Rep Bob Thorpe Deserves Better

The Republican Primary in Arizona’s LD-6 Senate race has taken some unconventional twists and turns. Turns, because State Senator Sylvia Allen, drawn to spend more time with her children and family in Snowflake, decided not to seek re-election earlier this year but then suddenly changed her mind, some say not by choice and under a lot of pressure by operatives. Twists, because GOP “leaders” and self-appointed kingmakers in the district are rumored to have issued primary support and endorsements to keep Allen in the race.

In the House, Representative Bob Thorpe is term-limited and planning to seek the Senate nomination and seat in 2020. The primary was already set between Thorpe and Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers until Allen did an about-face.

State Representative Bob Thorpe

According to reliable sources, Republican donors and activists met in Payson on June 15th behind closed doors where they decided to intervene in the primary against all Republican standards and practices. During the meeting led by Sedona Republicans Dwight and Andrea Kadar, Thorpe was asked to leave the room while Allen remained. Under tremendous pressure, Allen was told to get back in the race as she fought back tears.

What emerged was an endorsement of Sylvia Allen; a dictate not to support Thorpe through money and manpower; and likely, State Senate and House leadership support to help Allen win the primary (probably through a rare employed primary PAC committee). Thorpe’s political consultant even bailed on him and is probably expected to run (and benefit) from the leadership PAC against Thorpe.

Apparently, party leaders are trying to clear the field for Sylvia Allen in order to make it easier for her to keep the seat.

State Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

What is ironic in all this is Sylvia Allen (who this blog is actually a fan of) and her promoters should remember how party leadership treated her back in 2010 when a handful of Eastern Arizona “kingmakers” tried to run her out of the Republican Primary in LD-5. At the time, Allen who had replaced the late Jake Flake and won the seat in 2008, was challenged by Bill Konopnicki. Party leadership wanted Allen out and Konopnicki in but the voters saw things differently. After her two-year term, Allen returned to local government as a county supervisor while rancher Chester Crandell ran and won the seat in 2012.

In August, 2014, State Senator Chester Crandell died suddenly in a horseback riding incident. Allen was chosen to replace Crandell on the ballot where she was once again elected to the Arizona State Senate.

But this post is not about Sylvia. It’s about Bob Thorpe and how he has every right to run for the seat without party leadership’s heavy-handedness. And while this blog has been critical of Thorpe’s legislation, the self-appointed LD-6 political kingmakers should back off, stop pressuring Sylvia to stick around and to let the race play out. Bob Thorpe deserves better and a shot at the nomination. We hope he stays in the race.

Kelli Ward’s First Quarter to Forget

By Calamity June

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

It has been nearly 3 months since Kelli Ward took the helm of the Arizona Republican Party. While she’s changed the letterhead and, apparently, spent tens of thousands of dollars on a costly and unneeded renovation, her list of accomplishments sadly end there.

Instead, the robust fundraising that the party has enjoyed since 2013 has ground to a halt. According to the Arizona Republic, the party has seen the lowest 1stquarter fundraising total in 18 years, while spending has gone on unabated.

When Kelli Ward assumed the chairmanship in late January, she inherited a cash balance of approximately $500,000, and was poised to use that money to build bridges across  the various factions of the GOP.

Instead, she did what many feared she would. She chased out the staff that had led the AZGOP’s historic fundraising and organizational successes, replacing them with at least one staffer who had a history virulently racist statements; she squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars on vanity projects like a refurbished office; and has used her platform to take stances completely at odds with what thee party should be doing.

Her first public statement at chairman was a gratuitous attack on Governor Ducey. And tomorrow, she plans to hold a press conference to favor placing a tax hike on the ballot. In doing so, she is putting herself at odds with hundreds of loyal, grassroots Republicans, as well as many legislators and Republican elected officials. This is simply not the role of the Arizona Republican Party chairman.

Instead of attacking the governor or supporting an increase in taxes, perhaps Kelli Ward should spend more time improving the party’s dismal fundraising. She’ll have an opportunity to do just that at tomorrow evening’s legislative salute. Last year the Salute raised over $500,000. I’m sure Republican candidates across the state are anxiously watching whether Kelli Ward can match or exceed this number. (Spoiler Alert: She’ll do neither)

Grover Norquist, the stalwart President of Americans for Tax Reform, perhaps put it best when discussing Republicans who favor tax hikes of any kind.

