The Daily Agenda: Can a special session break the 2020 election cycle?
Marco loses a voter … Kari is a Karen … And allegedly drunk prosecutor helps allegedly drunk drivers.
While the Arizona Republican Party attempts to disenfranchise its own voters who use mail-in ballots, Attorney General Mark Brnovich is trying to get in on the action, using the AZGOP lawsuit against mail-in voting to accuse Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes of being too lax on signature verification.
Signature verification is the latest fixation of audit flunkies like Shiva Ayyadurai, a subcontractor of the Cyber Ninjas who claims to have invented email and recently authored yet another report that’s making the rounds on election-denying media that claims 1-in-10 ballots in Maricopa County should have been set aside for closer signature verification. (It should be noted that he came to that conclusion without ever having seen the county’s signature database.)
Brnovich, who desperately needs support from the half of his party that still denies the 2020 election, deftly sidestepped the main issue — whether he agrees with AZGOP’s lawsuit arguing that voting via mail is wholly unconstitutional — as Capitol scribe Howie Fischer notes. Instead, he used the amicus brief to argue that the process is vulnerable to exploitation and ripe for fraud because of lax signature-checking policies the two Democrats put in place.
The only evidence he provides, however, is that Maricopa County denied fewer ballots for missing or mismatched signatures in 2018 and 2020, under Fontes, than in the past.
“One possible explanation for these trends, and the AG acknowledges there could be others, is that Maricopa County became less diligent with signature review beginning in 2018,” Brnovich wrote in the filing.
Democrats are also seizing on Republicans’ attempts to demolish early voting. Opportunity Arizona, a Dem-aligned PAC, is buying ads in the Republic and filling Capitol-area billboards with a new campaign arguing that the attacks on early voting will make it harder for members of the military to vote.
Meanwhile, AZGOP chair Kelli Ward is taking aim at possible secretary of state nominee Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita after she joined forces with Republican Sen. Paul Boyer again yesterday to kill some more Big-Lie-inspired bills.
And talk about a special session on election laws is once again in the air. No, not a special session to pass election-denial legislation aimed at “fixing” the 2020 election, as some lawmakers want, but rather to fix the precinct committeeman election issue that lawmakers screwed up and that has enraged Republican activists. 1
Gov. Doug Ducey may be entertaining the idea of calling a special session, as some lawmakers have advocated, in order to pass a fix now that would be in place in time for the August primary, despite having previously signaled that he doesn’t give a shit about this small-potatoes issue.
So what’s in it for the governor? Well, he still wants lawmakers to repeal and replace a tax cut that activists referred to the ballot for a “citizen veto” vote, not to mention a host of other big-ticket issues in his final term that lawmakers have yet to take action on.
If Ducey can placate Republican lawmakers with a special session and get them to actually get to work on issues besides elections, like, say, the budget, maybe there’s hope the legislative session can end before July. But don’t hold your breath.
Democratic gubernatorial longshot Marco Lopez lost at least one supporter after we detailed his involvement in the allegedly bribe-funded Mexican presidential campaign of Enrique Peña Nieto.
Creighton School Board President Sophia Carrillo Dahl told our reporter yesterday that she decided to pull her endorsement of the candidate after reading our piece and realizing Lopez had worked for Peña Nieto, who she called corrupt, dishonest and crooked.
“His response to (the story) makes it feel like there is no transparency and there’s something he may want to be hiding,” she said of Lopez.
Carillo said she had hesitations about endorsing him right off the bat due to his work with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, and she had a frank conversation about her concerns when she met Lopez through her work on the Maricopa County Dems’ Latino Outreach Committee. So when she found out about his work with Peña Nieto, she felt betrayed.
“I have a feeling he knows this is coming,” she said. “I kind of went off on him and I told him ‘If I would have known you had any ties (to Peña Nieto), I would have never endorsed you because I don’t align myself with people like that.’”
She said she hopes that by publicly disavowing him, others will reconsider their support for the former Nogales mayor. She’s not endorsing either of the other Democratic candidates for governor.
The hits never stop coming: The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office failed to assign prosecutors to 180 cases on time, resulting in charges being dropped on crimes like drunk driving, domestic violence and assaults, the Republic’s Robert Anglen reports. The dropped ball comes as County Attorney Allister Adel faces calls for her resignation after a string of scandals since she took office in 2020. The office called the mistake a “human error” and attributed it to heavy caseloads and staffing problems. Adel insisted the problem had nothing to do with her leadership. But Adel’s critics renewed their calls for her resignation yesterday, saying this was another example of her inability to run the office. And last night, Adel’s life got even worse when ABC15’s Dave Biscobing found new texts in a notice of claim proving Adel was well informed about the false charges against protesters that MCAO declared the “A.C.A.B. gang,” which she has repeatedly denied.
