Facing the potential loss of Randy Pullen as Arizona Republican State Party Chairman, conservative and tea party leaders have begun discussion over who should succeed the man who gave them a seat at the table over the last four years. So far, only three names have come up as potential replacements and each is a devoted McCain follower – Marty Hermanson, Vernon Parker, and Phil Townsend. Oddly, in spite of their common allegiance to Team McCain, each is being urged forward by a different faction within that group, but none of them have any ties to any part of the conservative/tea party alliance that kept Pullen in office. Parker has strong ties to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a popular voice within both movements, but he is tightly tied to Nathan Sproul who remains anathema to the same groups. As such, none of the three has any real support within the conservative grassroots and a conservative consensus candidate is being looked for. Two names that have come up early and often are Don Goldwater and Senate President Russell Pearce. Each has a statewide network of support, has conservative bona fides, and could garner the endorsement of most of the big names from the right-wing of the party. What is clear from the early conversations is that a candidate will be agreed upon and rallied around early, so that the conservative vote is not split, and the Republican Party in Arizona will remain under conservative leadership.
Most voters have not heard of Progressive Majority, but they are training the far-left of politics and their candidates are plentiful here in Arizona. With “liberal” no longer a positive label in politics, they now call themselves “progressives”, but the ideology remains the same – higher taxes, more spending, a larger government at every level, greater control over people’s lives, and liberal social policies. Their stated goal is to not “let conservatives dominate the 2010 elections” and they have six candidates running in Arizona’s statewide and legislative contests. These far-left candidates include Andrei Cherny (State Treasurer), Angela Cotera (LD12 House), Rae Waters (LD20 House), Pat Fleming (LD25 House), Cheryl Cage (LD30 Senate) and Andrea Dallesandro (LD30 House). Each is committed to Progressive Majority’s liberal agenda, each supports the most radical elements of the Obama agenda like ObamaCare, Cap & Trade, Card Check, etc. and each has received training from the organization on policy and campaigning. These candidates all refrain from mentioning Progressive Majority or its role in their campaigns, either on their websites or in their public appearances, likely because they recognize that being recruited and trained by hard-left out-of-state organizations won’t be well received by Arizona voters that they are trying to sell their “independence” to, but every Arizona voter needs to be aware that these groups and their candidates are alive and well right here in Arizona, and while they are not campaigning as hardcore liberals, that is exactly what they are.
Today’s Yellow Sheet carries a press release about the upcoming “12 in ’10” fundraiser event that is trying to land big-dollar contributions for 12 candidates, including some high-profile Democrats. The event will take place at the Biltmore Resort and attendees are expected to contribute a minimum of $2,500 per person, divided amongst the candidates. So just who are the like-minded candidates that these donors are coming to see and help? Some of the Republican names include State Representatives Adam Driggs, Rich Crandall, Michelle Reagan, and Bill Konopnicki. There are some Republican challengers on the list as well, including Doug Sposito, Karen Fann, and Kate McGee.
Joining them for the event are a couple of big-name Democrats, including one of the GOP’s top targets for the 2010 cycle, State Representative Eric Meyer, and Justin Johnson, son of former Mayor Paul Johnson, who is challenging GOP Senator Linda Gray.
Several things about this fundraiser has tongues wagging. First, the price of admission. Ordinary folks can’t afford $2,500, so the target audience for this event is clearly a select group of well-funded individuals, PACs, and interest groups. Second, no one can remember the last time Republicans teamed up with Democrats to raise money for each other, especially during an election season, and especially during a primary season when many of the Republican candidates are engaged in primaries themselves.
Reagan has no real challengers this cycle, so she can team with the Democrats without and consequences. But it is a risky gamble for people like Konopnicki or Crandall. Certainly their GOP opponents will be making some noise about their lack of loyalty. Challengers like Sposito and Fann can also be taken to task by local opposition. The most interesting district to watch will be LD11, where Adam Driggs and Kate McGee are actively raising money for the Democrat in their own district. The same Democrat that the rest of the Republicans in the district are trying to beat so that they can recapture the longtime GOP seat. We hardly imagine that the GOP activists in LD11 will take kindly to this news.
