 saw a fairly even split between parties. But with new boundaries, O’Halleran, a centrist Democrat, was tasked with winning over a predominantly Republican population. 

He now goes toe to toe with Crane, a MAGA Republican.  

O’Halleran served as co-chairman of the centrist Democrat Blue Dog Coalition and has generally kept a more moderate position during his time in Congress.  

His policy priorities are water, natural resources, social security and medicare, education and broadband expansion for rural and tribal communities. He also voted to impeach Donald Trump in the House. 

In the past legislative session, he voted in support of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science Act and the Equality Act.  

O’Halleran co-sponsored and voted in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which sought to prohibit government restrictions on access to abortion services.   

On his issues pages, O’Halleran said, “the federal government has continually failed to secure our borders or fix America’s broken immigration system.” But he clarifies he supports the DREAM act.   

Crane, the Trump-endorsed candidate, keeps a consistent America First agenda. According to the bio on his website, he is pro-life, pro second amendment and, “unafraid to take a stand against cancel culture and the radical left.”  

He subscribes to claims the 2020 election was fraudulent and supports ending “unregulated mail-out balloting,” and enacting stricter voter ID laws and harsher penalties for anyone, “caught harvesting ballots or found guilty of voter fraud.”  

Crane has also hammered in border policy as one of his key issues. Like many of his America First counterparts, he characterizes immigration issues as, “an invasion” and wants to finish the border wall.  

He calls vaccine and mask mandates “tyranny” on his website. He also is against cancel culture and wants to ban critical race theory.  

The first unofficial tabulation shows the race between O’Halleran and Crane likely will be down to the wire. 

Defending inclusive excellence at Arizona public universities


On September 4th, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University will enjoy the rare honor of having a guest speaker introduced by Gov. Doug Ducey. The visit from the governor is all the more unusual because the speaker –Robby Soave, an associate editor at the Koch-funded Reason.com, and recent author of Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trumphas a history of disparaging Arizona’s public universities and their students.

Alex Trimble Young
Alex Trimble Young

Soave purports to champion the university as a site of free exchange, but his attacks on Arizona’s institutions of higher learning reveal the deeply ideological reasons that he receives such a warm welcome from Republican leaders like Ducey. By sensationalizing familiar conservative bugaboos like “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces,” which Soave characterizes as frivolous student demands to be shielded from encounters with viewpoints that challenge their own, he distracts the real challenges facing our public universities and their students.

In a 2017 Daily Beast article entitled “Freedom of Thought is on Life Support at the University of Arizona,” Soave lampooned a list of demands published by a committee of marginalized students at U of A that aimed to increase support for underrepresented students, arguing that these students were fighting for a university that will “coddle their minds and safeguard emotions.”

What he fails to mention, however, is that many of the students’ demands were not focused on cultural issues, but on their need for merit-based scholarships and emergency funds at an institution that has recently faced radical cuts in state appropriations spearheaded by our Republican-controlled legislature.

Soave represents these struggling undergraduates striving to find their political voice as a cabal of malevolent power brokers capable of bringing an institution to its knees. His true regard for them comes out in his conclusion: “If they are indeed marginalized,” he quips, “other students might well conclude that it’s preferable they remain so.”

His book singles out an on-campus advertising campaign at ASU designed to make students aware of resources for managing anxiety. After a juvenile aside on the attractiveness of ASU’s undergraduate women (he refers to them as “girls” and cites Maxim magazine as a source), Soave argues that “ASU is sort of a college, and sort of group therapy,” and part of a nation-wide trend toward the transformation of universities into institutions that value the comfort of students over the meaningful exchange of ideas.

This story is not original to Soave, but is dutifully intoned by a legion of right-wing intellectuals weekly, and has gained remarkable traction among Republican voters. It is also an utter misrepresentation of the university classroom as I have known it.

This week, I will step in front of a class of students at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, to teach our signature first-year seminar on the history of human culture and thought, “The Human Event.” My first class will include a discussion of the difficult material we will cover, and its potential impact on students with PTSD and other mental health issues. We will then dive into a yearlong exchange about the multicultural history of ideas that does not shy away from the ugly facts of racial and sexual violence.

I have taught hundreds of students at ASU; not a single one has ever disrupted my classroom with a spurious demand for a “trigger warning” or a “safe space.”

My informal discussion of these issues with colleagues at ASU and around the country suggests that my experience is not unique. While many university faculty face occasional annoyances with student activism and university policies, these issues simply do not constitute the most pressing challenges to our institutions or our students.

The student mental health crisis Soave crassly dismisses, on the other hand, is real. At ASU, I have struggled to help overwhelmed students who are taking on decades of debt despite balancing the demands of academics with those of a full-time low-wage job. I have consoled students rattled by encounters with armed white nationalist protesters on the streets of downtown Phoenix. I have mourned with students whose families have been torn apart by deportation.

In a recent New York Times op-ed entitled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Excellence,” Bret Stephens, one of Soave’s fellow critics of campus culture, frames his familiar jeremiad in terms that expose its true aims. Stephens suggests that universities should promote an appreciation of a “masterliness…whose spirit is fundamentally aristocratic.” By ridiculing the activists and policies that seek to extend the inclusivity of Arizona’s public institutions of higher learning, Soave is promoting a similarly anti-democratic message.

I understand the relationship between inclusivity and excellence quite differently. The ASU charter is anchored by a phrase that many of us in the ASU community can recite by heart: our university measures its excellence “not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes, and how they succeed.” More of us who value our public universities need to stand up to defend the liberatory ideals expressed in this statement.

Alex Trimble Young is an Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. The views expressed here are his own.

Dem AZ Rep. Sinema ‘seriously considering’ Senate challenge

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said Friday she is “seriously considering” a run for the Arizona Senate seat held by Republican Jeff Flake.

The three-term congresswoman says she’s heard from many in her state encouraging her to run. Flake narrowly won his first term in 2012 and is among the very few GOP incumbents who might be vulnerable in next year’s midterm elections in a Senate map that favors Republicans.

“I’ve heard from many Arizonans encouraging me to run for the United States Senate. It is something I am seriously considering,” Sinema said. “When I make any decisions, Arizonans will be the first to know.”

Sinema, 41, earned a reputation as a liberal while serving in the Arizona legislature. But she’s sought to cultivate a more moderate profile in the House, joining the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats. After a relatively narrow win in her first House race in 2012, Sinema has comfortably won re-election and has more than $3 million in campaign cash on hand.

She is the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

Flake has been a high-profile critic of President Donald Trump and has written a book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” that details his unease about Trump and the Republican Party. A major trump donor, Robert Mercer, has donated $300,000 to a super PAC backing Flake’s GOP primary opponent, Kelli Ward.

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Democrats narrow margin on early ballots

Voting ballot box isometric vector icon with paper sheet

Election Day officially is tomorrow but more people already have cast their ballots in Arizona than four years ago – though not everywhere throughout the state.

New figures from the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday showed that 1,586,783 early ballots had been turned in. By contrast, in the entire 2014 midterm race, only 1,537,671 people voted at all, whether early or at the polls.

The biggest turnout for the moment appears to be in Maricopa County where there already are 100,000 more ballots turned in than those who voted at all in 2014.

At this point Republicans hold a decided edge statewide, with 41.4 percent of those early ballots coming from those registered with the GOP, versus 33.9 percent from Democrats and 23.9 percent from those unaffiliated with either major party.

But that split has been narrowing.

There were days last month where Republican ballots turned in exceeded Democratic ballots by more than 15,000. The most recent GOP edge is less than 2,000 a day as Democrats have started to mail in their early ballots.

Overall, Republicans hold a 136,587 registration edge over Democrats of the more than 3.7 million people registered for this election. So that makes turnout important for both sides.

But the real balance of power could rest with the more than 1.2 million people who are unaffiliated with any party.

Women seem to be outperforming men in ballot returns, turning in 51.3 percent of those early ballots come from women. By comparison, the Census Bureau says just 50.3 percent of the state is female.

And the average age of early voters at 58.2.

Elsewhere around the state, only two counties already have exceeded the 2014 turnout: Yavapai and Yuma. In all three counties Republican early ballots outnumber those from Democrats.

But in Pima County, where the early ballot count is just 6,000 below the total 2014 turnout, Democrat early ballots are running stronger than the GOP.

In other places, however, the difference between the latest numbers and the 2014 turnout is quite marked.

Most noticeable is Apache County, where total early voting is less than 8,400 to date, versus the 21,324 turnout four years ago. Much of that is likely due to the fact that more than two thirds of the county is Native American, with Election Day considered more of a community event and gathering.

Dispute over San Tan incorporation invites candidate to run

Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)
Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)

Sen. David Farnsworth’s challenger in the Republican primary tells voters he’s running for office because Farnsworth told him to.

Republican Michael Hernandez, better known as “Big Mike,” says a disagreement over the future of San Tan Valley came to a head two years ago. The two candidates have slightly different versions of the events that took place, but nonetheless agree on the gist of the situation: Hernandez supports the incorporation of San Tan Valley, and Farnsworth, a Mesa Republican, wasn’t willing to sponsor legislation to aid that goal.

That’s when, Hernandez says, “He told me to run.”

It all started in 2016, when Farnsworth agreed to hold a series of town hall meetings in the East Valley to discuss the pros and cons of incorporation.

Some San Tan Valley residents, Hernandez among them, have spent years pushing to become a new city. The most recent efforts stalled earlier this year, when a residential area under the control of a developer blocked Pinal County officials from moving forward with an incorporation petition.

Neither Farnsworth nor Hernandez seems pleased with how the meetings went.

Farnsworth said he felt like the meetings were balanced at first, with ample time for those for and against incorporation but eventually were overtaken by those in favor.

Hernandez, a real estate agent, said Farnsworth seemed to be against incorporation, and shielded the meetings from testimony by officials from another Arizona city that could’ve spoken of the benefits of incorporation.

At the final town hall meeting, Hernandez asked Farnsworth point blank to sponsor legislation at the Capitol to help San Tan Valley residents incorporate. By Hernandez’s telling, the audience at the town hall overwhelmingly supported that effort.

”And he said no,” Hernandez said of Farnsworth.

“(Farnsworth) said, ‘Well, I’m not passionate about it. You need to find another legislator that’s passionate about it.’ And I said, ‘You’re our representative. You’re elected to represent us,’” Hernandez said. “(Farnsworth) said, ‘If you don’t like it, you should run for Senate. And my wife stood up and shouted, ‘We will.’”

Farnsworth doesn’t remember word for word what was said at the town hall meeting, but acknowledged the exchange might’ve gone something like that.

“[Hernandez] has said to me publicly and privately that he ran for the Senate because I encouraged him to,” Farnsworth said, later adding, “I don’t remember saying that, but I don’t question that I probably did.”

Perhaps Farnsworth’s personal feelings about city government had an impact on the audience at those town halls, he said, “and apparently (Hernandez) was not happy about that.” Farnsworth lives on a county island, which he said he enjoys “because I’m free of that extra layer of government intervention into our lives.”

And that’s part of the reason why he’s uncertain that incorporation is a good idea for the residents of San Tan Valley.

“Generally, a municipality will take away more freedoms,” Farnsworth said.

Hernandez said those beliefs, hinted at during the town hall meetings in 2016, were later confirmed by consultants he has interacted with. Those subsequent conversations led Hernandez to believe that Farnsworth is “adamantly anti-city.”

Hernandez felt that Farnsworth ran the meetings in a way that was designed to sway opinion against incorporation, particularly by bringing in officials from Johnson Utilities, including owner George Johnson, to speak about the downsides of incorporation.

Hernandez said he sought to offer a counter-argument by inviting the city manager of Buckeye, which incorporated in 1929, to show the positive aspects of incorporation.

But Farnsworth, via his assistant, sent an email to Hernandez declaring the city manager wouldn’t be allowed time to speak at the meeting, Hernandez said.

“The town hall progression led me to understand that he really didn’t care,” Hernandez said.

Farnsworth said that accusations that he’s “anti-city” are misinformed.

“The only thing that would probably disappoint me is if I were painted as anti-incorporation, because I expressed many times that incorporation could be a positive thing, as I said, if it were done correctly,” he said.

Those who wish to incorporate need a long-term strategy, and Farnsworth said one was lacking for San Tan Valley.

Farnsworth acknowledged that his blunt talk about cities as another layer of government, and his own professed appreciation for living on a county island, could give that impression, but that’s not the case.

“If I had been anti-incorporation, I never would have held those meetings to begin with,” he said.

But Farnsworth decided against sponsoring legislation that, while might have been a crowd-pleaser, wasn’t what the senator said he thought was right.

“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make that tough choice at the end of the day. … I suppose (Hernandez) felt like I needed to be obedient to the constituents and do what they wanted me to do,” Farnsworth said. “And apparently I made some comment and encouraged him to run for the Senate.”

It was enough for Hernandez to seek office for the first time.

Doug Ducey easily defeats Bennett, wins GOP nomination

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Gov. Doug Ducey easily brushed off an intraparty challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennett Tuesday.

Early voting totals shows the governor — an Arizona GOP darling who is seeking a second, four-year term — ran away with the Republican nomination.

Leading up to the primary, Ducey largely ignored his primary opponent as Bennett desperately tried to wage an uphill battle against the incumbent governor with a massive war chest.

Approximately 20 minutes after the first election results posted, Ducey put out a statement claiming victory and thanking voters for their continued support, but also looking ahead to the general election.

“Now we must come together again to ensure we build on the significant gains of the last three years to secure Arizona’s future,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to the campaign ahead in the weeks and months to come.

Ducey will face Democrat David Garcia in the general election

In what was either a testament to the non competitive nature of Ducey’s primary challenge or the strength of Ducey as a candidate, Vice President Mike Pence congratulated the governor on his primary win Tuesday — before any election results were released. He later deleted his tweet, likely upon realizing his congratulations were premature.

Bennett called Ducey to concede shortly after the race was called, said Christine Bauserman, Bennett’s campaign manager.

He, like Ducey, said it was time to present a united Republican front going into the general election, Bauserman said.

“Now is the time to come together to keep the state Republican,” she said.

Bennett angered establishment Republicans when he jumped into the race this spring, fresh off the heels of the “Red for Ed” teachers’ strike. Bennett repeatedly criticized Ducey for “caving” to the teachers and denounced the governor’s proposed school safety plan to prevent gun violence in schools.

But Ducey kept Bennett at arm’s length by refusing to debate him and often glossing over his primary opponent in interviews and at campaign events. 

Bennett failed to qualify for Clean Elections funding before the primary, which would have given him the resources to speak to a broader swath of Republican voters ahead of the primary.

However, Bennett did get one small victory on Tuesday as he turned in his $5 Clean Elections contributions to the secretary of state’s office. He turned in his Clean Elections contributions after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge compelled the secretary of state’s office to reopen the online contribution portal after Bennett was shorted about four hours of contribution time.

Bennett invoked the ire of Ducey and many high-ranking Arizona Republicans in June when he vowed not to appoint Cindy McCain to her husband’s U.S. Senate seat, implying months before John McCain died, that Ducey would appoint Cindy McCain to the seat.

In his gubernatorial bid, Bennett cast himself as an anti-establishment Republican in the mold of President Donald Trump — an odd choice for a longtime politician who served in the state Senate before being elected secretary of state.

He unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2014. He came in fourth in the six-way primary race that Ducey won.

Ducey clinched Trump’s endorsement Monday.

Now, all that stands between Ducey and a second term is the winner of a three-way Democratic primary for governor. But in the wake of McCain’s death, Ducey has temporarily put off campaigning as the state and the nation honors Arizona’s senior senator.

The Democratic Governors Association came out swinging against Ducey after he clinched the GOP nomination.

Ducey spent his first term undermining Arizona’s future by poorly allocating K-12 education funding, supporting plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and cozying up to special interest groups that pour millions into his campaign, said DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson.

The Republican Governors Association is planning to spend at least $9.2 million to propel Ducey to a second term. The RGA is trying to bail Ducey out, Pearson said.

“Doug Ducey is in electoral trouble — and he knows it,” she said in a statement.

Republican Gubernatorial Primary

By The Numbers

Votes cast: 510,322

Doug Ducey: 70.5 percent

Ken Bennett: 29.5 percent

Doug Ducey poised to win with election a month away

Coolidge City Council member Tatiana Murrieta snaps a selfie with Gov. Doug Ducey as he campaigns in Pinal County on Oct. 6. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Coolidge City Council member Tatiana Murrieta snaps a selfie with Gov. Doug Ducey as he campaigns in Pinal County on Oct. 6. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Gov. Doug Ducey wants to know why the U.S. Senate is taking so long to vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.

It’s just before 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 as he queries his staffers while they ride in a hulking SUV with dark tinted windows toward downtown Coolidge, population: 12,528. The governor is riding shotgun and scrolling through his phone on the brief drive from the Coolidge Municipal Airport to the heart of downtown, where he will walk in the annual Coolidge Days parade.

Ducey supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite allegations of sexual assault leveled at the judge.

Support for Kavanaugh could be an issue that tanks a Republican’s re-election bid in this weird and wild post-President Trump political environment. Supporting Kavanaugh can be viewed as more than just support for a Supreme Court nominee, but also affirmation of a controversial president.

And with Democrats across the country fighting back against the president and his agenda, any connection to Trump could be hard for Republicans to overcome this election cycle.

But not for Arizona’s governor.

Love him or hate him, Arizona is likely to see four more years of Ducey.

Democrat David Garcia appeared to ride a wave of galvanized Democrats after the Red for Ed movement this spring, but Ducey now holds a double-digit lead in the polls.

Ducey and his supporters have blanketed the airwaves for months with positive ads touting the governor and negative ads attacking his opponent. In comparison, Garcia’s campaign hasn’t had the money to fight back.

Early voting just started, but the race may already be over.

Gov. Doug Ducey pauses during the Coolidge Days parade to chat with Wendy McHugh, of Pinal County, and her granddaughter Paisley. Ducey, who is seeking re-election, walked in the parade. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Gov. Doug Ducey pauses during the Coolidge Days parade to chat with Wendy McHugh, of Pinal County, and her granddaughter Paisley. Ducey, who is seeking re-election, walked in the parade. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

First stop: Pinal County

Ducey wears a happy-go-lucky smile as he works the parade route in Coolidge.

He’s in a button-down shirt tucked into pressed Wrangler jeans and flanked by Republican Reps. T.J. Shope, David Cook and state Sen. Frank Pratt, who are also seeking re-election.

He shakes hands with nearly everyone along the parade route, mainly adults but also some kids  — old boardroom habits die hard. At times he gives kids high-fives, punctuating an especially satisfying smack with “boom!”

Parade goers continually praise him for bringing manufacturing start-up Nikola Motor Co. and its nearly 2,000 projected jobs to Coolidge.

The company that makes semi-trucks initially planned to locate in Buckeye, but pivoted because Coolidge had a shovel-ready site that would allow Nikola to start filling orders sooner.

It’s not clear what, if any, specific role Ducey may have played in helping Nikola switch sites, but economic development has been a central theme of the governor’s re-election campaign.

A former businessman, Ducey brought his corporate experience with him to the state’s executive office and has since prioritized job creation and reducing red tape and government interference in business.

And Arizona’s economy does look drastically different than it did four years ago — when the state was still feeling the lingering effects of the recession. Unemployment is down. Job growth is up, and more people are moving to Arizona every day.

Ducey has promised to take economic development to the next level with a second term.

“Now that we’ve got this momentum, this shine on our reputation, this polish on our state, that gives us the opportunity to make the case for the state of Arizona,” Ducey said in an interview.

Ducey’s recipe for economic excellence includes reforming the state’s tax code and creating a friendlier regulatory environment for businesses. He also thinks it’s just as important to fight “bad ideas” like the Invest in Education Act, which would have boosted taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents, and Proposition 127, which would mandate the state meet certain clean energy goals.

But creating a friendlier regulatory environment is not without issues. Uber and Theranos are oft-cited examples of where a lax regulatory environment can be problematic.

Garcia said Ducey built an economy for those at the top through tax breaks for corporations, and that greater K-12 education investment is crucial to driving economic development.

Ducey’s campaign has also emphasized border security throughout his re-election bid, partly as a way to tout creation of the Border Strike Force, but also as a way to tear down his opponent’s opposition to Trump’s border wall and his support for revamping the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

After the parade, the governor is delighted to find two off-duty Border Strike Force agents waiting for their breakfasts to arrive at a local diner in Coolidge.

The men tell the governor a K-9 unit caught someone trafficking 30 pounds of meth that very morning. Ducey’s face brightens and he thanks the men for their service.

But for Ducey, there’s no time for breakfast. Save for the freshmint Tic Tacs he pops throughout the seven-hour campaign barnstorm; he doesn’t eat because he doesn’t want anything slowing him down.

Gov. Doug Ducey poses for a photo with supporters at the Prescott airshow on Oct. 6. Ducey, who spent the day campaigning across the state as part of his re-election bid, talked to people at the airshow before rallying campaign volunteers in Prescott Valley. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Gov. Doug Ducey poses for a photo with supporters at the Prescott airshow on Oct. 6. Ducey, who spent the day campaigning across the state as part of his re-election bid, talked to people at the airshow before rallying campaign volunteers in Prescott Valley. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Next stop: Yavapai County

The charter jet — Ducey doesn’t use the state plane for campaign events — touches down at the Prescott Airport where nearby airstrips are crowded with people who came for an airshow.

The governor will be back in Prescott on Election Day eve — a tradition that pays homage to Barry Goldwater and John McCain, who launched their presidential bids from the courthouse steps.

Ducey makes the rounds, chatting with pilots and passersby alike.

In Washington, D.C., the Senate just confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48.

“I don’t remember a Supreme Court battle like this,” Ducey said. “Hopefully, the temperature comes down a bit in D.C.”

The political heat in the nation’s capital is spreading. The national political climate is reverberating across the country ahead of the congressional midterms.

Ducey’s opponents have tried to tie him to the president whenever possible. It’s a strategy Democrats across the country are employing en masse against their Republican opponents.

At a recent get-out-the-vote rally for Garcia, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego characterized Ducey as Trump’s henchman in Arizona.

“We need to fight Doug now. We need to fight Trump later because they are one in the same,” he said.

Trump is expected to visit Arizona before Election Day, but the president’s visit is unlikely to affect Ducey’s re-election campaign. Trump endorsed Ducey ahead of the primary election.

Ducey has tried to separate himself from the president. But at the same time, Ducey has praised Trump for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and his Supreme Court picks. He has also made multiple visits to the White House this year.

The governor views it as his job to work with the president — whoever it may be — wherever he can.

“I think this idea of protesting or being a part of the resistance rather than being the governor or the leader and doing what’s necessary for the citizens of Arizona is a real differentiator in this campaign,” Ducey said.

Ducey cited greeting President Barack Obama on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just days after the governor was inaugurated in 2015. He acknowledged that he and Obama didn’t see eye-to-eye on policy, but said that didn’t stop him from occasionally working with the administration.

The governor said he should be held accountable for his actions, not the president’s.

“I think what the other side would like to do is nationalize the election,” he said. “If people are upset with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., I can’t be in control of that. I can be in charge of the state of Arizona.”

Ducey hit several stumbling blocks this year, most notable of which was when 75,000 teachers marched on the state Capitol demanding higher teacher pay. He granted them pay raises spread over three years, but teachers weren’t satisfied.

The Red for Ed movement flipped Arizona’s political landscape on its head. Teachers filed to run for office, got involved in political campaigns and pushed the Invest in Ed ballot initiative.

The escalating political tension was palpable. But it’s too soon to know what effect teachers will have on Arizona’s elections this year. And early indicators show teachers’ newfound political activism won’t be able to topple Ducey, their No. 1 enemy.

Gov. Doug Ducey rallies supporters and campaign volunteers at a Prescott Valley park on Oct. 6. With one month until Election Day, Ducey encouraged volunteers to knock on as many doors as they can in order to boost Republican voter turnout. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Gov. Doug Ducey rallies supporters and campaign volunteers at a Prescott Valley park on Oct. 6. With one month until Election Day, Ducey encouraged volunteers to knock on as many doors as they can in order to boost Republican voter turnout. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Next stop: Ground game

Ducey rallies about two dozen campaign volunteers in a Prescott Valley park, emphasizing that Republicans need to boost turnout to help their candidates across the board.

The governor is leading in the polls by double digits, but other Republicans — namely U.S. Senate candidate Martha McSally — are not as lucky.

“We’re in the homestretch of this campaign, and it’s going to be a dogfight,” Ducey says. “We’re going to need every part of the state to turn out. … And of course, it’s about our race, but it’s about more than that.”

A Real Clear Politics average of five Arizona gubernatorial race polls shows Ducey up by 11.8 points. Ducey beat Democrat Fred DuVal by 12 points in 2014.

Democratic strategist Barry Dill is prepared to throw in the towel on the governor’s race.

“The race is all but over,” he said.

The problem all along for Garcia’s campaign was money. His inability to raise any significant amount of money meant he was unable to define himself as the Republican Governors Association pounded him with negative ads for months, Dill said.

Even before the primary Ducey and his allies started going negative on Garcia. But Garcia’s campaign depleted much of its cash coffers in the primary, giving the governor and his supporters a 50-to-1 spending advantage over Garcia.

“What has happened is that the governor’s campaign has had a free reign on defining David Garcia to the electorate and I don’t think there’s enough time or enough money to fight back,” Dill said.

In an interview, Garcia brushed off the onslaught of ads and recent polling that shows him behind.

“Polls don’t vote, people do,” he said. “Ads don’t vote, people do.”

Winning is possible, it’s just a matter of turnout and getting people to the polls, he said. Garcia cited his campaign’s more than 40,000 small-dollar donors to Ducey’s few thousand high-dollar donors as a sign that Arizonans support his campaign.

Garcia’s path to victory focuses on boosting turnout among new voters. His campaign has courted Hispanic voters — a traditionally hard to motivate group of voters — and young, progressive Democrats.

But as Garcia has embraced the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, he is alienating some independent and moderate voters — a voting bloc other statewide Democrats are working hard to capture.

Primary election data from the Secretary of State’s Office indicates new voters may not be turning out in high enough numbers for a Garcia victory. Arizona saw record-breaking primary turnout in August, but that was not because of new voters, but rather voters who typically vote in general elections, but had not voted in the previous two primary elections.

Ducey is ready to knock on doors and talk to voters face-to-face. He gets an overwhelmingly warm reception as he knocks doors at about a dozen Republican homes a few blocks away from the Prescott Valley park.

At one home, an older woman answers and shrieks when she sees the governor standing outside. Ducey tries to launch into his pitch, but Jenelle Balonon cuts him off.

“I know who you are, I’m voting for you,” she says, joking that that the governor almost gave her a heart attack. She extends her arm out to Ducey to show that she’s literally shaking.

As Ducey heads to the next door, his entourage picks up a cohort of curious children. The elementary school-aged boys were playing basketball at a house when they saw Ducey and his supporters, who are noticeable in the quiet neighborhood.

One boy pulls out at an iPhone and snaps a picture of Ducey upon learning he is the governor.

“I’m going to send this to so many people,” he says. The boy convinces the governor to FaceTime with his father, Scott Mitchell, a pastor at the Church Next Door in Paradise Valley.

His wife, Carolyn Mitchell, keeps a watchful eye on their young boys from the driveway. She thanks Ducey for granting teachers pay raises.

“We voted for you the first time so we’ll vote for you again,” she says.

Last stop: Home

The jet lands back at Phoenix Sky Harbor at about 4:30 p.m. After a quick photo with the pilots, Ducey hops into a waiting vehicle.

Across the country, Kavanaugh was just sworn in as the newest addition to the Supreme Court in a private ceremony at the country’s high court.

Protests rage on outside the Supreme Court. But in Phoenix, it’s just another Saturday as Ducey’s car drives away.

Doug Ducey soundly wins re-election

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Gov. Doug Ducey, the Arizona Republican with perhaps the biggest target on his back this year, defeated Democrat David Garcia Tuesday, according to early vote totals.  

Despite facing a spirited Democratic opponent, an unusually energized Democratic electorate and scores of teachers still fired up by the Red for Ed movement this year, Ducey emerged victorious this election cycle.

In fact, Ducey crushed Garcia Tuesday by more than 17 percentage points — a wider margin than when he defeated Democrat Fred DuVal in the 2014 governor’s race.

But Tuesday’s election results aren’t exactly surprising. Weeks out from the election, Ducey was poised to easily win the election. Most political pundits had written off the contest long before Election Day.

In his victory speech at the Arizona GOP watch party, Ducey struck a bipartisan tone as he talked about successes in his first term, namely pulling the state out of a $1 billion budget deficit.

“The progress our state has made, none of it could have happened without people coming together and working together,” he said. “Not only in our Capitol community, but across our state.”

But Ducey also looked ahead to the next four years. Ducey said his goal has always been to be a governor for all Arizonans and that goal didn’t change during his contentious re-election fight.

“We celebrate tonight,” he said. “Tomorrow we get to work and it is work we do together, putting the campaign behind us and letting politics stand down.”

Ducey’s tone on Election Day was noticeably different from candidate Ducey, who stumped with President Donald Trump and came out swinging in the first of two gubernatorial debates with Garcia.

While Democratic momentum may propel some Democratic candidates to big wins this election cycle, polls showed Ducey leading Garcia by double digits — a lead that would be hard for any candidate to overcome.

Garcia, who has been campaigning for more than a year, put up an exuberant fight. But the odds were stacked against him considering the sheer amount of money Ducey and his allies poured into the race.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia gives a victory speech after winning a three-way Democratic primary challenge Tuesday. Garcia, who will take on Gov. Doug Ducey in the governor's race, spoke to more than a hundred supporters packed into a Phoenix bar and restaurant. PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia  PHOTO BY CARMEN FORMAN/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Garcia was also a unique candidate in that he tacked further left than any other statewide Democrat. Garcia’s progressive gubernatorial campaign was far different from his 2014 bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction, which he lost to Diane Douglas by 1 percentage point.

A public education advocate and professor at Arizona State University, Garcia jumped into the race when Ducey signed legislation expanding the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. He also appeared to try to ride momentum among the education community stirred up by the Red for Ed movement in the spring.

Many Arizona teachers have been increasingly frustrated with Ducey. More than 70,000 teachers walked out of their classrooms in the spring and marched on the state Capitol demanding higher teacher pay.

Red for Ed supporters were also devastated when the Invest in Education Act — a ballot measure to boost K-12 education funding by boosting taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans — was kicked off the November ballot by the Arizona Supreme Court. Ducey vehemently opposed the measure.

Ducey campaigned heavily on the economy and the border — bread-and-butter GOP issues.

After taking office in a post-recession era wherein the state was still strapped for cash, Ducey takes credit for helping grow Arizona’s economy and lower the state’s unemployment.

He frequently touted his Border Strike Force on the campaign trail and attacked Garcia for his positions on immigration and border security.

Despite a long history of Arizona governors not serving their full terms and speculation he may seek higher elected office or may be tapped for a presidential appointment, Ducey has vowed to serve out his full, four-year term.

Governor’s race race by the numbers

*Doug Ducey: 57.8 percent


David Garcia: 40.2 percent

* Denotes incumbent

Ducey attorneys respond to lawsuit challenging process of Senate appointment

Gov. Doug Ducey appoints Rep. Martha McSally to the fill John McCain’s senate seat currently held by Jon Kyl who stepped down Dec. 31 PHOTO BY DILLON ROSENBLATT/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Attorneys for Gov. Doug Ducey are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit demanding that he call an election — and soon — to determine who will occupy the U.S. Senate seat following the death of John McCain rather than let Martha McSally keep the post until 2020.

In legal papers filed Friday, Brett Johnson, who is leading the legal team, acknowledged that vacancies in the U.S. Senate must be filled by a special election. But Johnson told U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa that the U.S. Constitution allows the Legislature to let Ducey name a senator to serve until the next regular election.

The governor initially named Jon Kyl. And when Kyl quit at the end of last year, Ducey tapped McSally who had just lost her own Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

And the fact that election won’t be until 27 months after McCain’s death last August, he said, does not alter Ducey’s ability to have McSally serve until 2020.

Anyway, Johnson said, a special election solely to name a replacement would not just be expensive but also would give the edge to wealthier candidates.

In a lawsuit filed last year, attorney Michael Kielsky, chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party contends that the governor must call a special election as soon as practicable to fill the post, a period he said is no longer than six months. Kielsky, representing two registered Democrats, one Republican, one Libertarian and an independent, said there is no reason for an unelected person of the governor’s choosing to be able to serve through the end of 2020.

But Johnson said Kielsky is misreading the law.

There is no question but that Arizona law allows a governor to appoint a temporary replacement when a Senate vacancy occurs. That person has to be of the same political party as the senator who quit or died.

And the law does require that there be an election to determine who gets to finish out the balance of the term. In McCain’s case, his term ran through 2022.

Johnson, however, said if the next regular election is not within six months, then the appointee can serve until the regular election after that.

In this case, McCain died on Aug. 25. That was just three days before last year’s primary and 73 days before the general election. Based on that, Johnson said, Ducey had the power to name someone to serve until the 2020 election when the final two years of McCain’s term will again be up for grabs.

Kielsky, however, wants Humetewa to rule that voters should get a chance to name someone of their choice long before the 2020 election — a person who could be of any political party.

Johnson, in his new legal filing, said the “inconvenience and expense of a special election outweighs any advantage to be derived from having a more prompt vacancy election.”

He told the judge a special statewide election in 2016 dealing with school finance cost the state more than $6.4 million. And in this case, Johnson said, a special election would require both a primary and general election.

Johnson also claimed that a special election would give an edge to “special interest groups and candidates with considerable self-wealth or funding” because of what he said the cost of having to finance an off-year campaign. By contrast, he argued, having the vote to fill the balance of the Senate term at a regularly scheduled election “creates a greater opportunity for a stronger pool of candidates to run.”

And Johnson said special elections have a lower turnout.

Johnson also brushed aside the complaint that the current practice is unfair because it means the person that the governor appoints has to be of the same political party as the person being replaced.

No date has been set for a hearing.

Ducey extols spending on his re-election

Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)

To hear Doug Ducey tell it, he got another four-year term as governor by waging a campaign based on his record.

Speaking Wednesday at the annual Republican Governors Association, Ducey told of his message of turning a $1 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus, 274,000 new private sector jobs and a resolution of the major lawsuit filed against the state for failing to adequately fund public schools. And the governor told the business executives and lobbyists in the audience – individuals and companies that donate to the RGA – that a lot of the credit for being able to tell his story is due to the money they provided to the organization.

“It was the RGA that was the firewall for me that allowed me to make the case on what we had accomplished, what we were going to accomplish into the future and create that separation to keep Arizona red,” Ducey said.

But Ducey made no mention of the fact that the $8 million spent by the RGA in Arizona – more than Ducey spent on his own behalf – went not into positive ads promoting the incumbent governor’s agenda but instead into attacking Democrat David Garcia

There was nothing subtle about the RGA-sponsored commercials.

One began by telling viewers about 7,000 pounds of heroin seized, 4,800 criminal arrests for gang-related activity, and “young girls rescued from sex trafficking,” all by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“But now David Garcia and other radicals are demanding we abolish ICE,” it says, saying such a move  “would mean more drugs across our border and more gang members in our neighborhoods. That was backed up by a sinister-looking black-and-white video of someone in a hoodie carrying what appears to be a gun.

“David Garcia’s reckless policies could put Arizona’s families at risk,” it concludes.

The commercial is based on a comment Garcia made about “replacing” ICE with some other agency, not to simply eliminate it and what it does entirely. But it gave the RGA the ammunition to go after him.

Asked about that RGA-funded anti-Garcia campaign after his talk, Ducey pointed out that he is legally prohibited from working with any outside group that is making “independent expenditures” on his behalf.

“I have to follow the law,” he told Capitol Media Services.

“I’m responsible for my campaign,” the governor continued. “And I think my campaign was a positive campaign that not only talked about my record but what I’d like to do in the future.”

That campaign, Ducey said, contrasted his plans with those of Garcia.

By the same token, though, the governor had no particular problem with what the RGA was telling Arizona voters on his behalf.

“My opponent did say reckless things,” he said. “And the people spoke.”

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson defended the tone of the ads his organization ran in Arizona.

“I wouldn’t say they were designed to scare,” he said.

“Most of our ads were focused on David Garcia’s words,” Thompson continued, like calls to abolish ICE and telling an audience to “imagine no wall in Southern Arizona.”

“So a lot of these ads we basically just put in his own words and what he said he was going to do if he got elected,” Thompson said. “And we made it known to Arizona voters what this could lead to.”

And what of the images, like the criminal in a hoodie and a hypodermic needle dropping into a pile of white powder?

“I don’t think it was over the top,” he said.

“I think it was meant to make sure voters understood what was at stake in the election” like what happens if ICE goes away. “So we wanted to make sure to point that if he’s going to get rid of this agency, it’s going to be harder to stop some of these groups and some of these criminals that seek to commit criminal acts.”

Ducey acknowledged the benefit of all that financial help from the RGA which gave him a margin of victory of more than 16 points.

“I was out there raising support for my campaign,” the governor said, as did the other governors who also got elected. And he said there was a reason the organization put what it did into getting him another four years.

“The RGA is very strategic on where it spends its dollars,” Ducey said. “It doesn’t fund losers and it doesn’t pay for landslides.”

And Ducey said that you can’t look at his margin of victory over Garcia as an indication he didn’t need that outside help, saying he didn’t pull ahead of the Democrat until late in the race.

Ducey was not the only Republican governor telling donors about the importance of their dollars.

“By supporting the RGA you make sure Republican governors can get elected,” said Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.

Thompson said the $8 million spent in Arizona is about at the median of what the organization poured into races in other states where it got involved.

At the top of the list, he said, is Ohio where the $20 million helped Republican Mike DeWine to keep the post in GOP hands after John Kasich was termed out. There also were $15 million expenditures in Florida and Wisconsin as well as $12 million in the unsuccessful bid by Republican Adam Laxalt to defeat Democrat Steve Sisolak.

But Thompson said there also were smaller expenditures like in Maryland where a $5 million boost from RGA helped to make Larry Hogan that state’s first Republican governor reelected to a second term since 1954.

Ducey flexes veto power to bring uncooperative Republicans in line on budget

 In this Dec. 2, 2020, file photo, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey answers a question during a news conference in Phoenix. A new voter-approved tax on high-earning Arizonans that will boost education spending is firmly in Gov. Doug Ducey's crosshairs, with the Republican vowing Friday, March 19, 2021, to see Proposition 208's new tax cancelled either through the courts or the GOP-controlled Legislature. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)
In this Dec. 2, 2020, file photo, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey answers a question during a news conference in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)

Gov. Doug Ducey is putting a moratorium on all bills for the remainder of the legislative session until lawmakers send a budget to his desk. 

In a Friday afternoon announcement, Ducey vetoed all 22 pieces of legislation sitting on his desk, which range in topics from critical race theory to homelessness and said it wasn’t because they were bad policy. 

“Some are good policy, but with one month left until the end of the fiscal year, we need to focus first on passing a budget. That should be priority one. The other stuff can wait,” the governor said in a written statement.  

Lawmakers failed to pass a budget this week after introducing 11 budget bills in each chamber on May 24, and after not being able to negotiate to receive the minimum of 16 and 31 votes in the House and Senate, respectively, legislators opted to take two weeks off to come back on June 10 unless they have a reason to come back earlier. 

This could be that reason.  

CJ Karamargin, Ducey’s spokesman, said the governor’s veto was meant to spur lawmakers back to work, though he wasn’t sure it would work. 

“The governor has made clear what he’d like them to do  get back to work,” he said.  

He said, “courtesy calls were made” to tell lawmakers about the incoming vetoes after Ducey made the decision Thursday within a few hours of lawmakers adjourning until June 10. 

This isn’t the first time Ducey has had to come in with an ultimatum for the legislative branch. In 2018. He vetoed 10 Republican-sponsored bills in a move to force the hands of lawmakers to send him a budget reflecting an agreement with educators over the 20×2020 plan.  

Ducey’s predecessor, Jan Brewer, also used the same tactic. In 2013, she announced, also in May, she would not sign any measures until there was resolution of a new state budget. And in that case, the then-governor also wanted it to include her plan to expand Medicaid. 

Lawmakers were not happy then, with Andy Biggs, then the Senate president, calling it “extortion or blackmail.” 

“Once the budget passes, I’m willing to consider some of these other issues. But until then, I will not be signing any additional bills. Let’s focus on our jobs, get to work and pass the budget,” Ducey said Friday. 