End of an era: Masks are now mostly optional at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona is waiting to see how case levels play out a week after spring break, but plans to stop requiring masks as well, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. Campus shuttles and clinics will still require masks. Most Arizona counties are now in the “medium” category of the CDC’s new guidelines for masking, which calls for people who are high-risk to mask or take precautions if their doctors recommend it.
Bills, bills, bills: A bill from Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh would require mugshots of undocumented immigratnts who are convicted of crimes to be posted online. And a proposal from Rep. Jeff Weninger to rewrite condo laws to prevent owners from being pushed out might not be constitutional.
Helping developers help the poor: The City of Tucson plans to waive some of the fees charged to private developers for new developments if they build affordable housing units in their projects, the Arizona Daily Star’s Nicole Ludden reports. The city previously set aside some money to subsidize these fees for nonprofits that provide affordable housing, but much of the money remained unused because for-profits couldn’t access it.
We’ll take the money: Organizations that provide summer programs, like the Boy Scouts and job training programs for graduates, plan to apply for funding from the pot of $100 million Gov. Doug Ducey set aside to subsidize summer camps that relate in some way to math, reading or American civics, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips and Kyra Haas report.
On second thought, we could never make it in the summer school business. But we will take your subscription dollars — it’s $8 per month or $80 per year to keep us in business so you can read our bad jokes every morning.
Every local journalist will end up in a Kari Lake video someday: As our journalistic colleagues in Mexico get murdered for doing their jobs, their president amps up his attacks on the press, the Daily Star’s Tim Steller writes. And in the U.S., rhetorical attacks on the media have become commonplace. But that rhetoric leads to threats against journalists, despite it being a shitty yet effective campaign strategy.
But which shows did she catch while she was there?: Arizona Secretary of State and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs showed up on a panel at South by Southwest, the annual festival in Austin for music, movies and also apparently democracy discussions, this past weekend.
Bigotry is bad for business: Angela Hughey, an Arizonan who founded One Community, a nonprofit that focuses on protections for LGBTQ+ people while showing how these protections benefit area businesses as well, was the subject of this profile from the Republic’s Perry Vandell.
Rest in peace: Arizona House Minority Leader Robert McLendon died last week at age 85. McLendon, a Democrat, served nine years in the House before ending his time in the chamber in 2001. Flags were lowered to half-staff yesterday in his honor.
Pickleball can happen elsewhere: A court constructed for pickleball in Tubac that wasn’t very useful for pickleball ended up serving well as a landing spot for a helicopter doing a medical rescue, the Nogales International’s Angela Gervasi reports. But while people want to continue using the court for medical needs, they’re running into some bureaucratic hurdles.
Which Dem consultant convinced the Democratic candidates to tweet about Pi Day yesterday?: We don’t know where we’re going with this, but it’s just kind of funny that Katie Hobbs, Marco Lopez and Mark Kelly all recognized this “holiday.”
Not cool: A guy stole money from fee collection sites in the Coronado National Forest.
A proposal from Arizona Rep. Michelle Udall would allow charter school operators to take over district schools with repeated D and F ratings in the state school letter grade system.
House Bill 2808 sets up the Arizona Achievement District program designed to “reform” these schools and outlines several additional programs and steps designed to improve ratings for D and F schools. The part of the bill receiving the most scrutiny calls for schools that get a D or F three years in a row to become a “fresh start” school run by a different operator or close and consolidate with nearby schools that are higher quality, if they have space.
The schools taken over would then have three years to get back on track. Udall told Republic reporter Yana Kunichoff that there are “some out-of-state charters that have been incredibly successful with really difficult demographics.”
In other states, takeovers have shown mixed results, with some improving student outcomes and others not so much, Kunichoff reports.
And the reform efforts here are based on the school letter grade system, which has frequently drawn criticism for the way it assesses schools and whether it should exist at all.
Kari Lake is featured in a piece on “60 Minutes Australia” about Trump’s continued grip on the GOP, where she pulled a classic Kari Lake: get outraged about something silly and refuse to answer the questions posed, instead focusing on the big, bad Australian media. Why is she in the news in Australia? We don’t know. She certainly does not seem to like Australia, from what she says in the interview. But the piece provides a clear-eyed view of where our country sits right now and the threats to the democratic process brought by Trump and his supporters.
Her antics aren’t new or really that funny anymore, but they kicked off a thread of people on Twitter discussing how she has been mean to service people at local establishments, which is probably the least surprising fact we’ve learned about her through this campaign.