While GOP legislative leadership positions will not be elected until November, several primaries are already over as candidates are running unopposed in many districts, so campaigning has already begun for leadership positions in the 50th Legislature. Here is a quick look at ongoing and potential matchups.
ARIZONA STATE SENATE:
The main theme here is turnover. Due to resignations and term limits, 10 of the original 18 Republican Senators are not returning to the body.
PRESIDENT – Sen. Russell Pearce will be running, as will Sen. Steve Pierce. Also sounding out legislators about support is current Rep. Steve Yarbrough who is running for the Senate. It is unlikely that Yarbrough will win, after all he will be a freshman in the Senate and moving directly into the office of the President would be most unusual. Former House Speaker Jim Weiers attempted that move and failed, and he failed while he was the powerful Speaker of the House. Additionally, would the entire Senate want to be stuck behind a President with eight years of service left? It would tell the entire body that they will never be President. That means its Pearce versus Pierce, and while the initial advantage goes to Pearce, several right versus left primaries will need to be resolved before either can claim victory.
MAJORITY LEADER/MAJORITY WHIP – These two fields have yet to solidify, but Capitol observers expect to see Senators Frank Antenori, Al Melvin, and possibly Sylvia Allen to run for one position or the other. Allen has a tough primary in front of her with Rep. Bill Konopnicki, but could be in a very strong position if she prevails. Antenori would be an energetic leader while Melvin is able to work well with caucus members across the ideological spectrum, an important characteristic that pretty much rules out Senator Ron Gould (we’re kidding here, mostly, as Gould as not actually been mentioned for any leadership race.)
ARIZONA STATE HOUSE:
14 of the original 35 Republican House members will not be returning, yet at least one of the races will feature familiar faces.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE – A rematch of the 2008 race between former Speaker Jim Weiers and current Speaker Kirk Adams is on tap. The 2008 race was close, and the outcome of this race will likely be determined on August 24th when the primaries are settled.
MAJORITY LEADER – Right now, its Rep. Andy Tobin’s job to lose, although Rep. Laurin Hendrix could be a real challenge if he is re-elected out of a crowded primary field that also includes former State Rep. Eddie Farnsworth.
MAJORITY WHIP – Representatives Russ Jones, Debbie Lesko, and Steve Montenegro are the three names being bandied about most at this time. Each would bring an element of diversity to the leadership team, and none can really claim a lead at this time. Each has a general election contest (Lesko also faces a primary) that they would be small favorites to win, so if you have to bet, put your money on Montenegro. He has benefited from a large amount of national media exposure resulting from his transparency bill, the ban on race-based preferences (co-authored with Sen. Pearce) that will be on November’s ballot, and SB1070. So he is a proven commodity in terms of dealing with the media and he can do so in English and Spanish, no small thing in a state like Arizona.
Former NFL player and failed 2008 LD6 State House candidate Tony Bouie has officially kicked off his new 2010 State Senate campaign in LD4. Certainly no stranger to controversy, Bouie’s latest effort features a logo that seems very familiar to Capitol observers. Maybe its the fact that the Super Bowl is just around the corner? In any case, we’ll be curious to see if the NFL cares about its copyright being used in a political campaign?
Democrats are in disarray, Republicans are making gains nationwide, poll numbers are improving, and generic ballot polls show Republicans poised to make big gains in 2010. With pickup opportunities in CD1, CD5, and CD8 here in Arizona, Saturday’s AZGOP Annual Meeting should be a great time for all.
It seems someone isn’t happy with the state of things and is looking to hijack the meeting and maybe the entire Party this weekend. Gila Courier has coverage of a letter that started landing in PC mailboxes and the interesting tale behind it. Others have been warning about the possibility that McCain supporters may make a move to remove State Party Chairman Randy Pullen so that they can take over the party apparatus in advance of the GOP primary against JD Hayworth.
It should be a VERY interesting time for all in attendance.
GOP Senate candidate Rich Davis has picked up the endorsement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the race to fill the seat being vacated by the term-limited Barbara Leff. The endorsement is considered a major coup for Republican candidates given the Sheriff’s high approval numbers among the GOP faithful. Davis has also reportedly continued to raise money at a healthy pace after banking more than $50,000 in the campaign’s first three months. With a possible GOP primary and then a spirited general election after that, Davis will need all the money and support he can get, but the Arpaio endorsement has to be considered an important step towards winning this fall.
