Robert Graham Seriously Entertaining US Senate Run

Former State Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party continues to fuel speculation that he will run for the US Senate in 2018.

In an interview with Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Graham told listeners, “it’s definitely not in the immediate plans…”

Robert Graham

Robert Graham

Graham then went on to criticize Senator Jeff Flake over his “stiff opposition” during the presidential campaign and now Flake being “openly against a lot of his [Donald Trump] agenda items.”

Robert Graham did stop short of acknowledging he will challenge Jeff Flake in the 2018 Republican Primary.

What gives this interview and potential Graham candidacy credibility is that it took place on a national radio show.

Timing is everything of course.

The recent announcement by Senator John McCain that he has a serious and aggressive form of brain cancer has already begun to create tremors across Arizona’s political landscape in anticipation of major seismic activity. An early retirement by Senator John McCain could lead to the appointment of his Republican replacement by Governor Doug Ducey. And that appointment could go off with a major shift in Arizona’s political tectonic plates.

Jeff Flake

Or not.

Governor Ducey could resign and cut a deal with his replacement Michele Reagan to have her appoint him to the position – an unlikely move.

Ducey could also appoint a sitting Republican congressman like David Schweikert (in a safe Republican district) or Martha McSally who may be defeated in 2018 (given the liberal demographics and volatility of CD-2). Either type of an appointment would result in a torrent of state senators, representatives or city officials released to fill that vacancy.

Perhaps the least tumultuous move could be the appointment of someone like Robert Graham.

Graham, who would have to run for the seat in 2018 alongside the other senate primary, would have the advantage of incumbency, an arsenal of Republican donors at his disposal and perhaps most importantly, the endorsement of President Donald Trump.

John McCain

John McCain (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

A Graham appointment also avoids a nasty Republican primary between Graham and Flake who have been political allies. Graham understands the formidability of the Flake machine and avoids that altogether in a parallel campaign.

That takes us back to the interview on NPR. Graham was very careful not to time stamp his answers. No one knows what Senator John McCain will do. Medical treatment takes time and the outcomes may give the senior senator more time to serve.

One thing is certain; Arizona political insiders are in uncharted waters in this political scenario because it has never happened with a US Senate seat here in Arizona.

Finally and most importantly, I want to offer my prayers to Senator John McCain and his family as he takes on another very tough battle. I wish him strength, courage and peace in the months and years ahead.

Non sibi sed patriae, Senator McCain.

Arizona Teachers Should Pay Off Debt BEFORE Retirement

A recent article in the Arizona Republic written by Alexa Chryssovergis caught my eye given that I now work in the world of public education.

Teachers across Arizona work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” gave several anecdotes of teachers who were struggling to survive just on their compensation. The article continued on the theme that Arizona public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. The data absolutely supports that.

One recurrent theme was that many teachers have student loans that they are struggling to pay off as part of their monthly budget.

Although the author provided no data as to the average student loan burden, stories I’ve heard (including during legislative testimony) reveal that teachers are carrying this form of debt that poses serious challenges to making ends meet.

However, what the article did not mention is that every public school teacher is forced to “contribute” 11.48% of their gross earnings into the Arizona State Retirement System. The contribution is mandatory but the rate is adjustable.

The bottom line is that teachers are paying student loan companies AND the State of Arizona retirement system before they even pay themselves.

In the wisdom of financial experts like Dave Ramsey, debt should always be paid off BEFORE putting money into a retirement account. And most student loan is manageable and can be paid down in a reasonable amount of time.

What if public school teachers were allowed to suspend their mandatory contributions to the Arizona State Retirement System in order to redirect that income toward paying down their student loan debt? This would lighten their financial burden, get them in the financial black and put them in a position to start building wealth with “gazelle intensity.”

Next year when the Arizona Legislature convenes, I hope to see several lawmakers sponsor a bill that gives teachers and other participants the option to suspend their mandatory contributions into ASRS so they can reduce or eliminate their student loan debt.

We all know that Arizona public school teachers are under compensated. Forcing them to divide their take-home pay between Sallie Mae and ASRS puts teachers further into a difficult financial position that sucks the joy out of doing their job.

Let’s give teachers a break by holding off mandatory contributions to the state until they dig out of student loan debt.

Big Decision for Arizona Republican Activists

Saturday, Republican State Committeemen have a big decision to make in choosing the next chairman.

I won’t be voting because I’m not a state committeeman. But I can speak from close and personal experience working for a state chairman.