But it’s not that simple that he can just undo a veto. The lawmakers have three options now: they can let these bills die and bring them back in a future session, they can override the veto with two-thirds support in both chambers (which hasn’t happened under Ducey’s tenure), or they would have to re-introduce the bills – likely as striker amendments  and vote on them again.  

“Everyone thinks they’re the 31st vote and everyone thinks they’re the 16th vote, but at the end of the day, (Ducey’s) the last vote,” said Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingdom, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.  

Regina Cobb
Regina Cobb

One of Cobb’s bills was among the ones Ducey vetoed. She was in the Legislature in 2018 when he placed a similar moratorium on sending bills to his desk.  

“That just means he’s losing patience,” she said.  

Cobb didn’t know yet what this will mean for budget negotiations or whether it will get some of the holdouts on board with passing it.  

“I don’t know where we’re going to end up at the end of the day, but a lot of members are taking vacations and thinking their personal time is more valuable, and that’s everybody’s personal feelings and they have to make the decision sometimes on whether or not being a legislator and being here at the Capitol is more important than getting that done,” Cobb said. “Our only job we have to do, that one job to do is passing that budget, and if we can’t get that done, we’re not doing our job.” 

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said he wasn’t sure if Ducey’s vetoes would result in a budget that was more palatable to the Democrats.

“These (Republican) members are looking to push even more extreme policies than (are in) the current budget,” he said. “Democrats have always been ready and willing to work, and that’s what we’ll keep doing,” he said. 

Among the vetoed bills is one of the last surviving criminal justice measures, Sen. Tony Navarrete’s SB1526 to require the Arizona Department of Corrections to provide sufficient free menstrual products to female inmates, ensure incarcerated pregnant women are not restrained and increase opportunities for most prisoners to see their minor children. Navarrete did not immediately return a call about the apparent death of the bill, versions of which a bipartisan group of lawmakers have tried to pass for years. 

A bill to bar government agencies from providing some kinds of diversity, equity and inclusion training, which passed the House and Senate to great acclaim from a conservative media sphere newly fascinated by “critical race theory,” also fell prey to Ducey’s veto. So did the annual list of technical amendments to legislation crafted by legislative staff — the grammatical fixes that usually pass near the end of the session.  

And another bipartisan measure requiring the Arizona Department of Housing to add a new senior homeless shelter in the West Valley went down, though it could be tied to the budget. Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, mourned the veto of several marijuana-related bills that Democrats and Republicans worked on together. 

“To veto these needed policies in an effort to strong-arm through your regressive tax plan is irresponsible. Arizonans deserve better from their leaders,” Friese tweeted. 

Ducey vetoed eight House bills. One, HB2792, would have required a voter to send a request before receiving an absentee ballot, effectively barring the establishment of an automatic vote by mail system like Washington and a few other states have. (The permanent early voting list, or the active early voting list as it is now called due to a controversial voting bill Ducey signed earlier this session, was exempted.) Another, HB2554, would have required political party challengers and representatives at polling places to be registered to vote in Arizona. Most of the other bills were uncontroversial and passed with large majorities, including two sponsored by Friese establishing regulations surrounding the legalization of marijuana in Arizona.  

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Friday afternoon he had just heard about Ducey’s action and would have to look at the bills, although he said “at first glance there’s concern.” He said he thought lawmakers would “get back next week and continue plowing through. But we’ll see.”  

Democrats quickly panned the decision as a “temper tantrum” by a governor upset his tax plan can’t pass the Legislature, though Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, quipped that he wasn’t bothered because most of the bills were “trash policy” anyway.  

“There are 43 Democratic legislators who would have loved to have been included in the creation of a budget that truly supports all Arizonans, a budget that could have been passed by now,” Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe, tweeted in response to Ducey. “I think your constituents would have preferred that to veiled threats.”  

Ducey’s 2018 veto message was much more to the point.  

“Please, send me a budget that gives teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and restores additional assistance. Our teachers have earned this raise. It’s time to get it done,” he said at the time.  

Republican leadership teams in the House and Senate could not be immediately reached, including Senate President Karen Fann who is supposedly on vacation in Hawaii.  

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.  

Ducey leads field in campaign funds raised, spent

 In this May 8, 2018, file photo, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during an interview in his office at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Friday, May 11 that lawyers representing Ducey's re-election campaign threatened to sue a firm collecting signatures to qualify Bennett for the Republican primary ballot. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this May 8, 2018, file photo, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during an interview in his office at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey continues to accumulate campaign funds in his bid for another four years in office.

New finance report show Ducey’s contributions total $4.16 million. That includes another nearly $791,000 he raised in the most recent three months.

The governor has plenty left to spend, listing total expenses of less than $912,000.

That isn’t all that Ducey has raised.

Aside from the Ducey For Governor Committee, the same staffers also are operating the Ducey Victory Fund.

Any donations to that fund of up to $5,100 from individuals — the maximum one person can give to a candidate — are transferred to the governor’s reelection campaign. Amounts larger than that are given to the Arizona Republican Party which can use those funds to help Ducey and other party members with their races.

So far those transfers to the party have exceeded $1.5 million.

All that has left Ken Bennett, the other Republican in the race, in the dust.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett certifies the 2014 primary election canvass on Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)
Ken Bennett (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Bennett’s contribution list totaled $44,320, including $30,500 out of his own pocket, as he hopes to eventually get enough $5 donations to qualify for public funding. That would give him $839,704 to spend between now and the Aug. 28 primary.

Among the three Democrats hoping to take on whoever survives the GOP primary, state Sen. Steve Farley has collected the most at more than $1.1 million against $628,193 in expenses.

David Garcia said his has raised $846,104 to date, though his expenses are approaching $600,000.

Kelly Fryer is far back at $161,383 in contributions and expenses of $120,498.

What’s reported is unlikely to be all that is spent convincing Arizonans how to vote.

Four years ago the governor was the beneficiary of close to $8 million spent on his behalf by outside groups on commercials extolling him or attacking Democrat Fred DuVal.

To date, no outside groups have filed formal spending reports. But there is spending going on, at least indirectly, that could help Ducey.

Earlier this year, as Ducey was insisting the state could afford only a 1 percent increase in teacher pay, a business coalition spent about $1 million on TV commercials to say that education funding in Arizona is not as bad as critics complained. The money for the Arizona Education Project came from Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association and others.

Spokesman Matthew Benson said the spending did not fit the definition of what is required by law to be reported as a campaign expense or require full disclosure of donors.

Then when Ducey promised teachers a 19 percent pay hike by 2020, the Republican Governors Association put up its own TV commercial, complete with video from Ducey’s press conference announcing the pay plan. It praised Ducey for “strengthening our public schools without raising taxes.”

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson declined to say how much his organization is spending other than calling the media buy “significant.”

That spending, too, is likely to remain off the radar, as it did not explicitly call for Arizonans to vote for Ducey.

But the RGA already has indicated it is preparing to spend directly to influence races here and elsewhere. In a press release Tuesday, RGA Executive Director Paul Bennecke boasted of having $87.5 million in the bank.

“The RGA’s record-breaking cash on hand gives us the ability to make a significant impact in 2018’s gubernatorial elections,” he said in a prepared statement.

And Bennecke said he doubts the Democratic Governors Association will be able to do the same for their candidates, saying it reported just $18 million cash on hand.

Slightly further down the ticket, Republican Steve Gaynor reports he has more than $1 million in his bid to oust incumbent Michele Reagan as secretary of state, though virtually all of that is his own cash.

Reagan has been buffeted by a series of problems with how some elections have been conducted, notably the failure of her office to get pamphlets explaining the issues in a 2016 special election into voters hands before they got their early ballots.

By contrast, Reagan, seeking another four-year term, listed donations of $649,684. That includes $85,000 she loaned her own campaign, though she repaid $15,000 of that earlier this year.

Democrat Katie Hobbs is running unopposed for the Democrat nomination for the office.

In the five-way GOP primary for superintendent of public instruction, incumbent Diane Douglas has raised less than anyone else at just $17,896. And she already has spent nearly $14,000 of that.

At the other extreme, challenger Jonathan Gelbart reports donations of $98,839, though that also includes $25,000 of his own money.

Frank Riggs was slightly farther behind at $85,098. But more than half was in loans to his campaign.

Bob Branch listed $24,679 in donations, with Tracy Livingston at $18,668.

On the Democrat side, both David Schapira and Kathy Hoffman qualified for $108,779 in public funds.

There is no primary for the attorney general’s race. So far Republican incumbent Mark Brnovich has raised $705,662 versus $472,579 for Democrat January Contreras.

In a two-way GOP primary for treasurer, Kimberly Yee has raised $632,056 compared with $7,830 for Jo Ann Sabbagh who hopes to qualify for $108,779 in public funding.

Democrat Mark Manoil also is pursing $5 donations for public funding.

Ducey not going to appoint himself to U.S. Senate

Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Don’t look for “Senator Ducey,” at least for the foreseeable future.

The governor is not considering appointing himself to the U.S. Senate should that become necessary if John McCain were to quit before the end of his term, according to press aide Daniel Scarpinato.

“Gov. Ducey has never and would never consider such a ridiculous notion, no matter the circumstances,” Scarpinato said in a Twitter posting this weekend. And if that were not definitive enough, he expanded on that in a message to Capitol Media Services.

“How much more clear can I be?” he asked.

The comments are designed to end days of what has become a guessing game since McCain revealed he has a particularly hard-to-treat form of brain cancer.

McCain himself has sent out repeated messages that while he is exploring various treatment options he intends to return to the Senate. That, however, has not stopped various suggestions and theories — and an outright claim by Kelli Ward, who lost to McCain in the 2016 Republican primary that he should step down and Ducey should name her as his replacement.

Ducey, who has been on vacation this past week, has maintained silence. Scarpinato said that’s by design.

“Our office has intentionally refused to engage in this gossip because it’s incredibly disrespectful,” he said in one Twitter message.

But that proved too much after some in the media pointed out that, at least legally speaking, Ducey apparently could select himself to fill any Senate vacancy that develops. Scarpinato again took to his keyboard to term that `irresponsible speculation run amok and misleading to Arizonans.”

He said it would have been one thing to throw out that idea if the governor had said or done something leading anyone to believe he would give up his current job as the state’s chief executive to become one of 100 senators. But that hasn’t happened.

What has happened has come from Ward who is trying to not only set herself up as heir apparent but also to send a message to McCain that his diagnosis is “grim,” that she believes he is dying, and that he should step aside for his own good.

“As a doctor, I’ve counseled people in similar situations and these end-of-life choices are never easy,” she said in a message on her campaign web site. “I usually advise terminal patients to reduce stress, relax, and spend times laughing with loved ones.”

And if his own self-interest is not enough to convince McCain to step aside, Ward said that the Senate has “complicated and difficult problems” to deal with.

“Arizona deserves to be represented by someone who can focus on those challenges,” Ward wrote.

That “someone” who Ducey should consider naming, Ward told an Indiana radio station last week, should be her.

“I have a proven track record of years in the state Senate of being extremely effective and listening to the voice of the people that I represent,” she told WOWO. And Ward said she made “an extremely good showing” against McCain in the 2016 Republican primary, picking up 39.9 percent of the vote against 51.2 percent among the four names on the GOP ballot.

Scarpinato said there has been “no discussion” with Ward — or anyone else — about a potential appointment.

“We have zero attention focused on a ‘replacement’ and talk of this sort is completely inappropriate,” he said.

Ward has since announced her bid to unseat Jeff Flake, the state’s other incumbent senator, who is up for reelection in 2018.

This isn’t the first time that Ward has, in essence, said that McCain is dying, though the timing was a bit difference.

In an interview before last year’s GOP primary, she told Politico that if McCain, who was turning 80 at the time, were reelected he might not be able to finish the six-year term.

“I’m a doctor,” she said. “The life expectancy of the American male is not 86. It’s less.”




Ducey outraises 2 Dem foes combined in gubernatorial race

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey raised more than $2 million more than his Democratic competitors for the 2018 governor’s race.

Sen. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat who’s challenging Ducey, raised more than his party-mate, David Garcia, a professor.

Both Democratic candidates had spent a good chunk of the money they raised so far.

Farley collected more than $500,000, mostly from individual donors. Farley has spent more than half of what he raised so far, largely on staffing, and has $232,000 cash on hand. He also transferred nearly $60,000 from his past campaign account to his gubernatorial one.

Garcia raised nearly $300,000, but he spent more than two-thirds of that and has $94,290 cash on hand.

While Farley reported no contributions from PACs, Garcia got $17,600 from PACs, including the UFCW Local 99, IBEW Arizona PAC and the Latino Victory Fund.

Ducey raised more than $3 million in the 2018 election cycle and has nearly $2.7 million cash on hand. Most of Ducey’s money also came from individuals, and more than $200,000 was from PACs.

His PAC contributions read like a who’s-who of the state’s business interests, with money coming from groups representing Pinnacle West, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, GEO Group, Coca-Cola, railroads, tech companies and banks, among others.

Much of Ducey’s spending so far went toward fundraising, with nearly $135,000 paid during this cycle to Lovas LLC, GOP fundraiser Corinne Lovas’ company.

Treasurer’s race

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit announced in 2016 that he didn’t intend to run again for the office, leaving an open seat. He has since been tapped as chief financial officer at NASA, a post that requires U.S. Senate approval.

Republicans Tom Forese, chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Kimberly Yee, a state senator, are running for the GOP nomination for treasurer. Rep. Mark Cardenas, a Democrat, announced his run for the office last week, though he reported no numbers for 2017 since he only recently entered the race.

Tom Forese (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Tom Forese (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

When Forese announced in May 2017 that he had $600,000 in the bank for the treasurer’s race, he didn’t mention that most of it was his own money. Forese gave his campaign $420,000, and he raised about $130,000, mostly from individual donors. He has barely spent any of the money yet and has more than $620,000 cash on hand.

Forese also gave back $3,000 in contributions his campaign had received from the Robson family, owners of Robson Communities. The Corporation Commission came under fire recently over a water controversy involving the Robson family, and criticism of the commission’s actions revolved around the commissioners doing the bidding of the Robsons because they were campaign donors.

Yee’s husband, dentist Nelson Mar, loaned her the bulk of the money she reported this cycle as well, lending her campaign $400,000. She brought over nearly $129,000 from her past legislative campaign committees. Yee has raised little so far, less than $12,000. She has spent less than $1,000, and has $540,000 cash on hand.

Secretary of state

Secretary of State Michele Reagan showed strong numbers for her re-election campaign, though Democratic challenger Katie Hobbs, the Senate minority leader, boasted high contributions as well.

Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

Reagan raised $412,000 from individual contributors last year and an additional $20,000 from PACs, to go along with $85,000 she loaned her campaign at the start of 2017. Including self-funding, Reagan brought in about $520,000 for her re-election campaign last year. She spent about $71,000 during that period, leaving her with $467,000 on hand to start 2018.

Hobbs raised just over $200,000 and has about $116,000 cash on hand. Most of her money came from individuals, while $22,850 came from PACs. She transferred more than $10,000 from her legislative campaign committee.

Meanwhile, former lawmaker Steve Montenegro, who was running for secretary of state and decided to run in the special election for the 8thCongressional District seat instead, showed much less in his campaign account. He raised less than $19,000 in 2017 and spent more than $16,000. He had nearly $28,000 cash on hand.

Ducey talks Trump, education ahead of primary

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey is running for a second term amidst a political environment unlike any that Arizona has seen before.

As part of his re-election bid, Ducey sat down with the Arizona Capitol Times to discuss numerous issues, including education, Arizona’s economy, his re-election bid and the challenges he faces along the way to a second term. Here are the highlights.


When talking about education, Ducey touts his 20-percent teacher pay raise plan, passage of Proposition 123 and the extension of Proposition 301 as his major first-term achievements, and promises he’s not done investing in K-12 education.

But Ducey also points to a longstanding rift between state government and K-12 educators, and asks that he only be judged for his actions during his first term.

“I can’t be accountable for what’s happened the last 30 years,” he said.

One of Ducey’s accomplishments, which was touted shortly after its passage in TV commercials by the Republican Governors Association, was his proposal to grant teachers 20-percent pay raises spread out over three years. His initial budget proposal included a 1-percent pay bump for teachers this year.

Since Ducey signed the raises into law, he said lots of teachers have been grateful for the pay hikes that start this school year. His main focus now is making sure those dollars get to the classrooms, he said. He also said that with another term he wants to put more money into K-12 education, over and above inflation, but he would not specify how much.

But “Red for Ed” supporters opposed Ducey’s teacher pay proposal and representatives for the movement say teachers have an inherent distrust of Ducey and his administration because he has made empty promises before.

Ducey argues that distrust stems from before his time in office.

“I think there’s been a long history of conflict between state government and K-12 education,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard over the last three-plus years to not play divide and conquer, to not pick one section of our education system over another, but to say that these are all of our kids here.”

But K-12 education advocates have also criticized Ducey for his support of charter schools and an expansion of Arizona’s school-voucher program that he signed into law last year.

Ducey signed legislation to make all public school students eligible for state money to attend private and parochial schools.

Some parents and teachers say the expansion of school vouchers to any public school students, as opposed to just those who are disabled or attend failing schools, will starve public schools, causing public school students to receive a subpar education.

The voucher expansion also pushed Democrat David Garcia over the edge and into the governor’s race.

But Ducey attributes teachers’ opposition to charters and ESAs to misinformation from the Arizona Education Association — the teachers’ union that Ducey declined to meet with during the “Red for Ed” strike.

“That’s because people in the union are misinforming those teachers,” he said. “Our policies have put public districts and public charters on equal value in terms of the opportunities for improvement.”

President Trump

Citing a growing economy and President Trump’s push to appoint conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ducey praised the president’s leadership.

Ducey pointed to growth in Arizona and across the country, which many conservatives attribute to Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a sign that Trump is working to build an economy of the future.

He also cited the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as proof the president is doing a good job.

But Ducey does not agree with Trump on everything. A supporter of free trade, he has spoken out against new tariffs imposed by Trump’s administration.

He also expressed some opposition to Trump’s zero tolerance, saying “no one wants to see families separated,” but he didn’t go as far as some governors who reacted by withdrawing National Guard forces from the border.

Ducey also wouldn’t say that he wants Trump’s endorsement this fall. When asked if he’ll seek the president’s endorsement in his re-election bid, Ducey sidestepped the question. Personality-wise, Ducey couldn’t be more different than the bombastic president.

It’s hard to know whether Trump’s endorsement would hurt or help Ducey. Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake have eagerly vied for Trump’s endorsement in an attempt to prove their conservative bona fides. But in an election year where anti-Trump sentiment is growing, a presidential endorsement could hurt more than it helps.

Election challenges

Ducey brushed off the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle, and seemed unfazed by his primary challenger, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

As talk grows of a “blue wave” hitting Arizona this election cycle, Ducey does not plan to sit back and rest on his laurels during the campaign.

“I think in any business, you want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that’s why we have that challenger’s mentality,” he said.

Elections are competitive and Ducey said he’s not taking his incumbent status for granted. Similar to his bid for state treasurer eight years ago and his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey plans to campaign across the state and tout his record.

But Ducey dismissed polls showing his favorability rating dropping. He also dismissed the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle because of anti-Trump sentiment and the continued opposition he faces from “Red for Ed” supporters.

“I think the media loves a horse race, so they would love to see a horse race,” he said.

As for his primary challenger, Ducey doesn’t see Bennett’s candidacy as a failing of his governorship.

“It’s a free country. The water’s warm. People are going to jump in and make their case,” he said. “The voters will decide on August 28.”

Ducey has refused to debate Bennett leading up to the primary, claiming his challenger’s comments about Sen. John McCain disqualified Bennett from public office. Ducey did not address the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the interview.


After entering office in a post-recession era wherein the state was still strapped for cash, Ducey takes credit for helping grow Arizona’s economy and lower the state’s unemployment.

He brought his business background to governing. Ducey, who slashed state regulations and cut taxes every year that he’s been in office, thinks the best move for government is to stay out of the way as Arizona sees unprecedented revenue and population growth.

The governor attributes the growth to Arizona’s tax and regulatory environment and the state’s infrastructure, education system and reliable water supply, among other things.

“We have a momentum that’s really building on itself,” he said. “It’s time to pour the gas on.”

Holding true to a campaign pledge from his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey still aims to reduce the state’s income tax to as close to zero as possible.

Ducey’s plan to lower the state’s income tax includes working with legislative leaders to revamp Arizona’s tax code around tax conformity and a recent Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for states to collect sales taxes from online purchases.

In essence, Ducey envisions a 21st-century tax code.

“It’s not one issue that you can look at in a vacuum, he said. “I mean, the idea of reforming or improving a tax code is ideally so that you’re bringing in more revenue because you have a state that’s growing.”

Ducey, Garcia to debate in Phoenix, Tucson

David Garcia and Doug Ducey
David Garcia and Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic challenger David Garcia will go head-to-head in back-to-back televised debates on Sept. 24 in Phoenix and Sept. 25 in Tucson.

The Phoenix debate, put on by the Clean Elections Commission, will be broadcast on Arizona PBS. The Tucson debate, put on in conjunction with Arizona Public Media and the Arizona Daily Star, will be broadcast in the Phoenix area by KJZZ.

“The Governor looks forward to sharing his record on the economy, historic investments in education, and work to make Arizona a safer, better place to live, work and raise a family,” Ducey’s campaign manager J.P. Twist said in a written statement.

Ducey participated in three general election debates with Fred DuVal in 2014. He rejected rival foe Ken Bennett’s requests for debates during the Republican primary this election cycle.

Just before the governor’s campaign announced Ducey would participate in two debates, Garcia’s campaign called for three televised debates, which would have included a debate in Yuma. The debates would have corresponded to Arizona’s three media markets.

“The voters have a right to hear from their candidates and so I challenge Doug Ducey to debate me at least three (3) times on television before the general election. Name the time, name the place and we will be there,” Garcia said in a statement.

Previous sitting governors have participated in two or fewer general election debates. Former Gov. Jan Brewer debated Democrat Terry Goddard just once. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano participated in two general election debates during both of her campaigns.

Gubernatorial debates


Time: 5 p.m. Sept. 24

Place: Arizona PBS studio

Moderator: Ted Simons of Arizona PBS


Time: 7 p.m. Sept. 25

Place: Arizona Public Media studio, but broadcast in Phoenix by KJZZ

Moderators: Lorraine Rivera of AZPM, Steve Goldstein of KJZZ, Christopher Conover of AZPM and Joe Ferguson of the Arizona Daily Star

Epstein, Jermaine win LD18 House race; Norgaard out

Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D-Phoenix)
Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D-Phoenix)

Both Democrats in the Legislative District 18 House race maintained last night’s early lead and have won.

Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard will not return to the Legislature, finishing behind Rep. Mitzi Epstein, who got the most votes, and Jennifer Jermaine. Republican Greg Patterson, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents who served in the House from 1991-94 finished last.

The money race already signaled a tough if not impossible road ahead for Patterson. He raised a mere $31,000, less than half of what Jermaine reported raising.

Still, Save Our Schools Arizona volunteer Jermaine’s path to the House was never guaranteed.

The district flipped in favor of Democrats in 2016, when Sen. Sean Bowie claimed his seat and Epstein took one of the two House seats. But Republicans put up a fight to maintain what they already had and possibly unseat the incumbent senator. Neither battle was successful for the GOP as Bowie kept his Senate seat.

Jermaine was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Domingo DeGrazia topped Rep. Todd Clodfelter in Legislative District 10, and Aaron Lieberman outdid Rep. Maria Syms in Legislative District 28. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.

And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.


LD18 House by the numbers

Early votes


Jill Norgaard 24 percent

Greg Patterson 22 percent


Mitzi Epstein 28 percent

Jennifer Jermaine 26 percent


Even with slim majority Republicans ignore Democrats’ budget ideas

The historic Arizona Capitol building. Arizona legislators have introduced several bills this year to allow the Legislature to have greater control over state agencies and other elected bodies. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
The historic Arizona Capitol building.  PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

What would happen if the Arizona legislature listened and worked together across party lines to create a budget that works for all Arizonans?  With an unexpected revenue surplus this year, we finally have the chance to address long-neglected needs in education, infrastructure, health care, and other state responsibilities that help everyone thrive. Unfortunately, even though Republicans hold only the slightest majority in the House (31-29) and Senate (16-14), they continue to exclude all Democrats (who represent nearly half the electorate) from budget discussions. That’s just wrong.  

Just as significantly, their strategy to force through a budget with only Republicans isn’t working. 

On June 7, it took just one Republican to cross party lines and join Democrats to help defeat budget bills containing the PERMANENT $1.5+ billion annual tax cut I recently wrote about why I oppose this disastrous “flat tax” planbut Republicans like Rep David Cook say they ALSO oppose it because: 

  1. the revenue losses to cities and towns would devastate their ability to meet public safety and other expenses,  
  2.  members were given no time to review the hundreds of pages of amendments we were presented just 30 minutes ahead of the vote,
  3.  it’s not fiscally responsible to base a budget on revenue forecasts that may have been artificially enhanced by billions of dollars of federal Covid relief, 
  4. Arizona should be using more of this temporarily available revenue to pay off our substantial debt. So many of us agree! 

Other Republicans in the House and Senate continue to voice additional objections to their proposed budget, making it all the less likely that Republicans can pass it alone. 

Earlier this week, a Republican committee chair suggested to a Democratic legislator that she might just push for a so-called “skinny budget” again this year. He responded as I would have – no.  We should pass a budget that makes major investments in our long-neglected responsibilities for infrastructure, classrooms, access to health care, and support for our local businesses, and leave the big tax and revenue policy changes for a special session later. Her immediate response was, “Oh no, I’d lose half the Republican votes.”  Well, you know what? We’d likely gain half the Democrats, giving us a truly bi-partisan budget.  

Democrats stand ready to work together on a budget that works for all Arizonans, not just the wealthiest few. And as Democratic Minority Leader Reginald Bolding recently explained, we support a tax policy that not only works for the short-term, but for the long-term as well.  

The State House opens each session with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Often, when I hear Republican members pray that we all work together for the good of Arizona, I think to myself, “There are 29 of us across the aisle raising our hands high, wanting very much to work together for the good of our state!”  Yet, we are ignored, and the priorities of the people we represent – nearly half of Arizona voters – are not considered. Nonetheless, Democrats continue to show up every day to work for our communities, ready to negotiate, and eager to add our own good ideas to the mix. There is so much we could agree on, if only we were allowed to participate.  

The people of Arizona are counting on us to work together on behalf of all of us. What if we actually did? 

Rep. Judy Schwiebert represents Legislative District 20.  

Evil is the system the candidates face

Voter Proudly Displays Evidence that He Voted on Election Day in the United States.

The lesser of two evils is a commonly used idiom. Ryne Bolick recently (Vote for lesser of 2 evils, Opinion, September 11, 2020) applied it to Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the two “evils” who will be on the November ballot. He further accuses the two major parties of colluding to prevent his preferred candidate, Libertarian Dr. Joanne “Jo” Jorgensen, from appearing as a choice for voters. His label is unfortunate – his accusation is painfully accurate.

The “duopoly,” describing this two-party double whammy on voter choice, foist many points of disagreement on each other (the understatement of the century), but they concur in keeping the debate stage and the ballot to themselves. Others need not apply. We, the people, are the losers in this dynamic. Parties arbitrarily prevent us from hearing ideas that might just trigger a change in how we view our choices in leadership.

Sadly, Mr. Bolick is right about the dominant parties’ collusion on this and many other aspects of exclusively serving only their “base.” What distinguishes parties’ current behavior from the distant past I recall (I am 86) is that they are now dedicated to explicitly leaving certain people, interests, and considerations out completely. Smaller parties don’t have the political weight to be heard in the system. That is a disservice to all of us, not just “minor” party adherents.

My problem with his use of evil is that it sounds too much like the mentality major party campaigns manifest: if you don’t agree with us, you are evil — or worse.

Being labeled evil seldom motivates productive dialogue – most people bristle at that accusation. But shutting down productive dialogue is exactly what parties do. It is less universal among the increasingly numerous (now about 45% of registered voters) independent voters, of which I am one, but painfully common there, too. If it is any consolation to Mr. Bolick, independents are even further out on the party extortion limb than he is. Welcome to the world of political outcasts.

Al Bell
Al Bell

The games played by the Commission on Presidential Debates are, indeed, reprehensible. Other voices would be a welcome stimulus to real debate instead of warmed over stump speeches. It should include voices Mr. Bolick might also consider evil, but I suspect he might be open to that if we could hear him, too. The parties generally, on the other hand, morbidly fear any perspective that does not comport to their carefully scripted mindset. Even so, a few modest cracks in that facade may be emerging in a few states.

What do we do about this sad situation? We spend an estimated $2 billion a year to support the operation of Congress. It is a breathtakingly poor return on investment. Congress is interested in re-election, not governance, and most members get rewarded time after time by overwhelmingly getting re-elected! What?

A refreshing approach lies in a new book co-authored by Katherine Gehl and Michael E. Porter that applies the concept of real — not fake — competition in the election process for selecting members of Congress. The strategies focus on what is doable and can also produce positive results (don’t do now what won’t be effective; don’t go for effective if it cannot now reasonably be accomplished). It would change the rules of the game in favor of the voter. Our Constitution enables states to do exactly that: change the process. We need not wait for national closure. As they point out, the movement has begun. The experiment to rescue the republic from its death dance with our misguided notion of party rule is underway. We can actually do this.

Mr. Bolick would benefit from reading, “The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy.” With its insights, we have a chance to end-run the Debate Commission and, not so incidentally, the similarly dystopian Federal Election Commission. The duopoly abhors such a path. Power, ego, and arrogance remain in play.

Full disclosure: I am not an agent for the book. My financial proceeds from its sales equal zero. My civic profit as an American is unlimited. So is Mr. Bolick’s.

Not being affiliated with a party, I am labeled an independent. A far more accurate term is interdependent — much closer to reality. Believers in the Great American Experiment need to do as Katherine and Michael urge: actively engage in changing the rules and enjoy better outcomes. Break the system that is now intentionally designed to deny our real potential as a democratic republic.

That would be anything but evil, Mr. Bolick.

Al Bell is a resident of Peoria.

Ex-lawmaker Shooter says Yuma is his home, judge to rule

Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz will rule today in a lawsuit challenging former Yuma Rep. Don Shooter’s residency — an issue that could keep him off the ballot this fall.

In court June 14, attorneys for Shooter and Brent Backus, his Republican challenger in Legislative District 13 who brought the lawsuit, sparred over whether Shooter resides in a Yuma condo that he rents despite not paying any electric bills there in recent months, having mail forwarded to a Maricopa County home and briefly changing his voter registration to Maricopa County.

There have long been questions about whether Shooter — who was expelled from the House in February after an investigation found he had sexually harassed several women — lives in the Yuma district he represented for years.

Backus’ attorney Timothy La Sota presented a case that Shooter did not live in the district when he filed his nominating petitions and Shooter does not meet a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to reside in the county that they are running in for at least one year prior to the election.

But Shooter and his attorney Tim Nelson argued that the former lawmaker’s intent has always been to return to Yuma, even if he sometimes stays with his wife Susan Shooter at their Maricopa County home.

“Yuma’s been good to me,” Shooter said. “It’s my home. I’ve spent considerable time and effort and money to continue that relationship. … I’m spending a lot of money right now to be a part of Yuma. It would be real easy to walk away. It’s a little irritating.”

There’s no doubt that Shooter feels connected to the people of Yuma, but there’s too many coincidences that make it clear that Shooter does not live there, La Sota said.

On the witness stand, Shooter said since he was ousted from the Legislature on February 1, he has spent about two-thirds of his time at his home in Maricopa County. His wife has not visited Shooter’s Yuma residence during the same time period.

No one has paid electricity bills for the Yuma residence in months, according to Arizona Public Service statements. Shooter his wife turned the power off, and joked that was because he’s currently unemployed.

Nelson argued the case was a “desperate” move by Shooter’s political rival.

“There’s nothing desperate about this case,” La Sota said. “The facts are what they are, and you can’t get around them.”

If Mroz rules against Shooter, it is unlikely the disgraced former lawmaker will make it on the ballot this fall.

Expelled lawmaker makes bid for documents in harassment probe

Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Don Shooter awaits a vote by the state House on whether to expel him on Feb. 1, 2018. He was later removed from office by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The attorney for Don Shooter charged Wednesday that House leaders are illegally trying to hide the notes of investigators who prepared the report that led to his ouster on charges of sexual harassment.

Kraig Marton told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohen that his client is entitled not just to the final report on the investigation but also to everything from the notes and interviews the outside investigators conducted to any earlier drafts of the report.

“You don’t get to take down a man and make it very public and hide behind the privilege as if that’s somehow is OK,” Marton said.

But Gregory Falls, who represents the House and the two attorneys hired by Speaker J.D. Mesnard to conduct the probe, argued to Cohen that Shooter got everything he was entitled to: the 86-page report and more than 300 pages of supplemental findings, all of which were made public. Anything else, Falls said, is legally exempt from disclosure under either the attorney-client privilege or the concept that a lawyer’s “work product” is protected.

And Cohen indicated he sees another potential problem in what Shooter and Marton want him to order the House and its investigators to release.

He said it would be one thing if the former Republican lawmaker from Yuma had sued the House accusing the chamber of acting illegally in voting earlier this year on a 57-3 margin to eject him. At that point, Cohen said, the information that was used by House investigators to conclude Shooter was guilty of sexual harassment might be relevant.

Shooter has filed a $1.3 million claim — a formal precursor to litigation — against the House. But to date he has not actually brought a lawsuit.

But this case, Cohen noted, stems from a separate civil lawsuit filed against Shooter by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, one of the people the investigative report concluded was a victim of Shooter’s harassment.

Her lawsuit charges that Shooter is guilty of slander, libel, battery and negligence. Shooter, in turn, filed a counterclaim accusing Ugenti-Rita with defamation.

That, the judge suggested, makes whatever the House investigators have legally irrelevant to this current lawsuit.

But Marton argued that the report prepared by the private attorneys hired by the House formed the basis for Ugenti-Rita’s suit against Shooter. In fact, he told the judge, some of the claims in her lawsuit are virtual carbon copies of the conclusions the investigators reached.

That, he said, makes Shooter’s ability to see what led to the final report relevant as a matter of fairness and justice.

“Whether the state is a party (to this lawsuit) makes no difference,” Marton told the judge.

Shooter was voted out of the House by his colleagues after the investigative report commissioned by the House found “credible evidence” Shooter violated anti-harassment policies several times with Ugenti-Rita, including making sexual comments and suggestions and making “unwelcome sexualized comments” about her breasts.

But the investigator also found incidents of harassment and improper conduct or comments involving others, including a lobbyist, a newspaper intern and the former publisher of the Arizona Republic.

Falls did not dispute that some of the issues in this latest lawsuit are the same as the ones raised in the report given to House members when they voted to oust Shooter.

But he said that if Shooter contends that Ugenti-Rita’s claims have no legal basis, he remains free to go out and do exactly what the investigators did: interview witnesses. Falls said there is no reason for House investigators, both of whom are lawyers, to have to give up their notes simply to make Marton’s job easier.

Marton, however, said it’s not that simple.

He said the final report cites several anonymous witnesses. And without access to who they are — and what they said — Marton said Shooter cannot defend himself in this lawsuit.

And there’s something else. Marton contends that what was finally made public is different than some earlier drafts that were shared with some people in the House.

“We are credibly advised that the first draft found Miss Ugenti-Rita guilty of misconduct, the later draft does not,” he said.

“That is directly relevant to this case, that is directly relevant to what we want to see,” Marton continued. “When they make a public report that says he’s guilty and she’s not, I’d like to know what they said before.”

Mesnard originally had pushed only that Shooter be censured. But he successfully pushed for expulsion after Shooter sent a letter to colleagues asking they delay any action while they consider whether charges also should be brought against Ugenti-Rita.

One of the issues is whether Ugenti-Rita was complicit in sending what the report described as “unsolicited, sexually explicit communications” to someone who is believed to be a female former staffer. The report described these as “egregious and potentially unlawful acts.”

But the report also says that Brian Townsend, a former House staffer to whom Ugenti-Rita used to be engaged, accepted sole responsibility for sending these out and the matter was not pursued. Shooter contends the details of what the attorneys learned — and the pictures themselves — were in early versions of the report but excised before its release.

After his ouster, Shooter made a bid in August to get elected to the state Senate. But he came in third in the three-way Republican primary.

Federal judge denies state officials access to Democratic voter data

A federal judge on July 24 denied the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office’s attempt to get privileged documents containing voter demographics and related information from the national and local Democratic Party.

The order stems from a legal battle that began following the 2016 Presidential Primary, when hours-long lines and lack of reasonable polling locations prevented some Arizona voters from making it to the ballot box.

In April 2016, the national and local Democratic Party interests called on a federal judge to reassess the way Arizona handles voting procedures and laws. In the original paperwork, the plaintiffs said the entire state has engaged in “consistent activity that has created a culture of voter disenfranchisement” since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Arizona could have free-reign over its voting procedures.

Michele Reagan
Michele Reagan

Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Attorney General Mark Brnovich requested access to numerous privileged documents from the Arizona Democratic Party, Democratic National Committee, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on the basis that the documents contained “highly relevant information.”

But, the plaintiffs cited the First Amendment as reason for the judge to rule in their favor. The plaintiffs argued that the First Amendment protects “political association from government infringement.”

The state was requesting the disclosure of several emails, analyses and data reports. Arizona Democratic Party Chair  Alexis Tameron said in a sworn declaration the documents requested contain “estimates of demographic characteristics and likely voting behavior of the electorate” and “set forth the ADP’s strategies and targets for conducting outreach to voters to communicate ADP’s message, and for encouraging voters who associate with ADP and support ADP’s values to turn out to vote.”

The state argued that the plaintiff’s had waived their First Amendment rights to protect those documents as soon as they cited their demographic research as evidence of mistreatment of minority voters. The defendants also argued that some of the requested information had already been provided to the media, so the state should have that information as well.

A witness for the Democrats could not confirm whether the information cited in a story by The Arizona Republic was actually derived from the privileged documents.

The plaintiffs’ attorney argued that if the “highly relevant data” was all the state was after, it could find that data elsewhere, as most of it is available to the public. The documents however, are based on raw demographic data and overlaid with internal analysis and predictions.

Alexis Tameron
Alexis Tameron

Tameron explained that because of the additional information in the documents, she was worried that “disclosure of such communication risks revealing the viewpoints, political associations, and strategy of such partners” could harm the Democratic Party and its relationships in the future.

Furthermore, the party said some of the documents contain information from their election incident hotline, including specific voter information and precincts it was concerned about.

Federal judge upholds 2016 ban on ballot harvesting


A federal judge late Friday slapped down a bid by a Democrat activist to void a 2016 law that makes “ballot harvesting” illegal and allow the practice to resume for Tuesday’s primary.

Judge Douglas Rayes acknowledged that once an early ballot is put into an envelope it becomes “mail.” And he said federal law specifically allows private individuals to deliver mail as long as they do not charge a fee.

But Rayes rejected arguments by Rivko Knox that the ban on individuals delivering someone else’s ballot to polling places runs afoul of that federal law. He said the purpose of that law was simply to prevent others from competing financially with the U.S. Postal Service and undermining its revenues.

“Congress did not intend to supplant state control over the handling of early ballots,” the judge wrote.

Rayes was no more convinced by her argument that prohibiting her — and others — from collecting someone else’s ballots interfered with their First Amendment right to “facilitate” the speech of others, specifically their vote.

“She cites no case, and the court has found none, holding that an individual has a First Amendment right to provide gratuitous letter delivery services to third parties,” Rayes said.

Until 2016 there was no restriction on who could collect ballots. That resulted in some civic groups and others going around neighborhoods to ask residents whether they remembered to mail back the early ballots they had requested.

If they had not, group members would offer to carry them to polling places, especially if the election were just a few days away and putting the ballots in the mail would not guarantee they would get delivered on time.

That year the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to make the practice a felony, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $150,000 fine. Proponents said allowing others to handle ballots created an opportunity for fraud, including that groups doing the collection could choose whether to deliver a ballot based on how they believed the individual had voted.

Attorney Spencer Scharff, representing Knox, noted there has never been a proven case of that occurring in Arizona. And he said existing law already makes it a felony to tamper with someone else’s ballot.

Rayes also faulted Knox for waiting until this summer, just weeks before the election, to challenge the law.

He said she clearly was aware of the provisions, having testified against the bill in 2016. And Rayes said an earlier filing would have given him “more time to consider these important constitutional questions” ahead of Tuesday’s election.

