It depends on what your definitions of tax, increase, and “is” are

I’m amazed by the furor over my reference to an article that 1) David Schweikert sponsored a tax increase on diesel gasoline in the legislature and 2) the breathless assertions that we at SA celebrate diversity of opinion while profusely apologizing for the “errors” of the writers with whom we disagree.

Here are the facts that have not yet been disputed:

The road usage tax at the time was a job killer for the trucking industry.  A group of legislators  attempted to repeal the tax to create jobs.  The tax cut would have decreased government revenue.  The solution was to increase a different tax, the tax on diesel fuel, to cover the shortfall.

Here is a quote from the article we’re all using as a source (an Arizona Daily Star article was cited as though it somehow refutes the allegation, but in reality the Associated Press articles run in multiple newspapers and it is exactly the same article).

“To offset that loss, Steffey (a sponsor of the bill at issue) proposes to amend the bill to add 8 cents to the state tax on diesel fuel.”

So as it stood, the diesel fuel tax in Arizona was 18 cents.  If the amended bill passed, it would have been 26 cents.  The article also points out that this would have been one of the highest rates in the West.  Let’s agree that since the government is setting the rate, collecting it, and spending it, that it is in fact a tax.

The article lists David Schweikert as a sponsor.  Therefore, David Schweikert sponsored a bill that would have increased the tax rate on diesel gasoline from 18 cents to 26 cents.

You can argue that the road use tax hurt the economy, that it was unfair, high, and cumbersome to collect.  You can argue that the revenue shortfall had to be covered.  You can argue that the truckers welcomed the tax increase, especially in light of the road use tax repeal.  You can even argue that the revenue shortfall could not have been closed by cutting spending, coupled with an increase in revenue from the expansion of the domestic trucking industry.

You cannot, however, deny that 1) this was a tax increase on diesel fuel and 2) David Schweikert was a sponsor.

Tax Hike Schweik can’t win

One of the most effective ways to win an election is to pick a popular issue in which your opponent has no flexibility and hammer them over it.

This year’s elections take place against a backdrop of high prices at the pump, which in turn affect the cost of goods and services throughout the economy.  The best solution, particularly in the short run, is to increase the supply of oil.  Thanks to their slavish devotion to the environmental lobby, most Democrats are unable to advocate solutions that will actually work.  Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, which is the size of South Carolina, would merely require an area the size of Los Angeles International Airport.  It is supported with near unanimity in Alaska, by both business and labor alike.  Still, the whims of radical environmentalists half a world away dictate Democratic party policy on this issue.

I applauded District 5 Congressional candidate David Schweikert when he took Congressman Harry Mitchell to task on energy prices, particularly his support of energy taxes.  The problem here is not the message, but the messenger.

While in the state legislature, Schweikert supported an 8 cent tax increase on diesel fuel (reported in the Phoenix Gazette, “Jobs Riding on Reduction of Trucking Tax,” February 16, 1993, Associated Press).  This measure would have raised the tax to .26 cents a gallon, “one of the highest rates among Western states.” By way of explanation, Schweikert says “A tax collected at the pump catches all truckers equally and eliminates much of the opportunity for fraud,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale, another sponsor.

Many of the Congressional District 5 activists are concerned over the lack of nuance between the positions of the many fine candidates in that race.  As a sponsor of a tax increase, of the price of gasoline, no less, David Schweikert has a distinction, if not one that a Republican candidate would ordinarily want.

CD 5 activists should choose someone who hasn’t tried to raise taxes to carry the fight to Harry Mitchell this  Fall.

The Secret to a Six Figure Income?

Is it true that Legislative District 8 Chairman Royce Flora is being considered for a six figure salaried job by Maricopa County Treasurer Charles “Hos” Hoskins?

It wasn’t long ago that Flora, an applicant for the Treasury vacancy for which Hoskins was ultimately chosen, was feeling out potential supporters for a possible primary challenge. You may remember that the County Board did not even select Flora as a finalist for that position.

I know what you’re thinking; aren’t audio/visual technicians for the state House always in the running for these high paying financial services positions? Not to my recollection. Some of our readers who are much younger than me, who can do more with the internet than check e-mail and blog, could probably find out what Flora is making now; I’m certain it’s not anything in the range of his potential County job.