The 2018 midterms are right around the corner and Democrats are amassing an army of volunteers and candidates to push back against President Trump on down to local dog catcher.

President Trump and the Republican Congress have less than two years to make major changes before Democrats try to seize power back. They won’t make the same mistakes they made in 2016.

This is why Republicans need to choose a chairman who can prepare for battle.

It can’t be someone who sits around the office all week talking about how wonderful it is to be in power again.

This person must know how to raise money and work with others who have money. The AZGOP will need to amass a huge war chest of cash.

I know from personal experience that there are those in the party who have money and those who don’t. If those who have the money believe that those who don’t, cannot play well, then those who don’t have the money, won’t get the money. You simply don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

I’ve seen this happen several times at both the county and state level.

Like it or not, that’s how it works.

If county or state leadership criticizes those who have the money, the county or state party gets starved.

I’ve even seen those who have the money set up para-GOP organizations and then run their money through it just to keep it out of the hands of those in county or state leadership. They will literally starve the party to get the job done.

The next chairman needs to understand this. The next chairman needs to work very hard. The next chairman must make an effort to work well with everyone in the party.

If Republican state committeemen do not pick a competent, hard-working, principled, conservative Republican tomorrow, the AZGOP will run out of resources, become a paper tiger and lose the midterm battle in 2018.

Republicans, don’t screw this up.

 

Thoughts On Selecting A Republican Party Chairman

It’s that time again when elected precinct and state committeemen convene to elect a new Republican Party Chairman here in Arizona. As required by law, new party officials are chosen every other year to lead the party into the next round of elections.

This year, I won’t be voting or participating in these elections. That’s because I am no longer a precinct committeeman. I walked away from party service last year after witnessing some of the worst political behavior I’ve seen in over 25 years that took place during a county GOP meeting. (Read my post here.) I don’t have the time or toleration to waste another Saturday participating in what should actually be reserved for real opposition – fighting the left.

Instead, I’m watching the process as party activists explain why they believe their candidate is best for the job.

Arizona Republican PartyGoverning and leading the Republican Party is something I would know about because I’ve actually worked for the Republican Party Chairman. And that was during a very active time including a state senator recall election, special congressional election, Arizona redistricting commission fiasco, presidential primary debate preparation in Mesa, state convention that didn’t go that well and of course, all that on top of a Primary and General Election season during a presidential election. A lot happened and what most party activists don’t realize is that these challenges could have been easier to handle and the outcomes could have been more successful if only the conflict had been minimized.

One other factor to mention -and it’s becoming increasingly important as times change. Political parties are striving to remain relevant. This was made abundantly clear during this last presidential election as a former Democrat who switched parties to become a Republican attacked the establishment with an independent message and won the GOP nomination. Layer that on top of the hard reality for Republicans and Democrats alike, that 33.97% of registered voters do NOT identify with either the Democrat or Republican party. In Arizona, where Republicans hold majorities in the legislature and statewide office, the future of political parties is unpredictable when the number of independent voters is about to take the lead.

This brings me to thoughts and advice when selecting a Republican Party chairman.

If I were to vote for this individual I would make my choice based on four criteria: vision, fundraising, cooperation and messaging.

Fundamental to good leadership is whether or not the leader is visionary. Governing, administering, fundraising, etc. will never be enough if the individual can’t cast a vision that inspires and motivates followers. The next party chairman will have to put forth a vision that is bigger than themselves, bigger than the party and inspires believers and even non-believers to buy into the future. Given the struggle for relevancy in this day and age, this will be the biggest challenge for the next chairman and it will enable and affect all the other roles. The next chairman will need to show the party faithful what the future looks like and not just tell them.

Fundraising capacity is critical. It’s very hard to move a movement forward without having the resources to pay for it. Telling the story and selling the vision costs money, lots of money. As they used to say in the space program, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.” Elections are big business. While candidates have to raise their own money, the GOP must amass a massive war chest in preparation for the get out the vote effort in the General Election. And this fundraising capacity is inextricably tied to the criteria of cooperation.

Chairmen who enter their role having run on a platform of conspiracy theories will find it extremely difficult to raise money. Burned bridges tend to stay burned. 

In party politics, cooperation is an asset not a liability. Team players are far more successful than solo artists who rise through the ranks by dividing and conquering. This means that chairmen must stay completely out of primary contests and hold their fire until the General Election. Impartiality, objectivity, even-handedness are imperative for party unity. And this capacity to cooperate is crucial to working with Republican officeholders. A party chairman might not like or agree with our senior Senator but he or she must put their personal differences and disagreements aside for the sake of party success.

