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.

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.

Mesa Councilman David Luna Needs To Hear From You!

Since this is my blog, once in a blue moon I’ll ask a point of personal privilege. On this occasion, I’m posting on a specific neighborhood issue in Mesa.

Would you rather have warehouses, restaurants, apartments or homes?

I’ve held off making this post until I’ve had some information and facts on the issue. It’s time to spread the word and take some action.

The City of Mesa stands ready to approve or reject a plan to develop single-family homes on the southwest corner of Thomas and Recker Roads. The developer, Desert Troon and Wendell Beck, have already received approval from the Mesa Planning and Zoning Board to rezone the land from multi-use to residential but the Mayor and Council must sign off on the P&Z Board’s final recommendation. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 5th.

Typically, when the Council hears a planning and zoning item, the council defers to the councilperson who represents the area of the proposed item. In this case, that would be Councilman David Luna.

Last week (Tuesday, February 13), I reached out to Councilman Luna’s office requesting his position on the plan to develop the Thomas and Recker parcel. I asked for his thoughts and how he intends to vote on P&Z’s recommendation. One week later, I have not heard back from Councilman Luna.

I also asked my contact at the Red Mountain Social Club if a recent visit by Councilman Luna revealed anything about his position on the property. At their meeting on February 8th, Luna said that he opposed the rezoning and prefers to see the land kept multi-use with light commercial and restaurants on the property.

During the Planning and Zoning meeting, City of Mesa’s Economic Development Director, William Jabjiniak, pushed for the area to become class A offices and warehouses. He even disclosed that he is pushing for the construction of warehousing of up to 150,000 square feet so that Mesa can attract more industry to northeast Mesa. Jabjiniak believes the Planning and Zoning Board erred in its decision to rezone the parcel to single-family residential.

I also spoke with a neighbor in Red Mountain Ranch that also confirmed Luna’s position on the rezoning and what should be built on the land.

Those opposed to rezoning the land for homes fall into two camps. A small handful of Red Mountain Ranch residents want the land to remain vacant. the City of Mesa wants to build more offices, warehouses and light industrial on the land. Multi-use also means that high-density apartments could also be built on the land. You don’t have to look far to see what happened on the southwest area of Las Sendas where townhomes, a long-term care facility and a charter school are being built.

Because the owner of the property has sat patiently for twelve years, it’s highly doubtful that the land will remain vacant. Something will be built.

I’ve spoken with the owner and confirmed that other developers have approached him about building apartments. He told me that his goal is to build single-family homes in a secure gated community. Those plans are solid and even have a name – The Villas at Red Mountain.

Villas Red Mountain

I recognize the fact that the land will be developed and there are really only two choices – multi-use or residential.

If David Luna gets his way, the southwest corner of Thomas and Recker Roads will be turned into offices, restaurants, light industrial and maybe even apartments. Like many of my neighbors in Red Mountain Ranch, I believe this is the wrong place to build out more office space and warehouses. That area remains south of the 202 as part of the Longbow plan. Incidentally, during the P&Z meeting, Jabjiniak revealed that the large concrete building across from Boeing on Higley has no tenants or prospective tenants.

The choice is clear, the Mayor and Council should approve the final recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Board. The southwest corner of Thomas and Recker Roads should be developed as a quality single-family residential community. The Mayor and Council should sign off on the development of The Villas at Red Mountain.

Now it’s your turn.

Please call, email, write or visit Councilman David Luna’s office and ask him to approve the plan to rezone the land for single-family residential. Tell Councilman Luna that you don’t want to see or hear tractor trailers and fast food squawk boxes across the street at all hours. This area is right for only one type of development and that’s a quiet high-quality community.

I’d also ask you to contact Mayor John Giles and ask him to support our quiet residential community of Red Mountain Ranch.

Again, the Mayor and Council meet on Monday, March 5th at 5:45 to hear the rezoning case. The Planning and Zoning Board made the right decision when they approved request to rezone.