But Rayes gave no indication that his decision would have been different even if there were more time for legal arguments.


Felony charges urged for Charles Ryan, ex-Arizona prisons boss

FILE – This Aug. 19, 2010, file photo shows then-Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan at a news conference in Phoenix. Tempe Police say Ryan, who retired as the state’s prisons boss two years ago, suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Tempe home and pointed a gun at officers before surrendering on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Police on Wednesday said they are recommending felony charges against former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan in an encounter at his Tempe home nearly two weeks ago in which he was accused of pointing a gun at officers. 

Investigators recommend that prosecutors charge Ryan with aggravated assault on a peace officer and unlawful discharge of a firearm, Tempe police said in a statement. 

Police have said that officers went to Ryan’s home on Jan. 6 after receiving a report of a person with a possible a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

They said Ryan was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time, had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to one of his hands, initially refused calls to exit his home and pointed a gun at officers standing behind an armored vehicle before surrendering.  

After he was taken into custody, Ryan was brought to a hospital for treatment, police have said.  

Police have declined to say whether Ryan has been released from the hospital, citing privacy concerns. They also declined to say whether Ryan has been arrested. 

Ryan retired as corrections director in September 2019. 

Efforts to seek comment on behalf of Ryan, who doesn’t have a published phone number, were unsuccessful. 

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said there was no estimate on when it will decide whether to file charges against Ryan. 

Fernandez, rebuffed by judge, picks Shereen Lerner for IRC

ircHouse Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez this afternoon picked Democrat Shereen Lerner to serve on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a decision that came only a few hours after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge denied a request from Democratic legislative leadership for a temporary restraining order to halt the nomination process. 

Lerner, a professor of anthropology at Mesa Community College and historic preservationist who’s active in Tempe civic life, wrote in her application that she had studied election systems from an anthropological perspective and was interested in applying that knowledge at the IRC.

Shereen Lerner was far and away the most qualified candidate we interviewed, and I’m proud to select her for this vital role in our state’s history,” Fernandez said today in a written statement. “Redistricting is an intense and highly challenging process that requires a combination of intelligence, communication skills and strength of character to succeed. That is exactly what Dr. Lerner will bring to the Commission.” 

The pick of the first candidate from Maricopa County still leaves some flexibility for Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, who pick next in that order. No more than two of the picks from legislative leaders can be from Maricopa County or from either party. Fann must make her choice within the next seven days. 

“Creating fair and competitive legislative and Congressional districts that reflect Arizona’s diverse population and communities of interest is an incredible responsibility, and I will carry out those duties to the best of my abilities at all times,” Lerner said in a written statement. 

Charlene Fernandez
Charlene Fernandez

Fernandez would have preferred not to make the announcement today, as Democrats argued that House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ pick — the earliest a House Speaker has made their choice since the commission’s inception — was premature. 

Fernandez and Bradley filed a lawsuit last week against the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments shortly after Bowers on Oct. 22 picked David Mehl, a prominent Republican from Tucson. Historically, the Speaker has made the first pick in the year ending in one. 

But Judge Janice Crawford ruled late this morning that while the Arizona Constitution sets a deadline for IRC picks, it says nothing about how early the process can begin. Crawford also said that Democrats failed to explain why they did not file their request for a TRO prior to Bowers’ pick, given that their legal argument for why the order is necessary is that two of the independent candidates — Thomas Loquvam and Robert Wilson — are not qualified, a case that Democrats have been pleading for weeks.  

“As set forth above, Plaintiffs had acted to oppose Mr. Loquvam’s and Mr. Wilson’s applications and, thus, knew the facts on which they contend Mr. Loquvam and Mr. Wilson are unqualified,” Crawford wrote. “Any irreparable injury is caused by Plaintiffs waiting until after the Speaker made his appointment to seek the Court’s intervention.” 

In explaining her ruling on the TRO, Crawford signaled that she did not believe that the case to remove Loquvam and Wilson from consideration for the IRC was likely to succeed on its merits. 

Democrats filed the suit a day after Bowers made his pick, alleging that because Loquvam was a lobbyist with EPCOR and Wilson held a Trump rally at his Flagstaff gun store they were not qualified to chair the IRC. 

Shereen Lerner
Shereen Lerner

The state constitution bans paid lobbyists from serving on the commission if they were active in the prior three years. While the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments winnowed out IRC candidates who were registered as legislative lobbyists, they did not do the same for Loquvam, who is registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. 

“It is undisputed that Mr. Loquvam disclosed that he was registered as a lobbyist with the ACC. While the Court, at this stage, may consider Plaintiffs’ position to have some merit, the Court declines to substitute its opinion on the qualifications of a nominee who was fully vetted by the CACA,” Crawford wrote. 

She added that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they would be “deprived of making their selection or will have lost an opportunity to select a candidate that did not become part of the pool because of Mr. Loquvam’s nomination.” 

As for Wilson, who owns a gun store in Flagstaff, Crawford said it’s “undisputed that Mr. Wilson has been registered as an Independent for three or more years prior to the appointment” and that “it is unlikely that the CACA was not fully apprised on the facts under which Plaintiffs contend Mr. Wilson is not unbiased.”

In general, she seems intent to respect the role of the commission in vetting candidates, writing that the public’s interest in ensuring that the IRC is composed of “qualified individuals” is secured through the commission’s process.

Earlier this week, Jim Barton, the attorney representing Democratic legislative leadership, told the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Capitol Times, that the case wouldn’t become “moot” even if the judge denies the TRO, as the plaintiffs wanted to ensure that Bradley had a qualified pool of applicants. 

Today’s ruling didn’t shake his belief in the chances of the suit, he said.

“I understand the court’s ruling … but I don’t think it has any impact on our ability to litigate against two candidates who in our opinion are not qualified,” Barton said. “Courts take briefing for a reason. We will brief on the merits of our argument, we will have an opportunity to take some depositions and put on evidence.”

He continued: “I think what is going to happen in effect now is we’re going to be litigating over who’s gonna be qualified to serve as the independent chair.”

Few survive as political baggage weighs them down

Rep. David Stringer and former House Speaker David Gowan
Rep. David Stringer and former House Speaker David Gowan

Some candidates with varying degrees of political baggage proved more adept at second chances than others.

Rep. David Stringer and former House Speaker David Gowan advanced to November after securing the Republican nomination in their respective legislative races. Their past actions may have given some voters pause, but not nearly enough to keep them from winning on August 28.

In the case of Stringer, R-Prescott, and Gowan, a Sierra Vista Republican, their primary victories all but assured that they will return to the Capitol, as both Republicans are running in districts with strong GOP voter registration advantages.

Others who faced similar scrutiny for their behavior did not fare so well.

Voters rejected Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, in his re-election bid in Legislative District 5 after police body camera footage showed him boasting to a La Paz County sheriff’s deputy about driving well in excess of highway speed limits in March.

Tim Jeffries lost to Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita in the race for the LD23 Senate seat acing criticism over his tenure as director of the Department of Economic Security, a job he was fired from amid reports that he fired hundreds of state workers and used a state plane to fly to Nogales to celebrate with employees who gave up their job protections.

And former legislator Don Shooter, who was expelled from the House of Representatives in February following an investigation that concluded he sexually harassed colleagues and lobbyists at the Capitol, was soundly rejected by voters in the LD13 GOP primary for the Senate.

The reasons for their defeat seem obvious.

Shooter faced steep odds from the start given that his colleagues in the House of Representatives ousted him after an investigation substantiated most of the sexually-charged misconduct allegations against him.

In addition to reports of his ouster at DES, Jeffries faced a competitive three-way primary against incumbent Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and a political newcomer.

Mosley’s troubles were the most recent, perhaps making his the most damaging.

“He was a victim of very, very bad judgment and very, very bad timing, which in politics makes for a very, very bad outcome,” said lobbyist Barry Dill.

The story of Mosley’s heavy foot resonated in the local news coverage of the traffic stop in ways that don’t always occur in more rural districts, Dill said. Often, a disconnect exists between the way a story is reported in metro Phoenix or Tucson and how it is portrayed at smaller news outlets.

“The scandals, if that’s what you want to call them, don’t necessarily affect candidates outside of metropolitan areas where local officials rule the day,” he said.

Campaign consultant Constantin Querard, who worked with Gowan and Stringer, said voters in more rural districts interpret messages and stories differently than the media in major markets like Phoenix. And while GOP leaders called for Stringer’s resignation after he told a GOP gathering in June that there are “not enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s public schools, voters in LD1 understood the message that Querard said Stringer was trying to get across – immigration without assimilation is unhealthy.

“Stringer’s trouble came because he said something lots of other people have said, but he said it very badly,” Querard said.

While the media went on a feeding frenzy, Querard said the average voter “understands pretty easily if they like what you’ve said but understand that you said it badly. That’s not a capital crime.”

Pundits on Twitter may have piled on Gowan for his past struggles as speaker – Gowan repaid the state $12,000 that he had wrongfully received as reimbursement and his administration was the subject of two investigations that led to strong rebukes, but no criminal charges, from the attorney general – but he resonated as a true “citizen legislator” who works multiple jobs to provide for his family while also vying for the part time job as a state senator.

Gowan’s relationships in his community cut through the news coverage and political spending against him, Querard said.

“You connect to your neighbors more because frankly, you depend on your neighbors more. There’s a greater sense of community because you need your community,” Querard said. “It’s a lot more difficult to lie about somebody down there because they know that person.”

The latest available campaign finance reports show that Gowan overcame tens of thousands of dollars in outside spending that attacked his record and sought, but failed, to prop up his opponent, Rep. Drew John.

“He’s probably outspent five to one, with the media against him, and wins,” Querard said. “The voters are obviously figuring some stuff out despite what they’re being told.”

First candidate certified in race to replace Trent Franks

The Arizona secretary of state’s office has certified the first candidate in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Trent Franks, and it is not one of the best-known names.

Republican Clair Van Steenwyk of Sun City West filed 1,200 signatures to make the ballot late last week. He said Tuesday he’s continuing his efforts to take on establishment GOP candidates in making the run.

Van Steenwyk challenged Franks in the 2014 and 2016 primaries and won nearly 30 percent of the vote last year. In an odd twist, he also ran for U.S. Senate against John McCain last year despite a state law that bars candidates from running for more than one office in the same election if the person could not hold both seats if they won.

Clair Van Steenwyk
Clair Van Steenwyk

The secretary of state declined to kick him off the ballot, and no one challenged it in court, so Van Steenwyk got votes for both offices. He said Tuesday he believes the Constitution allowed it.

Franks resigned last month amid sexual harassment allegations. The special primary election is set for Feb. 27 with the general election on April 24.

Van Steenwyk, a 71-year-old retired businessman, said he’s campaigning as a “Christian, constitutional activist Republican,” who will buck the party when needed.

He has led the local and county tea party movements and been an activist for nearly a decade. He also ran for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake in 2012.

Other announced GOP candidates for the heavily Republican 8th Congressional District seat include former Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump and current or former legislators Steve Montenegro, Phil Lovas and Debbie Lesko.

In all, 25 Republicans, six Democrats and two Green Party candidates have filed as potential candidates and have until Jan. 10 to file signatures qualifying them for the ballot.

Van Steenwyk said three of the announced Republican candidates broke their contract with voters by leaving office before their term expired. Lovas quit the Legislature last year for a Trump administration job, Montenegro resigned last month to run for Franks’ seat and Lesko plans to do so.

Van Steenwyk called them and Stump “career politicians.”

“In the CD 8 race, everybody running, all these important people, Montenegro, Lovas, Lesko, Stump, not one of these people have run against an incumbent, Trent Franks,” Van Steenwyk said. “They don’t do it — they’re party loyalists. The real rebel in this race, the rebel Republican, is me.”

Flake’s vulnerability feeds GOP Senate concerns

In this July 19, 2017 photo, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. walks to his seat as he attends a luncheon with other GOP Senators and President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. Flake’s re-election race is becoming a case study in the GOP’s convulsions between the establishment, a furious base, and angry donors. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
In this July 19, 2017 photo, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. walks to his seat as he attends a luncheon with other GOP Senators and President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. Flake’s re-election race is becoming a case study in the GOP’s convulsions between the establishment, a furious base, and angry donors. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s re-election race is becoming a case study in the GOP’s convulsions among the establishment, a furious base and angry donors.

After bucking Donald Trump in a state the president won, Flake is bottoming out in polls. Yet Republicans look like they may be stuck with a hard-core conservative challenger who some fear could win the primary but lose in the general election.

A White House search for a candidate to replace former state Sen. Kelli Ward in the primary appears to have hit a wall. And now conservatives want to turn Arizona into the latest example of a Trump Train outsider taking down a member of the GOP establishment.

“People are fooling themselves if they think Jeff Flake is anything but a walking dead member of the United State Senate,” said Andy Surabian, whose Great America Alliance is backing Ward.

“I don’t see how he survives a primary. I don’t see how he survives a general. The numbers just don’t add up,” added Surabian, who worked at the White House as an adviser to Steve Bannon, then the president’s top strategist.

Despite discontent among some Republicans over Ward, Bannon met with her last week at a conservative conference in Colorado Springs to encourage her campaign, according to a Republican official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose the previously unreported private meeting.

Ward unsuccessfully challenged Arizona’s senior senator, John McCain, in last year’s election, losing in the primary by a wide margin. But in Flake, she would face a more vulnerable candidate at a moment when the GOP establishment is on the defensive, facing a simmering anti-incumbent mood heightened by Republicans’ failure to make good on seven years of promises to scrap Barack Obama’s health care law.

Flake is in danger of becoming the latest victim of this voter wrath. Yet, rather than making an effort to soothe pro-Trump GOP voters, he’s all but dared them to take him down by kicking off his campaign with an anti-Trump manifesto, “Conscience of a Conservative,” a book in which he bemoaned his party’s failure to stand up to Trump in last year’s presidential race.

“We pretended that the emperor wasn’t naked,” Flake wrote.

Trump, in turn, has lashed out at Flake on Twitter, calling him “toxic,” and praised Ward. White House officials say there’s little chance Trump will have a change of heart over supporting Flake. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose private deliberations, said Trump is irritated not only by Flake’s public criticism, but by what Trump sees as the senator’s attempts to use his critiques of the president to gain attention.

Nevertheless, Flake, 54, insists he won’t be getting out of the race. The primary is Aug. 29.

“We always knew we would have a tough primary. We always knew we would have a tough general,” Flake said in a brief interview at the Capitol. Asked about Trump’s opposition, Flake smiled and said, “There’s a long time between now and next August.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has protected vulnerable GOP senators in the past, but his ability to do so in the future was thrown into question last month by Sen. Luther Strange’s loss to rabble-rousing Roy Moore in a runoff in Alabama. A McConnell-aligned super PAC had spent around $9 million to help Strange.

Trump was encouraged by McConnell and others to back Strange, a decision which he reportedly now regrets and which only added to the frictions between the president and the Senate leader. Flake’s candidacy could provide occasion for yet more conflict between the two, given the possibility that they will be on opposite sides in the primary.

Adding to Flake’s problems, donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm, have dried up after the GOP failed to deliver on repealing and replacing the Obama health law. Some donors say they intend to withhold money from incumbent senators like Flake until they start delivering on Trump’s agenda, a strategy encouraged privately by some top White House officials.

“Donors are going to start cutting off funding for all senators until they get Trump’s initiatives passed,” said Roy Bailey, a Trump supporter and fundraiser in Texas. “I think there’s a real kind of movement going around that is catching momentum.”

Flake’s campaign points to strong fundraising numbers and upcoming events including a fundraising visit Monday by Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. But Flake can’t even count on support from fellow members of his Arizona delegation. GOP Rep. Trent Franks demurred when asked if he would be supporting Flake for re-election

“I’m probably not going to, for a lot of reasons, not going to address that,” Franks said. “Obviously, Sen. Flake knows how profoundly bewildered and disappointed I was with his actions that, in the general election last year, if everyone had followed that line of reasoning, would have resulted in Hillary Clinton’s election.”

Franks’ name is one of several that have circulated as potential primary challengers to Flake, along with Rep. Paul Gosar, state university board member Jay Heiler and former state GOP Chairman Robert Graham. Several Republicans said the White House has been searching for some alternative to Ward.

Yet Ward shows no sign of stepping aside, and another consideration, usually unspoken, is McCain’s brain cancer, which will likely mean another vacant Senate seat at some point in the future.

Ward’s erratic history, which causes mainline Republicans to view her as damaged goods, is underscored by comments she made after McCain’s July cancer diagnosis, where she urged him to step down and suggested she should be considered to replace him.

“Look, you see what her numbers were in the McCain race – I don’t know what would make us think different now,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz. Whichever Republican emerges from the primary will likely face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, seen as a strong candidate.

It’s all adding to a season of trouble for GOP senators such as Flake and Dean Heller of Nevada, who also faces a primary challenge from the right. The good news for Senate Republicans, who hold a 52-48 majority, is that they have an extremely favorable map next year that has them defending only two genuinely endangered incumbents, Flake and Heller, while Democrats are on defense in 10 states Trump won.

Werner reported from Washington.

Fontes concedes Maricopa County recorder race to Richer

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes talks about the progress of the ballot count at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Maricopa County will have a Republican county recorder again after Democrat Adrian Fontes, the incumbent, conceded the race on Thursday morning to his challenger, Stephen Richer.

The race ended up being the closest of all Maricopa County elected offices. Richer eventually edged ahead of Fontes on November 7 and built his lead each day since. As updates continued to pour in, and remaining votes shrunk, Fontes saw the writing on the wall that he was not likely to overcome his deficit.

“I’ve called [Richer] to congratulate him, and will be welcoming Maricopa’s 30th Recorder with a personal tour of our facilities next week. #ProtectDemocracy,” Fontes tweeted.

Richer, a private attorney who used to work at Steptoe and Johnson, launched his campaign after auditing the Recorder’s Office in 2019 and hit Fontes hard on the campaign trail over his handling of the 2018 election, which resulted in Fontes giving up election power to the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors.

Fontes won in a historic race in 2016 defeating 20-year incumbent Helen Purcell, a Republican, due to some failures at running elections in the state’s largest county. His goal was always to allow more people the opportunity to vote – especially people of color.

Richer said he wants to change the law to make the county recorder an appointed position. He also seemed to anger a lot of his supporters for refusing to take allegations of voter fraud in the county seriously and disagreeing with days of protests outside the county elections department.

In a tweet of his own, Richer thanked Fontes for conceding.

“I thought I lost this election on Tue. night. It was gut-wrenching and is more than enough to deal with. I’m sure Adrian is feeling something similar, so please, even if you didn’t support him, be kind to [Fontes] these next few weeks as he helps me transition,” Richer wrote.



Former lawmaker John Fillmore on his way back to Capitol

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction (Cronkite News Service photo)
John Fillmore (Cronkite News Service photo)

Former Rep. John Fillmore, a one-term lawmaker from Apache Junction who served from 2011-12, could be returning to the state Capitol.

Early voting poll results show that Fillmore and Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, have taken a lead in the five-way GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 16.

Three other Republicans, Lisa Godzich, Stephen Kridler, and Tara Phelps, are also vying for the Republican nomination, hoping to replace Rep. Doug Coleman, who is running for justice of the peace.

Godzich, a respiratory therapist, is the second vice-chair of the LD16 GOP committee. She serves on U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs’ Veterans Affairs Committee and is also a board member of the Mesa Republican Women.

Kridler is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a retired law enforcement office, who served 15 years with the Apache Junction Police Department.

Phelps, an Arizona native and mother of five, received a bachelor’s degree in business and supply chain management from Arizona State University. She is a small business owner.

The winners of the primary will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Sharon Stinard, who ran in the Democratic primary unopposed. Green Party candidate Richard Grayson is running as a write-in candidate, and in order to qualify for the general election, Grayson must receive at least as many votes as the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in that district.

LD16 House By The Numbers

Early votes  


Kelly Townsend 33 Percent

John Fillmore 23 Percent

Lisa Godzich 20 Percent

Stephen Kridler 9 Percent

Tara Phelps 15 Percent


Sharon Stinard 100 Percent

Former Republican AG Grant Woods considers run for U.S. Senate in 2020 as Democrat

Grant Woods gives a tribute during a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)
Grant Woods gives a tribute during a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

John McCain’s first congressional chief of staff and the former Republican state attorney general is weighing a bid to win his seat when it becomes available again in 2020 — as a Democrat.

“What changed for me is the passing of John McCain,” Grant Woods told Capitol Media Services on Wednesday. He said that not only caused him to reflect on McCain’s role as someone willing to speak out but what his absence will mean for politics in Arizona and nationally, particularly in the age of Trump.

For the moment, the seat is occupied by Jon Kyl, appointed earlier this week by Gov. Doug Ducey to fill the seat in the wake of McCain’s death until the 2020 election. At that point there would be another election to fill out the last two years of McCain’s original six-year term.

But Woods is convinced that Arizona is looking for someone in the McCain mold rather than a Trump sycophant. And that someone, he said, could be he.

Woods is no stranger to bucking the party line.

As far back as 2010 the Maricopa County Republican Committee stripped him of his power as a precinct committeeman to vote on matters of party platform and other issues. His crime: publicly supporting Democrat Felecia Rotellini for attorney general — a job he held for eight years through 1998 — over Republican Tom Horne.

More recently he backed Fred DuVal for governor over Doug Ducey. And just this year he helped push an initiative to undo legislation approved by Republican lawmakers to allow for more groups and individuals to influence elections through anonymous financial donations.

But Woods, who has a law practice, has eschewed another bid at politics, at least until now.

“These are not ordinary times,” he said.

“The country, I think, is really in a chaotic, difficult place,” Woods said. “So I have to do some real soul searching and just make a decision here.”

Some of the urging, he said, comes from people he knows in Washington. But he’s also getting a big push here in Arizona, although not from Republicans.

Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson said he has set up an online petition to “draft” Woods to run in 2020. Johnson, a Democrat turned independent, said he would prefer for Woods to run without party affiliation but understands that may not be the best path forward.

Woods, for his part, said an independent candidacy might make sense. But that has its own hurdles.

“You’d have to run with a lot of money behind you,” he said.

Even that guarantees nothing.

In 1986, Democrat-turned-independent Bill Schulz spent $2.2 million, a large sum for the time, in his bid to become governor. But all that likely ended up doing is siphoning votes from Democrat nominee Carolyn Warner, paving the way for Republican Evan Mecham to get elected with a plurality of the votes cast.

That’s why Woods said he is weighing a bid as the Democrat nominee.

That, of course, raises the question of whether Arizona Democrats would be willing to embrace someone as their candidate who has played for the other team for years.

DuVal, his party’s standard-bearer in 2014, has no problem with that — and not just because Woods backed him that year over Ducey.

“He has always been sort of center-left but has clearly (been) stimulated by Trump to become more pronounced in his leanings,” DuVal said. “So he clearly is in sync with where much of the party is.”

And there’s something else more pragmatic.

“Democrats are hoping to win,” DuVal said.

Woods said he is counting on that desire to achieve acceptance.

“People in politics, one mistake they often make is they don’t fully appreciate that in order to achieve the change you want you have to win,” he said. Democrats, who trail Republicans in voter registration, haven’t been able to do that, with all statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats now held by the GOP.

But what about running as a Republican?

“I don’t think that’s a realistic possibility,” Woods said, even though he won two Republican primaries for attorney general. But that was then.

“Things have changed,” he said.

“I haven’t changed but the party has changed,” Woods said. “If it wants to be the party of Trump, that’s not me.”

Nor does he believe that the more moderate elements of the party could reclaim it, at least not in the current political climate.

“Jeff Flake couldn’t run,” Woods noted, having effectively been forced out by challenges from those more conservative. In fact, he said, the only person who displays the independence of McCain who could actually win among Arizona Republicans is John McCain.

Johnson said that’s precisely why he backs Woods.

“I’d like to see somebody replace John McCain when the seat becomes permanent that is like John McCain,” he said.

That still leaves the question of whether Woods could pick up sufficient GOP support, even if he ran as an independent — or a Democrat.

“I think there’s a wide swath of the Republican Party in Arizona who would look for a John McCain-type leader,” said Johnson.

Woods said he will make a decision after the first of the year.

From ER to AZ House, GOP candidate a history with Friese

Brendan Lyons lays in his hospital bed after a distracted driver crashed into him in 2013. Lyons is now running for the House in Legislative District 9 against one of the doctors who cared for him, Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson. PHOTO COURTESY BRENDAN LYONS

In the afternoon of April 18, 2019, most lawmakers were in a celebratory mood.

The sea of green names on the electronic vote-tracking board made it clear: Arizona would now ban any kind of cell phone use while driving, a triumph for activists, bereaved families and policymakers who, after years of repeated efforts, had begun to grow accustomed to legislative obstinance.

Rep. Randall Friese – a Democrat from the same Tucson-area district as former lawmaker Steve Farley, one of the issue’s foremost legislative champions, albeit a frequently stymied one – took the microphone to explain his vote.

He read from the bill’s language, extolling its specificity and comprehensiveness. Then he turned to the House gallery, directing praise to Farley and recognizing families that had lost loved ones to distracted drivers.

Then, somewhat haltingly, he addressed Brendan Lyons.

Brendan Lyons
Brendan Lyons

“There’s a young man who’s been in my office many many times over this issue –            he and I met in 2013,” Friese said. “Mr. Lyons was my patient – he’s told many many people that, so I don’t mind sharing that when he was hurt, I participated in his care. I want to thank you, personally, for your efforts in championing this issue.”

A year later, Lyons has returned to the political arena, this time to run for a seat in the state House as a Republican. One of his Democratic opponents, in a twist that would seem to suggest that the state’s destiny is authored by two-bit screenwriters, is a man named Dr. Randall Friese.

“It’s quite an interesting journey that even brought me to run for office,” Lyons told the Arizona Capitol Times this week.

It’s a journey that began with a strange irony.  Lyons was once a firefighter. In that capacity, he said he often saw the “terrible consequences of distracted driving” – death, grief, disability and so on. This inspired him to partner with an existing nonprofit called LOOK! Save a Life, opening a chapter of the organization in southern Arizona.

But it wasn’t until a year later that he would experience those horrible consequences firsthand. As Lyons and his girlfriend were riding bicycles, they were struck from behind by a distracted driver at 45 miles per hour, mangling their bodies and bicycles.

Lyons had six fractured vertebrae, a fractured pelvis and a traumatic brain injury. He was brought to the trauma bay at the University of Arizona Medical Center. The attending surgeon – though not the one who actually operated on him – was Friese, then yet to enter into state politics.

Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, makes a point during floor debate at the Arizona Capitol on May 8, 2019. Friese, a trauma surgeon, helped care for his 2020 Republican opponent for the state House, Brendan Lyons, in 2013 after Lyons was involved in a crash with a distracted driver. PHOTO BY BOB CHRISTIE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, makes a point during floor debate at the Arizona Capitol on May 8, 2019. Friese, a trauma surgeon, helped care for his 2020 Republican opponent for the state House, Brendan Lyons, in 2013 after Lyons was involved in a crash with a distracted driver. PHOTO BY BOB CHRISTIE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Friese said he doesn’t specifically remember Lyons as a patient, though he knows that he took care of him when he was admitted. What he does remember was Lyons receiving a bedside visit from Farley and then-Rep. Ethan Orr, another proponent of a distracted driving ban.

When Friese unseated Orr the next year, he joined the fight. Despite their philosophical and political differences, he and Lyons developed a relationship through their work on the hands-free bill.

When a candidate survey asked Lyons to pick a member of another political party that he respects, he picked Friese, both for presiding over his care as well as for his work on an issue that affected Lyons and many others personally.

Now, Lyons said he wouldn’t mind the chance to serve with him, though his odds of victory aren’t great, as the Democratic voter registration advantage in the district has ballooned to nearly 20,000 in the years since Orr, a Republican, was in office.

“When I was championing the issue of distracted driving, Dr. Friese was responsive,” he said. “Given the working relationship that we had, I would be proud to stand beside Randy.”

Lyons admits his candidacy arose from “unique” circumstances. But he’s not running because he’s desperate to oust Friese or his seatmate, Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, he said.

“I’m running because I’ve been effective in creating change,” he said.

Friese isn’t bothered – if Lyons, as a Republican, has a different vision for the district than its current Democratic representation, let him run, he said.

“That’s what makes America a great country, I guess,” Friese said.

GOP Corp Comm candidates lead by less than 1 percentage point

In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

The Arizona Corporation Commission will remain entirely red if Tuesday night’s early ballot results hold true, but less than one percentage point currently separates first and third place.

The two Republicans in the race, incumbent Commissioner Justin Olson and newcomer Rodney Glassman,are leading over Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears, but just barely. According to early ballot returns, Olson has claimed 25.96 percent of the vote, while Glassman has 25.88 percent.

But Kennedy is not far behind with 24.98 percent as of Wednesday morning. Sears is at the back of the pack with 23.18 percent.

Even without Democratic wins, though, the results of tonight’s ACC election could have serious consequences for the state’s largest public utility, Arizona Public Service.

Glassman staked out a clear anti-APS position on the campaign trail, a strategy that led him to claim one of two GOP primary nominations over current Commissioner Tom Forese.

Olson has also been known to take positions that run contrary to the company’s interests. Among them, Olson has expressed willingness to dig into the utilities election spending in 2014 and re-opening the door to talk of retail electric deregulation. The latter would open up the energy retail and generation markets to competition, not an ideal outcome for utilities like APS that are currently allowed to operate as regulated monopolies.

That and APS’ election spending habits are topics Commissioner Bob Burns is fond of. Burns is both a Republican and an APS foe, and he’s vying to be the commission’s next chair.


Arizona Corporation Commission by the numbers

Early votes 


Justin Olson 25.96 percent

Rodney Glassman 25.88 percent


Sandra Kennedy 24.98 percent

Kiana Sears 23.18 percent

GOP county chairs urge Ducey to call special session

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Top officials of the 15 Republican county committees want a special session — and soon — to order an audit of the machinery used to count ballots.

But only in Maricopa County.

Michael Burke, who heads the Pinal GOP, delivered a letter to the governor Tuesday asking that he call lawmakers back to the Capitol to approve a special one-time law requiring an examination of the software used in machines made by Dominion Voting Systems. Burke said he and his colleagues — the letter was signed on behalf of 14 county chairs and one vice-chair — do not believe that Democrat Joe Biden could have picked up so many more new votes in 2020 in the state’s largest county than Hillary Clinton got four years ago absent a software problem.

But the letter does not call for the same kind of examination of the tabulating machines in other counties where the results for the president were much more favorable. This, Burke said, needs to be focused on Maricopa County.

And Donna Tanzi, who chairs the Yavapai County Republican Committee, said things ran smoothly in her county. It is only in Maricopa, which gave Biden about 45,100 more votes than Trump out of nearly 2.1 million cast, that the GOP officials say there needs to be a closer look.

Those Maricopa votes are crucial: Biden won Arizona by fewer than 11,000 votes.

Burke said he hand delivered the letter Tuesday afternoon to the governor’s office. An aide to the governor said the letter has not yet been reviewed.

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots behind boxes of counted ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots behind boxes of counted ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Senate President Karen Fann said she has her own questions about election procedures. And, going forward, she is looking at examining state election laws and procedures to ensure there are sufficient safeguards and that voters have “100% confidence” in the system.

But Fann told Capitol Media Services there is virtually no chance that what the party officials want will happen, even if the governor agrees to go along. She said there simply isn’t the time to enact a special law, have it take effect and examine the software before the votes cast this year need to be formally canvassed, something that has to occur no later than Dec. 3.

“I realize this is a Hail Mary,” Burke said. But he said he remains convinced that the legislature is constitutionally empowered to do what it wants on presidential elections.

What the request comes down to, the party chairs told Capitol Media Services, is that they’ve heard things.

“We’re hearing stories about Dominion software changing votes, doing all kinds of unfortunate things,” Burke said.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not,”  he conceded. “But let’s find out.”

Tanzi said her particular concern is the Dominion software, “or any software for that matter, and how is that being handled.”

There already are auditing procedures that were established and approved by the Republican-controlled legislature. These involve taking random samples from precincts chosen by officials of the two major parties and doing a hand count, comparing what humans find with what the machine tallied.

If the results fall within the margin of error, that’s the end of it.

But if not, the size of the sample continues to increase until the numbers correspond, potentially getting to a point — which has never happened — where all the ballots are reviewed by hand and that becomes the official count.

In fact, if that were to occur, there already is a requirement in the law for the secretary of state to furnish the “source code” used in the machines to a superior court judge. And the judge then is required to appoint a special master to review the software.

The GOP county chairs, however, want the legislature to short-circuit all of those existing laws and order a special audit this year of the Dominion software.

“We just want to have somebody who is an expert at IT security take a look at that software and make sure it’s fine,” said Burke who put the letter together.

Tanzi, for her part, said she’s not convinced the hand count already authorized in law will answer all the questions.

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“That should catch a lot of things,” she said. But Tanzi said pulling out a sample “could mean there’s a whole section that is missed.”

For his part, Russ Jones who chairs the Yuma GOP, said he has yet to see any hard evidence that the Dominion software, which is not used in his county, has caused problems. But Jones said he supported the call for the special audit “so we can satisfy, once and for all in Arizona, that the issues that apparently exist or may exist elsewhere did not occur in Arizona.”

“It’s a matter of voter confidence in our systems,” he said.

And Elizabeth Speck, the former chair and now secretary of the Greenlee GOP, had her own concerns.

“I’ve always been very skeptical of electronic voting machines,” she said. Speck said she worries about software and hardware that essentially sits unnoticed in equipment until activated.

“The legislature has the ability to interview witnesses, review complaints, and most importantly, engage the services of an independent professional IT security firm, who have the expertise to conduct a forensic audit of the suspect software, determine if irregularities exist and provide piece (sic) of mind to the voters of this state,” the letter to Ducey reads “We must begin this process immediately before the election is certified.”

What the county chairs want goes beyond what even is being sought by the Arizona Republican Party.

It’s lawsuit, playing out in Maricopa County Superior Court, is demanding that hand-count review be done on a precinct-by-precinct basis even though state law specifically allows counties to set up vote centers rather than force people to cast a ballot at a specific neighborhood location. A judge will hear arguments on that Wednesday.

Ducey, who has remained silent on the entire election and the results, is a critical player in all of this because he can bring lawmakers to the Capitol on any issue he wants. It would take a two-thirds vote for legislators to call themselves into special session, something that would require Democrat support.

But Fann said even if the Republicans who control the House and Senate did marshal the votes for the audit, they lack the two-thirds vote to have it take effect immediately. And the Arizona Constitution says laws cannot take effect until at least 90 days after the end of the session.

That means not just blowing by the canvass schedule but also the Dec. 14 date for the state’s 11 electors to cast their votes — and even the Jan. 20 date for the presidential inauguration.


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that David Eppihimer, chair of the Pima County Republican committee said he never signed the letter, but he later retracted the statement. 



GOP Lawmaker to Tempe: Do as I say or tell it to the AG

Rep. Vince Leach (R-Tucson)
Rep. Vince Leach (R-Tucson)

A Tucson Republican is threatening to sic the Attorney General’s Office on Tempe if the city doesn’t update two lease agreements with developers he alleges received illegal tax breaks.

In a November 30 letter sent to Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, Rep. Vince Leach claimed that the property tax incentives offered to the developers of the Graduate Hotel and the new Bank of the West branch in Tempe are prohibited by state statute.

He threatened to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office under SB1487 – a 2016 law that allows legislators to ask the attorney general to investigate whether local governments are violating state laws – if Tempe fails to amend its lease agreements with the two developers and address his concerns. The state can withhold a city’s share of state-shared revenue, which funds vital local government services, if the attorney general finds the complaint to be valid.

House GOP spokesman Matt Specht said Leach chose to bring up his concerns to the city first “for a more collaborative effort” rather than file a complaint.

Ken Strobeck, director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said though he commended Leach’s good will at seeking a collaborative effort, he felt legislators were taking advantage of the law.

“It is unfortunate that the threat of SB1487 complaints are becoming the standard response when legislators have questions about municipal practices,” he said. “We believe it is much better to respond to questions and work out solutions positively without resorting to the confrontational, punitive threats contained in SB1487.”

Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said it was the first time Leach or another lawmaker had brought up a GPLET (Government Property Lease Excise Tax) concern with city officials. Though she declined to say whether the city felt it was being strong-armed by the lawmaker, she said that the city was “happy to consider input and provide information about its use of GPLETs, as it has in the past.”

In the letter, Leach argued that the Government Property Lease Excise Tax agreements, granted to the two developers used rates that were eliminated in 2010 by state statute. Cities are exempt from using the new tax incentive rates for projects that were grandfathered in under the old law, but Leach argued that the grandfather clause didn’t apply to either project because neither had been approved by the Tempe City Council before 2010.

GPLET tax incentives allow municipal governments to lease publicly-owned properties to developers at a lower tax rate.

Leach also argued that the city backdated its agreement with Graduate Tempe Owner, LLC to 1970, the year the hotel was built, rather than when it became government property earlier this year.

Under the previous law, GPLET rates decreased over the duration of the lease until year 50 when the rate became zero. Because the city is claiming that the hotel project was grandfathered in under the old rates, Leach said, the developer would receive a large tax break.

“Despite there being a significant and obvious financial incentive for the city and the lessee to pretend this incentive began 47 years ago, such an interpretation is a peculiar and likely illegal stretch of the law,” he wrote.

Leach also said the agreements were also not vetted by the Department of Revenue, a stipulation included in HB2213, a 2017 law he sponsored aimed at closing loopholes related to GPLET agreements.

“GPLET projects like this shortchange our school districts while subverting the marketplace – they’re a bad deal for everyone except the city and developers,” Leach said in a statement.

The city, however, said such projects can benefit school districts and the community.

“Our school districts continue to collect a level amount of property taxes during the term of a GPLET, and after the property goes back on the tax rolls, they stand to take in even more dollars because the improved property pays more in taxes than if it had remained vacant, underused or polluted,” Ripley said.

Leach said the city could correct the three issues by re-signing the lease agreements with both developers using the “post-2010” GPLET rates.

“This solves all three illegal actions taken by the council and will not further necessitate an Attorney General SB1487 investigation,” he wrote.

Leach asked the city to respond to his claims by December 21.

GOP lawmakers seek to nullify Hobbs in election litigation

From left are Katie Hobbs and Mark Brnovich
From left are Katie Hobbs and Mark Brnovich

Republican lawmakers took the first steps Tuesday to strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of some of her powers.

Measures approved by both the House and Senate Appropriations committees would take away her power to defend state election laws and give it to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

It even prevents her from being able to get legal advice from the Attorney General’s Office. And it also would remove her purview over the Capitol Museum located in the historic Capitol.

But they insist it’s not personal, not a power grab and not punishment for her political stance, even as several said how unhappy they are with things she’s done.

It does, however, come as relations between Democrat Hobbs and Republican Brnovich have apparently reached a new low. It was disclosed Tuesday that she has filed more than a dozen complaints against Brnovich and staffers with the State Bar of Arizona, the organization that polices attorney conduct and has the ability to punish those who violate ethical rules.

A spokesman for the Bar said he is legally precluded from providing specifics. And there is no timeline for conducting any investigation and releasing any findings.

But Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, said the move by Hobbs only adds to why the Republicans in the legislature are moving against her. And he used them to respond to arguments by Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Tempe, that the action to remove some her authority was political.

“I don’t know what’s more political than the secretary of state submitting charges against almost the entire upper echelon of the attorney general,” he said.

“I would say the unprecedented attack on the attorney general, the chief deputy and many high-level attorneys is uncalled for,” Leach said. “This is really disconcerting and should be disconcerting to the people of Arizona.”

“She’s the one acting politically,” added Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria.

A spokesman for the State Bar said he can only confirm that a complaint was filed. And neither Hobbs nor Brnovich provided any immediate details.

And with no timeline on how long that inquiry would take, that leaves GOP lawmakers making the moves it can, using the state budget as their tool.

The actions spell out that the attorney general and not the secretary of state has the sole authority to defend the state when election laws are challenged. It also precludes the attorney general from providing any legal advice to the secretary of state, instead giving her $100,000 to hire a single legal adviser.

“This is a more efficient way of doing this,” said Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, who chairs the House panel.

But Democrats noted this isn’t a permanent change. Instead, it’s only for the coming state fiscal year. And that means it will expire after Hobbs leaves office in 2023.

Cobb acknowledged that a lot of this has to do with how Hobbs chooses to defend — or not — state statutes being challenged in court.