“Republicans who vote for tax increases are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand. They don’t just hurt themselves,” Norquist said.

Norquist then laid out a scenario in which “you get two thirds of the way through your bottle of Coke and there’s a rat head in what’s left of your Coke bottle.” If this happens, Norquist explained, you’re definitely not going to finish the bottle, you may never buy Coca-Cola again, and the company brand is “damaged.”

This sounds a lot like what Kelli Ward is doing to the Arizona Republican Party. On second thought, that might now be fair. To the rat. 

Vote NO Against Bob Thorpe’s Amendment to HB2269

Rep Bob Thorpe
Rep Bob Thorpe

Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe has snuck in a bill that would limit who could serve in the Arizona Legislature. The Flagstaff Republican used a strike everything maneuver to scrap a bill that would have provided funding for DPS officers who live in remote areas.

Now the strike everything amendment, HB2269, will impose serious limitations on who can serve in the Arizona Legislature based on “physical domicile residency.”

Thorpe’s “striker” bill states that anyone seeking to serve in the Arizona Legislature must physically be domiciled in the jurisdiction for 75% of the year preceding the filing date to seek the office. In other words, 274 days before a candidate files for the legislature, he/she must be physically living in their address within the district.

This is bad public policy and anyone who holds a decent understanding of constitutional law knows physical domicile requirements are absurd and won’t hold up in court.

Imagine a teacher from Prescott who returns home to Legislative District 1 from an overseas mission trip where she taught English for a year and was able to vote as an overseas registered Prescott voter. Although she has been registered to vote for three plus years and meets the residency requirements to serve, Thorpe’s law would automatically disqualified her to serve in the Legislature.

This bad public policy would disqualify many good and qualified individuals. Here is a brief list of who could be affected:

  • Missionaries
  • Members of the military
  • International NGO Aid workers
  • Airline workers
  • Maritime workers
  • Long haul truckers
  • Border Patrol employees
  • Overseas contractors
  • Wildland Firefighters
  • Exchange students
  • Business travelers
  • Individuals who take extended vacations

The list goes on…

Several years ago, my friend Jonathan Paton ran for the legislature in southern Arizona’s LD-30. Jonathan had also volunteered for the Army Reserves in 1999. In 2006, Uncle Sam finally came calling activating 2nd Lt. Paton for duty to Iraq. He left in August for six months but still won re-election and returned to the Legislature in February, 2007. Leading up to his activation, Jonathan had to prepare and train and that took him outside of his district. The same is the case for many military reservists who balance serving in the military against serving in the legislature.

Last week, Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269 received a do pass recommendation from the Senate Appropriations Committee with a 6-3 vote. Unfortunately, the bill advanced and is scheduled for further action and more votes in the House and Senate.

There is still time to contact your state senator and representatives and tell them to vote against Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269. The legislation is bad policy and it disenfranchises and disqualifies highly qualified people from seeking a seat in the Arizona Legislature.

Call your legislators today and tell them vote NO on Thorpe’s striker amendment to HB2269.

Phoenix taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the Suns’ arena

By Boaz Witbeck 

The Phoenix City Council is considering whether to spend $150 million in taxpayer money on a plan to renovate the Phoenix Suns’ Talking Stick Resort arena.

At a recent public meeting, supporters of the plan argued that it’s worth $150 million to keep the team downtown.

Wanting to keep our beloved Suns in Phoenix is understandable, especially with the owner at one point threatening to move the team out of the city. But a taxpayer handout isn’t the way to do it. We would all do well to listen to Phoenix resident Greta Rogers, who told the City Council last December, “We [Phoenix residents] are not in the business of paying taxes to support private enterprise.”

Ms. Rogers is right. Government should not be picking and choosing winners in the private sector. In her words, “They can support themselves or fail on their own lack of diligence.” In that spirit, we urge the City Council to reject the plan when they vote Jan. 23.

Since 2006, politicians across North America have spent $11 billion in taxpayer funds on 54 ballparks, arenas, and stadiums.

Taxpayers forked over $430 million for the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center. They paid $305 million for the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. And they’re on the hook for $250 million for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena. The list goes on.

Most of this spending – $9.3 billion worth – occurred without any taxpayer approval.  The people footing the bill had the opportunity to vote on funding for just 15 facilities. Only eight won voter approval.

Politicians like to claim that using taxpayer funds to build or renovate arenas will stimulate the local economy. The facts, however, say otherwise. 

