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The Daily Agenda: It will end up in court
Humans are always making errors ... AZGOP puts its money where its tweets are ... And even Trump makes mistakes.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer showed off a new set of ballots and envelopes Monday with a bright orange bar at the top, the county’s remedy to a huge mistake it has attributed to “human error.”
The county sent incorrect ballots to more than 60,000 voters, leaving off town races for Casa Grande, Eloy, the City of Maricopa, Mammoth, Superior, and the Pinal County portions of Apache Junction and Queen Creek.
Now, the county is asking voters to fill out and send in the first ballot they got, which has federal, state, legislative and county races on it, and a second ballot of just town elections in the towns affected. Those second ballots should land in Pinal County mailboxes this week. If people already voted in person, they can go back and get the town portion they’re entitled to cast. (If you’re in Pinal County, check out this FAQ and call the elections department with any questions.)
The situation is, in short, “messed up,” as two county officials at a Monday press conference in Florence said.
There will be added costs to print an additional set of ballots, get more workers to help reach out to voters and count votes, and do another round of publicity in local papers and online. So far, the tally is “north of $100,000 and running,” Volkmer said. We’re sure that’ll increase significantly. Volkmer said the county decided to spend whatever it takes to solve the problem.
Spreading the word that a sizable portion of Pinal County voters will need to fill out two ballots is the latest step in the costly plan that comes after the terribly timed election screw-up, which undoubtedly will lead to all manner of conspiracy theories about intentional sabotage from an increasingly election-denying and skeptical populace.
The races affected aren’t even partisan. That probably won’t matter.
“There’s really no advantage, since all of these municipal elections are nonpartisan, it’s not Democratic, it’s not Republican. It’s equally messed up for everyone. … It is equally messed up on both sides,” Pinal County Supervisor Jeff Serdy told reporters.
Like so many parts of the Arizona political process these days, we expect it all to end up in court. Already, congressional candidate Kathleen Winn filed a lawsuit, though she quickly withdrew it after discussing with her attorney and concluding that Pinal was “taking every measure they can,” the Republic reported.
Volkmer said the county believes it has come up with the best possible plan to address the snafu and will be prepared to tell any court what and why they made the decisions they did after the problem was identified.
“It’d be pure conjecture at this point if we think we’re gonna get sued, but it wouldn’t shock me, particularly as a number of these races are probably going to be very, very close,” he said.
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In case you needed more evidence that the Arizona Republican Party isn’t staying neutral in contested Republican primaries between “America First” candidates and old-school Republicans, check out the latest round of campaign finance reports.
AZGOP Chair Kelli Ward recently contributed $100 to former Sen. David Farnsworth’s run against Rusty Bowers, while her husband, Michael Ward, contributed another $500 to Farnsworth’s campaign.
(When we asked Farnsworth last week what he thought of the party’s leader tweeting in support of him and bashing his opponent, Farnsworth said he would neither condemn nor condone the practice. But by taking their money, it’s pretty clear he falls on the condone side.)
And if you think Ward is a one-off, look at AZGOP executive director Pam Kirby’s contributions. This quarter, she gave $500 to Farnsworth, as well as $500 to Austin Smith, who is running in a crowded four-way Republican primary in the West Valley’s Legislative District 29. Kirby also contributed $2,500 to Trump-endorsed attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh’s primary campaign. (Michael Ward is also backing Hamedah, having contributed another $1,000 to his campaign.) And in the six-way primary for two House seats in Legislative District 4, Kirby is going all-in on former lawmaker Maria Syms, pumping $5,300 into her campaign while shunning the other five candidates.
That’s on top of Kirby’s contributions from previous quarters to Republicans in contested races, including $5,300 to gubernatorial contender Kari Lake. (AZGOP finance director Stuart Stier also contributed $50 to Lake this quarter.) Kirby has also contributed $300 to Jan Dubauskas, who is facing longtime incumbent John Kavanagh in the LD3 Senate race, and another $500 to Alex Kolodin, the frequently defeated AZGOP lawyer who is running in a five-way primary for the House in that district.
A proxy battle in a proxy war: News that former Vice President Mike Pence joined Doug Ducey’s quest to propel Karrin Taylor Robson to the Governor’s Office and keep Trump-backed Kari Lake from occupying the Ninth Floor of the Executive Tower rippled through the national press yesterday, and everyone had a take. The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico and Associated Press all covered the endorsement, noting that while Pence has broken with Trump before (read: in backing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp against Trump-backed challenger David Purdue), this is a bigger, bolder move for the former VP, as he’s not simply backing an incumbent who is expected to win anyway. The two camps will hold dueling rallies Friday with Trump and company in Prescott Valley, and Ducey’s crew heading to Southern Arizona at a location TBD.
“The calculation is obviously that turning the page needs to be done more subtly — that going at Trump head-on is a recipe for being cast aside by the GOP. So better to go after Trump-backed candidates on electability issues and other vulnerabilities and show there is a path available for post-Trump candidates,” the Post’s Aaron Blake writes.
If you think your job sucks: In a lengthy five-part series, the Republic and KJZZ investigated the state’s exploitative use of Arizona’s massive prison population to make a profit for the state and companies that contract prisoners. For the companies that rent prisoners to do often dangerous and back-breaking labor, it’s a smoking deal because they pay minimum wage, the prisoners aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation and can’t usually sue if they get injured. For the state, it’s an even better deal, as it pays prisoners as low as 50 cents an hour and pockets the difference. TL;DR? Check out the database of every company exploiting prison labor in the state.