She said there have been instances where Hobbs and Brnovich have started on the same page, defending the changes enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature.

“And during the litigation, half way through the litigation, she’s decided to go the other direction from the AG’s office, from what they’ve been helping her with,” Cobb said. Then, on top of that, Hobbs is billing the state when she hires outside counsel to make those legal arguments.

And sometimes Hobbs actively opposed what Brnovich was arguing.

That’s the case with the challenge to the 2016 law on “ballot harvesting” where lawmakers voted to make it a felony for someone to take anyone else’s filled-out ballot to a polling place.

Brnovich sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appellate court voided the law. But Hobbs urged the justices, who are still considering the matter, to uphold that ruling and void the statute.

Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, pointed out that Hobbs, like Brnovich, is elected directly by voters.

“The secretary of state is entitled to her own opinion of the law,” he said, pointing out her role as the state’s chief elections officer. And Friese said if her views differ from that of the attorney general she should be entitled to hire outside counsel.

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said there’s more to the move than that.

“I really believe that this is not about policy but politics,” she said. And Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, called it “politically driven.”

It also comes as Hobbs, who is expected to announce a run for governor in the 2022 election, has been vocal about what she considers a “sham audit” of ballots being conducted by Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Republicans are not stopping with the question of election laws.

A separate provision takes away the authority Hobbs now has over the Capitol museum, the parts of the old Capitol building with historic displays. That would now be under the purview of the Legislative Council, essentially legal staff that advises lawmakers and helps draft legislation.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the transfer would ensure that better use can be made of the building by lawmakers. But Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, said this appears to be a reaction to the fact that Hobbs in 2019 chose to hang a “gay pride” flag from the balcony of the building.

“Oh, I have an issue with that,” Kavanagh said.

“I don’t think we should politicize government buildings,” he continued. “But that’s not what this is about.”

Cobb agreed, saying the flag incident was “done a long time ago.”

Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, said he wasn’t buying any of what he saw as excuses by Republicans for what they were doing.

“I learned a long time ago when smart people are saying things that don’t make sense there’s something else going on that’s not being talked about,” he said.

GOP legislator wants to take constant ‘campaign mode’ out of lawmaking

Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)
Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)

Rep. Drew John, R-Safford, is proposing to extend terms for members of both the House and Senate.

John, a freshman lawmaker, is planning to introduce legislation that would double legislators’ terms to four years from two. The change would still abide by Arizona’s eight-year term limits, holding members to a maximum of two terms instead of four.

The ballot measure would amend the state Constitution, subject to voter approval.

“I’ve served five four-year terms as a school board member and a county supervisor and it kind of hit me upside the head when right after my first session some people came up to me and said, ‘We need to do a fundraiser.’ I’m thinking we just had one,” he said. “I have a lot of things to do, I have to go out and talk to my constituents, I need to tell them the whole story, not part of the story, and now I’m in campaign mode again.”

John said extending term lengths would allow lawmakers to accomplish more during their time at the Legislature and build better relationships with their colleagues, the Governor’s Office and lobbyists, instead of always having their sights set on the next election.

“I just believe, if nothing else, you have two years in the middle of good production, get some things done, look at some things, instead of being in a rush because you might not be here next year,” he said. “We’re always in campaign mode and I just don’t think it’s healthy or good for the people.”

It would also lead to stability and consistency in the Legislature – more than one-third of the members of House last year were newly elected lawmakers with little previous governmental or law making experience – and allow for the development and preservation of institutional knowledge, he said.

The change wouldn’t go into effect until the Legislature’s 56th session in 2023. Lawmakers who were elected to serve a two-year term beginning in 2021 would be allowed to serve two consecutive four-year terms under the proposed bill without violating the state’s eight-year term limit.

John said he also looked at staggering elections but it “created too many problems.”

The bill will be similar to a concurrent resolution Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, sponsored last year that sought to extend term for state senators to four years from two. SCR1027 passed in the Senate 19-11 but failed to get through the House.

However, John said he thinks his version will face less opposition from members of his chamber.

“I already know the Senate president said he can get it through the Senate. I think it will get through the House,” he said. “I think the biggest problem we had last year was maybe some pride got involved – why do they (senators) get four years and we get two years?”

He said he has talked to many of his colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, and has received positive feedback.

“I’ve gotten a good response from leadership, from past leadership, I’ve talked to the public. The public is a little scared about it because they think it’s a way to get around term limits, but it’s important to say this doesn’t do away with that,” he said.

John said he received the final draft of his proposed bill earlier this week and plans to meet with Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, one final time before introducing the legislation early next week.

Gov. Ducey sticks to spirit of merit selection, shuns partisanship


The Arizona Republic recently tweeted: “Why is Governor Ducey largely rejecting Democrats as judges?” The answer: he is not. Ducey has been the least partisan of any governor with respect to the appointment of judges under our merit selection system.  The linked-to Op Ed sub-headline is: “Judges should be selected on their merit, diversity and independence, not their partisan background.”  In my opinion, of any governor in Arizona history, Democrat or Republican, Ducey has been the most faithful to the goals of merit selection. Merit selection under Ducey has never been less partisan or more inclusive.

I am a retired Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner and Latina legal community leader. I’ve been a member of Los Abogados, the Hispanic Bar Association for 20 years and I serve as one of the Region XIV deputy vice presidents for the National Hispanic Bar Association. For more than 10 years, I have co-coordinated the Latina Mentoring Project, the largest mentoring and pipeline program of its kind in Arizona with over 200 mentor and mentee participants. I respectfully disagree with the opinion’s central premise.

Mina Mendez
Mina Mendez

A review of the judicial appointment statistics maintained by the Arizona Supreme Court shows that Governor Ducey has appointed more judges outside of his political party than any other former Arizona governor under merit selection. On November 28, 2016, Ducey made history by appointing the first Latino ever to the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice John Lopez. On April 25, 2019, Governor Ducey made history again, by appointing a second Latino to the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Jim Beene.

Women make up 37 percent of Ducey’s appointments, the highest of any Arizona governor. This is true for his appointments to both the trial and appellate courts. On April 10, 2017, Ducey appointed Judge Maria Elena Cruz (a Democrat and former Yuma County presiding judge) and Judge Jennifer Campbell to two vacancies on Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. On September 29, 2017, he appointed a third woman, Judge Jennifer Perkins.

Historically, Arizona’s governors almost never ventured outside of their own political party with appellate court appointments. For example, Gov. Jan Brewer appointed 10 appellate judges, all Republicans. Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed 12 appellate judges, all Democrats. Ducey’s first-term appointment of Judge Cruz to the Court of Appeals is the first out-of-party appointment to the appellate courts, going back almost 20 years to Gov. Jane Hull’s administration.

Arizona started appointing judges under the merit selection system in 1975. From 1975 to 2015 (Gov. Raul Castro to Brewer), seven of Arizona’s nine governors appointed judges from their political party between 72 percent and 100 percent of the time. Gov. Wesley Bolin, who served from October 1977 to March 1978, appointed two merit selection judges, one a Democrat and the other a Republican. Hull, a Republican, appointed Republicans 64 percent of the time.

The statistics show Ducey has recommitted the state to nonpartisan and diverse appointments, with merit (and not party) as the primary consideration. His appointments have been the least partisan – only 61 percent of his judicial appointments have been Republicans. By contrast, Governor Brewer appointed only two Democrats to the Maricopa County Superior Court during her tenure. Notably, on January 3, 2018, Governor Ducey appointed three Democrats to the Maricopa County Superior Court on the same day and has appointed 14 Democrats and 11 Independents to positions statewide in just his first term.

As for diversity, Ducey’s appointments to date are already among the most diverse – 18 percent of his appointments have been minorities, second only to Napolitano at 23 percent. Arizona’s seven other governors appointed minorities between zero percent and 16 percent of the time.

Likewise, the nominating commissions have not injected partisanship into the nominating process. Qualified applicants, regardless of partisan affiliation, are forwarded to the governor.

(Full disclosure: Ducey appointed my husband to the Maricopa County Superior Court Nominating Commission and he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.) Indeed, the Appellate Court Commission sent up the name of every Democrat and every diverse candidate who applied to fill the last Supreme Court vacancy.

Misleading or factually inaccurate attacks on merit selection undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary. Ducey’s appointments have been the least partisan and the most diverse of any governor, Democrat or Republican.

Mina Mendez is a retired Superior Court commissioner and runs a statewide mentoring program for Latina law students and lawyers.


Greg Patterson takes step in political comeback

Greg Patterson (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
Greg Patterson (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Former lawmaker and Arizona Board of Regents chairman Greg Patterson is one step closer to a political comeback.

Unofficial results show that Patterson and incumbent Rep. Jill Norgaard secured the top two spots in the GOP primary for two House seats in Legislative District 18.

Patterson previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1991-94.

Most recently, he served as a regent, overseeing the state’s three public universities.

Patterson resigned from his post in 2017, after five years on the board, after a report chronicled a secretly-recorded meeting in which he mocked a state lawmaker.

During a February 2017 meeting between the board and Rep. Mark Finchem, Patterson berated and ridiculed Finchem over his legislative proposal to scale back the authority of the Board of Regents.

Frustrated by criticisms of the board, Patterson stormed out of the meeting attended by Finchem, Norgaard and then-Regents President Eileen Klein. But before he left, he mocked Finchem’s Western-style attire.

Details of that meeting only came to light because Patterson secretly recorded the meeting, a copy of which was obtained by the Arizona Republic through a public records request.

Norgaard and Patterson will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Rep. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine, who defeated LaDawn Stuben in the Democratic primary.

Republicans hold a small voter registration advantage in the district, which spans parts of Phoenix, including Ahwatukee, and parts of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.

LD18 House By The Numbers

28,883 votes cast  


Jill Norgaard 44 percent

Don Hawker 12 percent

Greg Patterson 25 percent

Farhana Shifa 19 percent



Denise “Mitzi” Epstein 44 percent

Jennifer Jermaine 38 percent

LaDawn Stuben 19 percent

Hobbs not inclined to play governor when Ducey’s away

Secretary of State-elect Katie Hobbs (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Secretary of State-elect Katie Hobbs (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

When Doug Ducey crosses state lines, it will be “Governor Katie Hobbs” to you.

Much has been said about how Hobbs’ election to secretary of state catapulted a Democrat to the front of Arizona’s line of succession. But a lesser-known provision of the state Constitution also stipulates Hobbs will serve as acting governor anytime Ducey leaves Arizona.

That means, among other gubernatorial powers, Hobbs will have the ability to sign executive orders, and hire and fire state employees when Ducey is absent.

At least, in theory.

No secretary of state in modern history has stirred controversy by abusing gubernatorial powers when serving as Arizona’s acting governor.

But it’s not unheard of. In 1928, Secretary of State James Kerby fired a member of the Arizona Industrial Commission when Gov. George W.P. Hunt was in Washington, D.C.

Hunt was livid, according to a biography of the governor written by David Berman, a professor at Arizona State University.

The rumor at the time was that Kerby fired Henry McCluskey, a friend of Hunt’s, to get back at the governor for reneging on a promise not to seek re-election. Supposedly, Hunt had told Kerby months earlier he would not run again, prompting Kerby to jump into the governor’s race.

Later that year, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld Kerby’s ouster of McCluskey because he was neglecting his work on the Industrial Commission and because he was appointed as a commissioner on the Colorado River Commission, which was a violation of state law that stipulated members of the Industrial Commission could not profit from holding another office.

Hunt and Kerby were both Democrats, and still had a tiff. Hobbs and Ducey are from opposing parties, which could create more friction between the state’s top two elected officials.

The Arizona Constitution states that when the governor leaves the state, “the power and duties of the office shall devolve upon the same person as in case of vacancy.” That person is the secretary of state.

If the secretary of state is also out of Arizona or unable to fill in as acting governor, then the duties carry down the line of succession to the state’s attorney general. Next in line is the state treasurer followed by the superintendent of public instruction.

Ducey left Arizona at least twice in the past week, according to the governor’s public schedule, meaning Secretary of State Michele Reagan was technically in charge. He visited Mexico for a trade summit and attended the inauguration of the country’s new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He also attended funeral services for former President George H.W. Bush in Washington, D.C.

Ducey, who maintains he is still the state’s top brass even when he’s traveling, dismissed the idea that Hobbs will do more than serve as a placeholder when he is out of Arizona.

Ducey told the Arizona Capitol Times that he forged a strong relationship with Hobbs when she was in the Legislature, so he trusts her not to co-opt his job when he’s gone.

“Part of any relationship is built on trust and confidence, so I’m hopeful that soon-to-be Secretary Hobbs and I can work closely and that it won’t be those types of game-playing or unpleasant surprises,” Ducey said.

Similarly, Hobbs has not expressed any interest in co-opting the governor’s duties when he is gone.

In a press conference just days after her victory in the secretary of state’s race, Hobbs said the constitutional provision crafted in 1912 was written long before email, cell phones and other technological advances that help keep the governor informed while he’s traveling.

Hobbs also said she thinks it’s unlikely Ducey will leave much of anything for her to act on in his stead.

“The governor is not going to leave me when there’s pressing policy that he feels strongly about,” she said.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich raised the question of how much power the acting governor really has when he filled in for Ducey for a day in 2015. Brnovich jokingly asked his Twitter followers what he should do as governor when Ducey was on vacation in California and Reagan was out of town at a conference.

Upon realizing he may have struck a nerve, Brnovich walked back his joke, saying he had full confidence in Ducey to manage Arizona while across state lines.

Reagan and previous secretaries of state have been called on to sign emergency legislation or other urgent documents while the state’s governor has been absent. Typically, the governor is aware of the situation and gives his or her blessing for the secretary of state to act.

The 1928 Arizona Supreme Court case involving Kerby and Hunt, though it dealt with the fallout from Arizona’s secretary of state serving as acting governor, did not directly address the amount of power bestowed to an acting governor.

But high courts in other states have addressed the issue.

In 1979, California’s Supreme Court ruled the state’s lieutenant governor has complete gubernatorial power when the governor leaves the state after former Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Curb made appointments, signed bills and created commissions while former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned for president. The court case stemmed from when Brown tried to withdraw one of Curb’s judicial appointments.

Curb boasts of making 431 appointments and signing at least 30 proclamations and bills while serving as acting governor.

But in 1991, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled opposite of California that the lieutenant governor does not become acting governor on the “temporary casual absence” of the elected governor.

Hoffman victorious in schools chief Democratic primary

Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction Kathy Hoffman chats with Republican candidate Frank Riggs during the Arizona Capitol Times' Meet the Candidates event. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction Kathy Hoffman chats with Republican candidate Frank Riggs during the Arizona Capitol Times’ Meet the Candidates event. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Kathy Hoffman shocked political observers across the state during the Aug. 28 primary as she pulled off a victory in the Democratic primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Hoffman came out ahead with a slim lead over challenger David Schapira in early ballot returns, and held it through the night. It is currently unclear who she will face in the Nov. 6 general election as the Republican primary is still too close to call.

In a text shared by Hoffman’s spokeswoman Emily Brent, Schapira congratulated Hoffman.

“Looks good for you so far,” he wrote, according to the message shared with the Arizona Capitol Times. “Congratulations! We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Speaking briefly to the Capitol Times from her watch party, Hoffman described her excitement at seeing a green checkmark beside her name, indicating a win called by a local TV station. She said she was elated and honored to continue to the general election.

As a speech therapist in Arizona public schools, Hoffman has appealed to the post-Red for Ed enthusiasm on the left. Her former campaign manager, Noah Karvelis, led that movement, and she stood behind the teachers, frequently rallying with them at the Capitol.

Schapira did too, a fact that speaks to what has been one of the most significant challenges in the Democratic primary race: distinguishing one candidate from the other.

Hoffman and Schapira held many of the same beliefs about Arizona’s public education system and efforts to increase school funding, including through the Invest in Education Act initiative seeking to raise taxes to pump up dollars for public education. Instead, they focused largely on the differences in their backgrounds – Hoffman with her greater experience in the classroom, and Schapira with his time in a variety of administrative and elected positions.

Hoffman’s frontlines message appears to have won the day, but she still faces a tough road ahead as a Democrat seeking statewide office.

A Republican has held the seat for more than 20 years. But with the momentum of the Red for Ed movement still fueling the conversation around education in Arizona, political observers foresee a competitive general election contest for the seat.

Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers


415,434 votes cast

Kathy Hoffman 53 percent

David Schapira 47 percent


486,978 votes cast

Diane Douglas 21.49 percent

Bob Branch 21.79 percent

Frank Riggs 21.94 percent

Jonathan Gelbart 14.77 percent

Tracy Livingston 20.02 percent

House passes bill to put more restrictions on voter registration

The "I voted sticker" is commonly given to voters across the U.S. after they cast their ballots. (Wikimedia Commons).
(Wikimedia Commons).

The state House voted Monday to create some new crimes for certain voter-registration activities in a move several lawmakers suggested will suppress voting, particularly by the young and minorities.

HB 2616 would make it a misdemeanor to pay someone based on the number of people they sign up to vote. Violators would be subject to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said the measure is designed to deal with problems presented to her by some county recorders who say they are finding large numbers of fraudulent registrations.

“We have people going in the phone book and filling out voter registrations with names in the phone book,” she said. “We’ve got people who are making up names.”

But the part of the measure that caused more concern would require that filled-out voter registration forms must be sent in within 10 days or there is a four-month jail term.

Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said that she, as a candidate, always has carried around such forms when going door-to-door in case she would come across someone who wanted to register. Engel said she would send them in when she had a small pile.

“All of a sudden now, you don’t send them in within 10 days, you’re subject to a criminal infraction,” she said.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said all that will chill efforts, often by volunteers, to get people signed up.

He noted this is not the only House-passed measure aimed at voting, citing another bill which requires people who drop off their early ballots at voting centers to provide identification, something not now in law. Foes of that measure say some people don’t have the kind of ID the legislation would require.

“It’s clear to me that the real driving force behind these bills is to keep down the number of votes, especially from those who are young, those who are old, those who are poor and those who are minority voters,” Bolding said.

That drew an objection from Townsend who said House rules prohibit members from commenting on what they believe are each other’s motives. Bolding, however, refused to back down, even suggesting that there are lawmakers who want to keep turnout low, especially among some groups.

“What we know is that when more people go to the ballot, when we see more individuals voting, you’ll see effects just like you saw in 2018,” he said, with less support for certain types of politicians.

“Republicans know, just like Democrats know, that the more people who vote the less likely we will see an extreme Legislature that is forcing policies that don’t reflect the state of Arizona,” Bolding said. And he suggested that last year’s election, where Democrats picked up four seats in the House — reducing the GOP edge to 31-29 — has worried some on the other side of the aisle.

“I do not think it’s a mistake that we consistently see voter suppression bills this cycle,” Bolding said.

Townsend, however, argued that her legislation actually helps enfranchise voters.

“I cannot believe that we are arguing that we should be able to look the other way when someone commits fraud, when someone purposely keeps back voter registration, for whatever reason, in a nefarious way,” she said. Townsend said this is designed to protect those who thought they had registered “and instead their registration form is sitting on someone’s desk for some purpose I don’t understand, sometimes until after the election.”

But Bolding said if Republicans were truly interested in ensuring that everyone who wants to vote gets to vote they would support automatic voter registration. That system, in effect in some states, signs people up to vote when they get a driver’s license and provide proof of citizenship.

While all the Republicans voted in favor of the measure, Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said she was uncomfortable with at least some of the language, particularly in how that 10-day limit is applied. She said there could be circumstances where a volunteer turns in a slip in plenty of time to an organization but that group fails to get the form off within 10 days of when it originally was filled out.

The measure now goes to the Senate.


House, Senate leaders cut budget deal with Arizona governor


Republican leaders who control the majority in the Arizona Legislature said Sunday they’ve reached a deal with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey on a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1.
Senate President Karen Fann said four days of negotiations led to the deal that she and House Speaker Rusty Bowers will present to majority Republicans on Monday morning. Bowers also confirmed the agreement. If the deal passes muster with Republican lawmakers, a budget could be approved by the end of the week.
Both declined to provide details before briefing their members, who could ask for changes. Bowers and Fann said last week they hoped to cut a final deal over the weekend and introduce budget legislation Monday.
Minority Democrats weren’t involved in the negotiations.
The governor proposed an $11.4 billion spending plan in January that mainly devotes a $1 billion surplus to state reserves and education funding.
Republican lawmakers objected to several parts of the proposal, including Ducey’s plan to keep a tax windfall the state got from the 2017 federal tax overhaul and his plan to make a $542 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund. That is intended to boost the reserve account to $1 billion in an effort to prevent massive spending cuts if a recession hits.
Many GOP lawmakers instead wanted to refund that extra cash to taxpayers and pay down debt, with a smaller reserve fund deposit. Arizona usually aligns its income tax code to the federal code, known as conforming, but doing that without adjustments would boost tax bills for some people and was seen by many in the GOP as a tax increase they could not approve.
Other issues included cutting a new $32 fee charged for vehicle registrations lawmakers approved last year but expected to only be $18 per car or truck.
“There is an agreement on (tax) conformity and other issues with the governor,” Bowers said Sunday. “How that pans with the caucus we’ll see tomorrow.”
Republicans hold just a 31-29 majority in the House, so they cannot lose a vote and pass a budget without Democratic support. The Senate has a 17-13 GOP majority, but several members have said they won’t vote for a budget unless they get what they want. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita has said she wants the vehicle license fee cut. Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter want an extension to the statute of limitations allowing child sex assault victims to sue or they won’t sign off.
New legislation to address Boyer’s concerns was introduced Thursday at Bowers’ request, but Boyer said it didn’t go far enough.
Current state law allows only two years for someone to sue after turning 18. Boyer had proposed up to seven years after someone realized they had been sexually assaulted. That drew opposition from other Republicans, who believed it was unfair to allow someone to potentially be sued many decades after an alleged assault.
Bowers said he was choosing a compromise. A draft of the legislation shows it increases the time to file a lawsuit to age 30, and restarts that clock if new criminal charges are filed for up to a year after the case concludes.

House, Senate remain under Republican control — again

Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins hangs "vote" signs outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins hangs “vote” signs outside a polling station prior to it’s opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona’s Legislature will have only a tinge of more blue.

For all the talk that 2018 would finally be the year Democrats would either split or gain majority in the Senate, the chamber will remain under GOP control, likely with a 17-13 split.

At least three Republican incumbents did fall to Democrats in the House, and depending on the outcome of one race, that chamber’s split could narrow to 31-29 from 35-25.

Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik as of November 8 in Legislative District 17, which includes Sun Lakes and parts of Chandler and Gilbert. Pawlik, a Chandler teacher attempting to ride the fervor around education to victory, was ahead by just about 400 votes.

House Republicans are preparing for the worst. When the GOP Caucus voted for House leadership on November 7, 31 current and presumed members voted.

Missing from those ranks were the three Republicans whose defeats were certain. Republican Reps. Todd Clodfelter of Tucson, Jill Norgaard of Phoenix and Maria Syms of Paradise Valley all were ousted incumbents, but the circumstances of their defeats don’t quite match the narrative of a Democratic resurgence and rejection of the status quo in the GOP.

Clodfelter has lost before in Legislative District 10, which was represented by two Democrats in 2012 and 2014 before he was elected in 2016. He fell behind incumbent Rep. Kirsten Engel and Democratic newcomer Domingo DeGrazia.

Norgaard’s district swung in favor of Democrats back in 2016, when two of Legislative District 18’s three seats at the Capitol were won by the minority party.

Newcomer Jennifer Jermaine continued that trend. The Chandler Democrat and Rep. Mitzi Epstein of Tempe defeated Norgaard by a comfortable margin.

Syms likely sealed her own fate in Legislative District 28 when she stirred up tension in her own party.

She was accused by fellow Republicans of sowing conflict when her husband, Mark Syms, sought to run against Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee as an independent. And she clashed with fellow Republican Kathy Pappas Petsas in a four-way campaign where the top two vote-getters are elected to the House.

Syms landed in third behind Democrats Rep. Kelli Butler and Aaron Lieberman.

Former Arizona teacher of the year Christine Marsh could give the Democrat’s some consolation with a victory in the LD28 Senate race.

But that would mean closing a sizeable gap between her and the incumbent, Brophy McGee.

The Phoenix Republican has always been a strong candidate in the competitive district, and could hold her lead, if not watch it grow thanks to a strong showing among day-of GOP voters in Maricopa County, where votes were still being counted as of November 8.

Elsewhere, Democrats will look back at opportunities lost.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, once again won re-election in northern Arizona’s LD6, where Democrat Wade Carlisle trailed by more than 1,000 votes.

And Democrat Steve Weichert failed to ride the anticipated blue wave in LD17, where House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, handily won a race to succeed as the Republican senator from the East Valley.

The 54th Arizona Legislature will be a mix of old and new faces. The composition will include current lawmakers who cross the lawn at the Capitol to join the other chamber, 20 true freshman who won election to the Legislature for the first time, and former members who left office and will return.


Crossing over from House

Sally Ann Gonzales (D)

Vince Leach (R)

Eddie Farnsworth (R)

Heather Carter (R)

J.D. Mesnard (R)

Paul Boyer (R)

David Livingston (R)

Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R)

Lela Alston (D)

Rebecca Rios (D)

Tony Navarrete (D)



Victoria Steele (D)

David Gowan (R)


True Freshman

Tyler Pace (R)


Crossing over from Senate

Warren Petersen (R)

Gail Griffin (R)

Nancy Barto (R)

John Kavanagh (R)

Robert Meza (D)



John Fillmore (R)


True Freshmen

Andres Cano (D)

Alma Hernandez (D)

Leo Biasiucci (R)

Walter Blackman (R)

Arlando Teller (D)

Myron Tsosie (D)

Domingo DeGrazia (D)

Bret Roberts (R)

Joanne Osborne (R)

Jennifer Pawlik (D)

Jennifer Jermaine (D)

Lorenzo Sierra (D)

Shawnna Bolick (R)

Frank Carroll (R)

Jennifer Longdon (D)

Amish Shah (D)

Diego Rodriguez (D)

Aaron Lieberman (D)

Raquel Teran (D)

Incumbent Mitchell loses LD13 Republican House primary

Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, said requiring Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens would help ease unemployment in his district, which stretches to Yuma. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)
Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Juan Magaña)

Incumbent Rep. Darin Mitchell fell short in his bid for a return to the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry in the Aug. 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 13.

Mitchell, a realtor, was first elected to the House in 2013.

Dunn and Osborne will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Thomas Tzitzura, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

However, Tzitzura isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Republican in November. Republicans hold a healthy voter registration advantage in the district, which includes the northern part of Yuma County and the northwestern part of Maricopa County.

LD13 House By The Numbers

35,064 votes cast


Timothy “Tim” Dunn 37 percent

Darin Mitchell 21 percent

Joanne Osborne 24 percent

Trey Terry 19 percent


9,324 votes cast

Thomas Tzitzura 100 percent

IRC chair – the state’s most important political figure

Deposit Photo
Deposit Photo

An aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, a former top attorney for the state’s largest utility company and a former attorney at the Goldwater Institute are among 39 applicants for the chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. 

The person selected to lead the commission will become the most important person in Arizona politics for the next few years as he or she will be the deciding vote for mapping out the state’s congressional and legislative districts for the upcoming decade. 

The IRC chair cannot be registered with a political party. The inaugural IRC chair in 2000 voted with the two Republican members on the five-person commission more than not. And in 2010 the chair voted with the Democrats. 

Ducey, a Republican, has been working since the early days in his first term to assure that Republicans win this next round of redistricting. Democrats have accused Ducey of stacking the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the body that vets IRC candidates, as well as judicial nominees. 

The state Supreme Court was a big factor in the 2010 cycle and could potentially come into play again. Ducey has appointed five of the seven justices – four are Republicans and the other is a conservative-leaning independent. 

The job of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is to winnow down the total list of IRC applicants to 25 – 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and five independents. History has shown that for this cycle both political parties will want an independent chair who leans their way to gain a majority on the five-member panel.  


 here are several candidates who run in Arizona’s political circles or have been known to work behind the scenes that could make it onto the final list of five, come 2021. 

Alec Esteban Thomson
Alec Esteban Thomson

Alec Esteban Thomson, the director of strategic initiatives under Ducey, applied for the job.

Thomson, a Maricopa County resident, previously served as the COO of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. He has an immense resume and one that would appear to go against the narrative of picking a chair with strong Republican leanings. 

Thomson has only given money to Democrats through ActBlue ($50 in 2015), he worked with the Human Rights Campaign to elect Hillary Clinton as president in 2016 and he was the chief of staff to former Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, a Democrat. But he also worked for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and is credited recently with working on Ducey’s Mask Up AZ campaign and helping get people to fill out their Census data.  

Thomas Loquvam, the general counsel at EPCOR and former Pinnacle West general counsel, also applied for the job. Loquvam left APS’s parent company in April 2019 after nine years. He spent a lot of his time arguing on behalf of the utility at the Arizona Corporation Commission. 

Loquvam, the brother of outgoing APS lobbyist Jessica Pacheco, also has ties to the Greater Phoenix Chamber and is registered as a lobbyist for EPCOR, which is a violation of the IRC requirements. However, in his application, Loquvam said he is not a paid lobbyist. 

“The nature of my responsibilities with EPCOR require that I register as a lobbyist with the Arizona Corporation Commission … in order to speak with any Commissioner on virtually any issue,” he wrote, adding that he included this information “in an abundance of caution.” He said he is not “specifically paid to lobby.”

Loquvam, a Maricopa County resident, also signed a notarized document stating he will not register as a paid lobbyist during his term on the IRC, if appointed. The term will last 10 years. As of August 27, Loquvam is still listed as EPCOR’s lobbyist on the Corporation Commission database. 

Thomas Loquvam
Thomas Loquvam

Loquvam contributed $250 to Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s campaign for the state House back in 2014, an election she lost. He also contributed thousands of dollars to the Pinnacle West Political Action Committee in several installments. 

Nick Dranias is a former Goldwater Institute attorney who lives in Maricopa County. Dranias contributed $250 to Jonathan Paton’s congressional campaign in 2010. Paton is one of the Republican members on the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, who Ducey reappointed to a new term earlier this year. 

Dranias also gave money to Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for his first campaign in 2014 and chipped in hundreds of dollars to a Republican federal PAC called WINRED, where he earmarked at least $100 in June to re-elect President Trump.

Outside of the state’s largest county, there’s Michael Hammond, a Pima County independent who former Governor Brewer appointed to the State Transportation Board. Hammond’s term began in 2015 and runs through 2021. Members of governmental boards or commissions are not eligible to serve on the IRC.

Mignonne Hollis
Mignonne Hollis

Mignonne Hollis of Cochise County applied for the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments multiple times over the past two years and contributed to campaigns of Republicans and Democrats. Joseph Cuffari, a former commission member who worked for Ducey, suggested Hollis apply for the commission. She also listed Rep. Gail Griffin and Sen. David Gowan, both staunch conservative Republicans, as references for those applications even though she financially contributed to one of Gowan’s previous opponents. 

Hollis also contributed to campaigns for former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, a Republican, in his bid for governor in 2014, and David Garcia, a Democrat, in his bid for state superintendent of public instruction the same year. She also financially supports Planned Parenthood.

Some of the other notable independent candidates:

  • Christopher Bavasi, Coconino County, the former Flagstaff mayor and a supporter of Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.
  • Michael Chihak, Pima County, a former journalist at Arizona Public Media, the Tucson PBS station.
  • Joseph Citelli, Maricopa County, the chief counsel at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. 
  • Eric Gorsenger, Maricopa County, a former Corporation Commission staffer who was the plaintiff in challenges to nominating petitions for several Republican candidates this year. He says he is a “lifelong independent.”
  • Leezie Kim, Maricopa County, general counsel for former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who then followed Napolitano, a Democrat, to the federal Department of Homeland Security as her deputy general counsel. Kim has contributed significantly to several Democrats including President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Congressman Greg Stanton
  • Steven Krenzel, Maricopa County, a Ducey-appointed member of the Arizona Industrial Commission. Ducey also appointed Krenzel to the Arizona Housing Finance Authority in 2016, where he served for six months 
  • Lawrence Mohrweis, Maricopa County, one of 10 Democratic finalists for the IRC in 2010, who says in his application he did not get the appointment because he was “too independent.” 
  • Erika Schupak Neuberg, Maricopa County, served as the chair of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group with several ties to Arizona lawmakers. She has also contributed roughly $25,000 to several candidates from both parties, including Ducey, Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez, Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez, Republican Rodney Glassman (in his 2018 bid for the Corporation Commission), Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein as well as Republican Congressman Andy Biggs, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, Republican Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, and several others.
  • Michael Jensen, Maricopa County, the only Libertarian to apply. 


The Independent Redistricting Commission applications were made public on August 21, and a total of 138 people applied, which is more than in 2010 (79), but fewer than the inaugural commission in 2000 (311). Democrats submitted 55 of the applications and 44 Republicans applied, while 38 independents along with one Libertarian applied for the position of chairperson.  

Applicants come from nine of Arizona’s 15 counties. Maricopa has 89 candidates, but no more than one per party can receive the appointment. The counties with no candidates are Yuma, Navajo, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Graham and Greenlee. 

The process from this point forward will be a slog as the 16-member Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will vet all 138 applicants with the aid of public comments and interviews and eventually narrow down the list to 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and 5 independents. 

Each legislative caucus leader in January 2021 will appoint one person from the narrowed list, and those four commissioners will choose the independent chair from the list of five.   


A look back to 2010 shows the importance of the independent chair. 

Governor Napolitano abandoned Arizona for a federal appointment one year before redistricting kicked off, leaving Governor Brewer to try to remedy as much of the process to sway in the favor of Republicans, but it appeared to be too-little-too-late. 

So once the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments narrowed the list to 25 finalists, the Republican legislative leaders tried to send the vetting group back to the drawing board. 

House Speaker Kirk Adams – Ducey’s eventual chief of staff – and Senate President Russell Pearce demanded two Republican finalists and one independent finalist pull out of consideration. The Republicans, Mark Schnepf and Steve Sossaman, agreed, but the independent, Paul Bender refused.

Critics at the time considered this a tactic to remove Bender given his liberal leanings even as an independent.  

Former redistricting chairwoman Colleen Mathis (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)
Former redistricting chairwoman Colleen Mathis (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

The four partisan picks eventually named Colleen Mathis the chair and work was set to begin. After a series of decisions that did not favor Republicans, Brewer called for Mathis’ removal, which received the required two-thirds approval from the state Senate. At the time, Republicans controlled the chamber 21-9. 

“I will not sit idly by while Arizona’s congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn in a fashion that is anything but constitutional and proper,” Brewer said at the time.

Brewer accused Mathis of improperly conducting commission business in violation of the state’s open meeting laws, and skewing the redistricting in favor of Democrats. Tom Horne, the attorney general at the time, launched an investigation into the allegation and Brewer subsequently began the successful attempt at impeaching Mathis. 

The process to replace Mathis began, but the Arizona Supreme Court eventually reinstated her to the chair position in November of 2011. Arizona picked up a ninth congressional seat from the 2010 Census. It was considered a competitive seat that went to Sinema, a Democrat, who held the seat in every election until her run for U.S. Senate two years ago. 

The only congressional seat to flip back and forth, since the ninth seat began in 2012, was the 2nd Congressional District in Pima County. The 2012 election had Democrat Ron Barber defeat Republican challenger Martha McSally by a hair. McSally then defeated Barber after a recount in 2014. She held it for two terms before Kirkpatrick won in 2018 over Republican Lea Marquez Peterson.

This year is the final election cycle of the 2010 redistricting, which could result in one or both chambers of the state Legislature in Democratic control and the possibility of a 6-3 congressional split if Democrat Hiral Tipirneni can unseat Republican Congressman David Schwerikert in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District. 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed four Republicans and a Libertarian to the Arizona Supreme Court. The governor has actually appointed no Libertarians, but he has appointed one independent. 

John McComish: A man of many hats now dons a robe

Cap Times Q&ASince trading in his legislator badge for judicial robes in 2015, John McComish said he has no regrets leaving the Capitol and mostly leaving politics behind.

The fact that he’s now the elected justice of the peace for the Kyrene Justice Court is often a convenient excuse to avoid getting dragged back into the world of politics, the Phoenix Republican quipped, as he has embraced his nonpartisan role on the bench amid yet another career change.

Do you miss the Legislature? At all?

Yes and no. What I miss are the colleagues, the friends, some of the reporters…

Only some of the reporters?

Seriously, the colleagues that I had, the friendships, including the reporters and the lobbyists. A lot of good people worked down there. I miss them. I don’t miss the hours, the late hours, the early-morning meetings, the late-evening meetings. The politics of it seems to be getting more divisive every year. I don’t miss that.

John McComish (Photo by Gary Grado/Arizona Capitol Times)
John McComish (Photo by Gary Grado/Arizona Capitol Times)

Why was it the right time to leave?

I’d been there 10 years, and the opportunity for the JP position, it’s every four years. So when I left, that was the time to run if I was going to. If I wasn’t gonna run for that position, I’d have to wait four years, and I didn’t want to have to wait.

Why do so many former legislators run for justice of the peace? What’s the appeal?

I think in one sense, you’re going from making laws to interpreting them and dealing with them on the bench. I’ve had people in front of me charged with violating laws that were bills that I’ve sponsored. I haven’t yet said anything, but it’s been tempting to say, “You know what you’re getting fined for? I wrote that bill!” But I haven’t done that.

What’s an example?

Particularly there was a bill several years ago that I sponsored that had to do with teenage drivers. They have a provisionary license. (The bill) put some provisions in there: You couldn’t drive after midnight. The biggest issue was, you could only drive with one other teen in the car. The big idea was to keep a brand new driver from four or five other teens in a car, bouncing around in a car causing havoc. There was plenty of evidence that passing that bill would actually save lives.

And you’ve had teens who broke that law in your court?

I’ve had teens come before me that were cited for having more than one other teen in the car with them. So I Just chuckle to myself and move on. Quite honestly, the other reason that I’m sure is a financial one. As you know, $24,000 a year (for a legislator) is not a handsome sum.

What kinds of cases do justices of the peace handle?

We’re referred to as limited jurisdiction judges. City judges, city magistrates, are also limited jurisdiction. The difference between us and a city judge is that we handle civil activities as well as criminal. They just handle criminal. We get civil suits for $10,000 or less, and we also get evictions. A good part of my week is, unfortunately, dealing with evictions. That’s probably the toughest one, because you find people that have just come upon hard times, and of course the landlord has a right to be paid their rent, and that’s difficult. A lot of traffic, criminal traffic, civil traffic, one person suing another, one corporation suing another, a person suing a corporation. We see all those. A lot of DUIs, unfortunately. By the way, very expensive to be convicted of a DUI!

You’ve got a lot of legal experience now, as someone who’s passed laws, interpreted them, and even sued to change them, as was the case when you sought to block Clean Elections matching funds.

My experience suing, so to speak, with the Clean Elections case was limited. It was very narrow, and it was at a very high level. It ended up at the United States Supreme Court. So what I’m doing, fining drunk drivers, there’s a bit of a distance there.

You’ve had a winding career – corporate sales, bookstore owner, politician and judge – what’s your advice to someone looking for a career change?

Somebody could say I can’t keep a job. The advice that I have given people is keep your options open, because the world is, not just from my experience, the world is changing, and the experiences that you’ve had and job skills that you have today are going to change. So you need to be open to that changing world… I’ve been open to things. I never planned, other than the initial job out of college. The rest of it just kind of happened.

Are you still politically involved at all? Are you even allowed to be?

It’s a strange thing that, even though as JPs we have to run a partisan race, we run a partisan primary and in the general, Rs run against the Ds. Yet within that, we are really, except in our own race, we’re really not allowed to be partisan. There are quite a few restrictions in terms of, we can’t get involved in anybody else’s campaign, we can’t get involved in any propositions. I’ve said a few times kind of half-jokingly, we’re not allowed to have opinions. You can make donations. That would be a restriction of your freedom. The one thing I say only half jesting, when people call me asking for me to recommend them, for an endorsement, I have to say no because of the restrictions. Sometimes that’s a blessing.

Is that an itch that’s tough not to scratch?

It might’ve been had I not been involved in politics. I was in the Legislature for 10 years, and involved politically for a number of years before that, so I think I’ve pretty well scratched that itch.

Will you run for re-election as justice of the peace?

If had to answer that today, I would say probably not. I haven’t made up my mind for sure. It’s a four-year term, which is nice, not to have to run every two years as you have to in the Legislature. But as I’m thinking right now, I probably will not, but I have a little while to go before I make up my mind.

