The Daily Agenda: Crossing the finish line early
Time to mount a write-in campaign ... The retirement happened quite awhile ago ... And another monument could come to the Capitol.
After yesterday’s deadline to file signatures to run for office, we’re happy to report that the election is over!
Well, at least for more than a dozen candidates who face no opposition in the primary or general elections.
Of course, there’s still time for candidates to mount write-in campaigns for the primary election. If a candidate can get as many write-in votes in August as they would have needed signatures to qualify for the ballot, their names are automatically placed on the general election ballot.
And while a handful of candidates have made that tactic work in recent history — we’re thinking of Corporation Commissioner Jim O’Connor in 2020 and, as a throwback, former Democratic Rep. Eric Meyer during his first campaign in 2008 — it’s not a great starting position.
But for those lucky candidates who will become public officials simply by filing nominating petitions for office, the race is essentially over. Barring successful challenges to nominating petitions or successful primary write-in campaigns, let us introduce you to your newly elected public officials.
Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Mine Inspector Paul Marsh to the job after Joe Hart, the longtime mine inspector, resigned last year. Democrat Bill Pearce, whose impeccable style made him a fan favorite in the 2018 election, failed to file the more than 7,000 signatures needed to qualify for the statewide ballot, as did Republican Duane Yantorno, the grassroots choice for mine inspections. Marsh wins!
Four Republicans filed statements of interest to challenge congresswoman Debbie Lesko in the primary election, and two Democrats sought to challenge her in November. But none filed signatures to qualify, so Lesko will coast through the election to continue representing the west Valley in the new Congressional District 8.
Meanwhile, voters will have no choice for eight of the state’s 30 Senate seats, which have already been essentially filled after no opponents filed signatures to run against the lawmakers seeking those seats.
Those on the path to a very easy election season include Republican Sen. Warren Petersen (LD14), Republican Rep. Jake Hoffman (LD15), Republican Sen. David Gowan (LD19), Democratic Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales (LD20), Sen. Rosanna Gabaldón (LD21), Republican Sen. Sine Kerr (LD25) Democratic Sen. Raquel Terán (LD26) and Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli (LD30).
In the House, four lawmakers in two districts face no real opposition. Republican Reps. Neal Carter and Jacqueline Parker will walk to an easy reelection to the two House seats in LD15 southeast of the Valley after drawing no challengers in the primary of general elections. And Democratic Reps. Andrés Cano and Alma Hernandez won’t have much trouble in November beating their only challenger, a Libertarian, in Tucson’s Democratic-leaning LD20.
While it bums us out to see so many uncontested races — both as citizens who like a vibrant marketplace of ideas and as journalists who like to watch politicians fight — we can’t say we blame people for not running for public office.
The odds of beating an incumbent are often daunting. Campaigns are grueling affairs and candidates are subjected to a lot of necessary but uncomfortable scrutiny from the press. And, in this day and age, candidates often face unfounded accusations and personal attacks from an increasingly hostile, uninformed and conspiratorial electorate.
And if you win, you get to spend the next two years making just $24,000 a year in a totally dysfunctional workplace.
We earn more money than Arizona lawmakers, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Help us survive inflation and housing prices in Phoenix!
Playing to 30% of the electorate and half the party is their whole shtick: The Arizona Supreme Court predictably refused to hear AZGOP’s lawsuit trying to ban early mail voting — which around 90% of voters used last year, including AZGOP chair Kelli Ward. It was not a popular idea anyway. About 30% of the electorate likes the idea of only having the option to vote in person on Election Day, according to a new poll from HighGround Public Affairs, though 48% of Republicans liked it.
Pick your own laws: It is legal to possess marijuana if you're 21 or older in Arizona, but at least three people have been arrested for possession since legalization, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports. The people cited drove commercial vehicles, and prosecutors in Pinal and Mohave counties charged them because weed is still federally illegal and professional drivers can’t possess drugs under federal law. One case was dismissed, while another driver who lived out of state pled guilty. The third is pending.
A quiet retirement: Longtime Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, whose retirement was announced last week, actually retired in July 2021, after his bicycle accident, and has been collecting a $12,000 monthly pension since then while on the county payroll as a consultant, apparently unbeknownst to most of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the Tucson Sentinel’s Dylan Smith reports. The supervisors officially accepted Huckelberry’s retirement and ended his contract yesterday, and the county made a webpage commemorating his time serving the county.
Twisting their arms: ProPublica reporter Nicole Santa Cruz wrote about Steve Twist, the man behind Arizona’s harsh criminal justice laws, and the ways he has derailed efforts to reform the state’s laws to lessen the time people spend in prison. Twist’s arc through Arizona’s politics spans about five decades and various groups with influence over Arizona’s politicians and political process. People from both political parties who have tried to decrease the high number of people Arizona sends to prison often run into Twist behind the scenes.
“Arizona is not ready for real criminal justice reform as long as Steve Twist is in Arizona,” Arizona Rep. Walk Blackman said.
Another day in court: Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit against Arizona State University over the Omni Hotel in Tempe can continue on a couple claims, like that the lease didn’t benefit the state and that ASU violated the gift clause, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. Brnovich will be able to argue those claims in tax court, the high court said.
A fateful summer for abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban is expected in June, and that could decide the fate of Arizona’s similar law. Abortion providers in Arizona say their patients were immediately worried about whether their appointments would continue, though the bill won’t go into effect until the general effective date later this year, KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young reports.