One study unambiguously concluded, “there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.”

On the contrary, economics professors from the College of Holy Cross note that teams and stadiums propped up by taxpayer funding can actually choke off local economic activity. People spending money to go to games might have less money to spend at the local theater or might be deterred to go to eat out because of all the traffic from a sporting event.

Funding for stadiums can also crowd out expenditures for important public services and bust municipal budgets. Sometimes that money is wasted on arenas that sit empty. Houston’s Astrodome, which was built with $31 million in public funds and left the county millions of dollars in debt after being condemned for code violations. Despite all of this, last year Harris County approved another $105 million in taxpayer funds for renovations. The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis sits empty, leaving the taxpayers of Missouri paying $144 million in debt and upkeep costs until 2021 – in part because Los Angeles is subsidizing a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams, the team that left St. Louis.

In an ideal world, owners wouldn’t threaten to leave cities unless they get a taxpayer handout and politicians wouldn’t cave to their demands. Local officials need to always remember they’re supposed to look out for our interests.

Spending our hard-earned money on bad investments is not in our interest.

We Americans love our sports teams. But we shouldn’t allow politicians to use those attachments to benefit the well-connected at our expense.    

Boaz Witbeck is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Arizona

Removal of Pancho Villa Statue Denied

A conservative watchdog group’s attempt to have a downtown Tucson statue removed was denied after a unanimous vote last week by the Public Art and Community Design Committee.

The 14-foot bronze statue of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa on a horse stands in Veinte de Agosto Park. The statue was a gift to the state of Arizona from the Mexican government and a Mexico press group.

The removal request was submitted by Washington, D.C. based Judicial Watch as the group received complaints from multiple residents. City records do not indicate that a public hearing was held to hear complaints prior to the statue having been unveiled in 1981.

Mark Spencer, the Phoenix-based coordinator of Judicial Watch’s Southwest Projects, said the statue “needs to go” because “Pancho Villa did great harm to people.”

After the vote concluded, Spender said he would consult with his legal team to ensure that the panel adhered to city policies.

In charge of managing the city’s public art collection, the committee said the request did not meet any of the 10 criteria used to consider removing public art, such as damage or a request from the artist.

During the meeting, a dozen residents gave statements defending the statue, pointing to its aesthetic value and role in celebrating local Mexican-American culture.

“We don’t want to forget that history, that history that is grounded in Mexican-ness,” said Lydia Otero, a professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona. “Each person that walks up to the statue has to ask questions about why this statue is here, right downtown. And they have to come up with their own answers. You know why? Because we are Tucson and it is complicated.”

Reposted from All About Arizona News.

Voters Deserve Opportunity to Decide if More Light Rail is Right for Phoenix

Building A Better Phoenix

It has been almost a month since our grassroots group—Building a Better Phoenix—turned in 40,000 signatures to give voters an opportunity to stop the disastrous $7 Billion dollar expansion of light rail in the city of Phoenix. 

Gathering twice the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in under 8 weeks was an extremely difficult task and would not have been accomplished without the hard work of concerned residents and small business owners throughout the city. The overwhelming support from the public has humbled us and shows how people from all different backgrounds can come together to help save a community.

We have also learned that our battle against the endless amounts of misleading information being published about our group and the alleged benefits of light rail has only begun.

Contrary to lies being told by politicians and rich special interests, we are not being led by the Koch Brothers or any other group. Building a Better Phoenix decided early on that we would not accept funding from any outside group to pay for the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. This is a promise that we have kept. Unlike the opponents to our ballot measure that won’t disclose who is funding their misinformation campaign, we have been transparent throughout our signature gathering efforts.

It is also evident that the backers of light rail are now trying to sell the project on its fabricated economic benefits. If light rail is as good as they claim, then why were we kept in the dark about the South Phoenix extension reducing Central Avenue from four lanes to two? Why weren’t we told about the increase levels of crime light rail would bring? Why weren’t we notified that the traffic restrictions along the light rail line would cripple small businesses and make it extremely difficult for emergency vehicles to access our neighborhoods?

All we are trying to do is save our community from a stagnant permanent fixture that will increase crime, traffic congestion and bankrupt countless small businesses, many of which have been around for decades. It’s not that we are afraid of change. Change is great as long as it is a positive change. 