Finally, as someone who works in the arena of communication, I cannot stress strongly enough the power of messaging. Perception is reality, especially in the world of politics. If you’re not defining who you are, your opponent certainly will and they will do so ruthlessly. (I learned this lesson personally during my time at the AZGOP.) Chairmen who sow drama and controversy, reap the same. Wasting precious time and energy putting out fires, robs resources from winning elections. Chairmen who are constantly in damage control mode don’t win elections.

Having worked as an activist in the culture war for many years, growing the movement is the most important thing one can do to move an agenda and score victories. The next chairman will need to be highly proficient in the art and science of political mathematics.

Effective movement-building and party-growing messaging must be based on addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.

Demographics in Arizona are changing. Much of the old guard is fading away into history. If Republicans want to remain relevant, they must acknowledge these demographic shifts and affirm the the values and principles that attracted people into the party: smaller limited government, lower taxes, under control spending, economic freedom and growth, safe communities, federalism, life and family-affirming values, religious freedom, educational choice and freedom, and strong national security. These are the values that appeal to millennials, Latinos and women.

I won’t be voting in the upcoming GOP party elections but I will be watching. Like many other Republicans who are tired of all the gratuitous drama, I’ll be reconsidering my party involvement based on how my fellow Republicans behave and who they choose for this important position.

So if you’re asking for my editorial advice on these party elections it would be choose wisely, fellow Republicans. Choose wisely.

Yuma Republican Leader May Announce for Arizona Republican Party Chair

Jonathan Lines

With the 2016 Election almost in the history books and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus heading to the White House as Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump, current Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham will likely be running for National Chairman of the RNC.

As Graham steps into a national role, the Arizona GOP will need to make a transition and continue with bold new leadership. Like it or not, Arizona demographics are changing and the party will need to affirm conservative values with new and non-traditional voters.

One of the faces and voices I’d like to see head up the party is my friend Jonathan Lines. Jonathan is a conservative businessman and loyal principled Republican from Yuma. His family roots grow deep in Arizona as his family settled in Yuma in the 1800’s. He is also a man of faith, family and enduring freedom.

I first met Jonathan when I served as the Communications Director for the State Party. I know him to be a man of integrity committed to Republican principles and broadening the party.

Rumblings of who will succeed Chairman Graham have already started. I’m hoping that Jonathan will join the race and my fellow Republican will witness why he would be the next best leader of the Arizona Republican Party.

I Was Wrong About The Election Of Donald Trump

Trump Victory

First, I must say I am very relieved that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. There certainly is a delicious pleasure in that victory.

Now, let me get the mea culpa out of the way.

Like many of my colleagues in the professional political consulting class, I was wrong about the election of Donald Trump.

Nearly every polls showed him losing – the pollsters were wrong.

Every time Donald Trump spoke, he polarized and divided groups of individuals. The public relations professionals were wrong.

Nearly every longtime Republican and conservative leader said he couldn’t win using his strategy. They were wrong.

I repeatedly said he needed to learn from the lessons of 2012 when it comes to millennials, women and minority groups and affirm their libertarian and conservative values. The leader of the Grand Old Party needs to pursue a mathematical strategy of addition and multiplication rather than subtraction and division if they want to grow the party. Apparently, there was some “new math” at work in this election.

During the last days of the election, I believed it came down which demographic groups would turn out for Donald Trump. Would women, Latinos and millennials overcome the intensity of angry, aging, white, blue-collar Americans? Donald Trump obviously heard the voices of the latter and hit a nerve.

Donald Trump managed to pull off one of the biggest political shocks in American electoral history and we, the political consulting class were wrong.

But while we may remain wrong on why Donald Trump got elected as our 45th President, we may very well be right about our earlier concerns.

Donald Trump has “caught the bus” and must now grasp the sobering reality of governance.

He must now surround himself with individuals who will help him with the gargantuan task of running the country. Those individuals will most likely come from the establishment. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie – all longtime Washington insiders and dare I note, members of the very “Establishment” class Donald Trump publicly excoriated. Will Trump’s die-hard supporters give him a pass over these selections? (Queue up “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.)

There are also the thousands of executive staff Trump will need to replace. Will he pull from the thousands of individuals with Washington experience who work as lobbyists, hill staffers and interest groups to fill those positions? Or will he bring in new blood from the heartland? I believe the former. Do you see where I’m going with this?