In the time of a severe budget shortfall, where the County has made significant cutbacks, could it really be possible that Hoskins would dangle an expensive carrot to avoid a challenge to his office? My advice to Hoskins, tell him to ‘bring it on.’ In 2004, Flora got waxed in a primary against Collette Rosati.

If this deal goes through, and we don’t see some compelling reason for this hire, maybe we should all start making noise about challenges to people who run large agencies. In the meantime, there’s already a repository for political hacks who can’t find work someplace else.

Why Shadegg should retire

If you had asked me a week ago, I would have signed the letter getting all the attention.  John Shadegg is a man of principle and integrity.  I am a John Shadegg Republican.  I supported him in both of his campaigns for Majority Leader and Minority Whip.  I support the coalition of true believing conservatives; Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Jeff Flake, Mike Pence, of which Shadegg is not only a member but a leader.  Additionally, Bob Lord could never have beaten him.

I have never held it against Shadegg or any other candidate for breaking a term limits pledge.  What once seemed a good idea to many would have resulted in a less experienced Congress, where institutional knowledge and power would devolve to staff, lobbyists, the bureaucracy, and the press, as well as other branches of government.

I do, however, believe that members of the national legislature should bring experience to Washington as rich and diverse as the country they represent.

This means leaving Washington at an appropriate time, to live as an ordinary citizen under the laws you have made.

I do not think that John Shadegg should be done with government.  I fully expect and hope to see him in the United States Senate, ideally alongside Jeff Flake, taking the fight against runaway government from the back benches of the House to the heights of power.  John McCain has every incentive to resign, lest the Democrats who control the Senate force him to vote (or not vote) on measures aimed to cleave him from his party or the public.

Having said that, his words of last week represent a bell too loud to unring.  What to make of the following statements?

” All in all, it was never my intention to be a professional politician.”  Working for a living doesn’t sound so great after all.  It is now my intention to be a professional politician. 

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the Republican nominee for this seat will win in November.” He said this was based on polling data, and this takes the wind out of the best reason for him reversing course. 

“After deep reflection and consultation with my family, I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election this fall.” After two days of facing the prospect of billable hours, I am scared to death to let go of the levers of power.

Is this the kind of decisiveness we’re looking for?  Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest president in American history, felt he would trade a limb to go back on an old promise to follow the Washingtonian precedent and only serve two terms.  But abide that promise he did.

Last week John Shadegg announced his retirement–January of 2009–with grace, and listed some really good reasons for doing so.  To reverse course would be inconsistent with everything I know of the man, and the way he has conducted himself in public life.  Those poised to enter the race to replace him represent some of the very best Arizona has to offer.  Those ready to run for lesser offices vacated in the wake of your decision  are our future.  Give them a chance.

It must be flattering for 130 of your colleagues to urge you to stay.  That’s better than the 40 votes you received to be Majority Leader, and much better than your subsequent race for Minority Whip.

Reversing course now would violate a central principle of our Republic.  We are a nation of law and democratic institutions, not of men.  No man, however great, is indispensible.  As your erstwhile colleague JD Hayworth said best, “The House is not a home.”

Shadegg Replacement Roundup

This post will attempt to analyze the prospective challengers in the race to replace John Shadegg in CD3, and will hopefully serve as an interesting forum for discussion. I am only including people who might really run, not just people who are involved in politics and live in the confines of the 3rd district.

First the top three:

Jim Waring

Jim’s greatest advantage will be the sheer number of voters that he has already met. Scuttle has it that he had personally collected over 2,000 signatures for his expected 2008 Senate re-election. His yearly total of door contacts has been estimated to be in the neighborhood of 4,000 voters. Add to that his sponsorship of popular and attention getting bills, from legislation battling DUI and domestic violence to supporting veteran’s services. Waring is also no slouch when it comes to fundraising; he has over $100,000 in the bank (though none can be used in a Congressional race).

His head start (having personally met more voters over the past 6 years than his opponents will in the entire campaign), fundraising ability, and tremendous work ethic will make him the candidate to beat.

Waring is expected to announce soon and resign his Senate seat to campaign full time.