Most fundraisers aren’t even returning calls, and candidates and incumbent legislators with events scheduled for January have stopped making calls, as raising money during Christmas week is all but impossible for most. Not all, just most apparently, since LD11 Senate candidate Rich Davis is a couple of days from the end of his $10,000 in 10 days campaign. You can follow his progress here, but we’re going to admit to being pretty impressed by a non-incumbent being able to raise those sorts of dollars this close to the holidays. After all, most donors are trying to save their money to buy their kids the G.I. Joe dolls with the kung-fu grip. If you don’t believe us, just ask Billy Ray.
Davis has been preparing for a primary that will exceed $100,000 and possibly an expensive general election after that. So he’ll need to show strength in his January financial reports if he wants to attract more attention and support. Anything less than $30,000 will send a bad message and encourage a primary challenge. State Rep. Adam Driggs is still seriously considering a run for the Senate seat and had a reported fundraising haul of more than $30,000 from his Buzz Aldrin event, so Davis will have to keep it close, or Driggs may well give up his committee chairmanship and jump into the primary.
Capitol observers had thought the LD4 Senate race was going to get a lot quieter after State Representative Tom Boone announced that he would not be running in the GOP primary against former State Senator Scott Bundgaard. Well it might be time for them to get their ear protection ready, because 2008 LD6 State House candidate Tony Bouie, who moved to LD4 and had filed to run for the State House in LD4, changed his committee paperwork yesterday and is now running for the State Senate.
Bouie’s assumption would appear to be that a House race against both State Rep Judy Burges and current State Sen Jack Harper is too tough, and that the Senate race represents a better chance to win. Of course, he had originally filed to run for the House, so we can’t be sure what has changed. It is likely that the move was triggered solely by Boone’s decision. Regardless of the reason(s) for the move, it guarantees voters will be treated to another entertaining and volatile race, as voters from LD6 can attest to.
A third candidate, Shawn Kohner, is also filed for the race.
According to media reports, Senator Ron Gould says that he would have supported the ballot referral of a three-year increase in the sales tax in exchange for a three-year phase out of the state income tax. We have to admit, we honestly had no idea. So much has been made of the Senator’s absolute refusal to support any increase in taxes and so much coverage in the media and on the blogs was focused on the single-minded purity of his votes against it, that we never even considered the possibility that he would vote to refer Brewer’s tax hike to the ballot.
If what the Senator is saying is true then much of his absolute language regarding the referral must be taken with a rather large grain of salt. If his offer was genuine, then he was in fact willing to vote to refer the sales tax increase to the ballot, so all of his vocal and rather scathing critiques of his fellow legislators ring somewhat hollow. On the other hand, if he was merely tweaking the Senate President by asking for something so out of reach that he knew in advance he could not get it, then his protestations at this point that he was somehow reasonable and amenable to a deal are likely disingenuous at best.
Naturally, any insistence on eliminating the state income tax over three years would have make the entire deal unworkable because it would have dramatically increased the state’s deficit, leaving the Legislature farther from the solution instead of closer to it. But one assumes that Gould’s rational for supporting such a package would have been that a) the tax referral could always be voted down, and b) the size of the tax cuts would have been greater than the sales tax increase, and they would have lasted long after the sales tax increase had ended. Ironically, the same arguments were made for the conservative package that Gould voted against. It had hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts for individuals and businesses, as well as property tax cuts, all to boost the economy. And it cut more in taxes than the sales tax increase would have raised, assuming it would even pass.
What is clear is that Senator Gould has nothing good to say about any Republicans who would have exchanged larger, lasting tax cuts, for a referral of a shorter, smaller tax increase. He has even been quoted as saying “If Republicans do a tax increase, our party’s dead. The voters will throw us out if we do a tax increase.” The fact that he proposed to make the very same kind of deal is more than just curious, even to seasoned Capitol observers that have grown accustomed to the public posturing of politicians.