Seeing that most residents agree with our concerns, it appears that Valley Metro and Phoenix politicians are now preparing to ignore the will of the voters and move forward with the construction of the South Phoenix light rail line early next year. The message is clear: they don’t care what the public thinks or if the project is rejected at the ballot box, they intend to build it anyways. 

Their position is unbelievably arrogant and would put our transportation tax dollars at risk. It only makes sense that all planned light rail projects are postponed until after the vote. We hope that Phoenix and Valley Metro reconsider their reckless position and listen to the voters.

Our goal from the beginning was to give the residents of Phoenix an opportunity to cast an informative vote on either spending billions more on light rail or instead use those funds on other much needed transportation projects. We are proud that we have made it this far, and look forward to engaging in an honest, factual debate on the issue.   

Susan Gudino is treasurer for Building a Better Phoenix and is a South Phoenix resident. For more information on Building a Better Phoenix, please visit www.buildingabetterphx.com

Representative Mark Finchem Introduces Bill to Create Teacher Code of Ethics Prohibiting Political Advocacy in the Classroom

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Representative Mark Finchem (R-11) has introduced legislation (HB 2002) that requires the State Board of Education, in coordination with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to create a code of ethics for teachers that prohibits political, ideological, or religious advocacy in the classroom. While the practice is already prohibited in Arizona State Statutes, there is no code of conduct or code of ethics.

“HB 2002 is a response to many calls from parents to end political activity in the classroom,” said Representative Finchem. “I respect the important role that teachers play in society, but this is a parental authority matter. If parents want to shape the political views of their children, that is their right. However, it is not the proper role of the state and, by extension, teachers.”

“I have good friends who are teachers and they tell me that although they do not promote political agendas in their classrooms, some of their peers do.A code of ethics prohibiting political activity in the classroom shouldn’t be an issue if that behavior isn’t presently happening. But where it is, it needs to come to an end.”

Kelli Ward: The Lonely Leader of #NeverMartha Republicans

By Calamity June

Ever since Donald J Trump became the Republican Party’s standard bearer, a counter movement known as “#NeverTrump sprung up to stop the freight train of the Trump movement. These “Never Trumpers were not liberal Democrats, however. They were, and are, so-called Republicans, who just can’t stand the fact that President Trump defeated their favored candidate in the Republican primary.

In Arizona, we have a similar phenomenon that is every bit as destructive. “Never Martha” Republicans may well have cost the GOP a critical Senate seat. And thanks to this group of sore losers, we’re stuck with Kyrsten Sinema for six long years.

The #NeverMartha Republicans are led by Kelli Ward, who ran “one of the worst campaigns in recent memory.” For the 2nd political cycle in a row, Ward was overmatched, and soundly defeated in the Republican primary.

But that isn’t necessarily disqualifying. People run and lose all the time. Most candidates who fall short, however, have the decency and the desire to unite the party behind the GOP standard bearer, be it for President, Governor, or in this case, United States Senate.

But Kelli Ward? Not so much.

We had our first clue that Kelli would not be unifying the party when she refused to sign the AZGOP’s Unity Pledge. The vast majority of candidates, including Governor Doug Ducey and Congresswoman Martha McSally, signed the pledge immediately, signaling that they would be 100% supportive of the Republican nominee. But not Kelli Ward. Not only did she refuse to pledge her support for the GOP nominee, she engaged in a physical altercation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his staff, as she attempted to strong arm him from the race.

It got even worse after Ward’s terrible primary showing against Martha McSally. After garnering just 28% of the vote in the primary, Ward again refused to endorse McSally. While she eventually sent out a mealy-mouthed “endorsement” of the Republican ticket, her actions made clear her disdain for party unity and her commitment to the #NeverMartha agenda. Despite the primary election being over, her campaign continued to sponsor an attack website on Congresswoman McSally, calling her “Martha McFake,” refusing to take it down until she was called out on social media last week. So for the final weeks of the campaign, as undecided voters looked for information about both candidates, there was a good chance they’d stumble upon an attack website, sponsored by none other than Kelli Ward.

Lest there be any question that Ward was working against Martha McSally, look at her actions just prior to early voting. In a September 26 facebook post, she directed her supporters to vote for the slate below. Nearly every Republican nominee is listed, except one: Martha McSally. Incredibly, Kelli Ward promoted a slate of candidates that excluded the Republican nominee for US Senate, who happened to be running against an avowed socialist with a history of disparaging Arizona.