Please call Councilman Luna and Mayor Giles and ask them to support the plan to rezone. Then plan on attending the council meeting at 57 E 1st Street (map) at 5:45 on Monday, March 5th.

You have less than two weeks to make your voice heard!

Councilman David Luna
(480) 644-3771
district5@mesaaz.gov

Mayor John Giles
(480) 644-2388
mayor@mesaaz.gov

For information about the plans for The Villas at Red Mountain, visit their website at VillasAtRedMountain.com.

Justin Olson, Looking Ahead for Ratepayers

Justin Olson

Justin Olson

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson believes Arizona ratepayers should benefit from federal tax reform. For Olson, that means Arizona utility companies should pass their tax savings on to Arizona ratepayers.

Recent federal tax reform has resulted in big savings to corporations here in Arizona. In fact, that reform lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent leading to significantly lower expenses to utility companies. Olson, who serves on the Arizona Corporation Commission and oversees utility rates, wants to make sure those savings get passed on to you.

APS, Arizona’s largest utility provider, is already moving to lower customer bills by $119 million a year. Overall, that means an average saving to ratepayers of $4.68 per month. That’s a good start but it also means Arizona’s other utility companies must do the same. To make that happen, Commissioner Olson has asked that the full commission review and adjust rates downward for Arizona ratepayers.

Other commissioners are in agreement with Olson and taken steps to have other utility companies pass their tax savings on to you.

On Wednesday, January 31st, Commissioner Olson conducted a workshop to discuss the impact of federal tax reform on Arizona utility rates. A link to that workshop video and agenda can be found here. The video of the workshop is below.

Olson who has been an advocate for taxpayers for many years is leading by example. Arizona was the first to call for utility rate reductions and now other state commissions are following. It’s refreshing to watch conservative leadership remember who ultimately foots the bill and deserves to reap the benefits of tax reductions.

Thank you, Justin Olson, for your leadership and looking ahead for ratepayers.

 

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.

TODAY: Help the Trump Administration Repeal Title II

Earlier this year, new FCC Chairman Avit Pai began the process of rolling back Obama era regulations which put a choke hold on innovation and liberty. In 2015, the Obama Administration, in a textbook example of regulatory overreach, began applying Title II regulations to the internet. These regulations placed exceptionally restrictive burdens on internet and threatened to dramatically decrease high speed access and open competition.

Chairman Pai’s unequivocal support for a free and open internet is worthy of our applause and our support. Moreover, we should be sure to thank our entire Republican delegation in Arizona, for standing up to the Soros-funded left and backing this important regulatory rollback.

Far left groups, many funded by George Soros, have declared today a “Day of Action,” in a final desperate attempt to keep this onerous regulatory regime in place. Several large corporations are joining them, worrying more about their bottom lines than about the freedoms that the internet provides all of us.

We know that our Republican elected officials are going to be getting a tremendous amount of pressure to oppose Chairman Pai’s efforts. Let’s make sure they hear from us today, thanking them for holding the line for fairness and a free internet. You can contact them through UnlockTheNet.com where you will see links from free market groups so that you can contact your representatives.

Congressional action ensures that never again will a free an open internet be threatened by the whims of an overzealous executive. A legislative solution is the best way to keep the forces of over regulation and burdensome rule making from interfering with the commerce and innovation of the internet.

Chairman Pai and the Trump Administration are taking a crucial step in maintaining a free and open internet. Now it’s our turn to seize control and demand that Congress pass legislation that will maintain these freedoms for generations to come.

https://m.facebook.com/FreedomWorks/photos/a.10150681417619548.418729.5633824547/10155363399994548/?type=3&source=44&ref=page_internal

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.

‘School Choice Matters’ Ad Indicates Education To Be Top Issue In 2018

If you’re a Sunday Square Off viewer, you probably saw this political “thank you” ad air several times during the show. There was no “paid for” disclaimer but the ad was produced by the American Federation for Children.