Sean Noble

Shadegg’s Chief of Staff, he has been with the Congressman since the beginning. He’s considered one of the best campaign operatives in GOP circles, but I’m not 100% sure why. He managed the losing end of the most lopsided governor’s race in Arizona history. Nathan Sproul is rumored to be running his campaign, which would be fine if his were the only name on the ballot. On the plus side, Sean is a handsome guy with a beautiful young family. He clearly knows the district and the issues. If Shadegg were to endorse and go to the mat for him, he would raise serious money. The question is how he supports such a big family while running the kind of campaign it would take for him to win.

Noble’s knowledge of the district, including the donor and volunteer lists of his boss, make him a top three candidate.

Dean Martin

I can’t believe he’s doing it, but his rumored candidacy just will not die. Dean is a statewide elected official, the Treasurer for only one year. He would have to resign merely to compete in a crowded primary. Dean would also probably forgo any chance of running for governor in 2010, in which an other presumptive front runner, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, has done everything humanly possible to minimize his chances of winning.

One thing I have always liked about Dean, and what makes him unique, is that he is not remotely risk averse. In 2000, he took on an incumbent state senator, Sue Grace, who retired rather than face him. With a week to go before the filing deadling, Tom Horne, the longtime state representative and school board member, told him “Thanks for chasing Sue out. Now I will run for the senate and you will run for my house seat.” At age 25, Dean took on a well funded (before Clean Elections) longtime legislator rather than accept an uncontested race for the House. That is gutsy!

His name is Dean Martin, and he can probably raise some decent money (and he’s the type who wouldn’t hesitate to spend whatever personal money he has). He also smartly positioned himself as the head of the Arizona Fair Tax organization, which includes thousands of members (many of them well heeled); this could bring some national money into play, as it did for Mike Huckabee.

The rest:

Ed Winkler

The Mayor of Paradise Valley is expected to announce his candidacy tonight. Presumably he can raise some money, as the mayor of Arizona’s toniest city. Does anyone know anything else about him? Being mayor of a small town that is synonymous with excessive wealth is probably not the best platform for launching a Federal campaign. I’d be curious to learn more about where he stands on the issues, and how he intends to differentiate himself from the pack.

Money is his only discernable potential advantage, and with at least three contenders poised to raise serious bucks, I don’t give him much of a chance.

Pam Gorman

The Pam of 2004 would have been formidable; a young, attractive Christian Conservative soccer Mom. Beating Clancy Jayne and Ted Carpenter is probably not the kind of experience that prepares you for a race like this. Her alliance with Chris Baker, who I consider one of the finest and most underrated consultants in Arizona would undoubtedly help her (never forget what an upset Trent Franks’ 2002 victory was). Additionally, candidates managed by Baker seem to magically meet the criteria necessary to get money from the Club for Growth.

Does she know the issues? Would she do the work? Much better to stay in the Senate.

Peggy Neely

Yawn. Too liberal. She would have to resign, and would quickly thereafter find out how many donors would be knocking down her door (none). Rezoning dirt for developers is probably not the record you’d want to run on, and her 100,000,000 giveaway for City North makes me sick.

Jordan Rose

Rezoning dirt for big developers (from the other side of the table) is probably not the right platform for making this race. She has tremendous personal wealth, but Waring, Noble, Martin, and perhaps Winkler will be spending enough money to win.

Supervisor Andy Kunasek has taken himself out of the race, as has former state Representative Deb Gullet. Phil Gordon isn’t going to pull the trigger, as running would require him to give up his office, though I would love the primary fight between him and Bob Lord.

Who am I leaving out? What candidate strengths and weaknesses am I missing?

As a parting thought, everyone needs to stop freaking out. Yes, Bob Lord has 500k cash on hand. He has also blown 100k, an indication of how he will spend our money in Congress. People report that he’s awkward, he won’t knock like he needs to, and has spent his career as a tax attorney. The Republican advantage is the same as in CD 5, and it took no less than the perfet storm of candidate Harry Mitchell, running in 2006, AGAINST JD Hayworth to barely eke out a win. We are going to keep this seat, especially with John McCain at the top of the ticket.