As we all now know, the GOP lost the US Senate race by less than 2%. It begs the question: how many votes did Kelli Ward and her #NeverMartha minions cost our candidate…and why should anyone trust her to be a unifying voice when her entire history is one of division, backstabbing and negative attacks on fellow Republicans?

They shouldn’t. And they won’t.

Fair Arizona Independent Redistricting Citizen Committee Launched; Announces Former State Rep. Jill Norgaard As Chairman

Phoenix, Arizona – Fair Arizona Independent Redistricting (FAIR) is pleased to announce its formation and launch as a citizen committee dedicated to ensuring a fair, balanced and unbiased redistricting that accurately reflects the culture and values of the hardworking Arizonans who call our state home. In the coming months, FAIR will be meeting with community leaders, citizen workgroups, industry and faith community stakeholders, and subject matter experts. The 2021 redistricting will shape the next generation in Arizona’s future and FAIR is committed to seeing it done right.

“The 2020 census and 2021 independent redistricting are nearly upon us and it is imperative that those processes reflect Arizona’s unique and diverse citizenry in a fair and balanced manner, free from the influence of out of state power brokers and activists,” said FAIR Chairman Jill Norgaard. “The 2021 redistricting will shape the next generation in Arizona’s social, political and industrial future and the Fair Arizona Independent Redistricting citizens committee is dedicated to ensuring it is done with integrity.”

Arizona, like many states, must redraw its congressional and legislative districts every ten years to reflect changes in its population. Redistricting will take place in 2021 following the completion of the upcoming United States Census. Historically, the Arizona Legislature has controlled the redistricting process; however, in 2000 Proposition 106 was passed that delegated this power to a bipartisan independent commission. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent chair.

Fair Arizona Independent Redistricting (FAIR) is an independent citizen committee dedicated to ensuring a fair, balanced and unbiased redistricting that accurately reflects the culture and values of the hardworking Arizonans who call our state home. 

Two-Time Loser Seeks to Make it 3 for 3

By Calamity June

On Monday, as Arizonans returned to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, many must have thought that they were experiencing a tryptophan-induced flashback, as for the 3rd time in 3 election cycles, Kelli Ward announced that she was once again running for office.

Yes, the same Kelli Ward who was badly embarrassed by octogenarian John McCain in 2016. And the same Kelli Ward who failed to attract 30% of the vote in her bumbling and incompetent 2018 campaign against Sheriff Joe and Martha McSally. And yes, the same Kelli Ward who has shown herself to be nothing more than a pathetic, self-promoting politician who couldn’t campaign herself out of a wet paper bag.

And now Kelli Ward wants to lead the Arizona Republican Party?

Let’s review the role of the AZGOP chairman. First and foremost, the chairman must be a leader who brings together all factions of the Arizona GOP. Kelli Ward has never even garnered 40% of the Republican vote in Arizona, let alone anywhere near a majority. And her failed campaigns have been studies in division, personal insults and attacks on any Republican who doesn’t support her. In 2018, she refused to sign an AZGOP unity pledge, and famously would not even endorse our Republican nominee until over a month after the primary. In a race decided by less than 2%, how many votes did her immature pouting and dithering cost Martha McSally?

Next, the party chairman must be able to raise money, and lots of it. In the most recent campaign cycle, the party raised and spent over $10 million in support of Republican candidates. This is accomplished by reaching out to local, state and national leaders, garnering confidence from the donor community, and putting together a plan of action that donors can invest in. In contrast, Ward barely raised enough money in both of her failed campaigns to cover her overhead, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on out of state consultants and seeing her entire campaign team quit in protest. Her disastrous stewardship left her campaign in tatters, with over $100,000 in debt. It’s hard to see many donors investing in that sort of chaos.

Finally, the party chairman should be a winner. That certainly doesn’t describe Kelli Ward. She was such a a weak statewide candidate that a George Soros-funded SuperPAC actually tried to help her become the GOP nominee last summer. She squandered her opportunity to unify the GOP after Senator Flake announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, and despite being the only announcned candidate for montnh, failed to bring the party together. There’s a reason that the Arizona House Democrats reacted with glee to today’s announcement. After two failed statewide races, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking of Kelli Ward as a winner.

Sadly, the one talent Kelli Ward seems to possess is not really in the AZGOP job description.

To those who have a hard time turning away from a train wreck, the next two months should be riveting.

Kelli Ward or someone from her campaign is welcome to provide a guest opinion of their own for posting on Sonoran Alliance.