If President Trump truly wants to be successful, he needs experienced talent and there’s really only one pool to pull talented individuals – the establishment.

Candidate Donald Trump promised an agenda to make America great again during the campaign. Can President Donald Trump deliver on those promises? I believe he’s going to find it harder than he expected.

Do we really believe President Trump will be able to build an impenetrable wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it? Will President Trump sign an executive order banning all Muslims from entering the country? Can we expect President Trump to tear up NAFTA in one swift move?

His establishment cabinet and advisers are about to tell him just how hard governing really is.

The reality is President Trump has nothing to fear from the political left. He’s survived that battle and won. The real threat to a Trump administration is from those who wanted to burn Washington down. We’re about to find out how assimilated Donald Trump will become to the swamp he wants to drain.

Ted Cruz may prove right about Donald Trump’s northeastern values and mid-westerners may not be happy.

There is much to be hopeful and excited about however.

Republicans now control Washington, DC. Let me say that again. Republicans now control the Executive and Legislative branches of government. This is huge!

President Trump and the Republican Congress have a critical time frame to accomplish as much as possible and that starts with securing as much of the Judicial branch of government as possible.

The first 100 days of a Trump Administration means cleaning up the mess from the last eight and even 16 years. The Republican congress finally has a President who will not veto a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They need to drop that bill on Day 1.

President Trump has other monumental tasks that he can single-handily accomplish: rescinding the hundreds of executive orders of Barack Obama; tearing up the Iran Deal; changing leadership and overhauling the VA; reigning in the powers of the many regulatory agencies, and restoring morale among the men and women of our military branches. It’s a lot to do and he should not meet any resistance from a Republican Congress. In this area, he not only needs to be assertive. President Trump needs to be aggressive.

Getting the “relatively easy” tasks done quickly will allow President Trump to focus on his more long-term and ongoing agenda such as restoring the courts; protecting religious freedom; repealing Dodd-Frank; reorienting energy policy; rebuilding the military; reforming immigration; improving national infrastructure and improving international trade relations.

Finally, President Trump needs to avoid picking fights with Congress over politics. There is no time to waste on grudges or personality conflicts. The American people want major action and no drama. These types of antics will only send the GOP down a box canyon where they will be massacred in the 2018 mid-term elections.

While I was wrong about the election of Donald Trump, I hope I’m not wrong about President Trump. Like many movement conservatives, I will remain steadfast on principles and policy and speak up when I believe his administration is wrong.

Donald Trump deserves our congratulations, prayers and well-wishes. He has been chosen to carry out the single-most powerful job in the world and we must support him as the leader of the free world.

Congratulations President-Elect Donald Trump.

 

Today is Election Day – Now Go Vote!

Today is the General Election and the the future of public policy hangs in the balance.

Electing Hillary Clinton will continue the agenda of Barack Obama – more of the same and even worse.

Electing Donald Trump will change the face of the Republican Party.

The ideological composition of the United States Supreme Court hangs in the balance.

Face it, we have the worst candidates to choose from but we must still make a choice.

Please take the time to vote today.

If you’re looking for info on state and local candidates, you can go to the Center for Arizona Policy’s Arizona Voter Guide.

If you’re looking for information on Arizona judges, find it here.

Now go vote!

Donald Trump Must Step Aside

Donald Trump

I can no longer hold my tongue.

As a lifelong Republican who believes in a party that is far more principled on economic, international and social issues than the Democrat party, I can no longer diplomatically maneuver through the cesspool that our nominee has created.

Donald Trump must step aside.

Yes, Bill Clinton did some horrible things as President of the United States throughout the 1990’s. Many Americans gave him a second term despite all his liberal social policy positions and personal behavior. (I’m still angry at those who only cared about their wallets and gave Bill a pass when he was leading the charge in the collapse of our moral climate.)

But Bill Clinton is not running for President in 2016.

Don’t get me wrong. I will never vote to return Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House.

It has now come to the point of full repulsion when trying to defend Donald Trump as the nominee. From all the conversations I’ve had with other lifelong conservative Republicans, I’m not alone.

We’re now 30 days from the General Election and time is running out.

The latest horrifying and disgusting revelations about Donald Trump have doomed the Republican nominee to lose this election, badly.

Trump supporters wanted to “burn the house the down” and now their fire is out of control. Some are even throwing more gasoline on the fire.