Shadegg to retire

John Shadegg will announce his retirement from Congress today. Senator Jim Waring is a likely candidate, as is Shadegg staffer Sean Noble, who nearly moved to CD 5 to challenge Harry Mitchell. Waring has a record of sponsoring popular bills, from a variety of measures to combat drunk driving to banning taxpayer financed political advertising. He’s also a notoriously hard worker, who meets thousands of his constituents at their doors every year, and as of the latest rounds of filings leads the State Senate in fundraising. Noble will have to work harder to introduce himself to the public, making the difficult transition from staffer to candidate, but he’s a skilled political operative and it’s likely Shadegg will work hard to help him succeed. For now, I’d give the edge to Waring.

Tom Horne and Dean Martin have been mentioned as candidates in the event Shadegg were to retire, but his surprise 2008 retirement would force either to give up a statewide office for the mere chance to run.

Who else could get in this race? What is everyone else thinking?

Iowa and beyond

Congrats to Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee on their decisive wins last night.  Interestingly, I correctly predicted the order of the top three Democrats, but failed to predict how my own church community would turn out (60% of GOP caucus goers described themselves as “born again” or “Evangelical”) and how solidly they would support Huckabee (Without this group, Huckabee finished a distant third behind Romney and McCain).

Here’s what I think happens next:

1.  Barack Obama is tied for first or leading in New Hampshire.  On the strength of his victory in Iowa, coupled with voters who previously supported other candidates, and with the strong independent presence in the state, he beats Hillary Clinton here and beats her good.  Clinton has a strong lead in Michigan at the moment, which as we speak is evaporating.  Though she has 100% name ID among primary Democratic voters, her numbers in MI are below 50%.  Jesse Jackson won Michigan in 1988, and after wins in IA and NH, Obama should win here as well.  The contest then moves to South Carolina, where 50% of the primary electorate is black.  Clinton is a candidate whose nomination is based on inevitability and is thus illusory, and if she loses the first four states, or three out of the first four, she will be mortally wounded (though I can see her fighting to the last state).

2.  Edwards is broke and will get smashed in New Hampshire (he finished fourth here after a much more impressive 2004 Iowa Caucus finish).  Obama has won the sub-primary to be the anti-Hillary, and Edwards’ residual support will start to abandon him even before his upcoming departure from the race.

3.  What is Fred Thompson’s argument now?  That he won third by less than 300 votes out of 100,000 votes cast against a guy (McCain) who was barely trying?  That he is completely out of money, but can withstand a single digit finish in New Hampshire?  That he can hang on until South Carolina, where he will win because, when he deigns to go out and meet voters, he sounds like them?  This guy was in way over his head and seems eager to leave the race.  If he does get out, expect him to endorse his friend John McCain (who he supported in 2000 and actually raised money for THIS cycle).

4.  John McCain had a great night.  He finished under 300 votes out of third in a state where nothing was expected of him (he got 5% of the vote in 2000, 13% last night).  His only significant contender in the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney, lost the caucuses by 9 points last night.  Although the independents that made up the bulk of his 2000 margin over Bush will likely desert him for Obama, remember that McCain actually won among Republicans in that election, only by a smaller margin.  Once McCain wins New Hampshire (and proves his viability), I am predicting that Republican primary voters will coalesce behind him.  Romney is too calculating, having switched positions on abortion, guns, gay rights, and immigration, so calculating that he refused to pardon a war hero so that he could join the police force (his crime was shooting someone with a BB gun when he was 13; the “victim” favors the pardon).  Even if voters are past all of that, some refuse to help legitimize a religion they see as a cult.  Rudy Giuliani is and always has been wrong on abortion, wrong on guns, wrong on immigration, and wrong on marriage.  His three marriages, flagrant adultery and estrangement from his children are not what people are looking for.  Mike Huckabee’s record of tax increases in Arkansas make him a non-starter for many (because they were achieved with overwhelming popular support and with Republican votes in the legislature, and because he has signed the “no taxes” pledge, this doesn’t matter to me).  Huckabee granted clemency to over a thousand criminals, substituting his judgment for that of prosecutors, judges, and juries, and ignoring the wishes of victim’s families.  Many of them lost little time in re-offending.  Huckabee also ignores the benefits of free trade, another nail in his coffin with free market Republicans, and has no demonstrable foreign policy skills in the midst of a global war on terrorism.  Despite people’s reservations with McCain, and I acknowledge there are many, he’s always been pro-life, has unequaled experience on national security and international relations, was against profligate government spending before it was cool, and he is a strong general election candidate.  He won in Michigan in 2000, and can do so again after a strong New Hampshire finish.  Huckabee looks strong in South Carolina right now, but his star may dim after severe beatings in New Hampshire and Michigan.  If McCain wins NH, MI, and SC, I expect him to run the table.