Including a one-day $1,000 car rental: U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar spent the most money on his office expenses, like travel, mail and supplies, out of Arizona’s House delegation, and his spending ranked 11th out of all of Congress, the Republic’s Tara Kavaler reports. He spent more on travel than any member of the U.S. House. The most frugal of Arizona’s House members was Rep. Ruben Gallego.
All a friend can say is, “Ain't it a shame?”: Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel trained his keen eye on Arizona AG and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Brnovich for a profile of the Deadhead who was once such a Republican institutionalist that he interned for John McCain. In a rare twist these days, Brnovich actually did an interview for the story, declaring that his political journey has been a “long strange trip.” (We missed Kassel’s profile of fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters last month, but that was also good.)
“Lately, though, Brnovich — whose gravelly voice and scruffy beard contribute somewhat to his image as an avowed Deadhead — appears to have found himself adrift as former President Donald Trump has asserted his psychedelic spell over Arizona’s warped political landscape,” Kassel writes.
“I was wrong” is a start: The Republic’s Ray Stern wrote about “face of the audit” Ken Bennett’s entrance into the GOP primary for the state Senate in Legislative District 1, but the real intrigue of the story is his conversation with fellow former-lawmaker-looking-for-a-comeback Noel Campbell and his wife about the alleged domestic violence incident.
It’s polling season: Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is slipping in the polls — even one conducted by her friends at Data Orbital. In the firm’s most recent survey of Republican voters, Lake was still leading the pack, but she has backslid considerably since last month — from 43% of the Republican voters backing her, to just 35% — while Karrin Taylor Robson is picking up steam, growing from 13% to 22%. The same poll showed Republican Jim Lamon taking the lead over Brnovich in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate while Blake Masters slipped.
Finally, a health regulation they like: Republicans are giddy over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs’ appearance on Dennis Welch’s “Politics Unplugged” over the weekend in which Hobbs split with Arizona’s moderate U.S. senators by saying that Title 42 is “isn’t working.” The public health law that former President Donald Trump invoked at the beginning of the pandemic allows the U.S. to kick out asylum seekers from countries with COVID-19, and the Biden administration announced plans to lift the use of the law. Arizona, along with other states, filed a lawsuit against the move over the weekend. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Democrats are struggling with messaging on the issue as a new wave of migrants are expected to hit the U.S. border in the coming months.
The Airbnb next door: Arizona Sen. J.D. Mesnard is working on a compromise that would allow some regulation of short-term rentals, something some cities around Arizona say is desperately needed to battle an overabundance of short-term rentals in their neighborhoods, including “party houses” that become nuisances, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports.
Going to need a lot of hands: Across the country, officials who believe Trump won the election are pushing for hand-counting ballots, despite the clear logistical and human-error hurdles such an idea would invite, the Washington Post reports. Trump enthusiasts have latched onto machines as the problem, even though Arizona’s audit hand-count confirmed the machine count.
No money, no test: Embry Health is closing 60 of its testing sites now that the federal government is no longer reimbursing COVID-19 testing for uninsured people. Embry was the largest provider for free testing and about half of people who came for tests didn’t have insurance, KJZZ’s Ben Giles reports.
Find your grandparents: U.S. Census records from 1950 now are available to the public after they became 72 years old, so people who want to research their genealogy can read this explainer from ABC15 data guru Garrett Archer about how to find their loved ones.
Rest in peace: Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor who lived in Arizona and frequently wrote about and discussed her time in concentration camps, died on Sunday at age 97.
The Arizona Capitol could have a new monument on the Wesley Bolin Plaza if a bill to create a “Mormon migration monument” passes.
Under Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman’s House Bill 2058, the monument cannot be paid for by public money, and the state can’t help facilitate fundraisers. Instead, proponents of the monument would need to fund its construction and decide on its design.
Blackman ran the same bill last year, but he said it didn’t pass because COVID-19 warranted focus on other issues. He told committees that heard the bill that the monument would recognize the contributions of Latter-day Saints who migrated from Utah to Arizona and established towns here.
An effort to bring a Mormon migration monument has been afoot for several years and would place a historic bell from Lee’s Ferry on the Capitol mall. Blackman said the bell is currently in the possession of lobbyist Kevin DeMenna. Photos of the bell can be found in a 2018 story in the Republic about plans for a monument.
The bill passed the House with two votes against it and made it through the Senate Government Committee in March. It awaits a final vote in the Senate.
The group of election deniers who filed a petition demanding the Legislature impeach Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is back at it, filing a new petition trying to force the House and Senate to conduct an “FULL FORENSIC audit” of the Arizona Supreme Court and the State Bar of Arizona after the court has refused to hear election conspiracies in the form of lawsuits.
They also filed another petition complaining that the House is ignoring their petitions. When the House ignored that, absurdist petitioner and state Senate candidate Daniel Wood livestreamed a video of himself reading it outside instead.
The next logical step, obviously, is livestream of him reading a petition complaining that the House has ignored his petition about ignoring his petitions.
And while this is all fun to laugh at, Wood has taken to social media to claim he’s getting traction — or at least meetings — with supporters (and potential future colleagues) at the state Capitol who want to go along with his plan to impeach Hobbs.
“We had a really good conversation with (Republican Sens. Sonny) Borrelli and Kelly Townsend,” Wood said in another livestream, adding that because the House must start the impeachment process, the senators told him it’s out of their hands. “I’ve been trying to work with (Republican Rep.) Walt Blackman … Maybe he will get some investigation going to start the process of impeaching Katie Hobbs. That would be awesome.”
Mine inspector is the only statewide office that is allowed to serve four consecutive four-year terms. The other offices are relegated to two four-year terms.