What will you do next?

Both our children and consequently all our grandchildren live in western Massachusetts, in Berkshire County, and we have bought a little summer bungalow in Berkshire County. Of course I would be spending more time there with the grandchildren. . .  I would probably do a little (judge) pro tem-ing to keep my toe in the water and keep busy.

Ken Bennett in uphill battle to unseat Ducey

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)
Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)

Gov. Doug Ducey faces an unexpected intraparty challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennett as he prepares to seek a second term.

Spurred by Ducey’s teacher pay raise proposal, which he calls fiscally irresponsible, Bennett plans to jump into the governor’s race, but insiders within the Republican Party doubt Bennett’s chances of even qualifying for the ballot.

Bennett must collect 6,223 valid signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. His deadline? May 30.

If he gets on the August primary ballot, he’ll face an incumbent governor with a formidable fundraising machine.

Bennett’s challenge drew criticism from Republicans, who are desperate to unite behind strong candidates to stave off Democratic momentum that’s building across the country.

“I don’t think Ken Bennett has any luck. Period,” said Data Orbital pollster George Khalaf.

The former gubernatorial candidate — who came in fourth in the six-way primary race that Ducey won in 2014 — argues that education funding is at a crossroads and teachers deserve raises, but the governor’s plan relies on strong economic growth, which is unsustainable.

Bennett said Ducey has flip-flopped on the teacher pay issue, first saying the state could only afford 1-percent raises this year, and then bumping up that number to 9 percent in fiscal year 2019. Ducey also promised to deliver another 5 percent for two years thereafter, giving teachers a 20 percent pay bump by the 2020 school year.

Bennett said he has already collected “hundreds” of signatures within the first few days of his campaign. He also launched a campaign website and candidate PAC.

But his gubernatorial bid has divided his Republican friends and acquaintances into two extremes, he said.

“There are a lot of people who are frustrated with things that the governor has done who could not be more excited with my campaign,” he said. “Then there’s kind of the Republican establishment that couldn’t be more frustrated.”

The debate over teacher pay dominates the headlines today, but it’s not a major issue for Republicans, Khalaf said. Instead, job creation, immigration and taxes are much more likely to play bigger roles in the gubernatorial race, he said.

And while there’s always discontent within the GOP that can earn anybody 5 or 10 percent of the vote, teacher pay alone won’t propel Bennett past what any other candidate could get in the election, Khalaf said.

Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyists and longtime friend of Bennett’s, asked the former Senate president to give back to the state in other ways, instead of engaging in what he described as vanity politics to desperately try to remain relevant.

“This election is a ways away. The 20 percent issue, the pay raise issue and November those are … like three North Koreas away,” DeMenna said.

Within the GOP and the government, it’s important to support the leader, and in this case, there’s no reason not to, he added.

He speculated that Bennett misses being included in state decisionmaking and is frustrated by some of Ducey’s recent actions. But he said the teacher-pay issue will get resolved shortly and result in a win for all sides.

Bennett doesn’t represent any subset of the Republican Party, certainly not any subset of consequence, he said.

“This is the midpoint on an eight-year program, and I’m not aware of anything that calls for this governor to be replaced,” DeMenna said.

The last time an incumbent governor faced a serious challenge was 2010, when five Republicans mounted a primary campaign against then-Gov. Jan Brewer. Three withdrew from the race when it became clear Brewer was going to win, which she did with 82 percent of the vote.

Bennett plans to run with public financing, which requires him to collect 4,000 $5 contributions by August 21. Meanwhile, Ducey, who can self-finance and draw support from a host of wealthy backers, has $3 million on hand.

Ken Bennett needs 900 contributions to earn Clean Elections funding

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

With just three weeks to go before the primary election, Ken Bennett still needs 900 contributions to qualify for funding from the Clean Elections Commission.

In a letter to Clean Elections Executive Director Tom Collins on Monday, the Republican challenger to Gov. Doug Ducey said his campaign has 3,100 qualifying contributions on hand.

Gubernatorial candidates must collect 4,000 of the $5 qualifying contributions to qualify for $839,704 in primary funding, and can also collect up to $58,810 worth of seed money in $160 increments.

Bennett’s campaign manager, Christine Bauserman, said the campaign is disappointed that it’s behind on its goal, but she’s convinced Bennett will still qualify for public funding. She could not provide a date for when the campaign is likely to turn in its contributions.

Bauserman previously said that the campaign’s plan was to qualify for public financing by July 26 so they could get Bennett’s name out there before early ballots went out on Aug. 1.

Lots of Bennett’s Clean Elections forms are still out there, now it’s just a matter of hustling to get them back and turn them in, Bauserman said.

We’re working hard at it,” she said.

Clean Elections candidates can collect $5 contributions through August 21, and can submit them to qualify for funding through the day of the August 28 primary.

Should Bennett qualify for Clean Elections funding, his campaign plans to spend the money on mailers and radio advertisements.

But even without the public financing to help get Bennett’s name out there, a lot of people already know who he is and like what he’s pitching, Bauserman said.

When somebody’s unfavorables are as high as Ducey’s and his favorables as low, a lot of people see Ken Bennett. Ken has name ID. Everybody knows who Ken is,” she said.

Ducey’s campaign declined to comment. Ducey had $3.5 million on hand at the end of the last campaign finance reporting period. Bennett reported collecting 1,130 of the $5 contributions by the end of June, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Ducey’s campaign is already looking past Bennett to the general election.

“I think the record that I have as a governor, as a Republican who won that primary four years ago is one we can be proud of,” Ducey said last week. “With that, people will make a decision on the 28th, but we’re looking forward to Nov. 6.”

Kimberly Yee breaks barriers as Arizona’s new Treasurer

Sen. Kimberly Yee (Capitol Media Services 2016 file photo by Howard Fischer)
Sen. Kimberly Yee (Capitol Media Services 2016 file photo by Howard Fischer)

Sen. Kimberly Yee, who once served as spokeswoman for the state Treasurer’s Office, will soon be its leader.

Yee, a Republican and the Senate Majority Leader, easily fended off a challenge from Democrat Mark Manoil to win the opportunity to manage the state’s $15 billion in assets.

In her victory speech, Yee emphasized her political history of breaking barriers.

When she was first elected to the Arizona Legislature, she became the first Asian-American woman to serve in Arizona’s state house. She also touted being the second woman to serve as Arizona’s Senate majority leader — second only to Sandra Day O’Connor. She was the first Asian-American state Senate majority leader.

“Today, with your help, I’ve become the first Chinese-American Republican woman to hold a major statewide office in the entire country,” Yee said at the Arizona GOP Election watch party.

Republicans have held the office for 50 years, making Yee favored to win the treasurer’s race. Manoil is the first Democrat to seek the treasurer’s office since Gov. Doug Ducey defeated Democrat Andrei Cherny in 2010.

A rising star in the GOP, Yee is the state’s first Asian-American woman to serve in the state Legislature. She has served in both houses since first taking office in 2011. Before that, she served as former Treasurer Dean Martin’s communications director.

Yee promised to keep fiscal conservatism alive and well in the Treasurer’s Office.

“We will make sure that we keep Arizona’s economy going strong as it has under leadership from Gov. Doug Ducey,” she told the GOP crowd at the Scottsdale hotel and resort.

Yee will replace Eileen Klein, who was appointed to the position earlier this year. Klein, who declined to run for a full term, replaced Jeff DeWit, a former Trump campaign leader who was appointed to be NASA’s chief financial officer.

As state Treasurer, Yee will earn an annual salary of $70,000.


Arizona Treasurer’s race by the numbers

Early votes

Kimberly Yee 55 percent

Mark Manoil 45 percent

Lawmaker introduces new proposal to revamp Independent Redistricting Commission


A Republican lawmaker is reviving an effort to change the makeup of Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, the body responsible for redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional district maps once a decade.

That’s fine with Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, a progressive organization that opposed efforts to alter the IRC in 2018 because of proposed changes to the rules governing how district lines are drawn. But there was no opposition to expanding the commission from five members to nine, Edman said.

Under Rep. John Fillmore’s proposal, party leaders at the legislature would be responsible for appointing three Republican and three Democratic commissioners. Another three commissioners must be independents. The three-way split better represents Arizona voter, supporters say, since roughly a third of voters aren’t affiliated with a political party.

John Fillmore
John Fillmore

It also helps ensure the redistricting process, which will begin anew in 2021, can’t be hijacked by Republican or Democratic interests, Fillmore said.

Currently, commissioners are chosen from a pool of 25 candidates vetted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Republican and Democratic legislative leaders get to choose two commissioners each from the pool. Those four commissioners must then select a fifth candidate, typically an independent or anyone who’s neither a Republican or Democrat, to serve as chair of the IRC.

With just one independent, the process was prone to criticism that the lone non-political commissioner was biased.

“I don’t necessarily think that was true, but that was the accusation I used to hear,” Fillmore said of the last redistricting process.

Fillmore also wants the nine commissioners to elect by majority vote one of their members, of any political affiliation, to serve as chair and another as vice-chair, rather than have an independent commissioner serve as de facto chair.

And he vowed to fight any effort to allow legislators a role in drawing district maps, as former Senate President Steve Yarbrough’s 2018 legislation initially proposed.

“That’s not the whole idea of the redistricting commission,” Fillmore said. “I’m not in favor in anyway for the Legislature manipulating or having authority over that in any way.”

Edman said he also favors another change in Fillmore’s legislation, though it’s an idea he suspects most Republicans will oppose. Rather than have the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments vet potential IRC commissioners, Fillmore wants to give that authority to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Clean Elections is a frequent target of GOP ire, and Republican lawmakers have a history of trying to strip the CCEC of its existing authority, not give it more power.

CCEC Executive Director Tom Collins said he appreciated Fillmore’s shout out.

“The bill’s language shows a belief that the commission’s record of bipartisan decision making makes it a better vehicle for determining IRC candidates,” Collins wrote in an email. “Mr. Fillmore has demonstrated an interest this session in making government more fair and representative, and in his view the commission can accomplish that, and as executive director, I’m pleased to have that acknowledgment.”

Collins added that CCEC will officially remain neutral on Fillmore’s legislation.

Edman will support it.

“Last time around, there was some criticism on the commission from the Appellate Court Appointments from the right, and for progressives, there’s some concern that the court is not really reflective of the state as a whole,” he said. “Clean Elections, we think, is a truly independent, nonpartisan body. Of course, I think a lot of Mr. Fillmore’s Republican colleagues feel differently.”

Fillmore said he doesn’t care what his colleagues think of Clean Elections.

Clean Elections gets a bad rap, he said, even though historically, the CCEC has been a boon for helping conservative Republicans get elected to office thanks in part to the publicly-funded campaign dollars provided to participating candidates.

“I’m here to represent my district. I’m not looking at it for partisan purposes,” Fillmore said. “I think a redistricting commission that is untied to any of that is a good thing.”

Any changes to the redistricting commission are ultimately up to voters. Fillmore’s proposal would refer a question about changing the IRC to the 2020 ballot.

Lawmaker seeks probe of Phoenix police immigration policy

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, says Phoenix police are violating provisions of a contentious 2010 law known as SB 1070 that requires police to inquire about the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.

Kavanagh said Friday that policy changes the department adopted in July illegally restrict when officers can inquire about a person’s immigration status. In addition, a new procedure requiring a specialized supervisor to vet the request puts roadblocks in the process to check with federal immigration officials.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can’t hold someone longer than normally needed just to check their immigration status.

Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills)

“These are pretty glaring violations of SB 1070,” Kavanagh said. “They shouldn’t have implemented a patently illegal police operations order.”

Kavanagh also said the policy on enforcement on school groups is illegal.

“They make their schools sanctuary islands,” he said. He said if police were called to a Friday night football game and suspected some adults were breaking the law and were also possibly illegally in the country, they couldn’t do anything.

“So you could have MS-13 gang members having amnesty while they’re on school grounds,” he said

Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters said the police policy was reviewed by numerous attorneys familiar with immigration law and is very similar to those in place in Mesa and Tucson.

“And, just like other cities throughout Arizona, our policy is designed to protect victims and witnesses and it complies with the directions we have received from school districts regarding school resource officers in public schools,” Watters said.

Kavanagh is asking the state attorney general to review the policy under a 2016 law allowing a single lawmaker to trigger an investigation. If the attorney general determines the policy conflicts with state law, the city will have 30 days to eliminate it or face loss of state tax revenues.

That would be exceptionally punitive for Phoenix, since it received nearly $175 million in state-shared revenue payments in 2015.

The 2010 law known as SB 1070 was passed as Republicans pushed to crack down on illegal immigration into Arizona. Several provisions were struck down by the courts, but the part dubbed by opponents the “show me your papers” provision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That section requires officers to inquire about a person’s immigration status during contacts for violations of any state or local law or ordinance if they have reasonable suspicion the person might be in the country illegally. Kavanagh said several parts of the new police operations order illegally hinder that.

“In one section they say that the stop can only be if the person was pulled over for a crime. The law doesn’t say that — the law says any violation of any law or ordinance,” he said. “It can be littering, so they’re totally restrictive there.”

Lawsuit filed over alleged libel, slander in LD23 race


A Republican House candidate in Legislative District 23 is suing the incumbent he defeated and a local party official for slander and libel on the campaign trail.

Joseph Chaplik, who runs a Scottsdale real estate investment firm, edged out Rep. Jay Lawrence in the August primary by less than 1,000 votes, concluding an ugly campaign. But victory and a solid shot at a seat in the district didn’t stop Chaplik from filing a lawsuit against Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, along with a separate suit against Joe Romack, a former precinct-level official in the district now making a House bid as a write-in candidate.

In a complaint filed August 5 – just one day after the primary election, a point at which the results of the primary were still murky – Chaplik alleges Lawrence repeatedly slandered him by referring to him as a “tax deadbeat, tax cheat and criminal” on signage, mailers and on social media. Chaplik also claims that Lawrence deliberately and with malice misstated his NRA rating and falsely accused him of being the subject of a civil rights lawsuit.

Chaplik’s lawsuit against Romack – whom he believes acted on Lawrence’s behalf – goes even further. Not only does he say Romack falsely accused him of being a tax cheat, he claims that Romack “hides behind fake social media accounts” to make these statements, according to a complaint filed August 3.

Tax deadbeat or not, the questions about his tax status didn’t come out of nowhere. In June, Lawrence and his seatmate, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, presented evidence at a Fountain Hills Republican Club meeting that Chaplik “has a history of not paying his taxes.” Indeed, records show Chaplik owed more than $50,000 in federal taxes in 2016 and had a lien against him two years later. He paid what he owed shortly before entering the LD23 race.

Joseph Chaplik
Joseph Chaplik

And in a Facebook post in June, Chaplik admitted to having minor run-ins with the law as a college student, admitted to the tax liens and also admitted that the management company that operated apartment buildings he owned was named as a defendant in a discrimination suit — all claims that his political opponents had made on the campaign trail.

The timing isn’t ideal. While Republicans have a significant registration advantage in the district, Eric Kurland, a Democratic former school teacher who fell only three points short of Lawrence in the 2018 LD23 general election, is back. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling that the Kurland campaign paid for found that he’s the top choice of 37% of the district’s voters, and the first or second choice of 39% of voters, two points ahead of the newcomer Chaplik. The poll’s universe contained 627 voters in the district, the plurality of which – 45% — are Republicans.

“Well, lawsuits never look good,” said Kavanagh, who is now in the position of running alongside Chaplik after criticizing him in the primary. Kavanagh is not named in either lawsuit, despite making some of the same claims as Lawrence, and said he wouldn’t know why. “I hope they can resolve it.”

He declined to discuss his past comments on Chaplik, or say whether he misrepresented the facts.

Kurland said he hopes the lawsuit would draw Chaplik into public – he and the district’s other Republicans dodged a Citizens Clean Elections Commission debate last week.

Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, speaks at the 2015 Teenage Republicans Banquet at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Paradise Valley. His opponent in the Legislative District 23 GOP primary, Joseph Chaplik, has sued Lawrence over statements made during the campaign. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, speaks at the 2015 Teenage Republicans Banquet at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Paradise Valley. His opponent in the Legislative District 23 GOP primary, Joseph Chaplik, has sued Lawrence over statements made during the campaign. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Romack, a former precinct committeeman in LD23, filed paperwork to run as a write-in on August 5. Lawrence described him as a “friend whom I have known for a long time,” but both men deny that he is running on the outgoing lawmaker’s behalf.

“Back in 2014, I was going to run. But Jay Lawrence was running too, and I told him I wouldn’t run against him ever,” Romack said. “I want voters to have options.”

Lawrence, who said he’d likely support Romack, brushed off the idea that his write-in candidacy could peel away votes from Chaplik and open up a lane for Kurland. Romack, meanwhile, was apathetic.

“That’s not my concern,” he said. “It’s each man for himself.”

Chaplik alleges that Romack used two Twitter accounts (@JChapstick69 and @JosephChapstick) to defame Chaplik with the hope that he would lose the primary – which, again, he did not.

“Defendant knew or should have known that such acts of defamation are particularly designed to damage the reputation of Plaintiff and benefit Defendant and Jay Lawrence,” the complaint says.

The complaint says Romack (under the humorously named Twitter accounts) tweeted statements such as: “You know what they teach in school? How to pay your taxes. You could have used a course like that, since ya know, you didn’t pay your taxes” and “uh oh joe, looks like a criminal will always be a criminal.”

Chaplik directed inquiries to his lawyer, Mark Goldman, Joe Arpaio’s longtime lawyer who recently represented Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scotttsdale, when she threatened to sue challenger Alex Kolodin for discussing sexual harassment allegations against her.

“Neither I nor my client is going to litigate the lawsuits in the media,” Goldman said in a written response.  “To do otherwise we consider inappropriate.  Needless public comments are what caused these lawsuits in the first place.”

In separate responses, Lawrence and Romack deny all of Chaplik’s allegations. Romack went further, filing a counterclaim alleging that Chaplik’s lawsuits amount to an abuse of the legal system.

The lawsuit attempts to “obtain a cooling effect on any negative public opinion that might impact his general election chances through the threat of litigation, prevent the dissemination of publicly available information that might be a detriment to his general election chances, and further a political narrative that he is the victim of unjustified attacks,” Romack said in the his counterclaim.

Lawsuit seeks to ban Kanye West from Arizona ballot

FILE - This Nov. 17, 2019, file photo shows Kanye West on stage during a service at Lakewood Church in Houston. A law firm with ties to prominent Democrats has filed a lawsuit attempting to keep West off presidential ballots in Virginia. Attorneys for Perkins Coie filed a lawsuit in Richmond on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, on behalf of two people who say they were tricked into signing an “Elector Oath” backing West's candidacy. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, File)
FILE – This Nov. 17, 2019, file photo shows Kanye West on stage during a service at Lakewood Church in Houston. A law firm with ties to prominent Democrats has filed a lawsuit attempting to keep West off presidential ballots in Virginia. Attorneys for Perkins Coie filed a lawsuit in Richmond on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, on behalf of two people who say they were tricked into signing an “Elector Oath” backing West’s candidacy. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, File)

An Arizona resident has asked a judge to bar Kanye West from appearing on the state’s November 3 ballot, accusing the hip hop artist of serving as an election spoiler and arguing that a law prohibits him from running in the state as an independent presidential candidate.

West’s lawyer on September 2 reported filing just under 58,000 signatures, well over the roughly 39,000 required for independent candidates to make the ballot.

Lawyers for resident Rasean Clayton said in a lawsuit filed August 31 that independent presidential candidates can appear on Arizona’s ballot if they aren’t registered with a recognized political party and gather enough voter signatures to nominate them. But Clayton’s lawyers say West, who paid top dollar to dozens of workers gathering petition signatures in Arizona, isn’t qualified to be on the ballot because he’s a registered Republican.

Even if West is found to have submitted enough signatures, the lawsuit said the hip hop artist’s late-in-the-game candidacy would make no difference to his chances of winning the race.

“West will not be able to qualify for the ballot in enough states to muster enough electoral votes to prevail,” Clayton’s lawyers wrote. “West’s minimal interest in playing a spoiler candidate on Arizona’s ballot is not enough to outweigh the factors favoring emergency relief.”

West has already qualified to appear on the ballot in several states, including Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee and Utah.

The rapper and music producer announced his intention to run for president on July 4.

Attorney Tim LaSota, who represents West in the Arizona challenge, described the lawsuit as a “last-ditch effort on the eve of the (signature filing deadline) to deprive voters of a choice.”

LaSota brushed aside criticism that West is trying to be a spoiler aimed at hurting Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s chances in Arizona. “That’s just political hyperbole,” LaSota said. “I don’t want to get into the politics of it. But obviously I think there is a lot to be achieved by someone else running for president.”

Clayton’s attorneys said the lawsuit must be resolved quickly because the deadline for Arizona’s ballots to be printed is on September 8 and 9.

In a statement, Clayton described himself as a Navy veteran who cares about the November election.

“I filed this case because I don’t want people to get confused voting on ballots that have disqualified people listed with everyone else who followed the law,” Clayton said.

It’s unclear if Clayton has any connections to the Arizona Democratic Party, which didn’t return a call seeking comment.



Lawyer says assessor Petersen miscast as human smuggler

Paul Petersen
Paul Petersen

A lawyer for an Arizona elected official charged in three states in an international adoption scheme said Tuesday prosecutors have miscast his client as a human smuggler.

Attorney Matt Long said Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen cares deeply for the mothers from the Marshall Islands whom he connected with adoptive parents in the United States.

Prosecutors say Petersen paid the women up to $10,000 to come to the United States, where they were crammed into houses to wait to give birth and provide their babies for adoption.

Petersen faces charges in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas that include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“This was not human trafficking,” Long said. “That’s going to be borne out by evidence. That’s going to be borne out by the manner in which it will be demonstrated that Mr. Petersen dealt with the birth mothers and the adopted families.”

A judge in Phoenix delayed Petersen’s arraignment until after an Oct. 29 hearing in Arkansas, where he faces federal charges.

A judge in Utah on Tuesday declined to reduce his $3 million bail. The amount was based in part on $2.7 million that authorities say was deposited into an account for adoption fees over several years. Petersen’s Utah attorney, Scott Williams, said much of that money has been spent.

Petersen is currently in federal custody.

There are nearly 30 pending adoptions in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah that were being handled by Petersen’s company, according to court documents.

The women in Utah were “frightened and nervous” after Petersen was arrested, according to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the Utah attorney general’s office. They didn’t have money, cellphones or transportation, prosecutors said.

The agent also said Peterson and his associates would take passports from the Marshallese women while they were in the U.S., which gave him more control over them.

Petersen has been unfairly ping-ponged between state and federal custody and has been largely denied access to his lawyer, Long said. That has made it hard for Petersen to defend himself and for lawyers, mothers and adoptive families to understand the ramifications for pending adoptions, he said.

“I can’t get access to him, other people can’t get access to him for a sufficient amount of time in order to work through some of these issues,” Long said.

Petersen, he said, helped his clients navigate the complicated emotions involved with adoption.

“That’s been consistent in Mr. Petersen’s life — a care and concern for the Marshallese community,” Long said.

Long said Petersen has no plans to resign from his elected position determining the value of properties for tax purposes.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and virtually all of Maricopa County’s elected officials have said Petersen, a Republican, should quit because the charges make it difficult for him to serve.

Petersen and Long completed missions in the Marshall Islands with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they later worked in the islands on behalf of an international adoption agency. They continued working with the agency while both were in law school in Arizona.

Long said he’s looking for another lawyer to represent Petersen because of their friendship and Long’s own deep ties to the Marshallese community, noting he adopted a Marshallese child 20 years ago.

Lawyer: No one hurt yet by law restricting voter initiatives

The attorney for two top Republican lawmakers is laying the groundwork to quash a legal challenge to new hurdles they erected to voters creating their own laws.

During a preliminary hearing May 25, David Cantelme did not address whether the Legislature exceeded its constitutional authority by requiring those who propose initiatives to be in “strict compliance” with each and every election law. That is a significant change from current law which requires only “substantial compliance,” a standard that allows the public to vote on measures despite technical violations.

Instead, Cantelme told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers he believes there’s a legal flaw in the case by challengers, a flaw he contends bars the judge from considering their request to block the law from taking effect.

“If they haven’t suffered an injury, a real, palpable, discrete injury, they don’t have a case,” he said. And Cantelme, who represents Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, said there is nothing in the record so far that shows the various challengers will be harmed if they’re forced to have to live under the strict compliance standard.

Attorney Roopali Desai
Attorney Roopali Desai

But attorney Roopali Desai who represents challengers, objects to the fact that Cantelme wants to question her clients, ahead of the hearing, some of whom are people who have been involved in past initiatives.

Cantelme wants to ask them about future plans, an issue he said goes to the question of whether they actually would be harmed if the strict compliance standard takes effect as scheduled on Aug. 9.

Desai, however, told Rogers she sees something more sinister in what Cantelme is arguing.

“The (Republican-controlled) Legislature is going to try to get into facts relating to the strategy and details with respect to the who, what, when, and details of initiatives that the plaintiffs are not required at this stage to have to (disclose),” she said. “It would be completely inappropriate for the Legislature to get into those sort of political, strategic issues that they otherwise would not have access to.”

After the hearing, Cantelme did not dispute that he wants to ask the challengers about their future plans.

“I get to ask them what is appropriate for the case,” he said, refusing to be more specific.

Among the plaintiffs in the case is Matt Madonna, former regional president of the American Cancer Society. His organization was behind a successful ballot effort to ban smoking in public places.

Sandy Bahr is chapter director of the Sierra Club, which has been involved in various ballot fights including a ban on leghold traps on public lands and creating an optional system of public financing for state and local elections.

And the Animal Defense League helped get voter approval of a ban on “gestation crates” for calves and pigs.

Desai said all the plaintiffs do have an interest because she believes having to live under the strict compliance standard will make the initiative process more expensive. For example, she said, if innocent mistakes can have every petition voided, organizers may decide they don’t want to use volunteers.

“So you may have to move to an all paid-circulation effort because at that point you can be more assured that every ‘i’ is dotted, every ‘t’ is crossed,” she said.

“People should be doing that anyway,” Desai continued. “But you don’t spend millions of dollars on an initiative and think to yourself, ‘This is going to get thrown out for some minor defect.’ ”

The lawsuit is only one side of the effort to kill the new law.

A separate referendum drive has been launched to prevent the law from taking effect. If backers gather 75,321 valid signatures of registered voters before Aug. 9, the measure remains on “hold” until voters decide in November 2018 whether to ratify or reject what lawmakers have enacted.

Leach sics AG on Tempe over allegation of illegal tax breaks

A Tucson Republican has followed through on a threat to ask the Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether Tempe broke the law in signing two lease agreements with developers he alleges received illegal tax breaks.

Rep. Vince Leach (R-Tucson)
Rep. Vince Leach (R-Tucson)

Rep. Vince Leach filed his complaint with the attorney general on January 2 despite a scheduled January 11 meeting to discuss his concerns with Tempe staff.

Leach put the city on notice in a November 30 letter that he intended to file the complaint and asked for a response to his claims by December 21, and a House GOP spokesman said Leach chose to bring his concerns to the city first “for a more collaborative effort” in finding a solution.

In a January 2 written statement, Tempe said Leach’s complaint was misguided based on a misunderstanding of Government Property Lease Excise Taxes, or GPLETs, a tax incentive that allows municipal governments to lease publicly-owned properties to developers at a lower tax rate.

The statement, sent by city spokeswoman Nikki Ripley, said Leach filed the complaint “before getting the facts.”

“It is unfortunate that a member of the Arizona Legislature has decided to use misunderstandings about GPLET and misinformation about Tempe’s use of state statutes to employ a tactic to threaten the city revenue distribution that keeps cities and towns afloat and able to provide critical services to residents such as police and fire protection,” the statement said.

House GOP Spokesman Matt Specht said Leach “had an obligation” to file the complaint with the AG’s Office after the city failed to take “corrective action” in response to the November 30 letter.

The complaint, filed under SB1487, a 2016 law that allows legislators to ask the attorney general to investigate whether local governments are flouting state laws, calls into question the city’s use of GPLETs.

SB1487 allows the state to withhold a city’s portion of state-shared revenue, which funds vital local government services, if the AG finds the complaint to be valid. The Attorney General’s Office has 30 days to investigate the complaint and if it determines the city’s ordinances violate state law, the office will work with the city to ensure the leases come into compliance.

In his complaint, Leach argued that the GPLET agreements offered to the developers of the Graduate Hotel and the new Bank of the West branch in Tempe used rates that were eliminated in 2010 by state statute. Cities are exempt from using the new tax incentive rates for projects that were grandfathered in under the old law, but Leach argued that the grandfather clause didn’t apply to either project because neither had been approved by the Tempe City Council before 2010.

Leach also argued that the city backdated its agreement with Graduate Tempe Owner, LLC to 1970, the year the hotel was built, rather than when it became government property in early 2017.

Under the previous law, GPLET rates decreased over the duration of the lease until year 50 when the rate became zero. Because the city is claiming that the hotel project was grandfathered in under the old rates, Leach said, the developer would receive a larger tax break.

Leach also said the agreements were not vetted by the Department of Revenue, a stipulation included in HB2213, a 2017 law he sponsored aimed at closing loopholes related to GPLET agreements.

Tempe’s January 2 press release said the city’s agreement with the developer of the Bank of the West does not waive property taxes for the duration of the GPLET, and that the agreement was vetted by the Department of Revenue.

As for the Graduate Hotel development, the city said it passed a resolution in 2010 that allowed the property to fall under the grandfather clause for future use of GPLETs. The resolution was passed before changes were made to how GPLETs can be used under state statute, the city added.

The lease agreement with the developer has not been finalized, but will be submitted to the Revenue Department for review when it is, the city said.

“The city of Tempe has responsibly, selectively and legally made use of the limited development incentive tools that are allowed by Arizona state law,” the city’s written statement said.

This is the eighth SB1487 complaint that the AG’s office has investigated since the law was enacted in 2016. Leach recently filed another SB1487 complaint with the agency, asking Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate whether the town of Patagonia’s new ordinance limiting the number of times heavy trucks can drive on town roads violates the Arizona Constitution, the Nogales International reported.

Legislator to draft law to unmask protesters he compares to KKK

Protesters wear masks as Phoenix police disperse crowds with tear gas after President Trumps rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on Aug. 22, 2017.
Protesters wear masks as Phoenix police disperse crowds with tear gas after President Trump’s rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on Aug. 22, 2017. (Photo by Ellen O’Brien/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Jay Lawrence wants to create criminal penalties for protesters who wear masks to hide their identity while committing crimes, and likened those modern day protesters to the Ku Klux Klan.

The Scottsdale Republican took to Facebook on August 23 to announce he’s working with staff at the Arizona House of Representatives to draft a bill that would be similar in nature to “unmasking” laws in other states. States like Alabama and Ohio adopted various mask bans in the 1940s and 1950s in response to Klan activity.

Lawrence said he “absolutely” sees similarities in today’s protesters to the Ku Klux Klan.


“The thugs wearing masks and throwing things at police officers and breaking windows and robbing and pillaging while wearing masks and hoods are the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan,” Lawrence said. “Now, there are no hangings of white people, yet.”

His announcement comes the morning after President Trump’s rally in downtown Phoenix ended with city police using smoke, pepper spray and flash bangs on crowds protesting the rally, a use of force on what were reportedly “largely peaceful crowds.” The Phoenix Police Department will investigate, according to Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams.

After speaking with police who have been on duty at protests, Lawrence said banning masks could deter violence, or at least make it easier to identify those who commit violent acts against officers or property. Lawrence wrote that, while “the right to anonymity is sometimes desirable in healthy political discourse … too many who wish to act violently hide behind hoods or masks in an effort to intimidate or conceal their identity from law enforcement.”

The bill would focus on masked protesters at political parades or demonstrations “involved in acts of violence” or “interfering with those at the scene trying to maintain order,” Lawrence wrote.

First Amendment attorney Dan Barr said such an effort would likely run afoul of the U.S. Constitution, and that wearing a mask can be protected as free speech.

“Wearing a mask can be an act of expression, if you’re wearing a certain mask to send a message or simply to hide who you are so you can express political views without being retaliated against by your employers, coworkers or whomever,” Barr said. “And, obviously, if you were to commit a criminal act and they arrest you, they would unmask you. When you have your mugshot taken at the police station, you’re not wearing a mask.”

Dan Barr
Dan Barr

Barr compared violent protesters to a bank robber – the robber wears a mask to conceal their identity, but when they’re caught, they’re charged with the robbery, not over wearing a mask.

Lawrence said it’s too soon to tell if the bill would conflict with the First Amendment. But he’s disgusted by scenes of masked protesters committing violent acts, a trend that’s recurring more and more, he said.

He referenced the violent protests in February at the University of California, Berkeley, where university officials cancelled an appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos after “150 masked agitators” set fires and smashed windows. He also mentioned violent protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man shot to death by a white officer.

Police officers are being pelted with rocks, urine-filled bottles and other objects at these protests, Lawrence said.

“I am offended by those people at these demonstrations wearing masks so they can’t be identified, hurling things, running away. I’m offended,” he said.

After the anti-Trump protests in Phoenix turned violent, Lawrence singled out Antifa, which he said threw rocks and bottles at police. But generally, Lawrence said he wants to unmask any group that commits acts of violence.

“A hate group by any other name, or a hate group by any other identity or any other color, is still a hate group. Whether they be a white supremacist hate group or a Antifa or Black Lives Matter, they have been violent and worn hoods and masks,” Lawrence said. “Whoever they are, I don’t want them wearing masks and hoods.”

If Lawrence is successful, Arizona could join the ranks of other states with unmasking laws on the books.

In Alabama, police were able to force anti-fascist protesters to remove their masks at a protest of an April speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer thanks to a 1949 law declaring it’s illegal to wear a mask in public places in the state, except for certain occasions like Halloween and Mardi Gras. That law, The New York Times reported, was approved in response to the Ku Klux Klan, as were others adopted around that time.

West Virginia has a similar ban on wearing masks in public except for holidays or as winter sports attire.

Ohio’s law makes it illegal for two or more people to wear “white caps, masks or other disguises” while committing misdemeanor crimes.

Even California had an anti-mask law on the books for years, until it was struck down following a lawsuit from Iranian-Americans in 1979. California lawmakers replaced that law with a new statute similar to Ohio’s, and made it illegal to wear a mask while committing a crime, the Times reported.

Lesko wins CD8 GOP nomination

Republican candidate and former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko celebrates with her husband, Joe, after voting results show her victory in a special primary election for the Congressional District 8 seat during a campaign party at Lesko's home on Feb. 27, 2018, in Glendale. Former Gov. Jan Brewer watches. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Republican candidate and former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko celebrates with her husband, Joe, after voting results show her victory in a special primary election for the Congressional District 8 seat during a campaign party at Lesko’s home on Feb. 27, 2018, in Glendale. Former Gov. Jan Brewer watches. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

After a brief but ugly race, Debbie Lesko has won the Republican nomination in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

The Associated Press called the race at 10 p.m., about an hour after former state Sen. Steve Montenegro conceded. Lesko came out ahead as the first results were released, putting her ahead of Montenegro by 12 percentage points.

Montenegro also fell behind former state Rep. Phil Lovas.

On the morning after her win, Lesko told the Arizona Capitol Times that she won by such a wide margin because she has spent years making herself known to the people of CD8. She said she’s made herself easily accessible, handing out a home phone number that hasn’t changed in two decades.

Lesko will now advance to the special general election against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni on April 24.

The predominantly conservative district is expected to easily hand the Republican nominee the Congressional seat over the Democratic challenger.

Hiral Tipirneni
Hiral Tipirneni

Democrat Hiral Tiperneni lead Brianna Westbrook by 19 percentage points, a wide enough margin for AP to call the race in her favor more than an hour before the Republican primary was called.

Despite her advantage heading into the general, Lesko said she isn’t taking anything for granted, and she’ll still be working hard to convince voters she’s the right choice.

“I have the same beliefs that I had yesterday,” she said. “My values align with the majority of my constituents’ values. … I’m not going to change.”

GOP pollster George Khalaf of Orbital Data predicted a win for Lesko based on the early numbers.

Unless the number of ballots dropped off today are massive and Lesko did absolutely horribly in them, looks like she will be the winner in #AZ08 tonight,” he tweeted shortly after the first batch of results came in. “Surprised at the lead between her and second place.”

Phil Lovas initially trailed Montenegro by just 1 percentage point, but Lovas eventually overtook him by fewer than 100 votes.

Lovas gave a conciliatory statement via Twitter.

“While the result was not what we had hoped, I am grateful for the support we received from the citizens of #AZ08,” he tweeted, adding a thank you to his volunteers. “I look forward to continuing to work to advance conservative principles & solutions in the West Valley.”

Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump, meanwhile, came in a distant fourth, dropping from 6 percent to just 5 percent of the vote by the time the race was called in Lesko’s favor.

Twelve Republicans ran in the crowded primary field, but Lesko was among the few candidates believed to have a real chance.

Auto-dial polls put Montenegro within shouting distance of Lesko in the runup to the election, but Montenegro was derailed last week by the revelation that he had carried on intimate conversations via text with a Senate staffer while still in office last year. Among the suggestive messages he received were photos of the woman in “various states of undress,” according to a statement.  

Former Gov. Jan Brewer endorsed Lesko as did the influential House Freedom Caucus.

Early votes are in and looking great for my friend @DebbieLesko pic.twitter.com/cZSW0RdywB

The money followed as did the attacks on Montenegro’s campaign.

Lesko and Montenegro dominated the conversation, exchanging fire only with each other and essentially ignoring the other candidates.

Independent expenditures followed suit, weighing in on behalf of their favored candidates.

As of Feb. 15, Lesko herself had spent about $70,000 on cable ads, the first of which focused on border security.

She  characterized the southern border with Mexico as a “war zone” and presented the “Lesko plan” that mirrored calls from President Trump – more Border Patrol agents, improve technology and a border wall

But that wasn’t good enough for the pro-Montenegro super PAC National Horizon, which teed off on Lesko’s “double talk” on the issue.

The group ran an ad noting that she told The Arizona Republic in December that securing the border “doesn’t necessarily mean a wall.”

“Doesn’t necessarily mean a wall?” the ad’s voiceover said before promoting Montenegro’s stance on the matter.

A mailer continued that same line of attack against Lesko, claiming that “liberal Debbie Lesko” is wrong on border security because she “won’t commit to building a real border wall.”  

Lesko and Montenegro also exchanged blows over who had violated the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge – an ATR statement eventually clarified they were both guilty on that front.

But the criticism that could prove most problematic may was not entirely resolved before the primary election was decided.

In this April 6, 2017 file photo, Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko speaks in the Senate chambers in Phoenix. Lesko is under fire for transferring $50,000 from her old state Senate campaign fund to an independent group backing her congressional election bid. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)
In this April 6, 2017 file photo, Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko speaks in the Senate chambers in Phoenix. Lesko is under fire for transferring $50,000 from her old state Senate campaign fund to an independent group backing her congressional election bid. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)

In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Phil Lovas alleged that Lesko broke state and federal campaign finance laws when $50,000 from her state Senate re-election committee was contributed to a super PAC that aided her federal campaign, Conservative Leadership for Arizona.

The super PAC spent about $20,000 on pro-Lesko mailers and about $7,000 on road side signs touting her candidacy. It spent another $21,000 on polling in the CD8 race.

Lesko told the Capitol Times that Lovas’s allegations were “totally and utterly false,” and she was fortunate that “voters didn’t fall for last-minute false accusations” by an opponent. 

If Lesko and Conservative Leadership for Arizona coordinated, those expenditures would be considered contributions to her campaign and subject to the federal campaign contribution limit of $2,700.

There is a three-pronged test to determine what constitutes illegal coordination with a campaign, two of which Lesko has met – the communication directly advocates for her election, and was not paid for by someone other than her. Evidence demonstrating she violated the third “conduct prong,” though, has not been provided.

“Everything we did was totally above board,” Lesko said, “and I am expecting a fast resolution to this, that it will be dismissed.”

Lesko has threatened to sue Lovas over the allegations.

Lesko wins CD8 GOP primary

Debbie Lesko (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Debbie Lesko (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko has easily won the Republican nomination to keep her Congressional seat after pulling far ahead of her sole challenger, Sandra Dowling.

With her place in the race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District secured, Lesko is now heading to a repeat of the special election held earlier this year. She’ll face off once again against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, who did not have a primary challenger in the Aug. 30 primary.

