How Clean Elections Helped Conservatives Increase Their Seats in the Arizona Legislature

I delivered a guest commentary on KUAT-TV’s Arizona Illustrated earlier this week talking about the influence of Clean Elections. If you don’t feel like watching it, here’s the script:

While the rest of the country was turning a darker shade of blue, a funny thing happened in Arizona: Republicans gained ground in the state legislature.

It wasn’t supposed to work out that way. The Democrats set out this year to take control of the Arizona House of Representatives. To do that, they needed to hang onto all the gains they made in 2006 and flip four seats.

The political climate could hardly have been more hospitable to Democrats. Besides the damage that the Republican Party brand has suffered in recent years, the Democrats were flush with cash, while the GOP was pretty much broke.

So the Democrats recruited some sharp candidates and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost their slate. But on Election Day, they ended up losing nearly all of the races they targeted.

Down here in Southern Arizona, they weren’t able to win an upset in Legislative District 30, which includes Tucson’s east side and Green Valley. They weren’t able to gain a seat in District 26 on the northwest side. And they weren’t even able to beat Republican David Stevens in Marana’s District 25, even though Stevens wasn’t even in the country to campaign.

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons that Republicans were able to pick up seats in the House of Representatives yesterday, but here’s a major one: Clean Elections, the Continue reading


AZ Battleground Districts

As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the Arizona Democratic Party spending a bundle in hopes of landing a majority in the Arizona House of Representatives. To do it, they need to hold onto all their 2006 gains and pick up four new seats.

We’ve done some research and come up with the following Battleground Districts to watch across the state as election results come in.

Legislative District 26

Nancy Young Wright
Don Jorgensen

Vic Williams
Marilyn Zerull
Continue reading

Following The Money: Democrats Spend Big in Southern Arizona Legislative Races

A Democratic mailer targeting Republican Frank Antenori sponsored by Victory 2008; Antenori charges that Democrats "made complete fabrications."

We’ve mentioned recently in The Skinny (here and here) how the Arizona Democratic Party is making a big push to flip the Arizona House of Representatives. To do it, they need to flip four seats into the Democratic column while hanging onto the gains they made in 2008.

That’s no easy task, but the Democrats are never likely to find themselves in a more advantageous political environment. And they certainly have the financial resources to make it happen, although we’ll have to wait until Election Day to see if they ended up spending all their money in an effective manner.

The Democratic Party has invested a half-million dollars into Victory 2008, a political committee pushing for Democrats in GOP districts across the state. They’re being backed up by Arizonans for a Healthy Economy, a political committee that, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, had been funded by the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education ($50K), the Arizona Fire Fighters ($50K), the SEIU labor guys ($50K), and Arizona’s List, a political committee dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women ($37K). Arizonans for a Healthy Economy also picked up a bunch of contributions from Tucson-area lefties.

Here in Southern Arizona, the Democrats have targeted Districts 25, 26 and 30 with more than $300,000 in campaign spending. They should get an easy pick-up in LD25, where Republican Rep. Jennifer Burns is retiring. The district leans Democratic and the Republican candidates are not especially credible; one of them, David Stevens, isn’t even in the country to campaign.

In GOP-leaning District 26 (Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley, Saddlebrooke), the Democrats have to protect Rep. Nancy Young Wright and carry Don Jorgensen to victory against Republicans Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull. They also want to keep the state Senate seat in Democratic hands by supporting Cheryl Cage against Republican Al Melvin.

In LD26, the Democratic committees have combined to spend Continue reading

But Bruce: We Thought You Opposed Earmarks!

We mentioned in an earlier post about how the Arizona Republican Party was facing tough financial times because they had to return $105,000 in contributions from a group called SCA, which wouldn’t reveal its contributors to the AZ GOP.

That refund came after the party had spent a bundle on TV ads trashing Dan Saban, the opponent of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The decision to spend money on the Arpaio race when he’s not even in danger of losing had some Republicans wondering why the money wasn’t spent on GOP legislative races, given that Democrats are spending a bundle in a bid to take control of the Arizona House of Representatives.

Bruce Ash, the local property manager who serves as the Republican national committeeman from Arizona, came to the defense of the Arizona Republican Party by announcing to the world–via a comment of GOP political consultant Nathan Sproul’s blog–that the GOP wouldn’t have gotten the SCA contribution unless it had agreed to run the ad.

“The Saban ad campaign was not done using ANY funds from AZGOP which were donated for any other cause other than the specific campaign and would not have been donated had the ad campaign not been run,” Ash said.

The problem: That sort of earmarking is usually considered, um, illegal.

Ash, who didn’t return our phone call, might want to check with his lawyers before making any more blog posts. We think they usually caution clients to stick with some some sort plausible deniability rather than blabbing about the backroom deals that get struck.

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican David Gowan on Crime

Republican David Gowan is facing fellow Republican Frank Antenori and Democrat Andrea Dalessandro in the race for two seats in the House of Representatives in Legislative District 30. We asked him some questions on crime.

Should we increase state funding for prison construction?

It’s hard because we are in such a big hole. I like what Arpaio does. I think he has a good plan and he saves the county a lot of money. At the moment we have got to come out of our money crisis.

Should we have more contracts with private prisons?

I want to see how the ones that are out there are doing compared to the public ones. It’s not that I would support it or not, I would want to take a look at them and compare them.

Should we spend more on programs that provide prisoners with vocational education while they are behind bars?

Helping them earn their GED is Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Democrat Andrea Dalessandro on Crime

Democrat Andrea Dalessandro is facing Republicans Frank Antenori and David Gowan in the race for two House of Representatives seats in Legislative District 30. We asked her some questions about crime.

Should we increase state funding for prison construction?

I wish that we would refocus. Our prison budget is going out-of-sight compared to what it was a few years ago. We need to look at some of sentencing laws for minor crimes and we need to give them opportunities for education. I’m also concerned about first-time juvenile drug offenders. I don’t want them to become career prison residents. I would rather see them have increased opportunity and be productive. I think it’s sad that we are spending more money on inmates in prison, than we are spending on youth for public education.

Should we have more contracts with private prisons?

No, because privatization is great in theory, but if there is a profit motive, I don’t think it’s a good thing. People still have rights and they need to be treated humanely with proper food and facilities. I also think that education should be encouraged more in prisons, because if it isn’t there, they just return to a life of violence.
Do you support “hate crimes” legislation that increases penalties for crimes based on race, ethnic background, religious belief, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation?

I think it’s a basic civil right and hate crimes are just evil. It doesn’t Continue reading

Napolitano on Joe the Plumber

We asked Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano about the story of Joe the Plumber today while she was on a campaign stop to motivate Southern Arizona Democrats.

Napolitano said the plumber’s story about planning to buy a business wasn’t holding much water and he appeared to be the kind of citizen who would benefit more under an Obama administration.

“McCain’s been a senator for 26 years and I haven’t seen him help a ‘Joe the Plumber’ yet,” she said.

Speaking of benefiting from an Obama administration, we asked Napolitano if she would be sticking around the state or moving to Washington, D.C., if Obama were to win the presidency.

“I’m not looking for another job,” Napolitano said.

But that’s no guarantee she wouldn’t take one if an offer were to come along…