As always, I want to hear what you think.

Iowa Predictions

What an election cycle this has been, and promises to be!  After all is said and done, I am making the following predictions for tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses.

Republicans

1.  Mitt Romney

At the end of the day, he worked too hard, spent too much money, and successfully distinguished himself from his closest competitor.  His turnout operation is top notch and professional, and his relentless campaigning in the state will lead him to edge out a first place victory.

2.  Mike Huckabee

I respect his decision to pull the negative ad he had planned against Romney, even as he did it in the most hamhanded way possible.  At a minimum, he needed to respond to Romney’s attacks against his record on taxes, immigration, and executive clemency, even if he didn’t go negative in the process.  He’s a warm and funny family man and a Bible believing Christian, and much as I would like to vote for him, his lack of foreign policy chops, protectionist trade beliefs, and disturbing record on pardons prevented him from sealing the deal with me.  He should have assembled the biggest group of former State, Defense, and NSA officials that he could find, and held a major speech detailing his views on international relations.  A second place finish here, coupled with a dismal showing in New Hampshire ends the Huckaboom.  Look for him on the ticket, as he nicely compliments any of the three potential nominees, who will need to shore up support among base voters.  At 52, I think he has a bright future ahead of him in any event.
3.  John McCain

Fred Thompson has run the most lazy, lackluster, boring and disappointing campaign in memory.  McCain’s return to viability, as evidenced by numbers both nationally and in early primary states, will have an impact on voters, as will the numbers showing him running a strong general election campaign.  He’s got the momentum and Fred doesn’t, and that should be good for a third place finish here.  The Bronze medal in Iowa will be a major subject of chatter over the next week.  Thompson will almost certainly drop out of the race and endorse McCain when Iowa is done.  Even if Huckabee loses tomorrow, I expect McCain will be the winner of the New Hampshire primary.
Democrats

1.  Barack Obama

With strength in the population centers, he the second choice of many (supporters of candidates who don’t reach 15% in the Democratic caucus can vote for their second choice in the next round of voting).  It looks as though his attempts to expand the universe of voters have been bearing fruit, and he’s spent the money in the state to make this happen for him.

2.  John Edwards

Edwards has strength in rural Iowa (which has disproportionate weight in the caucus), and a strong network originally put together for his 2004 presidential bid.  It’s a tough call putting him second to Obama, and he is also the second choice of many voters.  Obama’s freshness and spending advantage, along with the dramatic increase in turnout, leaves Edwards behind.
3.  Hillary Clinton

Love her or hate her, nobody is truly re-evaluating her after roughly 17 years in the spotlight.  Her supporters will stay with her, but almost nobody lists her as a second choice.  Why her campaign hasn’t been actively lowering expectations in Iowa is beyond me, but she’s looking at a third place finish here.

What do you guys think?

Poll puts Romney ahead in key category (satire)

Watch this hillarious video from America’s Finest News Source, The Onion.

Senator Waring calls for cell user’s Bill of Rights

I’m not going to waste your time blogging about why we need this bill. If you are a user of that cutting edge communications device known as a cell phone, then you are probably familiar with your provider’s modus operandi of lousy (or suddenly dead) connections, dropped calls, inexplicable charges, rude and inattentive customer service, phones that break for no reason (and always for that one cause not covered by your warranty or insurance), and my personal favorite, contract extension blackmail.

If not, can you please give me the name of your provider?

Susan Bitter-Smith, the telecommunications lobbyist and perennial Congressional candidate, was successful in defeating protections for cell phone user’s in the previous session. Waring has a track record of getting major legislation through, from reigning in uninsured drivers, protecting the public against intoxicated ones, and GPS monitoring of sex offenders, to name just a few, often over the objections of industry mercenaries.

This one has a real chance. Email Senator Waring at Jamesfwaring@yahoo.com with your support or cell phone nightmare story, and get in touch with your legislators.