While Lesko won the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks in April, she did so by a smaller margin than expected in a district that has been reliably conservative for years.

Lesko defeated Tipirneni by just 5 percentage points, and a rematch in the Nov. 6 general election may end in equally tight margins.

Arizona’s 8th Congressional District

79,955 votes cast


Debbie Lesko 77 percent

Sandra Dowling 23 percent


44,580 votes cast

Hiral Tipirneni 100 percent

Lesko, Montenegro take spending lead in CD8 GOP primary

Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro, both former state senators, are the frontrunners in the special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District.
Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro, both former state senators, are the front runners in the special election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

While a dozen Republicans are on the ballot for the special election primary in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, campaign spending shows the field of viable candidates is far less crowded.

Former state Sens. Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro have essentially ignored the other candidates, exchanging fire only with each other and dominating the spending game.

And with the February 27 special election less than two weeks away, Republican consultant Matthew Benson said he hasn’t seen an indication that someone will upset what is now a two-person race.

According to records filed with the Federal Election Commission as of February 15, about $50,000 has been pumped into independent expenditures in Lesko’s favor.

More than four times that amount was spent in support of Montenegro. Ads supporting his candidacy have surpassed $230,000. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Jobs, Freedom and Security PAC alone has contributed $150,000 of that total with ads touting Montenegro as “the son of immigrants who came here legally” and a conservative U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want in Congress.

Lesko campaign spokesman Barrett Marson said Cruz’s support is cause for concern, “but it’ll take a lot more messaging to overcome (Montenegro’s) deficiencies.”

More than $80,000 has also been spent in opposition to Montenegro, three times more than was spent on negative IEs aimed at Lesko.

The pro-Lesko Defend US PAC has funded that front, attacking Montenegro for his support of a national popular vote and for supporting a pardon for a pastor in the country illegally.

“If how well you’re doing is measured by how many bullets they’re shooting atcha… then I guess he’s doing all right,” said Montenegro’s spokesman Constantin Querard.

And he’s not convinced ads questioning Montenegro’s stance on border security and immigration will convince anyone.

“Voters are a lot smarter than some consultants think they are. At least, that’s my hope,” Querard said.

Both candidates have also pulled ahead of the pack in terms of their own spending.

According to records filed with the Federal Communications Commission as of February 15, Lesko has spent nearly $70,000 on cable ads, with Montenegro trailing at about $30,000.

Auto-dial polls have put them within shouting distance of each other, but consultant Lisa James said the polling doesn’t matter in this election. Having operated under a short time frame, the candidates should focus instead on just getting their voters to show up, she said.

James has her money on Lesko, who she said will be rewarded for being bold at the state Legislature. She also predicted this would be “the year of the woman.”

Lesko is the only woman running in the CD8 race, and though James said that alone won’t win it for her, it’s not “a detriment to her by any stretch of the imagination.”

Consultant Chris Baker, who’s working with pro-Montenegro group National Horizon, said that’s a simplistic view of voters.

“To come to that conclusion, you have to assume that those voters are single-issue voters that are not swayed by anything,” he said. “There’s no indication that’s really a thing with voters.”

He, of course, said Montenegro stands a good chance of winning, and the negative ads coming out of the Lesko campaign are his proof.

“Two weeks out, that’s probably a good indication that something has to change in the race,” he said. “If she was leading the race running positive, my guess is she would stay positive.”

The underdogs

Former Rep. Phil Lovas and former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump were counted among the early front runners but have since fallen behind.

According to FEC records as of February 15, no independent expenditures have been reported in support of or opposition to either of them.

Bob Stump
Bob Stump

Stump this week was under no illusions about his chances of pulling off a win, and acknowledged that the odds are better for Lesko and Montenegro.

“I’m a realist,” he said repeatedly. “They’re both better financially endowed, I suspect, than other candidates in the race. And if you follow the feeds on Twitter, most of the vitriol from other candidates and between candidates is focused upon the two of them.”

He said he knew he was at a disadvantage from the start, having been out of office for a year and absent from ballots since 2012.

“As the son of a therapist, I try not to be in denial,” he said. “The polls are what they are.”

Stump said he’ll keep up the campaign until the end, taking the opportunity to talk to voters about issues that are important to him, most notably his gospel on the country’s need to protect the electrical grid.

But Lovas’ campaign still wants more than the chance to just talk to voters.

Campaign consultant Brian Seitchik said he thinks Lovas still has a shot at representing them.

Despite what the numbers might say, Seitchik said it’s not accurate to call this a race between Lesko and Montenegro alone.

“The conventional wisdom said that Hillary Clinton was going to get elected president, and the experts were pretty clear about that,” he said. “Thankfully, we see how they were all wrong.”

He said that the roughly 34,000 ballots that have been cast so far suggest a much higher turnout “than so-called experts have predicted,” and he expects that will bode well for Lovas.

He predicted that voters who were previously “dormant” in the political process but inspired by President Trump would turn out in Lovas’ favor.

Rep. Phil Lovas (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)
Phil Lovas (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Lovas was the first state legislator to endorse Trump for the presidency and served as his statewide campaign chairman. He left his seat at the House in April to join the Trump administration in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

Now, Seitchik said he’s “making it clear that he’s going to be working hand-in-hand with the Trump administration” for CD8, “and he’s the only one with the credibility to do that.”

If Seitchik is right about higher than expected turnout in the primary, Benson, the GOP consultant, said that could introduce “a brand new ballgame” in Lovas’ favor. But he also wondered if Seitchik offered any evidence demonstrating that advantage.

“Ordinarily, in a campaign like this where there’s a conventional wisdom that it’s between two candidates, if you’re not one of those two but you’ve got polling suggesting that you’re more competitive than people think you are, you want to get that out,” Benson said. “I’d be shouting from the rooftops… and we haven’t seen that.”

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

FILE – Former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe sits for a photo in the living room of his house in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 15, 2007. Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, died Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. He was 80. (AP Photo/John Miller, File)

Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday.

Kolbe served in the Arizona Legislature before being elected in 1984 to Congress, where he often was at odds with other Republicans over his support for free trade and an immigrant guest worker program.

He announced reluctantly in 1996 that he was gay, after learning a national publication planned to out him for his vote against federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

He also said he didn’t want to be a poster child for the gay movement.

“Being gay was not — and is not today — my defining persona,” Kolbe said in 1997 during his first speech to a national gathering of gay and lesbian Republicans.
Kolbe retired from Congress when his 11th term ended in 2006. He later married his partner, Hector Alfonso.

“He belongs to so many people,” Alfonso was quoted as saying Saturday by the Arizona Daily Star. “He gave his life for this city. He loved Tucson, he loved Arizona.”
Some people might have questioned Kolbe at times on political decisions, Alfonso said, “but no one could question his integrity and his love for Arizona,” the paper reported.

Ducey called Kolbe’s life and service to the state remarkable.

“He once said he was ‘born for the job,'” Ducey said in a statement. “He certainly was and Arizona is better for it.”

Others praised Kolbe for mentoring aspirants to political office and environmental advocates.

“Pima County and southern Arizona could always count on Jim Kolbe,” Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said in a statement.

Matt Gress, who was recently elected to the Arizona Legislature, called Kolbe a political pioneer.

“Today, because of Jim Kolbe, being a member of the LGBT community and serving in elected office has become irrelevant,” he said in a statement.

Kolbe started his political career at 15 as a page for the late U.S Sen. Barry Goldwater in Washington and later served on the board that oversees the page program. He attended Northwestern University and then Stanford, earning a master’s degree in economics.

From 1965 to 1969, he served in the Navy. He was deployed to Vietnam, where he was awarded a congressional medal for valor.

After stints working in the Illinois governor’s office and in real estate, he entered Arizona politics. Kolbe was elected in 1976 to the state Senate and served until 1982. He was sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1985, the first Republican since Arizona statehood to represent a majority-Democratic district in the southern part of the state.

Kolbe was known in Congress for his advocacy for free trade, international development, immigration and Social Security reform. He also waged an unsuccessful campaign to eliminate the penny due to production costs.

He repeatedly co-sponsored a bill to scrap the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality. He sat on the national advisory board of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents the LGBT community.

The Daily Star reported that Kolbe left the Republican Party in 2018 and became an independent because of then-President Donald Trump, saying, “I haven’t left my party. The party left me.”

He later wrote a guest column calling himself a conservative who would vote in 2020 for his former Capitol Hill colleague Joe Biden, according to the paper.

Mark Kelly is worthy of filling John McCain’s Senate seat

In this May 16, 2011, file photo, former NASA astronaut STS-134 commander Mark Kelly, front, waves a he leaves the Operations and Checkout Building with fellow crew members, including Mike Fincke, for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, and a planned liftoff on the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. A Kelly victory would shrink the GOP's Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicate the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
In this May 16, 2011, file photo, former NASA astronaut STS-134 commander Mark Kelly, front, waves a he leaves the Operations and Checkout Building with fellow crew members, including Mike Fincke, for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, and a planned liftoff on the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. A Kelly victory would shrink the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicate the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

I have been a registered Republican almost all my adult life who has always been comfortable engaging with people across the aisle on issues I care about deeply. I am still a Republican. But in the U.S. Senate election for Arizona, I won’t be supporting a Republican. I am supporting Democrat Mark Kelly.

To me, Mark represents the type of leadership that is becoming increasingly rare in Washington: he’s an independent thinker, focused on helping his constituents regardless of party, and is a veteran. Experience tells me that these are the type of leaders who get things done. I have spent over 25 years of my life working to get things done to make our communities healthier and safer. Mark Kelly will be a true partner in that work.

In October 1994, my life was irrevocably changed. My younger brother, an off-duty Rochester, Michigan, police officer, was ambushed and killed at the hands of a violent gunman. Adam was 27 years old; an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War. He left behind a wife who was five months pregnant and an 18-month old daughter.

The trauma of his murder left me reeling and questioning my privileged suburban life — I realized anyone can be touched by violence. The following spring, I saw an advertisement in The Arizona Republic for the Brady Campaign asking for volunteers. I called and was eventually connected with Sarah Brady, who invited me to Washington D.C. to meet with our elected officials. It was the first time I told senators my survivor story, and why we need to make sure our laws prevent firearms from being in the wrong hands.

The late Sen. John McCain was there in that Senate hearing room to listen to my testimony. We spoke about expanding the Brady Bill, which had been passed in early 1994, to protect Americans. Like me, McCain was a Republican who was concerned about making Arizona’s communities safer and was willing to talk across the aisle to look for solutions. John McCain was a man of honor, and he served our country with conviction.

Geraldine Hills
Geraldine Hills

Upon returning to Arizona, I founded a nonprofit, bipartisan group dedicated to fighting gun violence. We worked closely with Congresswoman Gabby Giffords when she was a state legislator – she sponsored bills protecting Arizonans from gun violence. In time, I met Mark Kelly.

Mark is a man of integrity and, importantly, he is a problem solver — he approaches issues from a practical point of view. He is not afraid to speak truth to power, unlike his opponent. Martha McSally has spent too much time and energy looking for ways to excuse President Trump’s behavior.

As a mother, a grandmother and a woman of faith, I believe Trump has deeply weakened the moral integrity of our country. We need leaders who will stand up for what is right — to tell us the hard truth, no matter what party they belong to.

Right now, our country is divided. We are sicker, we are poorer, and we are weaker in the eyes of the world. We need strong leaders who will rebuild our economy, fix health care, and protect Social Security, Medicare and the environment. We need to send people to Washington who can look for bipartisan solutions to the problems we face. I know that Mark will do that as senator.

In this election, we need to elect a senator worthy of filling the seat that belonged to John McCain — McSally is not worthy of that seat. Mark Kelly is.

So I’m calling on my fellow Republicans – it’s clear that Martha McSally will not be a senator for Arizonans and will not look for bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face today. Vote for Mark Kelly and send a real public servant to the Senate — a leader who will look out for Arizonans.

Geraldine Hills is the founder and president of Arizonans for Gun Safety.


Mass shooting could spur Arizona gun law changes

Students were greeted by supporters, signs and flowers as they returned to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. With a heavy police presence, classes resumed for the first time since several students and teachers were killed by a former student on Feb. 14. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)
Students were greeted by supporters, signs and flowers as they returned to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. With a heavy police presence, classes resumed for the first time since several students and teachers were killed by a former student on Feb. 14. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)

Every day since 17 students and faculty were gunned down in a Florida high school, Arizona’s Democratic legislators have pleaded with their Republican colleagues to do something, anything, to make sure such a mass shooting never happens again.

Those pleas, in the form of daily speeches on the Senate floor, have mostly been met with silence.

A response here or there has deflected the issue away from gun control, Democrats’ preferred course of action, as Republican lawmakers speak up about mental health issues, make claims of violent video games influencing American culture or lament a lack of God in schools.

As Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, put it, it’s not guns that are to blame, it’s “the darkness of a human soul.”

That leaves Arizona with the status quo. The GOP-controlled Legislature hasn’t seriously considered passing gun control legislation in years, even after a gunman wounded former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six others in Tucson in 2011. Instead, they passed a measure recognizing the Colt single-action Army revolver as the official state gun.

This time could be different.

Student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are passionate, eloquent and organized in their calls for adults – elected representatives – to do something about gun violence.

And they’ve inspired Arizona Democrats, who aren’t letting up so easily after the February 14 shooting.

House Democrats used procedural maneuvers to try to force a vote on a bump stock ban, and have vowed to try again after Republicans rebuffed that effort. In the Senate, at least one Democrat has spoken each day about the Parkland shooting, at times eulogizing the dead or excoriating the Republican majority for failing to take immediate action in the aftermath of multiple shootings.

Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, tried a more personal plea as a father and husband.

“I have three little kids that are going to school. I have a kindergartner, a second grader and a third grader. My wife’s a schoolteacher at a high school. I’m sorry, this is true for me, this is real life for me,” Contreras said in a speech on February 26. “This world is getting crazier. Please help me and every other parent that has young individuals out there do something about this now… Let’s try and keep this conversation going and try to do something.”


It’s not like politically and ideologically divided Arizona lawmakers are incapable of working together.

A vast majority of bills approved every year passed with unanimous support. And while most are uncontroversial policy changes, Democrats can point to recent legislative action on opioids as a blueprint for how opposing parties can work together and tackle important issues.

Democratic leaders were effusive in their praise of Gov. Doug Ducey and his leadership in crafting the Opioid Epidemic Act, which targeted opioid-related addictions and deaths by limiting opioid prescriptions, cracking down on fraudulent drug sales and providing treatment options. Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, called the process, which involved Democratic input before a bill was ever introduced, one of the most effective legislative efforts she’s ever seen.

That’s because the governor treated the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis and took the lead, according to Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the state Department of Health Services.

Ducey has hinted he’ll take a role in an effort to specifically address school shootings.

Whether that involvement leads to legislation in 2018 remains to be seen. But Ducey’s recent comments suggest that gun policy changes, in some form, could be coming in the next few weeks. The governor has talked about gun violence with reporters several times since the Parkland shooting, and discussed mass shootings with other governors while in Washington, D.C. last week.

“Just know that we’ll be addressing this issue. This is a concern for the Governor’s Office,” Ducey said February 22

Background checks, mental health issues, and resources for schools are all on the table when it comes to ways Arizona can address school shootings, he said.

Ducey said his staff is already examining tragedies from the past several years to find consistencies in various shootings and what could have been done by state government to avoid them.

In many of the shootings, there were avoidable issues like a missed background check or calls to social services that should have prevented the shootings, Ducey said.

Reports from Florida indicate that the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been reported to authorities multiple times, but no action was taken.

“We have situations in domestic violence where there can be a temporary restraining order on an individual,” Ducey said, a measure that ensures a reported individual can’t have a firearm. “Why should one of these individuals not have that type of order on them so that they don’t have access to a gun?”

Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Political will

Ducey added that he’s having discussions with law enforcement and school superintendents and plans to keep those discussions alive. Future sessions may include Democrats and Republicans working together, something the governor said isn’t out of the question.

“This is something that’s all our responsibility,” Ducey said. “These are our kids and our public schools. And it’s not only the kids. It’s the teachers that are teaching the kids, the people that work inside these schools, and we want to have them as safe as possible.”

That’s good news for the lawmakers who penned a letter on February 25 asking for Ducey’s leadership on gun violence.

Those legislators, mostly Democrats, but some Republicans like the governor, called on the governor “to act quickly, decisively and compassionately” to protect Arizona school children by convening a task force to prevent potential school violence.

Count Cave Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, among Republicans who would “welcome the opportunity” to work on legislation addressing school shootings in a bipartisan fashion.

“This is a critical issue and everybody is talking about it, everywhere, from the kitchen tables with their own kids who are in school to every state Capitol across the country and even at our nation’s capital,” she said.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard hasn’t shut the door on a “grand bargain” on gun violence, either. The Chandler Republican said he’s willing to have a conversation about gun control that’s directed at what he calls practical solutions that still honor people’s constitutional rights.

And he doesn’t begrudge Democrats for trying to circumvent the usual legislative process to consider gun control measures.

Democrats like Tucson Rep. Randy Friese, who made the motion to bypass House rules and vote on a bump stock ban, are genuinely interested in addressing gun violence, and Mesnard doesn’t regard the maneuver as a political stunt.

“I think Dr. Friese wants real solutions and I’m with him,” Mesnard said, though he noted that their ideas of how to address the problem might be different.

Those differences of opinion on gun violence make the comparison to the opioid act a fair, but flawed, analogy, said Humble.  Unlike the issue of guns, a consensus “was possible on opioids because there’s not a huge constituency group that’s pro-opioids,” Humble said.

Other Republicans are reluctant to even broach the topic of gun violence. House Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale, refused to even concede the term “gun control reform” in conversation, and instead referred to it as a mental health issue.

He doesn’t have an answer for how to address that.

“We’ve had a lot of suggestions and you can’t really draw a straight line between how any of those suggestions would have stopped any of these things from happening,” Allen said.

If immediate legislative action isn’t an option, Humble suggested following Ducey’s directives on opioids. That would mean studying the issue of gun violence first.

In the summer of 2017, Ducey ordered the Department of Health Services to begin collecting data from hospitals, emergency rooms and patients on opioids. The study was the crucial first step toward a bipartisan conversation about addressing opioid prescriptions and addictions.

Ducey’s support vital

Federal agencies like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention may be barred from gathering data on gun violence, but there’s plenty of raw data in Arizona that could aid Ducey and DHS, Humble said, such as hospital discharge databases, the state’s annual child fatality review report and mortality databases. Using data could cut through partisan talking points on gun violence.

“Because that (opioid) evidence review was well done and really well researched, that really set the stage for bipartisan action,” Humble said.

Such a study is going to need Ducey’s full-fledged support, Humble said, because DHS had to divert resources to focus exclusively on opioids, and the study took months.

“That doesn’t happen unless you get a directive from the Governor’s Office,” Humble said.

A study alone might not be enough for those calling for action from lawmakers. March for Our Lives Arizona, a nonpartisan group led by local students, has echoed the calls from Florida high schoolers for immediate gun policy changes.

They’ve launched a policy platform calling on the Legislature to hear four gun safety-related bills. All are sponsored by Democrats. None have been given a hearing by Republican leaders and committee chairs.

“These are common sense, existing pieces of legislation that do no harm to gun owners or their Second Amendment Rights,” the group said in a news release. “They only serve to make kids like us safe in school, at home, and in our community.”

It’s not just students calling for action. House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, noted that President Trump has promised action on gun violence. Trump even issued an executive order to ban bump stocks just as House Republicans blocked the Democratic effort to do just that in Arizona.

The president’s own words at a recent roundtable on gun policy echoed that of Parkland students: “We have to do something about it. We now have to do something. We have to act.”

If Trump can tackle gun violence, Arizona Republicans “absolutely” can, too, Rios said.

“If all we can get them to do is get them to agree with their president on background checks, raising the age of sale on AR-15s and the bump stock ban, if they only want to follow their president and agree on those three issues, I can guarantee you’d get 25 Democratic votes,” she said.

Paulina Pineda contributed to this report.

This report includes information from Capitol Media Services.

McCain used his influence on big things for the little guy


In this Oct. 17, 2015, photo, John McCain meets with veterans. (Photo by Timon Harper/Timon Harper Photography)
In this Oct. 17, 2015, photo, John McCain meets with veterans. (Photo by Timon Harper/Timon Harper Photography)

Sen. John McCain was a lot of things to a lot of people.

Hero. Statesman. Husband. Veteran. Politician. Friend. American. Maverick.

But McCain was also a man of the people.

Proof of that is no more evident than the thousands of people who waited outside the Capitol in the summer heat August 29 to pay their respects. Or from the outpouring of support for McCain and his family that erupted on social media.

It’s also obvious from the sheer number of people, many holding American flags and McCain campaign signs, who lined the path the motorcade carrying the senator’s body took to a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church on August 30.

McCain died August 25 after battling brain cancer for more than a year. He was 81.

Many Arizonans have a McCain story, as do a slew of others across the country.

He was Arizona’s senior senator and one of the top-ranking officials on Capitol Hill, but he was never too big or too busy to help the little guy.

No one knows that better than Gibson McKay who, while serving as a legislative aide to McCain in the 1990s, was frequently on hot dog duty.

McCain was a big fan of the pure Vienna beef hot dogs at the Great Dane Dog House, a staple on Seventh Street in Phoenix.

“Hot dogs and coffee,” McKay said. “That guy survived on those two things alone.”

The shop was often their first stop when McCain arrived home from Washington, D.C.

McCain’s favorite dog? The Maxwell Street, a Polish sausage served with grilled onions, mustard, pickles, tomato and hot pepper.

The senator developed a rapport with the shop’s owner, Tony “Dane” Rigoli, a looming Italian American who steamed or grilled dogs on Seventh Street for three decades. The friendship was a testament to the type of person McCain was, a powerful senator who enjoyed connecting with everyday people.

“He loved bellying up to the hot dog bar or talking sports with the most common among us, whether you knew who he was or not,” McKay said.

One day McCain learned that Rigoli’s son was stationed in Germany while serving in the Army. The son’s wife was ill and needed treatment best offered stateside. McCain wrote a letter to the Army general in Germany urging him to reassign Rigoli’s son to a station in the United States and placed phone calls to high ranking Army officials to move the reassignment along.

“He made a call, wrote a letter, a couple of things like that, and that was it,” McKay said. “John McCain calls the general of the Army, they listen.”

McCain never told Rigoli what he had done. But the next time McKay went into the Great Dane for a dog, Rigoli was ecstatic to have his son and daughter-in-law back home.

“It was just his hot dog joint guy. The best lobbyist in the world is sometimes a hot dog joint guy,” McKay said.

When he was back in Arizona, McCain acted no differently than any other Arizonan. He went to sporting events and shopped for groceries at his local supermarket. He was Arizona’s favorite adopted son.

McCain wasn’t born in Arizona, but he quickly grew to love this state, saying often he was privileged to serve this state.

McCain, a Vietnam veteran, had a reputation for helping veterans, but he didn’t limit his services to just Arizonans.

In 2009, Jame Koopman of Aurora, Colo. was desperate to get his uncle’s Air Force records to show that he served during the time of the Vietnam War.

Koopman’s uncle, Fred Rivera Jr., had dementia and was desperately trying to get his benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The problem was, he didn’t have any of his military paperwork.

Koopman reached out to Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to no avail. That’s when he contacted McCain’s office. After several letters back and forth with the senator’s office, he ended up getting his uncle’s records on microfilm.

He saved printed copies of the letters, and he has studied them so closely that he can tell McCain’s signature is a tad different on each letter. Because of that, Koopman is convinced McCain personally signed the letters.

“I just thought it was pretty cool because I’m nobody anyways,” Koopman said. “He didn’t have to answer back. He could have sent a letter saying, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you,’ but he helped out.”

Former McCain staffer Jim Waring said helping veterans was a point of pride in the late senator’s office.

Veterans from across the country would call the office because they either didn’t know how to get help elsewhere or they didn’t feel comfortable requesting help from their elected officials.

McCain staffers repeatedly heard veterans say, “I believe that he will help,” said Waring, who is the vice mayor of Phoenix.

“Veterans were convinced he was on their side,” he said.

Katherine Benton-Cohen, an Arizona native, can’t help but remember getting a tour of the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress from McCain.

Her mother, Jenice Benton, was tasked with decorating McCain’s office when he moved into the Russell Senate Building after first getting elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. Benton-Cohen’s parents were Democrats, but they were also early supporters of McCain’s Senate bid.

On the tour, the young girl from Tempe was amazed by the Library of Congress and all its beauty and intricacies. But McCain was also in awe of the building, Benton-Cohen said.

“I just remember his enthusiasm, his exuberance and his respect for this beautiful place,” she said.

Now, as an associate professor of history at Georgetown University, she takes her students to the Library of Congress often.

McCain was “painfully deprived of his freedom,” but his suffering only made him more resolute in his mission to protect democracy for others, said Bettina Nava, the senator’s state director.

During her time working for McCain, one Sunday stands out.

Nava spoke to a grieving father first, but as soon as she told his story to McCain, the senator was on the phone ready to intervene.

The man’s daughter died while doing humanitarian work for a nonprofit abroad and the family couldn’t get her body back to the United States.

McCain intervened immediately, working on an international level to bring the young woman home to rest.

More than anything about that day, Nava recalls listening to McCain speak to the father.

“That’s one that I can hardly talk about it to this day,” she said.

He was reverent and respectful. She remembers him trying to maintain his composure and taking a deep breath as he got off the phone.

He felt those moments, which Nava estimated numbered well into the thousands, reminded him of why he had to persist.

“He knew how fragile democracy was, and he felt honored that he was entrusted to serve and ensure democracy’s safety,” Nava said.

McCain was devoted to helping people. His office acted as an agency in and of itself, intervening on behalf of citizens seeking assistance with everything from getting Social Security checks they relied on to seeking military honors for fellow veterans.

He touched too many lives to count exactly, she said.

“It’s beautiful for me to be looking on Facebook and Instagram and … everybody has a John McCain story. Everybody has a John McCain photo,” Nava said. “He was that accessible. He was just a man of the people.”

Staff writers Katie Campbell and Ben Giles contributed to this report.

McSally concedes, congratulates Sinema for becoming first woman AZ senator

U.S. Senator elect Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
U.S. Senator elect Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The latest batch of votes counted Monday put the U.S. Senate out of the reach of Republican Martha McSally and into the hands of an Arizona Democrat for the first time since 1994.

The GOP contender conceded Monday after new results showed Sinema’s lead statewide is now approaching 38,200 votes.

Sinema got another big boost from Pima County, where she is continuing to pick up four votes for every three for McSally.

And her vote edge in what is supposed to be Republican Maricopa County also stretched to 45,000 out of nearly 1.3 million votes tallied so far. That includes nearly 29,000 for Green Party contender Angela Green who dropped out several days before Election Day.

All this is significant because there are now only about 175,000 votes left to be counted.

Most of those — about 143,000 — are in Maricopa County where the numbers from the early ballots that are still being counted have so far broken Sinema’s way.

In fact, to make up Sinema’s lead McSally would have had to pick up close to three of each of the Maricopa County votes that remain to be counted for every two that are cast for the Democrat.

McSally, in a video released online, congratulated Sinema on her victory — and the fact that Sinema will be the first woman Arizona has sent to the U.S. Senate.

“I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate,” McSally said.

The outcome of the race also means that this will be the first time in five decades that Arizona has sent more Democrats to Washington than Republicans. The last time was in 1967 when Democrat Carl Hayden was one of the state’s two senators and two of the three House seats Arizona had at the time were held by Democrats.

With Ann Kirkpatrick taking the congressional seat that McSally gave up to run for Senate, Arizona will have five Democrats in the U.S. House versus four Republicans. And even with Jon Kyl remaining in the Senate — or whoever Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint should Kyl quit in January — having Sinema as the other senator means a 6-5 delegation.

Kathy Hoffman
Kathy Hoffman

Also finally winning Monday is Democrat Kathy Hoffman in her race for superintendent of public instruction. In fact, her 54,000-vote lead over Republican Frank Riggs is larger than the one that Sinema had over McSally.

She replaces Republican Diane Douglas who was defeated in the GOP primary by Riggs.

The new vote tallies also produced welcome news for Democrat Katie Hobbs in her bid for secretary of state.

With all the results of Monday added in, she now is formally nearly 5,700 votes ahead of Steve Gaynor who has found his lead shrinking since the polls closed and the first results were announced. That, however, remains too close to make any reliable predictions.

Incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan was out of the running in August after she was defeated in the Republican primary by Gaynor.

Democrat Sandra Kennedy also maintains a 10,000-vote lead over Republican Justin Olson, her closest competitor in the race for Arizona Corporation Commission. But even if that lead evaporates, she still has 15,000 more votes than Rodney Glassman, the other Republican running for one of the two open seats on the utility regulatory panel.

The continued strength of Democrats, especially in Maricopa County, showed up in other ways with the latest vote tallies.

Democrat Jennifer Pawlik, seeking one of two state House seats in LD 17 in Chandler now is outpolling incumbent Republican Jeff Weninger, though just barely. But she definitely is doing better than Nora Ellen, the other Republican in the race for the two open seats.

But incumbent Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix continues to hold on to a slim lead — just 549 votes — over Democrat Christine Marsh who is trying to unseat her.

New state chief justice to continue push for ‘bail reform’

New Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel is sworn in Friday by predecessor Scott Bales. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
New Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel is sworn in June 21 by predecessor Scott Bales. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Anyone looking for major changes at the Arizona Supreme Court with the naming Friday of Robert Brutinel as its chief justice is likely to be disappointed.

Yes, Brutinel is a Republican. And he is replacing Democrat Scott Bales.

And Brutinel, who served on the Supreme Court for nine years, and 14 before that as a Yavapai County Superior Court judge, does have some priorities he hopes to accomplish in his five-year term. That includes finding better ways for the legal system to handle the mentally ill rather than having them wind up in jail.

But major changes?

“You know, I don’t know it’s going to be different at all,” the new chief justice told Capitol Media Services.

Some of that is, quite simply, that the Arizona Supreme Court is nothing like the U.S. Supreme Court – and not just because the governor, unlike the president, is restricted to making appointments from a pre-screened list versus whoever he or she wants. That federal system has produced what is pretty much universally considered an ideologically divided high court, with often-predictable votes by the liberal and conservative justices.

Brutinel said while judges have partisan backgrounds, as many actually ran for office, politics does not carry over onto the bench here in Arizona.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had an ideological discussion with one of my colleagues about a case,” he said.

“That’s not how we view it,” Brutinel said. “We apply the law.”

What that also means, he said, are few split decisions, certainly fewer than emerge from Washington.

“We still try very hard to be unanimous in cases when we can be,” Brutinel said. That, he said, is often accomplished by trying to decide cases “very narrowly” to resolve the specific lawsuit rather than look for excuses to take on broader legal philosophical issues.

And having unanimous decisions, said Brutinel, has another benefit.

“We do that to provide certainty in the law,” he said.

Beyond the question of cases before the court, Brutinel does say that he, like every other chief justice, has crafted a new “strategic plan” for what he hopes to accomplish at all the courts in the state, right down to justice courts, all of which are under the control of the Supreme Court. But here, too, don’t look for radical new ideas.

“It continues a lot of the things that Scott started,” he said.

One of those is “bail reform.”

“What we want to do is make release determinations based on risk and not on your ability to pay,” Brutinel said. “We don’t want people remaining in jail only because they can’t afford the bond.”

What already has happened, he said, is the courts have created “risk-analysis instruments” to help judges determine who can be released. What’s next, said Brutinel, is automating that system to make it available, and more quickly, to all levels of the court system.

“We want dangerous people to stay in jail, people who are a risk to the public,” he said. “But we want people who are safe to release to be out working their jobs and being with their families.”

For his own agenda, Brutinel wants to focus more on the question of mental health.

“The idea (is) that we will find ways to get mentally ill people out of the jails and out of the emergency rooms and out of the justice system and into treatment every opportunity we can, so that the mental health system doesn’t reside in the jails, it resides where it ought to be,” he said.

Brutinel wants to expand those programs throughout the state. And he said that helps not only those with mental health problems but also makes the criminal justice system more efficient in being able to deal with those who should get the attention of the courts.

One thing that may be different under Brutinel is that he wants to shift away a bit from the practice of the last two or three decades of promoting arbitration to resolve civil disputes instead of going to court.

“I think courts and trials are an efficient means of resolving disputes,” he said. “I think we should get back in the business of trying cases.”

Brutinel acknowledged the other side of that equation is that courts are going to “have to get more efficient” at resolving cases. But he said it’s not impossible.

For example, he cited FASTAR, a pilot in Pima County which stands for the Fast Trial and Alternative Resolution Program. He said that can work well for cases where the amount of the dispute is less than $50,000, with limited pre-trial “discovery,” the exchange of information between the attorneys.

Those, said Brutinel, are the cases currently being pushed into arbitration. He said putting these back in court “can get lawyers back in the business, particularly young lawyers who are learning how to try cases.”

“We’re resolving cases just as quickly,” Brutinel said.

And there’s something else.

“The primary difference from my perspective is if you’re not happy with the result, unlike arbitration, you can appeal,” he said.

Beyond that, Brutinel said that having more jury trials is not just an efficient means of resolving disputes but also is important for civic reasons.

“I think people may learn about their government by participating in it,” he said. “And jury service and voting are really the two ways the average person gets to do that.”

Brutinel also said it may be time for voters to reconsider a constitutional provision that requires all judges to retire at age 70.

“Mandatory retirement … probably made sense at the time of statehood,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense now.”

Brutinel, who is 61, declined to say what is the appropriate age. But he insisted that he’s not looking to change things for himself.

“I don’t intend to be here when I’m 75, even if it was extended,” he said.

“On the other hand, I know lots of judges who could continue on well into those years,” Brutinel continued. “It’s a shame to lose that experience.”

Newcomers take lead in LD24 House Dem primary

Rep. Ken Clark explains Thursday why he believes a description for voters of a ballot measures on changes to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is biased. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Rep. Ken Clark explains (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Two political newcomers ousted two-term lawmaker Rep. Ken Clark from the state Legislature.

First-time candidates Amish Shah and Jennifer Longdon received the most votes in the seven-way Democratic primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 24.

Unofficial results show that Clark fell short of the second spot in the Democratic primary by 703 votes.

Four other candidates, John Glenn, ran on a slate with Clark, Fred Dominguez, Marcus Ferrell, and Denise Link, were also in the running for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Lela Alston, who is running for the Senate.

Shah, a Chicago native, is a doctor specializing in emergency medicine and sports medicine. He founded the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival to promote healthy eating and the festival is now in its third year.

Longdon has worked on various campaigns promoting gun violence prevention efforts after she was paralyzed in a random shooting in 2004. She helped organize the state’s largest gun buy-back program, was past president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, and served on the City of Phoenix’s Commission on Disability Issues and the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council.

Longdon and Shah will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Republican David Alger, Sr., who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Alger isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Democratic nominee given that Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in the district, which includes parts of central Phoenix and south Scottsdale.

LD24 House By The Numbers

28,481 votes cast


Ken Clark 18 Percent

Fred Dominguez 5 Percent

Marcus Ferrell 8 Percent

John Glenn 9 Percent

Denise Link 10 Percent

Jennifer Longdon 21 percent

Amish Shah 29 percent


David Alger, Sr. 100 Percent


Paid circulators, not supporters, gathered signatures for Shooter

Rep. Don Shooter relaxes Feb. 1 before a historic vote of his colleagues to remove him from office. He was ousted by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Don Shooter relaxes Feb. 1 before a historic vote of his colleagues to remove him from office. He was ousted by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

When ousted lawmaker Don Shooter first acknowledged he might run for office again, the Yuma Republican described his potential campaign as wholly reliant on supporters in Yuma who insisted he make a comeback.

A recent interview and campaign finance records show that Shooter, who was expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives in February for sexually harassing women, took a more active role in launching the campaign than he let on.

Shooter has since acknowledged running a poll to gauge interest in his potential campaign. And in late May, days before the deadline to file nominating petitions, he paid $2,176 for circulators to ensure he had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Of the 828 petition signatures Shooter filed on May 30, at least 167 of them were collected by paid circulators. That’s roughly 20 percent of his signatures.

Rumors that Shooter might run for the state Senate, where he previously represented Legislative District 13, first began swirling in May, with reports of a robo-poll focused on the Senate GOP primary election. Shooter told the Arizona Capitol Times that he was not responsible for the poll — and why would he be, Shooter quipped, since he had no interest in running again.

“Hell no,” Shooter said when asked if he’d run for office. “I’m a man of leisure and happily enjoying my forced retirement.”

But in a recent interview with Yuma’s News 11, Shooter touted a poll he said was conducted while he was deciding whether or not to run again. Shooter said the poll asked prospective voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker they knew was thrown out of office for sexual harassment.

He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker.

On May 24, after his previous denial of any interest in running, Shooter shifted course and told the Capitol Times he was willing to serve again, but only because he’d been approached by a handful of loyalists who urged him to run and were willing to gather signatures to help him qualify for the ballot.

Shooter claimed in May not to care whether they accomplish their goal, but told them, “If you get the petitions, I guess I’ll run… If people want me to work and serve, I’ll go.”

Days later, Elyse Foutz and Darlene Matlewsky, two Sun City West residents, were collecting signatures in the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. Shooter would pay them $950 each for their services, according to his second quarter campaign finance report, a rate of roughly $11 per signature.

The report also shows a payment of $276 to Diane Burns, owner of Petition Pros. Burns confirmed that she sent a signature gatherer to the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. It’s unclear how many signatures Petition Pros gathered for Shooter.

Shooter declined to answer questions about the poll he claimed to have run in LD13, but shed some light on why he paid circulators. Shooter told the Capitol Times via text message July 18 that one of his supporters who couldn’t personally collect signatures offered to “give me money and pay to get them (signatures) collected.”

Between April 1 and June 30, only three contributions were made to Shooter’s campaign. One he made himself for $120, and one came from Crystal W. Howell for $2,000 on June 4. The third was an in kind contribution made by lobbyist Gretchen Jacobs for $2,500.

Jacobs said she wrote a check to attorney Tim Nelson to help cover Shooter’s legal expenses as he defended himself against a challenge to his residency, an attempt to have his name barred from the ballot.

Shooter also spent an additional $9,500 from his campaign for Nelson’s services, according to his financial report.

Howell’s contribution would cover most of the $2,176 Shooter spent on signature gatherers, and is the only contribution that could possibly fit Shooter’s description of getting financial aid to pay for signatures.

Howell doesn’t appear to be one of Shooter’s supporters in Yuma, or anywhere in Arizona. Shooter’s latest finance report doesn’t list an address or occupation for Howell, and instead states that the information was “requested.” That means a candidate is claiming to have made a good faith effort to gather the information from the contributor before filing the finance report, according to Elections Director Eric Spencer.

The only available identifying information from the report shows that Howell is a Colorado resident. Shooter did not respond to a call or text asking if Howell is the contributor who he said had helped to pay for circulators.

Most of Shooter’s funds came in the form of loans made by himself and his wife, Susan, to the campaign. Shooter personally loaned himself $1,900 in the second quarter, while Susan kicked in $28,500 combined over two separate loans.

Police: Mine inspector arrested after fighting with nephew

This Kingman Police Department photo shows suspect Joe Hart at the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Adult Detention Center in Kingman, Ariz. Ai??(Kingman Police Department via AP)

Arizona Mine Inspector Joe Hart has been arrested and accused of domestic violence involving a fight with a male relative.

Kingman police arrested the 73-year-old statewide elected official on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence involving disorderly conduct following an altercation with a 59-year-old nephew over a water line leak.

Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper says both men had bruises and scrapes after fighting Thursday evening and that Hart was the only one arrested because an investigation indicated he started the fight.

Cooper says the incident occurred at a property owned by Hart and rented by the nephew.

Hart was released from jail Friday. He did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

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Political newcomer among leaders in campaign fundraising for legislature

Political newcomer Aaron Lieberman, a Democrat running for the House in Legislative District 28, far out raised the competition in just 30 days.

Lieberman, a first-time candidate, reported raising $127,284 from more than 180 contributors since he started collecting campaign contributions on June 1, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Not only is that more than what the three other candidates in the LD28 House race raised during the second quarter of 2018, it’s also more than what was raised by any other legislative candidate during the same time period.

To date, only incumbents Kate Brophy McGee, Heather Carter, Sean Bowie, Karen Fann, Vince Leach, and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, who all launched their campaigns months before Lieberman did, have raised more money than him.