The ad is airing to support and thank Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature for passing and signing Senator Debbie Lesko’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) legislation. The law now expands school choice (although capped) throughout Arizona.

During final debate, opponents (primarily the Arizona Education Association) whipped up cataclysmic hysteria over the bill. Casual observers would have thought Arizona public education was about to be nuked into oblivion.

School choice advocates were probably caught off guard by the rapid rabid response.

Thus, the American Federation for Children realizing the need to recover the narrative and refocus the debate on children and parental choice, injected itself into the debate.

Anyone watching the warmup for Arizona’s 2018 election cycle can see that next year’s top political issue will be education.

And at the center of that debate, stand Arizona teachers.

Get ready. Every political candidate will position himself/herself as an advocate and “friend of teachers.”

The data proves that Arizona teachers deserve to paid more and if that means unclogging the pipes and removing the administrative clogs to get more money into the classroom, then so be it.

As the Arizona Legislature wraps up the budget and 2017 session, Governor Ducey and lawmakers are poised at an advantage in controlling the message heading into 2018. How they address direct delivery of tax dollars into the classroom, handing out teacher raises and elevating respect for the teaching profession will establish the battlefield for next year’s election.

Republicans have the opportunity to own and make 2018 the “Year of the Teacher.” If they seize the day, Arizona taxpayers, parents, teachers and children will win.

 

Media apologies to Devin Nunes can start now

The Left’s defense of Susan Rice (haven’t we seen that phrase written somewhere before???) in the Trump spying case will follow two lines of argument.

One is that Rice, as President Obama’s national security adviser was “simply doing her job” when she began ordering the “unmasking” of, first, Trump campaign officials, then, post-election, Trump transition-team members. It’s not an outlandish defense, considering the wide latitude given intelligence officials like Rice to conduct surveillance.

The other line of defense is the Left’s remarkable capacity to simply ignore behavior that — were it anyone but St. Obama and  Friends — would prove unavoidably compelling to anyone with even modest curiosity.

Rice reportedly was asking for reports involving Trump associates as early as last summer, even before he was nominated. Before clamming up (as of the evening of April 4, she hadn’t made a statement), she appears to have lied about what she knew, claiming she knew nothing about information being incidentally collected on Trump transition officials.

No telling where this story goes, if anywhere. ABC and NBC news ran nothing Monday evening on the Rice revelations, while CBS national news issued a cloyingly sympathetic report that seemed prepared by Obama spin-meister Ben Rhodes, noting in the first paragraph that Rice simply needed “to understand the context” in which all these Trump people kept turning up (incidentally!) in all these surveillance reports — none of which, by the way, involved Russians.

Whatever comes of it, one thing that should come of it (in my perfect world) is an abject apology to Rep. Devin Nunes from all the media whose knee-jerk instinct was to mock the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after he announced having seen documents supporting Trump’s claims to have been spied upon by the Obama administration.

The story line was all about Nunes’ trip to the White House, while mostly indifferent to what Nunes claimed to have found.

The Arizona Republic’s editorial on the subject was a classic of media group-think.

In addition to serving up abject hysteria about “the external threat to the sovereignty of our elections” (I swear!!! Go read it! It’s the very first line! Duping John Podesta into giving up his g-mail password is an existential threat to the sovereignty of our elections!), the editorial smears Nunes with a thick coating of liberal condescension.

“Nunes sent up a smoke screen — and we need to get beyond this kind of distracting political posturing. Way beyond it.”

Well, we’re beyond the smokescreen now. The smoke has lifted and — why look here! — guess who’s behind the smoke:

Susan “It was a spontaneous reaction to a video” Rice, conducting vitally important surveillance of Trump officials from July through December, and making certain their names were known to anyone who looked at the documents.

Which, as former Obama aide Evelyn Farkas noted, included as many people as they could round up.

 

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.