Down ballot Republicans are doomed – unless they denounce and distance themselves from the top of the ticket. Even Governor Mike Pence must be in self-preservation mode as he considers his life on Wednesday, November 9th.

I still have a lot of pent-up anger toward Republicans who gave Trump the nomination. Many of my fellow conservatives and I did everything we could to warn voters that nominating Trump would be disastrous to the GOP. We got tired of warning, begging and shouting and shoved that anger deep down inside when he became the nominee.

It’s time for a justified outburst – before it’s too late.

Donald Trump must step aside.

Vote for Moses Sanchez for Maricopa County Community College District Board

I like to refer to my friend Moses Sanchez as the “Happy Warrior.” Moses is running for the Maricopa County Community College District Board this November and is someone who will bring positive conservative values and leadership to the board.

Moses Sanchez is the type of conservative we need in the Republican Party – a party we need to grow and expand if we want to affect positive change and bring new people into the party.

Moses Sanchez migrated to the United States from Panama with his parents and sister. He has served on active duty in the US Navy including a deployment to Afghanistan. He is currently serves in the reserves. He has a B.S. and MBA in Business Management and has taught economics at South Mountain Community College. He also serves on Tempe Union High School District Governing Board. He owns his own small business which helps other small businesses with social media.

Moses and his wife, Maria Manriquez, MD, have three children and three grandchildren. He is a man of faith and family and demonstrates a strong ethic in everything he does. And if you’ve seen his Snapchat videos, you know the man can seriously cook! (Read Moses’ full bio here.)

Moses is running in MCCCD (district) 1 which covers all of Ahwatukee, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert, Queen Creek and parts of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix. He is competing against two other candidates in the race.

Early ballots are scheduled to go out later this week. When you get your ballot, immediately go to the bottom of the ballot and mark your vote for Moses Sanchez.

Moses will bring strong, optimistic and conservative governance to the MCCCD and it’s why I ask you to vote for Moses Sanchez this election.

Visit Moses Sanchez’ website at www.MosesSanchez.com. And, follow Moses Sanchez on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Anti-McCain Republicans Still Not Anti-McCain Enough to Defeat McCain

 
A quick review of the Primary Election numbers on the Republican US Senate Race shows that Senator John McCain had no real threat of losing the nomination, again.

John McCain

John McCain

I went back and reviewed the official canvass from 2010 and compared those numbers with yesterday’s unofficial election results.

Here’s the comparison:

August 24, 2010 Republican Primary Election
John McCain – 333,744 / 56.25%
JD Hayworth – 190,299 / 32.07%
Jim Deakin – 69,328 / 11.68%

August 30, 2016 Republican Primary Election
John McCain – 251,068 / 51.65%
Kelli Ward – 190,618 / 39.21%
Alex Melusky – 26,805 / 5.51%
Clair Van Steenwyk – 17,649 / 3.63%
Assuming votes for any of the 2010 and 2016 challengers were “anti-McCain” votes, those votes were still not enough to overcome a re-nomination of McCain. However, those numbers rose in 2016.

2010 Primary
John McCain – 333,744 / 56.25%
Anti-McCain – 259,627 / 43.75%

Kelli Ward

Kelli Ward

2016 Primary
John McCain – 251,068 / 51.65%
Anti-McCain – 235,072 / 48.35%

Of course, this assumes that voter registration and turnout models are the same (which they are not). As you can see, John McCain collected 82, 676 fewer votes than he did in 2010. He also lost 4.6% of his edge among Republican voters.

What does this mean moving forward?

John McCain will likely face his most difficult General Election ever.

Ann Kirkpatrick

Ann Kirkpatrick

In her last campaign finance reporting, Ann Kirkpatrick disclosed she has $2.3 Million in the bank. John McCain’s last report showed just over $5 Million cash on hand. Assuming he’s depleted a portion of that amount fending off Primary challengers, and, the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee has allocated funds to Arizona, this will be McCain’s toughest campaign.

If we also consider the “Trump Factor” and the division in the Arizona Republican Party, Arizona Republicans run a higher risk of losing this US Senate seat to Ann Kirkpatrick.

Not surprising, those voting for Donald Trump may not vote for John McCain and those voting for John McCain may not be voting for Donald Trump.

I still see a divided Republican Party in Arizona between those who learned from the 2012 Presidential race and those who didn’t.

Republicans in Arizona are not united, and it’s still to be seen if they will be on November 8th.