Aaron Lieberman
Aaron Lieberman

Campaign finance reports for the second quarter of 2018, which spans April 1 to June 30, were due July 16.

Lieberman’s campaign coffers were heavily bolstered by out-of-state contributions from a large built-in national fundraising network of people in the education and health fields in which he used to work.

Lieberman, whose background is in early childhood education, started an early childhood education nonprofit called Jumpstart with three others during his time at Yale. The organization provides language and literacy programming to preschool-aged children in underserved communities in 14 states and Washington, D.C.

Following his time at Jumpstart, Lieberman started his own company, Acelero Learning, which helps communities run Head Start programs.

He also served as the CEO of the Phoenix Spine Surgery Center, which his brother owns, for two years, and he now works as a consultant for various education organizations.

Lieberman said the relationships he built during his time at these organizations helped boost his fundraising numbers.

“I spent 20 years working closely with a broad group of people to help improve the lives of underserved families. I reached out to that group, close friends and relatives, told them this is what I’m working on now and they were more than willing to help based on my track record,” he said.

Out-of-state contributions include a $5,100 contribution from Melissa Polaner, executive director of iMentor NYC, a volunteer mentoring organization, and a $5,000 contribution from Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa, an early childhood education group.

Lieberman also received sizable contributions from valley contributors, including $5,100 from Matthew Pittinsky, CEO of Scottsdale-based Parchment Inc., which provides transcripts, diplomas and certificates digitally; $4,000 from relative Amy Lieberman, a social worker at a local school district, and $2,550 each from physicians Yara Vargas Ortiz and Tutankhamen Pappoe.

He also raised $18,700 through personal and family contributions, including $5,100 he self-funded.

Lieberman moves into the next reporting period with $119,041 on hand after spending $8,242.

Kathy Petsas, a Republican candidate for the House in LD28,  who began collecting campaign contributions just a few weeks before Lieberman, reported raising $53,965, including $10,600 she funneled into her campaign coffers, during the second quarter.

Petsas reported receiving $2,750 from political action committees, including $500 each from the Cox Political Action Committee, Realtors of AZ PAC and the Arizona Chapter of NAIOP Inc AZPAC.

Her biggest contributions came from family members John Pappas, who contributed $5,100, Angeline Pappas, who contributed $4,500, and Nicholas Petsas, who contributed $1,000.

After spending $8,104, Petsas is left with $45,860 on hand.

Incumbent Reps. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, and Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, reported raising $30,031 and $20,105, respectively, during the second quarter of 2018.

To date, Butler has raised $103,749 while Syms has raised $87,011. They move into the primary election with $76,772 and $64,048 on hand, respectively.

Poll: Ducey leads Garcia by wide margin

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Gov. Doug Ducey is dominating challenger David Garcia, according to a poll by Arizona Capitol Times and OH Predictive Insights.

Ducey has a 17-point lead over Garcia in the latest poll of likely Arizona voters. The poll comes as early voting begins on Wednesday.

Approximately 54 percent of the 600 likely voters surveyed chose the Republican incumbent, while 37 percent sided with the Democratic challenger.  

In the poll, Ducey is beating Garcia among both men and women of all age ranges, and among likely voters across all regions.

Polling has showed Ducey increasing his lead in recent weeks, likely a result of the governor and his allies blanketing the airwaves with pro-Ducey and anti-Garcia ads leading up to the election. Meanwhile, Garcia’s campaign, having spent most of its campaign cash ahead of the primary, hasn’t had the resources to fight back.


Ducey is doing better than Garcia among voters in Pima County, Arizona’s Democratic bastion and home to state Sen. Steve Farley, who opposed Garcia in the primary.

Ducey is also picking up 52 percent of Maricopa County voters to Garcia’s 38 percent. Garcia narrowly won Maricopa, a Republican stronghold, in his 2014 bid for superintendent of public instruction.

The poll shows Garcia beating Ducey among individuals with some post-graduate education, and among African Americans. Meanwhile, Ducey is barely beating Garcia (47-45 percent) with Hispanic voters — a key demographic that Garcia has courted throughout his gubernatorial campaign.  

The poll also shows Garcia’s favorability rating underwater (37-42 percent), while Ducey’s favorability rating stands at 58 percent.

“Throughout the state, it’s clear that most Arizonans are leaning toward Governor Ducey,” said OHPI’s chief pollster Mike Noble. “In the next few weeks leading up to the election, it’ll be interesting to watch the strategies in Garcia’s campaign as he attempts to bring Ducey down.”

Green Party candidate Angel Torres picked up about 2 percent of the vote in the poll, while about seven percent of those polled were undecided.

OHPI surveyed 600 likely voters on Oct. 3 for this poll that carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Approximately half of those polled were contacted by live callers, while the other half were contacted via autodial.

Of those polled, 44 percent were Republicans, 32 percent were Democrats and 24 percent were independents. Women and men were nearly even split in the survey.

A Real Clear Politics average of four polls — not including this one — of Arizona’s gubernatorial contest has Ducey up by 10.5 points. In 2014, Ducey beat Democrat Fred DuVal by 12 points.


The recent poll also attempts to measure what, if any, effect Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will have on Arizona elections.

The results are within the margin of error, but the poll shows that Arizona voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supported Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could play into the matchups for governor and U.S. Senate.

Ducey and Senate candidate Martha McSally supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Garcia and McSally’s opponent, Kyrsten Sinema did not.

About 43 percent of those polled say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supported Kavanaugh, while 39 percent are less likely to support such a candidate.

Voters from both parties tended to stick close to their respective base on this issue, but 43 percent of independents said they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supported Kavanaugh, as opposed to 35 percent who would be more likely to do so.

The poll showed little difference between where men and women stood on the issue.


Water scarcity is also a top issue for voters this year, but rural voters appear to be most concerned, according to the poll.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents say that looking 10 years out, the issue of water scarcity is very important.

The majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents surveyed all cited it as a crucial issue, but rural voters appear to be the most concerned, with 72 percent of them citing it as very important.


Intelligent design

Voters also appeared to reject the idea of teaching intelligent design in Arizona’s classrooms, an idea that has been pushed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas.

Intelligent design, a version of creationism, is an alternative to teaching the scientific theory of evolution.

Of those surveyed, 41 percent oppose teaching intelligent design, 32 percent support it and 27 percent had no opinion on the issue.


Pratt handily winning in Legislative District 8

Frank Pratt
Frank Pratt

Early voting poll results show Frank Pratt handily defending his seat in the Arizona Senate against a Democratic challenger.

Pratt, a Casa Grande Republican, has a commanding lead over Sharon Girard, an emergency room physicians assistant running for the Senate in Legislative District 8.

The eastern Arizona district, which stretches from Coolidge to Globe, has long been considered a swing district, and thus a potential pickup for Democrats. But it’s grown more conservative over the years, a trend reaffirmed by Pratt’s early lead.

Pratt was one of three Republicans to win seats in LD8 in 2016, earning a clean sweep of the district for the GOP.

Democrats had hoped Sharon Girard could reclaim the seat they last held two years ago, when Kearney Democrat Barb McGuire represented LD8.

But the district’s Republican leanings, and Pratt’s sizeable financial advantage, are proving too difficult for Girard to overcome. Pratt raised nearly $83,000 this election cycle, while Girard received the standard $42,000 as a participating candidate with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.


LD8 Senate by the numbers

Early votes


Frank Pratt 58.2 percent


Sharon Girard 41.8 percent

Q&A with House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez

In this Jan. 8 2020, photo, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez answers questions in her office. (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
In this Jan. 8 2020, photo, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez answers questions in her office. (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez led a wartime caucus. Besieged by a majority that alternated between hostility and indifference, a public health crisis and a state in general disarray, the Yuma Democrat did what she could to rally her 28 colleagues and fight off tax cuts and immigration bills, bolstered by increasingly powerful activist groups who helped run interference on the ground. The minority, by definition, was often not successful. But now they’re gearing up for what could be a watershed election that could for the first time in decades instill Democratic rule in the House. Will new blood make a difference in a famously unruly chamber?

Obviously, there was no shortage of challenges this year – from being in the minority, to COVID-19 and so on. What moments were the most challenging or frustrating for you?

I don’t want to make this just about the minority, but I think most challenging was the fact that we’re treated like the minority even with a 29-31 split. I mean, just with 600 more votes, that could have been 30-30. And I thought this 31-29 would have been an opportunity for us to come together, because obviously Arizona is trying to tell us something. And yet I think we were probably further apart than when we were 23-37.

What do you think that’s a function of?

In general, loss of power is a scary thing. As a parent, when your kid is going off to college, you’re no longer in control of what time they go to bed or what time they come home in the evening. And it’s a scary time when that child leaves for college. And that’s what I feel like the majority was facing. It was that loss of power. We walked in there in 2019 with a thought in our head that we were no longer going to act like the minority. And I’ll tell you that second session of 2018, when we went back, we had an effort to act like we were in the majority. I think it made a difference when November rolled around and we picked up four seats and we became 29-31. So we expected to be treated that way. Maybe the expectation was too high.

What do you feel you were able to accomplish in spite of that?

The bad legislation that we fought off – but it had nothing to do with “in spite of” – it was just the right thing to do. And one of them was the sanctuary city bill that was obviously an issue that Governor Ducey sanctioned, and for us to come together and be able to get the governor to back down, and to get the speaker pro tem to back down, that was monumental. And that was because the people in Arizona want something different. They don’t want the same old thing.They didn’t want SB1070, and they’re ready to move on and they’re ready to move Arizona forward.

If you guys take the majority, do you think that your relationship with what would then be the Republican minority would look different? Or do you think that this is just sort of the nature of the House, that the parties are always kind of diametrically opposed like this?

I don’t think we can work alone. I don’t think that’s what the people, the voters want. They want us to work together. Do they want us to be walked over? No. But even if the Democrats came back with a super majority, I think it is incumbent upon us to work with the minority party. They represent people. And this is what we kept trying to tell them. We represent almost 48% of Arizonans. How can we shut them out? We have to remember that even the minority represents Arizona and we have to include them. So I’m hoping that whoever’s in leadership will remember that.

Also for practical reasons, right? The fact that there would still be a Republican governor and possibly a Republican majority in the Senate would at least necessitate working with the Republican minority in the House, just because you’re going to have to deal with Republicans at some point down the line. 

Absolutely. We don’t know what the Senate is going to look like. It could go Democrat, we’re hoping it will, but we will still have a Republican sitting in the Governor’s Office for two more years. And so we have to work together. We have to make sure those lines of communication are open.

It was pretty clear this year that even within the Republican Party, things were not running particularly smoothly. There was a fair amount of discord and dissatisfaction with Speaker Bowers among Republicans. I think a lot of Republicans felt that they were left out of the loop with the governor as much as the Democrats are. What’s the way to overcome that? 

It’s gotta be communication. A lot of the discord was the fact that people didn’t know what was going on. People had no idea what was happening – when are we going to come in and when are we not going to come in? What kind of chaos? It was just unbelievable. I would hear from our caucus all the time – have you heard from Speaker Bowers? Has he called you? I would remind them that, as you said, a lot of the Republican members were feeling the same thing. We have to have open lines of communication.

How do these things affect the ability of the chamber to actually craft effective policy and govern – not just the discord, but also scandals like (Rep. David) Cook?

It cast a shadow on everyone. You brought up Cook as a scandal, but then you have to remember, we had (Rep. David) Stringer before that. It cast a shadow, and I’m thinking that maybe that is what hindered the work that the majority was doing – or I should say, not doing. They were focusing on individual members, rather than the greater good. So I think when you’re focused on trying to get something in order over here, something on the other side will suffer. And we were the something on the other side.

Obviously there was not a ton of cooperation, but even beyond that, I think the tone of debate in the House was. Obviously there are legitimate ideological differences, but when you look at the Senate, they’re much more conciliatory. Was being loud and aggressive part of an overarching strategy for debate? Or is that just a function of how the House operates?

The Senate is a much smaller group, right away you can see that. And we have 29 members, they have their constituency that wants to be heard. Some people can call it loud and unruly. But when you don’t have your bill heard, what else do you have? The only thing we have is the microphone and our voice. I think we were doing what we should have been doing for years and years and years. I think Democrats have finally found their voice. They have their constituencies to represent.

If the Democrats take the House, is your plan to make a bid for speaker? Where do you see yourself in that mix?

Where I see myself right now is getting us to the majority. That’s what I’m working towards. Once we get there we’ll figure out where the cards fall. All 29 of us, our focus should be on getting re-elected and bringing more Democrats, taking over and being in the majority.




Quaker group seeks revamp of state’s ‘truth-in-sentencing’ laws


A Quaker organization claims to have bipartisan support for a bill that would upend Arizona’s truth-in-sentencing laws, which requires Arizona inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their court-imposed sentences.

The Tucson-based American Friends Service Committee-Arizona is working with some Democrat and Republican lawmakers to draft a bill that would lower the required amount of time certain prisoners spend behind bars to no more than 50 percent of a sentence. If approved by Arizona legislators in 2019, the bill would apply retroactively, and to all future sentences.

Such a change would affect roughly 17,000 inmates in the state –  those who qualify as non-violent and non-repeat offenders, according to AFSC-AZ spokesman Joe Watson. That’s about 40 percent of Arizona’s roughly 42,000 inmates.

Some prisoners in Arizona could be eligible for immediate release, depending on the amount of time they’ve served to date.

Under a 1993 law, Arizona inmates are only eligible for early release for good behavior after they’ve served 85 percent of their sentence. The current 85 percent requirement would also be reduced for prisoners with convictions for violent or serious offenses, but only to 68 percent of their sentence. Put another way, for every three days of time served, a prisoner would be eligible to be released one day earlier. Another 13,500 inmates would be affected by the change, AFSC-AZ estimates.

Prisoners would still spend 15 percent of their sentence once released under community supervision.

Given the high price of incarceration, Watson said AFSC-AZ is pitching the bill not just as the right thing to do, but as a way to redirect some of Arizona’s $1.1 billion corrections budget to be spent on programs aimed at reducing recidivism.

Arizona has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the country.

“For too long, tough-on-crime laws and the tough-on-crime attitude has been purely punitive. Holding folks accountable for the harm they have committed is really about healing,” Watson said. Forcing prisoners to spend nearly their full sentence behind bars “isn’t doing anything to heal these communities.”

Shorter sentences could also motivate inmates to participate in prison programs that could help them rehabilitate and prevent a return to the criminal justice system, Watson said. Anecdotally, Watson said prisoners aren’t inclined to join prison-based wellness programs when there’s no shot at an early release.

AFSC-AZ hasn’t proposed a need for new funding to put toward those programs, but assumes that the savings from incarcerating inmates for shorter lengths of time can be better spent on education, drug treatment and other rehabilitative programs.

The proposal dovetails with recent reports, produced by AFSC-AZ allies, that highlight a disconnect between crime and incarceration in Arizona. A recent study by FWD.us found that Arizona’s prison population increased by 60 percent since 2000, while the state’s property crime rate and violent crime rate dropped during the same period of time.

Changing Arizona’s truth-in-sentencing laws is an ambitious goal for AFSC-AZ, which in 2018 saw several criminal justice reform bills it supported get watered down or fail to pass, as some Republican leaders are resistant to measures that conflict with the traditional “tough-on-crime” platform.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the 85-percent requirement would still apply to violent and repeat offenders or for those with aggravating factors when sentenced.

Racially-charged comments lead to Stringer’s removal as criminal justice reform committee chairman

Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions Wednesday about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, answers questions in June 2018 about his comments which were interpreted by some as racist. Stringer said he was not a racist but simply was detailing his views on the effects of rapid immigration on the country. With him is the Rev. Jarrett Maupin who agreed to let Stringer explain his comments to leaders of the African-American community in Phoenix. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

Rep. David Stringer on Friday was stripped of his chairmanship of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee after again making inflammatory comments about race and immigration.

However, the Republican from Prescott currently remains vice chair on the House Judiciary Committee. House GOP spokesman Matt Specht said in an email that no changes have been made to that committee at this time.

House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said Stringer’s comments caught on tape were “vile” and would not be tolerated. Bowers said he asked Stringer to resign from the reform committee, and he agreed.

“Given the diversity of my own family, I take personal offense to these disgusting comments,” Bowers said. “These comments render him incapable of performing his duties as chair.”

The remarks were recorded and shared with the Phoenix New Times, which published them in their entirety on Friday morning. Stringer could be heard telling several Arizona State University students that African Americans “don’t blend in” among other things. The students challenged Stringer’s beliefs, questioning him about his own views on whether people looking different matters.

“I don’t know,” Stringer is heard responding. “Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it doesn’t to a lot of people. It seems to matter to a lot of people who move out of Detroit, who move out of Baltimore. You know we have white flight in this country.”

Stringer is also heard lamenting the “burden” of immigrants and non-native English speakers on taxpayers, comments similar to those that sparked outrage earlier this year. He did not return a call for comment.

In June, he was met with repeated calls for his resignation after he said there aren’t “enough white kids to go around” in the state’s public schools and warned that immigration posed an “existential threat” to the country.

Gov. Doug Ducey was among those who expressed disgust at Stringer’s comments then, arguing such sentiments effectively disqualified anyone from serving at the state level. And today, the governor supported Bowers’ decision to take action.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Ruiz told the Arizona Capitol Times, “As the governor has previously stated, this type of rhetoric should disqualify someone from serving in the Legislature.”

But as of Friday afternoon, Stringer still held his Legislative District 1 seat. He ignored calls for him to step down in June and ran successfully for re-election in this month’s General Election.

AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines had also called on Stringer to resign in June and said this latest episode of controversy was another event in “an unfortunate pattern of him putting his foot in his mouth with racist commentary.”

Yet Stringer is still assigned to serve as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which could be just as likely to vote on bills dealing with matters of sentencing and recidivism.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, called on Stringer to be removed from that committee as well.

“I find it hard to believe that a Representative who is so insensitive to race relations in our country be tasked to create reform in our criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts communities of color,” Bolding said in a statement shared on Twitter. “He has become an untenable distraction from issues that matter to our state.”

This is not the first time Stringer has been removed from a position of influence around talks of criminal justice reform.

Stringer was serving as chairman of an ad hoc committee to study criminal justice reforms when his comments were made public in June. He had positioned himself to take on a leading role in those endeavors at the House – as he would have as chairman of the reform committee. But he met a similar fate then as now when House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, disbanded the ad hoc committee.

Mesnard feared Stringer’s comments would overshadow the committee’s work, even though its members continued their talks in a less public setting.

Whether Stringer’s statements this time around will lead to a similar outcome is yet to be seen.

House spokesman Matt Specht said there are no plans at this time to completely dissolve the Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee.

Rash of GOP bills seek to empower lawmakers, disempower voters


Arizona Republican legislators have a habit of pushing ideas that make their own lives easier, but harder for voters to have their voices heard.

Critics say the GOP-led efforts are a consolidation of legislative authority, designed to fend off an increasingly independent and incensed electorate in a state that’s becoming slightly more competitive every two years.

Some examples include legislation like SB1023, which would allow legislative candidates to identify fewer of those individuals who make financial contributions to their campaigns, leaving voters in the dark about who’s influencing elections.

And Republicans are also leading an effort to quash a movement in Tempe to reveal the sources of “dark money” in local elections. It’s a GOP bid to keep campaign dollars spent by groups that don’t disclose the source of their money a secret.

And there are more.

Arizona is no stranger to bills that are criticized as a power struggle between lawmakers and voters, but Zachary Smith, a regents professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University, said this year’s wave of legislation is unprecedented.

“In 30 years of watching the Arizona Legislature, I’ve never seen such blatant attempts to empower the Legislature and disempower the voters, and that’s taking all of these things into consideration,” Smith said.

Republican lawmakers say there’s no concerted effort to undermine voters, and make the case for bills on an individual basis as good for Arizona and good for their constituents. But on some issues, their policy positions contradict popular public opinion.

Rivko Knox, a volunteer lobbyist with the League of Women Voters, recalled one legislative hearing this year on a bill with dozens of speakers signed in to oppose, and minimal support, but still, a lawmaker claimed the measure was widely backed.

The “request to speak” system is by no means a definitive arbiter of public opinion. Still, in the face of overwhelming opposition at the hearing, “the legislator said, ‘That’s not what I hear in my district,’” Knox said.

If that’s the case, she said, “to what extent you’re really representing your district, I don’t know.”

Power retention

In some ways, Knox sees Republican efforts to consolidate power in the Legislature as instinctual, albeit a tactic that shies away from transparency and shows a disrespect for the public, she said.

“To some extent it’s almost a natural reaction, in the sense that one body wants to retain power,” she said.

Joel Edman
Joel Edman

Those bodies, the Republican-dominated Arizona Senate and House of Representatives, are frustrating lobbyists like Knox and Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network.

“Instead of having huge debates on how we can get more money into classrooms, and how we can take care of the families that don’t have reliable access to health care, that we’re trying to figure out, can we raise the salaries of legislators, can we make it so we don’t have to run for re-election so often, can we make it so we can hide some of our campaign contributions?” Edman said. “It’s a really sort of twisted view of the priorities.”

There is in fact an effort to dramatically increase legislative salaries, though such a pay hike would require a vote of the people, and Arizonans haven’t been keen on rewarding lawmakers with a raise for years.

Arizonans may also be asked whether they want senators and representatives to serve four-year terms, rather than two years. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Drew John, R-Safford, would halve the number of elections in which legislators must campaign, a boon for institutional knowledge, some argue. Even Edman and Knox see the benefits of such a proposal.

And yet, HCR2006 finds a way to make legislators’ lives even more easy because legislative elections would only be held every four years during midterm elections, when voter turnout is at its lowest and campaigns are dominated by the most passionate, and arguably far-right and -left, of each party, Edman said.

“That means that some segment of voters who show up just for presidential years aren’t going to have their voices heard at all – they’re basically irrelevant as far as the state Capitol is concerned. And so that’s a whole segment of voters that are taken out of the process,” he said.

Should they vote every year? Sure, Edman said. But as long as they don’t, fewer elections should at least be held at a time when more voters are likely to cast ballots, he said.


Edman and Knox speculate that avoiding voters might be the underlying goal. For example, it has become routine for Republicans to sponsor bills that chip away at the initiative process, by which voters can bypass the Legislature and pass laws on their own, or even block laws the Legislature approved.

Proposition 206, a citizens initiative to raise the minimum wage that voters approved in 2016, seems to have accelerated those efforts, Edman said.

“Certainly it brought on all these attacks on the initiative process, but I think folks down here, and I think in particular a couple of powerful interests groups like the (Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry) who were used to getting their way saw they can’t always get their way with the electorate,” he said. “So let’s see if they can again find a way to make the electorate less important in how the state runs things.”

That feeling is also reflected in efforts like HCR2022. Sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, the resolution would ask voters to give up their right to elect partisan candidates in primary elections for the U.S. Senate. Instead, legislators from the Republican and Democratic parties would select two nominees each whose names would appear on the General Election ballot.

When the resolution was approved by a House committee on a 6-3 party-line vote, Republican representatives said the measure will better serve the state by ensuring U.S. senators are acting in the best interest of the state.

“That to me is such a blatant way of saying, ‘We ought to control what’s going on. We want senators that are dependent on us,’ as if the legislators are the people of the state, and they’re not,” Knox said.

Some don’t pan out

Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff)
Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff)

The sponsors of resolutions like HCR 2022 are often criticized for not having their finger on the pulse of the electorate. Rep. Bob Thorpe, the Flagstaff Republican who has sponsored several bills to draw the fire of progressive and nonpartisan interest groups alike, said he knows exactly what he’s doing – it’s what his voters want.

Not all constituents may like it, but Thorpe said he’s doing right by his Legislative District 6.

Sometimes that means pitching bills that don’t pan out. Thorpe said he sponsored HCR2014, the resolution to block independents from voting in partisan primaries, because a voter in his district asked him to. But he backed off the idea after consulting with state Republican leaders, who weren’t in favor of the idea.

Thorpe said most bills come from ideas from constituents. There’s nothing nefarious going on, as if Republican lawmakers are plotting with one another about ways to undermine the will of the voters.

“We are all free agents down here, and it’s very rare that as we’re crafting bill ideas that we’re having conversations with members. … I think what you might be suggesting and other people might be suggesting is there’s a collaborative effort to push the agenda in a certain direction,” Thorpe said. “We don’t even have right now a majority plan in place, where the majority has decided we’re going to be pushing A, B and C.”

For Thorpe, the best way to represent the voters of his district is to push for what he philosophically believes is in the best interest of the state of Arizona.

Take the minimum wage issue as an example.

Thorpe argued that such a high minimum wage – Arizona’s now stands at $10.50 per hour, but will increase to $12 by 2020 – is bad for businesses and ultimately hurts the residents it’s trying to help. So he supports efforts to freeze the minimum wage at its current rate and undo paid-leave protections for employees that were approved by voters less than 18 months ago.

Initiatives like Prop. 206 that increased the minimum wage get in the way of Thorpe’s view of a representative form of government.

“People elect us to come down here and the Legislature to write laws,” he said. “So when you have a bill, whether it’s well intentioned or not, a referendum, it basically steps on our toes as the Legislature.”

Stepping on toes or not, Prop. 206 passed with little opposition. Roughly 58 percent of voters approved the minimum wage hike across the state, and in Thorpe’s LD6, the proposition passed with more than 57 percent of the vote, according to an analysis prepared for Arizona Wins, a progressive advocacy group.

So how does Thorpe reconcile supporting a measure to undo something that voters in his district supported?

“I look at my constituents. When I go before the people in northern Arizona, I’m thanked for the job I’m doing,” he said.

And if he keeps getting elected, that must mean there’s at least some voters in LD6 who approve of what he’s doing, like undermining the minimum wage initiative.

“Any election, (voters) have the opportunity to get rid of me and to elect someone else. I’m coming up for re-election now, and they have that opportunity to do so,” Thorpe said. “So if I’m not doing what they want me to do, they’ll replace me.”

Ignoring the popular vote

Smith, the NAU professor, said there are many factors that create an environment where a lawmaker like Thorpe can ignore the popular vote in his district. Lawmakers are listening to some, but not all, of their constituents, he said.

As far as having their finger on the pulse of the electorate, it’s a valid criticism, Smith said, “but see, they don’t have to, because they only have to have 51 percent of the people that vote in the Republican primary in their district, and most of those guys know it.”

Smith said that Republicans in charge of the state right now are “enriched and empowered by forces that weren’t in play in the past” – particularly anonymous campaign expenditures like the ones Tempe wants to shine a light on, but Republican legislators want to keep in the, well, dark.

The financial influence of anonymous political spending stretches from the highest office in the state – Gov. Doug Ducey was the beneficiary of $8.2 million in dark money during the 2014 election — to some legislative races.

On the bright side, Smith noted that many of these legislative efforts are dead or dying.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, is killing SB1023, which would shield some campaign contributor s from exposure, in the face of opposition, including some from his own party. A Thorpe bill to exempt communications on personal devices from the public record never passed a committee hearing.

But bills like the dark money ban pre-emption and an effort to overhaul Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission are alive and will likely be approved along party-line votes. Progressives like Edman are hopeful that the changing demographics of the state will alter that reality.

Some see a not-too-distant future where that might be the case.

Sen. Robert Meza (D-Phoenix) (Cronkite News photo by Griselda Nevarez)
Sen. Robert Meza (D-Phoenix) (Cronkite News photo by Griselda Nevarez)

In a committee hearing on the resolution to undermine the voter-approved minimum wage hike, Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, warned his GOP colleagues that a wave is coming in the form of a young, educated, and arguably angry voter fed up with legislators who don’t listen to the people.
Smith isn’t so sure.

“You know if you’re a Republican sitting in a safe district, you can do just about anything,” he said. “Is there gonna be a backlash? Yeah, I think some of these things are going to be a bit too far. Is the backlash gonna extend to throwing people out of office? No.”

Legislation voters likely won’t love

Critics say that Republican lawmakers are pushing ideas to make legislators’ lives easier at the expense of voters, who would be cut off from vital knowledge about their elected officials and in some cases denied opportunities to vote. Here are a few examples of those bills they oppose – many have failed, but others are still making their way through the process.

SB 1023
Sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh, the bill would have hidden the identities of most individuals who donate to political campaigns and legislative candidates in elections. Roughly three out of every four donors would not have their identities disclosed. Kavanagh won’t pursue the bill after facing some criticism from his GOP colleagues.

HB 2153
Sponsored by Rep. Vince Leach, the bill would bar Arizona municipalities from requiring politically active, tax-exempt organizations from revealing their donors. No city, county or town currently does this, but Tempe is considering the idea. The bill already passed the House, but must now be voted on in the Senate.

HB 2256
Sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe, the bill would undermine a recent ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals that found records stored on public official’s personal media devices are subject to public records laws. The bill would exempt those records, even if a public official was using a personal device to conduct official business. The bill never received a hearing.

SCR 1034
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Yarbrough, the resolution would increase the members serving on the Independent Redistricting Commission, the body responsible for redrawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative district boundaries. The bill has faced criticisms that it re-politicizes a process that voters explicitly don’t want legislators to be involved in. It awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

SCR 1002
Sponsored by Sen. David Farnsworth, the resolution sought to require voters to re-consider statewide initiatives or referendums every 10 years, essentially putting laws up for a revote each decade, something not required of laws approved by the Legislature. The resolution never received a hearing.

SCR 1016 and HCR 2026
Sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Allen and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, the resolutions second-guess the voters, who in 2016 approved an initiative to hike the minimum wage and give protections for employees who need paid sick leave. Mesnard’s resolution would weaken those protections, while Allen’s goes further and seeks to freeze the minimum wage at its current rate of $10.50 per hour, rather than let it climb to $12 as voters approved. Both measures are working their way through the Capitol.

HCR 2022
Sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, the resolution would eliminate primaries when it comes to electing U.S. senators to represent Arizona in Congress. Legislators, not voters, would get to decide which partisan candidates run in the general election. It was approved in a House committee, but awaits a vote by the full chamber.

Reagan vs Gaynor: Secretary of state’s GOP race heats up

Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

Arizona’s secretary of state contest could be the sleeper race of 2018.

The Republican primary contest has gained little attention, but has developed into one of the state’s more contentious races as millionaire businessman Steve Gaynor challenges Secretary of State Michele Reagan.

The race comes chock full of finger-pointing – Gaynor points to his opponent’s mistakes in her first term and Reagan points to her opponent’s self-funding and relative obscurity.

Gaynor, the owner of a printing plant, has poured $1 million into his bid to be the state’s chief elections officer and first in the line of succession for governor.

Reagan, a former state senator who was first elected secretary of state in 2014, has spent much of the lead-up to the August 28 primary defending missteps from her first term.

State Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, will face the winner.

Steve Gaynor
Steve Gaynor

Gaynor said he was recruited to run for secretary of state because Republicans were worried Reagan couldn’t beat a Democrat in the general election.

But he won’t say who recruited him.

Reagan said she doesn’t know where Gaynor got the idea that she couldn’t win in the general. She said her campaign has internal polling that shows her easily winning against a Democrat.

Before hitting the campaign trail, Gaynor was relatively unknown in state politics. He was more involved on the national level and has donated to numerous federal candidates — mostly Republicans, but also a few Democrats due to their support for Israel.

Gaynor has mostly self-funded his campaign, pouring $1 million of his own money into the race. Fundraising is often time consuming and Gaynor said he didn’t have the name recognition to bring in adequate contributions.

Reagan called it opportunistic and peculiar for Gaynor to spend $1 million of his own money to run for secretary of state.

“That is absolutely insane,” she said.

Gaynor said he expects donors to come out in force should he win the primary election.

Reagan pledged to support Gaynor if he wins the primary,

“I’m a Republican first,” she said.


Polling from Data Orbital last month showed Gaynor leading the race with a 44-22 percent lead over Reagan.

A previous July poll showed Reagan and Gaynor neck-and-neck.

Reagan said she isn’t surprised Gaynor is gaining traction in the polls, citing the hundreds of thousands of dollars his campaign has spent on negative TV ads.

Gaynor’s last campaign finance report, posted in mid-July, shows him paying $222,631 to a political consulting firm that specializes in TV advertising and media buying.

In the ads, Gaynor tries to tie Regan to a series of election-related mistakes. In campaign ads, Gaynor has also touted his support for President Donald Trump, his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association and his pro-life views — issues that don’t pertain to the Secretary of State’s Office, but could win over Republican voters.

Reagan has struggled to combat Gaynor’s negative attacks. She has adopted an aggressive targeted digital strategy instead of buying TV airtime. Gaynor’s ability to self-fund means he has more campaign cash than his opponent.

“His negative messaging may work,” she said. “And there’s nothing I can do about that.”


On the campaign trail, Gaynor is calling out Reagan for previous elections mistakes.

In 2016, Reagan failed to comply with state law when she failed to mail out 200,000 ballot pamphlets explaining election issues before voters received their early ballots.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich looked into the matter, calling it a “complete fiasco.”

Reagan has owned up to the mistake that occurred ahead of the first statewide race run by her office.

“Am I excusing that? Absolutely not,” she said. “We were held accountable. We have new people and new systems. And we’ve had four elections since then where things went off without a hitch.”

But Gaynor has alleged that Reagan’s office tried to cover up the mistake by not publicizing it as soon as they knew there was an error with the pamphlets.

People make mistakes, but she was not transparent about what went wrong and did not rush to fix the problem, Gaynor said.

“The good news is, from a Republican standpoint, I don’t have the baggage of four years of problems, and frankly, that was one of the primary reasons I got in the race,” Gaynor said.

One of Gaynor’s ads also ties Reagan to the long lines Maricopa County voters had to wait in during the 2016 Presidential Preference Election.

The snafu happened when Maricopa County drastically reduced the number of polling places, which had people waiting in line for hours to vote.

Reagan has tried to distance herself from the incident, saying it is up to county recorders to pick the number of polling places and their locations, and then the recorders get approval from their local board of supervisors.

“There isn’t a whole heck of a lot we could have done,” she said.

But Gaynor has said, as the state’s chief elections officer, Reagan is owed some of the blame.

Consent decree

One of the wonkiest issues of the secretary of state’s race is turning into one of the biggest topics on the campaign trail.

Gaynor criticized Reagan’s decision to settle a lawsuit, clearing a series of hurdles for those seeking to register to vote. He said the consent decree published by Reagan this summer is unconstitutional and allows undocumented immigrants to vote.

Reagan, who stands by the settlement, argues that Gaynor is twisting the consent decree and scaring people in order to drum up support.

At issue in the lawsuit was the required documentation to vote in Arizona, which differs under state and federal law.

State law requires voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote, but federal law stipulates people must be allowed to register to vote, even if they can’t show proof of citizenship.

Previously, if someone without proof of citizenship filled out the state form to register to vote, their form would be set aside and they wouldn’t be allowed to vote in any elections. They would have to fill out the federal voting form to be able to vote in federal elections.

Now, those who submit either the state or federal form will be registered to vote in federal elections, even without proof of citizenship.

That means, under the consent decree, if you’re an undocumented immigrant and you register to vote with the state form, you can vote in federal elections, which didn’t used to be the case, Gaynor said.

In theory, if the consent decree is allowed to stand, Arizona will have more federal-only voters than before, he said.

“Her actions in this case are outrageous,” Gaynor said.

Reagan, who dismissed claims that the settlement was unconstitutional, said she wouldn’t go back and change a thing because the settlement does the right thing by treating voters equally.

She also called Gaynor’s attacks insulting to others who signed onto the consent decree.

“Is he saying that Mark Brnovich and Bill Montgomery signed something to let illegals vote? It’s absolutely ludicrous,” she said.

See the money

Gaynor has also taken aim at Reagan’s campaign finance-tracking website SeeTheMoney.com, the full launch of which has been delayed.

The website, which was one of Reagan’s campaign promises from 2014, is up and running in beta as a way to track campaign donations and spending in Arizona elections.

Reagan hoped to complete the website in 2016, but now calls that naivety on her part because of the number of statewide elections that year kept her and her staff preoccupied.

Now, Reagan doesn’t have a date for when the final product will launch. Instead, she characterizes the site as something that will continually be updated and said it could take years to integrate campaign finance data from all of Arizona’s counties, cities and towns.

Nonetheless, Reagan heralds the website as the ultimate transparency tool.

Gaynor has criticized Reagan’s SeeTheMoney project as a sign of incompetence and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“The See the Money website saga, in my opinion, is emblematic of the way the Secretary of State’s Office has been run since January of 2015,” Gaynor said. “Problems, more problems, more problems.”

He would not say whether he will finish the SeeTheMoney website should he be elected secretary of state. Gaynor said he would first evaluate the status of the product before moving forward.

Correction: This story has been corrected to say Steve Gaynor holds pro-life views. A previous version incorrectly stated he held pro-choice views.  

Rep. Shooter apology peppered with deflection, denial

Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, who has been publicly accused of sexually harassing at least nine women, including fellow lawmakers and lobbyists, began his formal apology to his colleagues today with a joke.

“Members, I know you all want to thank me for my part in bringing you here today,” he said.

Shooter, whose comments came during a floor speech, then went on to point fingers in self-defense.

He said his role in the overall discussion “has been greatly magnified as a result of a complaint that was filed against me for reasons that I believe are largely unrelated to the complaint itself.”

Though he didn’t explicitly say whose complaint he was referring to, after Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, accused Shooter of harassing her during her time at the legislature, Shooter blamed the trouble between him and Ugenti-Rita on “how she has conducted herself personally, with staff and later with legislation,” including “a very public affair.”

Multiple women, including lawmakers, lobbyists and a former Capitol Times intern, allege Shooter made inappropriate or sexually charged comments to them or engaged in unwanted touching.

He read the apology prior to a mandatory harassment training for all House members presented by the Attorney General’s Office.

“Our legislative community is currently going through an intense period of self-evaluation on the topic of how we treat each other, where we have been failing to do things right, and how we need to do things better.”

Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma)
Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma)

Still, Shooter said the additional complaints that followed made him realize that his behavior, and comments he made in jest, were actually offensive and made others uncomfortable.

“At first, my response was largely defensive, borne of frustration at a few complaints that were not true or were made for a personal or political vendetta,” he said. “But it would be a mistake to treat each and every complaint the same, if I failed to learn from legitimate complaints, and if I failed to recognize and apologize for those actions that caused damage or hurt.”

He added that he regretted calling some oversensitive, instead of taking responsibility for his actions.

“I was beyond embarrassed to hear that what I thought were welcomed and well-intentioned hugs were perceived as creepy and lecherous,” Shooter said. “I didn’t know. As soon as I did know, I have been – and am, so sorry.”

Shooter, who is under investigation by an outside counsel, said he didn’t need to wait for the results of the investigation to know that his actions weren’t well received by some at the Capitol. He added that he was sorry for the “distraction and strain” the investigation had caused.

“We, as a larger Capitol community, cannot begin to heal until those of us who have made mistakes begin the process ourselves,” he said. “For me, that means learning and changing, so I stand before you today because it is my desire that we now begin to heal.”

The speech was met by applause by some of his colleagues, but many of the women in the House responded with silence.

House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, said she heard Shooter acknowledge that his remarks were offensive to some people, even though he didn’t intend them to be, and he’s open to understanding and learning a more appropriate way.

“I think that is insightful and that’s the important part of all this training, new insights,” Rios said.

Read the full text of Shooter’s speech below:

Our legislative community is currently going through an intense period of self-evaluation on the topic of how we treat each other, where we have been failing to do things right, and how we need to do things better.

My own involvement in all of this has been greatly magnified as a result of a complaint that was filed against me for reasons that I believe are largely unrelated to the complaint itself.

But that complaint was followed by a number of additional complaints, the majority of which were sincere and which exposed me to the knowledge that my actions were not always received as intended, and that worse still, they caused genuine discomfort or pain.

At first, my response was largely defensive, borne of frustration at a few complaints that were not true or were made for a personal or political vendetta.
But it would be a mistake to I treat each and every complaint the same, if I failed to learn from legitimate complaints, and if I failed to recognize and apologize for those actions that caused damage or hurt.

We, as a larger Capitol community, cannot begin to heal until those of us who have made mistakes begin the process ourselves.  For me, that means learning and changing, so I stand before you today because it is my desire that we now begin to heal.

The healing won’t start in earnest, at least with respect to the people whom I have hurt, without me recognizing that comments I have made in jest, over the past seven years, were not received in the spirit in which they were intended. Quite the contrary. Some were jarring, insensitive, and demeaning.

I don’t need to wait for an investigative report to know that.