If you don’t vote, your ballot can’t be stolen: The Arizona Republican Party is warning of a “very real possibility” that your ballot could be stolen from your mailbox, and claiming that ballot drop boxes, which Republican lawmakers attempted to outlaw, are “always safer.”
You read it here first: A voter who supports Adrian Fontes in the Dem primary for secretary of state filed a complaint against candidate Reginald Bolding asking for an investigation into the potential illegal coordination between his campaign and the dark money nonprofit he runs after reading about it in the press. The Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl has the details, including that the organization, Our Voice Our Vote, along with the other dark money nonprofit he runs, had their nonprofit statuses yanked (and later reinstated) after not filing 990s for several years.
It works: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the immigrants and asylum seekers Arizona and Texas are putting on buses and sending to the nation’s capital are “being tricked” by officials who tell them they’ll get transportation to their ultimate destination from DC, and they are clogging up DC’s shelters.
Just as the rest of the country seeks to outlaw it: Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are considering legalizing gay marriage after explicitly outlawing it in 2005, the Arizona Mirror’s Shondiin Silversmith reports. The bill faces opposition and failed to pass a committee last week, though under the Navajo system of government, its fate will ultimately rest with the full council, Silversmith writes.
Election lost, not stolen: If you still believe the 2020 election was stolen, you probably aren’t going to believe a new report from a “distinguished group of Republican judges and lawyers” who debunked every single claim of election fraud in the country, but the Republic’s EJ Montini wrote about their efforts anyway.
But he seems like a nice guy: A handful of pro-democracy do-gooder groups are asking the federal government to never again hire the Cyber Ninjas or its CEO Doug Logan, noting the firm bungled the Arizona audit, has ignored court orders to turn over public records and generally promoted nonsensical conspiracies, the Washington Post’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports. The federal government has awarded the company a handful of contracts in the past, Wingett Sanchez notes.
No Gabby, please God no: If Gabby Giffords could make any fictional character real, she would bring to life one of Vin Diesel’s1 characters (presumably Dominic Toretto from “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, since we can’t name anything else he’s done), she told the Morning Brew newsletter in a Q&A. The only excuse she offered was “What can I say? I’m a fan!”
Tell us when the bottom drops out: Arizona’s housing market is beginning to show signs of cooling after home prices have exploded in the last year, Axios writes.
Learning is fundamental: In Rachel’s latest for Votebeat, she traveled to Yuma to watch the county’s voting tabulators undergo logic and accuracy tests, though she was one of only a few people who showed up.
“Despite widespread wariness and unfounded accusations that voting machines could be used to cheat, few people come to watch the lengthy, intensive tests that the machines undergo,” she wrote.
Lots of podcasts, not much water: The Republic’s Joanna Allhands laments that cities haven’t found consistent messaging to tell residents how to save water. In a separate column, she offers some tips to cut your water use. Arizona Public Media’s Megan Myscofski created a new podcast called “Tapped” about Arizona’s water future. And speaking of new podcasts, former reporter turned political flack Daniel Scarpinato has one, adorably titled “Scarp and Friends,” where he and his friends and frenemies drink vodka and talk politics. His first episode included an interview with former Gov. Jan Brewer. Apparently, like the rest of us, he couldn’t get Ducey.
Do they have MMJ cards in Russia?: Brittney Griner’s lawyer said the Phoenix Mercury star has a note from an American doctor saying the weed cartridges she brought into Russia are for chronic pain, while Griner said in her guilty plea last week that she didn’t mean to leave them in her luggage, ABC reports.
How the tables have turned: Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend accused her colleague and electoral opponent, Sen. Wendy Rogers, of siccing her “Groyper Army” on her, saying she “grieve(s) for our country if this is our future” and that Rogers “will be directly responsible for” that sad future, which prompted liberals to note all the times Townsend has invoked white nationalist rhetoric herself.
Five Democrats are running for two House seats in Legislative District 12, which covers the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix, south Tempe and parts of west Chandler along with the northern tip of the Gila River Indian Community. It most closely resembles the old LD18, which Democrats turned blue over the last decade, but also includes parts of the old LD17, which was trending purple as its booming tech sector brought in employees from California.
But the district isn’t as competitive as its successor once was: Nearly 60% of the district voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and Republicans are the underdogs here.
There are no incumbents in this race, but it drew multiple candidates who have sought public office before. Aljan “AJ” Kurdoglu, a businessman originally from Turkey, was one of the Dems’ top choices in 2020 in his LD17 bid against Sen. JD Mesnard. Also running in the Democratic primary for two open House seats are: Anastasia “Stacey” Travers, a scientist who also served in U.S. Army as a Russian intelligence interceptor; Patty Contreras, a third-generation Arizonan who worked at the City of Phoenix for 31 years; Paul Weich, a lawyer who is best known for his blog, Arizona’s Law; and Sam Huang, a former Chandler City Councilman who ran as a Republican against Greg Stanton in 2020 before switching parties.
On the Senate side, two Republicans are duking it out in the primary for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein as she attempts to move to the Senate. Suzanne Sharer, a Republican activist and Realtor, ran for office in 2020 while spreading QAnon conspiracies, while businessman and entrepreneur David Richardson has the endorsement from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After Trump endorsed his opponent, U.S. Senate Republican hopeful Jim Lamon is taking to the airwaves with a bold new message: Trump was wrong.
In the new ad, people in MAGA gear declare they love Trump, but then give themselves away as traitors by claiming he’s not perfect. “Remember when he endorsed Mitt Romney?” one asks.
Ironically, Vin Diesel is himself a fictional character whose real name is Mark Sinclair.