In the past, when I’ve told a joke that landed badly and realized it, I have always apologized.  My purpose is always to entertain and to get people smiling and laughing, and that has been my style as a farmer and a legislator.  But when someone reacts badly or tells me I’ve hurt their feelings I feel terrible and try to immediately remedy it.

It has been hard to sit on my hands during this political and legal process and not acknowledge that I care. I WANT to get it right and I want to make it right.

I was beyond embarrassed to hear that what I thought were welcomed and well-intentioned hugs were perceived as creepy and lecherous. I didn’t know. As soon as I did know, I have been – and am, so sorry.

I will confess that there were times that, when hearing that I had offended someone with a boorish comment or that- what I intended as a simple hug turned into someone believing that I had crossed some line, I was sorry but, I also reacted defensively and thought to myself that some people are just too sensitive.

It has taken me time to understand, that —- I —- have been INsensitive, and it is unfair to expect everyone to react to things the way I might react.  If I’m going to be a comedian, I have to understand and be sensitive to my audience, not blame them when my jokes fall flat.

I now know that comments intended to be hospitable, harmlessly flirtatious or outrageous –and above all intended to be humorous, weren’t at all humorous and caused others to believe I did not value who they are as individuals. I’ve taken all of this very hard because those who know me well, know that under all of the clowning – the schtick I put on– I care a great deal.

Nor was this reaction limited to how women reacted to my behavior.  During this investigative process, I learned that I not only offended women; one complaint was even from a man!

I learned that a crass and offensive comment I made in jest at an after-hours event to a legislative candidate– in response to a political prediction– was perceived as sexual harassment which I never would have imagined. My sarcastic response related to buggery.  Repeating my response now, during the day, in front of my colleagues, including women, is evidence enough that I should have never said it.  It’s a little rough. This candidate interpreted my remarks as serious, not sarcastic, for which I am embarrassed and deeply regretful. I look forward to apologizing personally.

It is important that you all know that while my actions have unintentionally offended some, I have never attempted to kiss anyone, made obscene gestures at a woman, nor sought a tryst or sexual relationship. It may seem inconsistent with my attempts at humor, but I have lived my life as someone who absolutely reveres and respects women.  I have been blessed to be married for 41 years to an incredible woman, to whom I have remained devoted.

I was brought up to be a gentleman who will hold the door, pull out the chair, stand when a woman leaves the table or lend her my jacket when she is cold.

However, I now am acutely aware that not everyone understood my attempts at humor and resented that I did not show the respect and value each individual deserves.  That is one of the things that bothers me the most.

I am sorry for the distraction and strain that this matter and the subsequent investigation have caused all of you. That was not my intent when I asked for the investigation. I don’t want to go one more day without apologizing and honoring all of you by not only saying I’m sorry, but by doing better. This has been a painful process for all. Hopefully to those I hurt, you feel empowered for speaking up. Your courage has already had a profound impact on the way I relate to others. I am sorry.

I also want to tell all of you that I am still your friend and I still want to hear from you.  I especially want to hear if I’m doing something wrong.  I wish that the people who came forward months or years later had said something immediately at the time so that I could have apologized and made improvements right away.  But, I understand why they didn’t. I hope that while I strive to be better, you all help me along the way if you see things I can improve. It is time to repair and begin to heal. I want to get this right.

It can be tough to teach old dogs new tricks, but this old dog can and will do better. I look forward to personally listening and expressing my remorse once the investigation is over – to the extent those I have offended are interested. I am sorry.

Thank you.

Republican lawmakers propose flat tax, $12.8B budget


House and Senate leaders and Gov. Doug Ducey have agreed on a roughly $12.8 billion spending plan, including the state’s largest tax cut in recent memory – but the budget lacks the Republican votes it needs to pass in its current form.  

The budget proposes to cut nearly $3 billion in taxes over the next three years, mostly through collapsing income tax brackets to a single 2.5% rate in 2023. It would cut taxes for all Arizonans, though higher-income taxpayers would see significantly bigger benefits.  

“I like the tax cut and I like that it’s balanced,” said House Speaker pro tem Travis Grantham. “Those are my most important asks.” 

While legislative leaders and the governor have reached an agreement, rank-and-file Republicans are still viewing the budget plan with skepticism.  

“Do I think I will be on it in the end? Absolutely,” said Rep. David Cook, R-Globe. 

But for now, Cook said, he needs answers to a number of questions, including whether the state is spending enough to repair or demolish decrepit state buildings before he can accept the huge cuts to revenue included in the tax plan. 

He also wants to reach an agreement on increasing unemployment benefits and replenishing the state’s unemployment fund, one of his top priorities for the year that GOP leaders and the governor said needed to wait for budget negotiations.  

Cook’s seatmate, Sen. T.J. Shope of Coolidge, said he’s a “no” on the budget in its current form because it doesn’t include funding to widen I-10 between Casa Grande and Phoenix. He asked for $50 million for the project this year, but his bill stalled in the House and the money is not included in budget documents shared with Republican lawmakers and obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times 

Other Republicans are skeptical of just how much spending is included in the plan. Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he likes some of the new funding, including plans to spend $50 million annually on special education and new spending on universities, which will receive an ongoing $35 million as well as a one-time $30 million for university operations.  

 “There’s just a truckload of a lot of items that might be a million dollars here or there and it adds up,” he said. 

Mesnard is also skeptical of new tax credits proposed in the budget, arguing that they run counter to the goals of streamlining the state’s tax code by moving to a single income tax rate.  

Beginning in the 2022 tax year, the state would collapse its current four tax brackets to two brackets, one paying 2.55and the other paying 2.98%. Taxpayers now pay between 2.59% and 4.5%. The following year, all Arizonans would pay a single 2.5% rate. 

Some Arizonans would still end up paying more than 2.5% of their taxable income, but the plan also calls for a top marginal tax rate of 4.5% that would protect the wealthiest Arizonans from paying as much as they otherwise would have because of a new education surcharge of 3.5%. Instead of paying their full tax rate and the surcharge, wealthy Arizonans would be able to pay no more than 4.5% of their taxable income to the state each year, and the state would make up the missing education spending through its General Fund.   

The shift to a flat tax alone is expected to cost the state $1 billion in FY23 and $1.5 billion in FY24.  

That alone will prevent Republican leaders from getting any support from Democrats, said Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix.  

“There are some good things in there, but overall the size of the tax cut as currently constituted, I don’t think any democrats could support that,” Bowie said.  

Without any support from Democrats, threadbare Republican majorities in the House and Senate require every Republican to vote for the budget proposal. Bowie said several of his Republican colleagues are opposed to the idea of a flat tax, which could reduce revenue received by cities and help wealthy urban Arizonans more than poorer rural residents.  

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, has led a charge over the past several weeks to amend the flat tax proposal to ensure cities see no cuts to funding. Arizona cities can’t enact local income taxes, and in return the state agreed to share 15% of state income tax revenues among cities and towns.  

Boyer proposed increasing that shared revenue to 20% if the Legislature insisted on moving to a single income tax rate, but other Republicans aren’t on board. Mesnard said doing so would result in people who live in unincorporated areas subsidizing cities.  

“If you are giving even more, a higher percentage to those cities, that’s even more these folks are paying into the cities they don’t live in,” he said.  

While there are some holdouts, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, insisted that most Republicans favor the plan to cut nearly $3 billion in taxes over the next three years.  

“The tax cut is well supported,” he said. “It’s a Republican thing to do. 

One challenge to passing a budget may come from a Republican senator who described the budget plan as “the last thing on (her) mind.” Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, has a single-minded focus on election security legislation she was stymied in passing earlier this year, and she said she won’t give Republican leaders a vote on a budget until her election bills get a vote. 

Townsend expects a vote in the House could happen as early as this week, but if it doesn’t happen and leaders try to push a budget through the House and Senate, they won’t have her vote.  

“I’m definitely not voting on the budget until my issues are taken care of, for sure,” Townsend said.  

  • Staff writers Dillon Rosenblatt and Nathan Brown contributed to this report  

Republican legislator calls for a state Lt. Gov.


A Republican lawmaker is again asking voters to give Arizona a lieutenant governor, a role that would supersede the secretary of state as first in the line of succession for the governor’s office.

The maneuver may raise eyebrows given its timing. Arizona voters just elected a Democrat, Katie Hobbs, as secretary of state, making her the first Democrat to serve in that capacity in more than two decades. If Republican Gov. Doug Ducey leaves office for any reason in the next four years, a Democrat would rise to the most powerful political office in the state.

But this is not a new effort for Sen. J.D. Mesnard. As a state representative, the Chandler Republican sponsored a nearly identical measure in 2015 to shake up the line of succession in a way that ensures the next-in-line as governor is from the same political party as the governor that voters elected.

Twice since the late 1980s the governor of one party was replaced by a secretary of state from a different party.

Mesnard wants to ensure that never happens again, at least not after another eight years.

His resolution wouldn’t take effect until 2027, meaning the 2026 gubernatorial race would be the first election that candidates for governor would have to choose a lieutenant governor to be named alongside them on the ballot. Gubernatorial candidates would have to pick their running mate no later than 60 days before election day.

Delaying the resolution’s effective date ensures that Hobbs, the newly elected secretary of state, would still be first in the line of succession for at least two terms. That way, she could continue to serve under the rules that were in effect when she ran for office until she’s termed out in 2026.

Mesnard’s proposal has some renewed support from his fellow Republicans, but bipartisan support as well from Democrats like Rep. Randy Friese, the assistant minority leader in the House. Friese supported Mesnard’s approach in 2015, and previously said he’d support it again, as long as it doesn’t take effect until after Hobbs leaves office.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for Mesnard is voters themselves.

Efforts to create a lieutenant governor have twice been rejected at the ballot in the last two decades – first in 1994 by a 2-1 margin, then again in 2010 by roughly 59 percent of voters.

If lawmakers approved Mesnard’s resolution, voters would settle the matter on the 2020 ballot.

A companion bill to Mesnard’s proposed ballot measure details the job duties for a lieutenant governor. In addition to sitting atop the line of succession, lieutenants would serve as the director of the Arizona Department of Administration, a role that’s currently occupied by an appointee of the governor.

Republicans still claim fraud as count continues

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the Arizona state capitol Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Phoenix. Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

More than a week after Election Day, and as it became increasingly clear that Donald Trump would lose both the presidency and Arizona, a vocal cadre of elected Arizona Republicans continue to propagate  claims of election fraud.

They’ve largely shifted away from last week’s claims that Maricopa County’s use of Sharpies invalidated ballots, and have moved on to suspicions of malign “glitches” in voting machines and calling for an audit and hand recount of every ballot cast in the state, a message shared by the lame duck president of the United States. 

“From 200,000 votes to less than 10,000 votes. If we can audit the total votes cast, we will easily win Arizona also!” Trump tweeted November 12 in response to an Arizona Republic headline reiterating something Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan data analysts have been saying for days – he just won’t be able to catch up with President-elect Joe Biden with the number of votes left to count in Arizona.

Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the same during an appearance on Fox News on November 12, during which he also sought to dispel rumors of fraud in Arizona election results. 

“There is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe that the election results will change,” Brnovich said. 

Others have been less resolute. 

As protests raged outside the Maricopa County elections office in the days after the election, Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, initially set out to quell concerns about fraud. In a November 6 statement, she wrote that she expected county recorders to oversee the election in an ethical and transparent manner and that Brnovich would investigate any issues.

“Please remain patient and have trust in our Arizona election process,” she wrote.

Just three days later, Fann sent Secretary of State Katie Hobbs a letter asking for an independent investigation into the tabulation of votes in Arizona. 

“To be clear, I am not claiming that fraud was involved in Arizona’s election, but many others are making that claim,” Fann wrote to Hobbs. “I believe it is imperative that we do everything we can to satisfy Arizonans that their votes were lawfully counted and the election was completely legitimate.”

In a response, Hobbs scolded Fann for encouraging claims of fraud.

“To be clear, there is no ‘current conspiracy’ regarding elections in Arizona, outside of theories floated by those seeking to undermine our democratic process for political gain,” Hobbs wrote. “Elected officials should work to build, rather than damage public confidence in our system. As we’ve seen in recent days, even efforts ostensibly aimed at knocking down misinformation can actually amplify it.” 

The “many others” Fann alludes to include members of her own Senate Republican caucus. Likely Sen.-elect Wendy Rogers has been the most vocal,  claiming that the U.S. is a “banana republic where a few cities can steal an election in the dead of night with fraudulent ballots and fake voters.” 

Some, like Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, pointed to Republican legislative victories as potential proof of fraud in the presidential count. Sen. J.D. Mesnard’s office, cell and campaign phones have been inundated with calls since Borrelli and Michael Ward, the husband of Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, publicly questioned how the Chandler Republican could be winning his district by roughly 7,000 votes when Trump is losing the same legislative district by about 7,000 votes. 

The simplest answer, of course, is that Mesnard represents a swing district. Two years ago, his district voted for Democratic U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, and split its legislative representation between two Republicans and one Democrat. 

But Borrelli and others claim those disparities in vote counts for Trump and down-ballot Republicans are proof of problems in tabulating votes in Maricopa County. 

Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Casa Grande, tweeted November 11 that he believes “it’s wise to conduct an independent audit of our election process” and called for a hand count. He joined a chorus of House Republicans, led by Senator-elect Kelly Townsend, in sewing doubt about the integrity of the election. 

Townsend has been an ever-present fixture of the “Stop the Steal” protests that materialized in front of county and state elections offices, rallying the crowd, leading them in prayer or relaying information. The first day, she even tried to quell some suspicions of fraud, but the furious protesters shouted her down. 

“That first night, they were not having it,” she said.

Since, she has continued to put forth various theories of elections malfeasance, tweeting, for example, that “they” – a seeming allusion to Democrats – would seek to “undermine our Republic,” because we can’t expect honesty from “those promoting an anti-God, anti-Christ agenda.” 

Most recently, she has circulated a Google Form that the RNC and Trump campaign are using in elections litigation that asks voters if a poll worker overrode their vote or “pushed the green button” for them. 

Townsend, however, insists that she’s not fanning the flames of misinformation – though she concedes that she’s not always right, either. 

Rather, she framed herself as a conduit between the Capitol and an angry and conspiratorially minded electorate, a sort of peacekeeper who’s willing to wade into a “Stop the Steal” rally to clear the air. 

She said that when voters have questions, she calls up Scott Jarrett, an elections official with the county, to set the record straight. 

“That calms people down,” she said. “It’s been good, educating the voters.” 

But Townsend admits that she has also helped spread conspiracies, if unknowingly. 

Last week, she posted on Facebook that a Maricopa County Recorder’s Office staffer told her “they are verifying spoiled ballots caused by the Sharpie incident right now and the only observers there are Democrats.” 

By law, each party can designate people to observe the counting process. 

“The person at MCTEC said, ‘If you guys cared so much about this, you should get someone in here,’” she said.  She took this to mean that no Republicans were observing the count. 

Ironically, it was the Trump campaign that put a stop to that misinformation. A representative later called her to say that a Republican attorney had in fact been observing the count, but had stepped out briefly when Townsend called the county. 

“It would have been better had I known that part of it,” she said.



Riggs squeaks out victory in SPI Republican primary

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas chats with a constituent's son at the Arizona Capitol Times' Meet the Candidates event on Aug. 1. Douglas is seeking re-election this year, but she faces four Republican challengers in the August primary. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas chats with a constituent’s son at the Arizona Capitol Times’ Meet the Candidates event on Aug. 1. Douglas is seeking re-election this year, but she faces four Republican challengers in the August primary. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

With five Republican contenders dividing the vote, the GOP primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction ended in a tight victory for Frank Riggs.

Final results as of September 5 show that Frank Riggs took a lead of less than one percentage point over the runner up, Bob Branch. Just 359 votes separated the two candidates.

Incumbent Diane Douglas trailed closely behind Branch. Only 3,498 votes separated her and Riggs. The race for the Democratic nomination wasn’t as competitive; Kathy Hoffman beat David Schapira by nearly 22,000 votes.

With both Riggs and Branch receiving just shy of 22 percent of the vote, it appears Arizonans looking for a change were unable to rally behind just one alternative to the incumbent, who herself won about 21 percent of the vote. Additionally, Tracy Livingston garnered another 20 percent, and Jonathan Gelbart rounded out the pack with just shy of 15 percent.

Douglas never quite escaped criticism after clashing with Gov. Doug Ducey early in her first term over the firing of two State Board of Education employees, and she has continued to irk many in the state, even in her own party, over the years. Most recently, she offended public school teachers after criticizing the Red for Ed movement’s decision to strike and suggesting teachers’ certifications may be at risk because of it.

Still, political observers had speculated she would benefit from sheer name recognition in a crowded Republican field.

Riggs will now face off against Hoffman in the Nov. 6 general election.


Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers


570,927 votes cast

Diane Douglas 21.22 percent

Bob Branch 21.77 percent

Frank Riggs 21.84 percent

Jonathan Gelbart 14.94 percent

Tracy Livingston 20.23 percent


484,748 votes cast

Kathy Hoffman 52 percent

David Schapira 48 percent

Salmon joins crowded GOP gubernatorial race

Matt Salmon (Capitol Media Services 2014 file photo by Howard Fischer)
Matt Salmon (Capitol Media Services 2014 file photo by Howard Fischer)

Matt Salmon, who came within 11,819 votes of becoming governor nearly two decades ago, is making another bid for the office. 

But the former state legislator, congressman and lobbyist first has to survive what is becoming an increasingly crowded Republican primary. And Salmon, in his announcement July 16, is seeking to prove that he is as conservative  if not more so  than anyone else in the race. 

“Today, the Arizona values we cherish are under attack from Washington and liberals here at home,” he said in his prepared statement, decrying “open borders, closed classrooms, crushing tax hikes and socialism, censorship and cancel culture.” 

The other three GOP contenders have made similar claims. 

But Salmon is jumping into the race with something they don’t have: an endorsement from Club For Growth, a political action committee primarily focused on cutting taxes that has resources to help finance a campaign. 

And he also has the record of being a founding member of the Freedom Caucus while he was in Congress. 

Salmon, in a parallel video announcement, pronounced himself “100% pro-life,” touted his A rating by the National Rifle Association, all while decrying the “radical agenda” of Democrats, complete with photos of those that Republicans love to hate, ranging from Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to Nancy Pelosi and even MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow. 

And there also were references to what have become the latest GOP talking points, including his promises to “protect election integrity” and “strengthen voter ID.” 

What Salmon does have more than any of the other Republican contenders is an extensive record. 

As a state senator first elected in 1990, he backed various tax-cut measures. 

But he also was behind a move to abolish both the Arizona Lottery and pari-mutuel wagering on horses and dogs, saying once the state did that it could avoid having tribal casinos. 

What followed was six years in the U.S. House, from 1995 to 2001, after which he stepped aside keeping his pledge to serve no more than three terms.

That led to the gubernatorial bid in 2002 where he gained the GOP nod after trouncing Secretary of State Betsey Bayless and Treasurer Carol Spinger. That set him up to run against Democrat Janet Napolitano who was Arizona attorney general at the time. 

But the race was complicated by the entry of Richard Mahoney, a former Democratic secretary of state, who ran as an independent and picked up nearly 85,000 votes, and Libertarian Barry Hess tallying more than 20,000. 

Salmon said afterward he was hampered by something else: Republicans who supported his policies but said they would not vote for him because he is a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. 

He eventually served two more terms in the U.S. House between 2013 and 2016. 

This year’s GOP gubernatorial race is shaping up as a fight over who can prove they are the most conservative. 

State Treasurer Kimberly Yee became the first in the race, touting her loyalty to former President Donald Trump and his border and economic policies. 

“President Trump’s America First agenda had our economy booming like never before,” she said in her announcement video. “But now, our way of life is under attack by the corrupt press, reckless corporate leaders and politicians who put socialist ideals over people, our freedom of speech and our elections.” 

She also is touting her opposition to abortion and being a “proud NRA life member.” 

Developer Karrin Taylor Robson launched her campaign with a slap at the Biden-Harris administration. She promised to “fight for Arizona values” and said she is “committed to do whatever it takes to defend Arizona from the radical left.” 

Former Phoenix TV anchor Kari Lake got into the race with promises of protecting election integrity and requiring voter ID, securing the border and protecting the Second Amendment. 

She quit her TV job, complaining about a “disturbing shift in journalism. And Lake said she is pro-life,” always have and always will be.” 

The survivor of the Republican primary will go on to face whoever ends up representing the Democratic Party. So far, the main contenders include former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. 

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Matt Salmon came within 1,819 votes of victory in the 2002 gubernatorial race. The margin was actually 11,819 votes. 

Sandra Kennedy, Kiana Sears win Corp Comm Democratic primary


Former Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy has easily claimed one of two Democratic nominations for two open Arizona Corporation Commission seats.

But while she surged ahead in the Aug. 28 primary, her fellow former commissioner, Bill Mundell, struggled to secure his comeback nomination.

Mundell was neck-and-neck with Kiana Maria Sears throughout the race, with less than 1 percentage point separating them. Unofficial results show that he failed to secure the second spot in the Democratic primary by just 6,011 votes.

Sears has been accused of being an Arizona Public Service plant in the Democratic primary. That accusation threatened to be particularly harmful to her campaign at a time of heightened public scrutiny around the commissioners’ relationship with the state’s largest public utility.

But Mundell has baggage of his own, having previously served on the commission as a Republican. He has said he switched after recognizing the influence APS had over the other Republican commissioners. He and Kennedy ran as a team pledging to change the status quo.

The Democrats will face Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman in the Nov. 6 general election. Olson and Glassman defeated incumbent Tom Forese in the Republican primary.

Arizona Corporation Commission By The Numbers

667,307 votes cast


Sandra Kennedy 45 percent

Bill Mundell 27 percent

Kiana Maria Sears 28 percent


814,3176 votes cast

Tom Forese 16 percent

Justin Olson 25 percent

Rodney Glassman 23 percent

Jim O’Connor 22 percent

Eric Sloan 15 percent


Sen. David Farnsworth easily holds off challenger in LD16 Republican primary

Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)
Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)

Sen. David Farnsworth cruised to an easy victory over a challenge from San Tan Valley Republican Michael Hernandez for re-election to the state Senate.

Farnsworth is running for his third full term in the Senate representing Legislative District 16, which covers parts of Mesa and San Tan Valley, and Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.

After Farnsworth faced no primary election opponent in 2016, Hernandez emerged to try and oust him, citing the incumbent lawmaker’s opposition to incorporating San Tan Valley as his reason for entering the race.

Hernandez also garnered the endorsements of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and the Arizona Police Association, but it wasn’t enough to sway voters to give the boot to Farnsworth, who’s now held the seat since he was appointed in September 2013.

Farnsworth also served a term in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1997 to 1998.

Farnsworth will face token opposition from Benjamin Carmitchel, the lone Democrat running for the state Senate in LD16. Republicans hold a two-to-one registration advantage among voters in the conservative East Valley district.

LD16 Senate by the numbers

21.079 votes cast


David Farnsworth 77 percent

Michael Hernandez 24 percent


Benjamin Carmitchel 100 percent

Senate candidates sue state, hit campaign trial

Don Shooter and Tim Jeffries
Don Shooter and Tim Jeffries

A handful of candidates for the Arizona Legislature share the distinction of suing the state they hope to represent.

Tim Jeffries, a Scottsdale businessman running for the state Senate in Legislative District 23, was ousted from state government by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2016. Jeffries, then the Ducey-appointed director of the Department of Economic Security, was forced to resign amid reports that he’d fired hundreds of state workers and used a state plane to fly to Nogales to celebrate with employees who gave up their job protections.

Also ousted from DES that day: Charles Loftus, who’s running for the state Senate in Legislative District 20. Loftus was the agency’s chief law enforcement officer under Jeffries.

Both were excoriated in an audit of security policies at DES. A review by the Department of Public Safety noted the DES security program under Jeffries and Loftus’ watch, when the agency amassed a stash of guns and ammunition to equip armed employees, was “rife with disorganization and inefficiency.”

Jeffries was one of three staffers found not in compliance with DES policies when they carried firearms at state facilities, the audit found.

Jeffries and Loftus deny those findings. Together, they’re suing the state for libel, claiming that the DPS audit amounted to a series of maliciously false statements aimed at undermining their efforts to weed out corrupt contracts at DES.

The former DES workers may soon be joined by former lawmaker Don Shooter, who’s seeking a political comeback less than six months after his colleagues expelled him from the House of Representatives.

The expulsion came February 1 after an investigation initiated by the House found that Shooter, a Yuma Republican, had sexually harassed several women, including a fellow lawmaker, and created a hostile work environment.

Defiant to the end, Shooter claims his ouster was “orchestrated” by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Ducey’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams. There are similar claims made in the lawsuit filed by Jeffries and Loftus, who in court filings allege that Adams and other government agents attempted to silence them for “bringing to light… malfeasance, corruption and incompetent administration” in state procurement practices.

In a notice of claim submitted April 16, Shooter’s lawyer, Kraig Marton, alleged the former lawmaker was expelled to prevent him from uncovering “serious issues of malfeasance in state government contracts.”

Shooter had to wait 60 days before he can pursue a lawsuit in order to give the state a chance to respond. That time elapsed as of June 18, but Shooter has yet to file a lawsuit.

He insisted the pending case will prove that he is the real victim.

“Let the people speak, let the people decide,” Shooter said of his re-election bid. “Let the people say if this is important, or if my seven years of good service to my district and, and, the fact that I’m being harassed and persecuted by people who will be proven to be doing so in the lawsuit, whether that matters.”

Campaign fodder

Loftus said the lawsuit is mostly a non-issue on the campaign trail.

“At first I thought it might be a burden, but when I explain and detail out the circumstances and the reason that we are fighting this, I turned it into a little bit of a positive,” he said. “I’ve only been asked about two or three times. I’ve been asked more by other candidates” than by voters, he added.

If anything, the lawsuit hews closely into an issue that Loftus said is a pillar of his campaign, citing arguments in court filings that “to take away their credibility and prevent further investigation into the corruption and malfeasance that Jeffries and Loftus were trying to uncover,” government forces set out on “a massive campaign of libel.”

“I’m an enemy of public waste, fraud and corruption, and this really solidifies the position I’m taking in the campaign,” Loftus said.

Jeffries, who declined to be interviewed, wrote in an email that the lawsuit “doesn’t adversely impact my campaign one iota.”

He pointed to his experience leading DES, experience he wrote gives him a leg up on legislators who “only know government agencies from the outside, and rarely even visit them to learn about them.”

It may get awkward if either candidate is elected this fall – one of the core duties of legislators is to adopt a budget, a process that the Governor’s Office and his chief of staff, Adams, are deeply involved in – but both Jeffries and Loftus said their ongoing litigation wouldn’t impact their legislative work.

There is a history of sitting lawmakers suing Arizona. A group of GOP lawmakers sued Arizona in 2013 to overturn the state’s Medicaid expansion law. In 2006, lawmakers sued then-Gov. Janet Napolitano over a line-item veto in the budget that cost state and university employees a pay raise.

Those were issues-based lawsuits, unlike the defamation case filed by Jeffries and Loftus.

“It’s going to be awkward anyways. They fired me,” Loftus said. ”Either way, we’re going to have to put our differences apart and do what’s good for the state. You would hope they’d be more reasonable in their approach.”

Shooter likened his own prospective lawsuit to Jeffries and Loftus. He, too, Shooter claims, was silenced by Adams for attempting to expose nefarious procurement practices in state government, though he did not provide details that presumably will be included in his lawsuit.

“All three lawsuits are the result of corrupt procurement practices being foisted on the people. That’s your angle,” Shooter said. “All three of them are trying to tell you the same thing. Why do you think that is?”

A spokesman for Ducey declined to comment.


Campaign consultant Kyle Moyer said most voters aren’t tuned in enough to be aware of the pending lawsuits filed by candidates. A perusal of Jeffries and Loftus’ websites shows no mention of their ignominious departure from the Department of Economic Security, or their ensuing libel case against the state of Arizona.

Jeffries, however, fully embraces the persona that sent waves through the agency he once led, for better or for worse. His campaign bio boasts his “21 transformative months” leading the second largest state government agency in Arizona, and cites a questionable statistic he touted while still at DES: “employee satisfaction and morale improved an astounding 300 percent within 13 months.”

Loftus boasts of stints at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General within DES.

The only way voters may catch on is if those lawsuits garner significant media attention, Moyer said. While Jeffries caused a media firestorm during his roughly two years at DES, he’s largely stayed out of the news since.

Shooter has made plenty of headlines, but for reasons beyond his claims of a conspiracy to oust him from office.

For every story about Shooter’s attempted comeback, voters are reminded of the behavior that led to his dismissal from office in the first place – the habitual sexual harassment of women at the Capitol.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale – who coincidentally is running against Jeffries in LD23 – first named Shooter as one of the men in the Legislature who had harassed her, and she filed a libel and slander lawsuit against Shooter on June 14.

After Ugenti-Rita came forward, eight other women told stories of inappropriate, sexually charged comments and unwanted touching, although an independent investigation did not uphold all of the allegations.

Shooter and his attorney tells a different tale.

Marton wrote in the notice of claim that Shooter’s ouster wasn’t for “discriminatory conduct,” but for his years of discreetly raising concerns about “questionable procurement practices and wasteful spending in government.”

“I’ve already said what I’ve done, owned up to it, apologized for whatever I did,” Shooter said. “But the fact of the matter is, what came about, and I’m going to prove it in court, I’m going to prove it, and you’re going to see it all pretty soon…”

Senate staffer says Montenegro took part in suggestive texts

Attorney Tom Ryan holds up print copies of text messages exchanged between former state Sen. Steve Montenegro and a Senate staffer, Stephanie Holford. Holford named herself in a statement Ryan read during a press conference at the Senate on Feb. 22. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)
Attorney Tom Ryan holds up print copies of text messages exchanged between former state Sen. Steve Montenegro and a Senate staffer, Stephanie Holford. Holford named herself in a statement Ryan read during a press conference at the Senate on Feb. 22. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

The woman who exchanged suggestive text messages with congressional candidate Steve Montenegro has contradicted the former state senator’s account of the part he played in their “intimate” conversations.

In a statement provided by her attorney, Tom Ryan, she also identified herself to the press February 22 during a press conference at the Senate. Stephanie Holford said she was the digital media coordinator at the state Senate beginning in January 2017, the position she held when she first came to know Montenegro, one of the GOP frontrunners in the Arizona 8th Congressional District primary election.

Ryan said she had sent Montenegro a topless photo among other messages that indicated a relationship between the two.

In her statement read by Ryan, Holford said she and Montenegro often communicated through text messages, which were professional at first but turned personal “in a very short period of time.”

Montenegro began sharing his likes and dislikes for music and food and she said she responded in kind. Many of their conversations took place outside of normal work hours.

“Well, if you are nice to me I’ll take you to my favorite place sometime,” Montenegro texted her in February 2017. “We can invite Mike if you like so it’s a ‘work’ field trip. :)”

In a later conversation, Holford asked whether she should refer to him as “senator” or “Steve,” and he instructed her to use his first name.

Eventually, they began to flirt, she said, and she became comfortable enough with their relationship that she began sending photos “in various states of undress.”

Ryan said Montenegro did not send nude texts of himself, and the relationship was not physical.

“Senator Montenegro asked me to send them on Snapchat instead,” she said. “We engaged in sexual conversation about these pictures. These were detailed and intimate.”

A photo shared with The Arizona Republic and others without her knowledge or consent was not provided to the press in general. Photos shared via Snapchat self-destruct.

Ryan said he has specifically declined to see any of the photos and does not want them to be further disseminated because they were intended to be private.

In addition to naming herself, Holford said her ex-boyfriend obtained the messages and photo to show to the press.

Kent Lyons, the ex-boyfriend, stole her private information off her home computer and social media accounts, and Holford is now considering legal action against him, according to her statement. She believes she has been the victim of revenge porn.

Lyons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ryan said Lyons brought Holford to his office for their initial meeting, where Lyons presented her as a “whistleblower.” But Ryan quickly realized that wasn’t the case – Holford told him she was not there willingly.

“She wanted it shut down,” Ryan said.

“It was never my intent to make this affair public,” he read from Holford’s statement. “But now that my name and image have been brought out in public, I am taking accountability for my part in all of this. I apologize profusely for my involvement in this matter. I want to move on in my efforts to rebuild my life.”

Ryan told the press Montenegro had been “inappropriate from the get-go” and was “grooming” Holford.

Montenegro’s campaign spokesman Constantin Querard did not immediately return a request for comment.

Steve Montenegro
Steve Montenegro

In a 20-minute interview on February 21 with the conservative Washington Examiner, Montenegro accused his opponents of trying to sabotage him, namely Debbie Lesko, his main competitor in the Republican race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

“I want you to know I did not have any inappropriate relationships with this woman,” Montenegro told the Examiner. “At no time have I been inappropriately involved with any staffer – nor have I ever. I have not solicited inappropriate material via text message or any other message.”

Ryan denied any involvement by the Lesko campaign. He said this was only an act of revenge by Lyons.

Whatever Lyons’ intention, Ryan said Holford never wanted to make the matter public. And as her attorney, Ryan said he did his best to keep it confidential.

But press reports soon followed. Then he saw Montenegro’s comments to the Examiner and characterization of news reports on their relationship as “tabloid trash.”

Ryan said, “Let’s be clear. Mr. Montenegro is lying about the whole matter. …He saw her, an attractive young blonde lady, and he went after it.”

Ryan advised Holford to file a formal complaint with the state Senate to seek censure of Montenegro.

Montenegro resigned his Senate seat in December to run in the special election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District following the resignation of former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, who left office after asking staffers to be surrogates.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to reflect that Stephanie Holford did not quit her job at the state Senate.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be keynote speaker at GOP dinner

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be a guest speaker at a Republican dinner in Nevada.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the 85-year-old Arpaio, who recently announced he is running for the U.S. Senate, will speak at the Lincoln Reagan Dinner and Fund Raiser February 18 at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

The dinner will be hosted by the Douglas County Republican Central Committee, which is the official Republican Party-affiliated organization in Douglas County, The committee says Arpaio will be the guest speaker at the annual event’s VIP Reception.

President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio late last August after he was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a federal judge’s order that he stop detaining immigrants simply for lacking legal status.

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Shooter political comeback falls short

Don Shooter testifies during a hearing, June 14, 2018, in Judge Rosa Mroz’s Maricopa County Superior Courtroom, Phoenix.
Don Shooter testifies during a hearing, June 14, 2018, in Judge Rosa Mroz’s Maricopa County Superior Courtroom, Phoenix.

Ousted lawmaker Don Shooter’s political comeback attempt fell well short.

Shooter sought a swift return to the Capitol since he was voted out of the Legislature in February after a House investigation found he serially sexually harassed colleagues and lobbyists.

But the Yuma Republican quickly fell back on election night, and wound up a distant third, more than 5,000 votes behind incumbent Sen. Sine Kerr, a Buckeye dairy farmer in her first race for the Legislative District 13 Senate seat. Kerr has represented the district since January, when she was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy.

Shooter also trails Brent Backus, a Waddell Republican, in the primary election.

The election-night loss is a rebuke of Shooter, who sought to rally support for his campaign by leaning heavily into the accusations against him.

Shooter, who represented LD13 in the Senate from 2011 to 2016, touted a poll he said was conducted while he was deciding whether or not to run again, in which he asked prospective voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker they knew was thrown out of office for sexual harassment. He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker. And a billboard west of Yuma urged voters to elect Shooter to “make a liberals head explode.”

Kerr has an easy path to winning the general election. Republicans hold a nearly two-to-one advantage among registered voters in the district, which stretches from northern Yuma County to northwestern Maricopa County.

Michelle Harris, an Air Force veteran, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

LD13 Senate by the numbers

Yuma County: 100 percent of precincts reporting

Maricopa County: 58 percent of precincts reporting


Brent Backus 30 percent

Sine Kerr 49 percent

Don Shooter 21 percent


Michelle Harris 100 percent

Shy of historic victory in 2018, Knecht returns in LD21

In this Aug. 4, 2017, photo, Kathy Knecht speaks at an event in Scottsdale. Knecht has joined the Democratic Party to run for the House in Legislative District 21 after coming up short in a bid for the Senate in 2018 as an independent. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
In this Aug. 4, 2017, photo, Kathy Knecht speaks at an event in Scottsdale. Knecht has joined the Democratic Party to run for the House in Legislative District 21 after coming up short in a bid for the Senate in 2018 as an independent. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Just under 3,500 votes separated Kathy Knecht from history in 2018. 

Knecht, a long-time school board member from Peoria, launched her Senate campaign in Legislative District 21 that year with then-Sen. Debbie Lesko as a target. The pair had a history, as Knecht had defeated Lesko in a Peoria Unified School District Governing Board vote back in 2006 – the only electoral defeat of Lesko’s career. If Knecht were able to deal Lesko her second loss, she would become the first elected independent in the state Legislature’s existence. 

This didn’t quite happen. Lesko fled for Congress, achieving a somewhat shaky victory over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. Rick Gray, who was appointed as Lesko’s replacement, defeated Knecht by 3,489 votes, under a 5-point margin. Even with a loss, given the institutional barriers that non-major party candidates face and the red hue of the district, Knecht had over-performed expectations. 

Now, Knecht is back, flying a new banner, yet still possibly on the precipice of a historical moment. 

In the years since her defeat, Democrats tapped Knecht to run for House in LD21 as part of their push for the majority in that chamber. If they succeed, not only will Democrats break the Republican trifecta that has dominated state politics since the Janet Napolitano days, it’ll be the party’s first majority in the House since the 1960s. 

Democrat Donkey“I haven’t changed as an individual,” Knecht said. “When the Democrats said, ‘Kathy we think you can win here,’ I said it’s not gonna change who I am.” 

Who she is, is a spreader of the gospel of pragmatic bipartisanship, an eschewer of labels and a somewhat reluctant Democrat. 

“Key to our campaign is people who are tired of political extremes,” she said. 

But for now, she’s made her deal with the Democrats. And in that capacity, she has added a new identity – if she wins, she will become a data point in favor of the power of shifting demographics to elect Democrats into office. 

For Democrats to flip the House this year, they need to hold all four seats they won in 2018 while picking up at least two more. Central to that strategy is the West Valley, especially the neighboring northwest Phoenix district of Legislative District 20. 

That district was one of two in the state to support President Donald Trump in 2016 and Senator Kyrsten Sinema – a Democrat, albeit a moderate one – in 2018. The logic is that an influx of younger transplants from other states to the fast-growing West Valley, plus increased engagement among people of color, could put the region in play for Democrats. 

Charlie Fisher
Charlie Fisher

The same logic applies in LD21, said Charlie Fisher, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which lists both LD20 and L21 as top-tier pickup opportunities. 

“It has been a targeted district for us since early, early on,” Fisher said. “It’s the same trend as in a lot of suburban districts. There’s a convergence of new transplants moving in from other states and bringing their politics with them, as well as shifting demographics. Independents are continuing to lean towards or keep an open mind toward Democratic candidates.” 

But LD21 includes older, wealthier and more conservative retirement communities like Youngtown and Sun City in the far-flung northwest suburbs, making it a heavier lift, said Paul Bentz, a pollster with HighGround Public Affairs Consultants. 

“Demographic shifts haven’t hit 21 yet,” Bentz said. “LD20 has for a long time been a candidate to be a swing district. It’s been on the radar much longer than LD21.” 

He said that historically, Republicans in LD20 only have a +7 participation advantage, compared to +13 in LD21. And while LD20 went to Sinema in the midterms, LD21 did not, though she did show a significantly improved performance for statewide Democratic campaigns in the district. While the Republican registration advantage in LD20 wilted by 2,500 voters from 2018 to 2020, it’s hardly budged in neighboring LD21. 

Fisher isn’t too concerned. While he acknowledged that the fundamentals are tougher in LD21, he noted that the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is giving both districts equal attention. 

“Having a candidate as strong as Kathy Knecht helps,” he said. 

Part of that means fitting the district. Though now nominally a Democrat, Knecht said her education-focused platform this year is essentially a “carbon copy” of her platform when she ran as an independent in 2018.

While she advocates for increased school funding and supports the Invest in Education ballot initiative, she proudly touts her experience on local chambers of commerce, and says on her campaign site that she’s a proponent of “securing our border and stopping drug and human trafficking” and listening “to the law enforcement community … to provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.”

“When I decided to run as a Democrat, I first went to my Republican friends and supporters,” Knecht said. “They weren’t all thrilled at first, but the immediate comeback was, ‘We know you, we know what you stand for. Where should we send the check?’”

Her Republican opponents, the incumbent Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, and fellow school board member Beverly Pingerelli, are skeptical.