Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Redistricting -- Fed court hearing on Legislative District map

This morning, attorney Mary O'Grady faced off against David Cantelme, counsel for the rag tag group of tea party activists claiming that their voting rights have been diluted by the dastardly fiends serving as citizen volunteers on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The occasion was a hearing at the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Cantelme's challenge to the legislative district map approved last January by the AIRC. The setting was the Special Proceedings Courtroom. Scott Freeman was the only sitting commissioner who attended this hearing. He was mostly standoffish with me and sat on the side of the courtroom with the plaintiffs.

photo courtesy Eric E. Johnson

The plan was for a three-judge panel (chaired by chief judge for US District Court for the District of Arizona, Roslyn O. Silver) to hear arguments for 30 minutes from each side. When AIRC cases were heard in the Arizona Supreme Court (or the Arizona Court of Appeals), time limits were strictly maintained. Not so in the federal court today.

O'Grady answered tough questions from all three judges for roughly an hour. The main take away was that the three judges were well prepared. Or at least had spent time reading the briefs in this matter as well as related case law.

Cantelme's grilling from the judges lasted substantially less time. He was quite deferential, indicating he recognized that he had made some whoppers of mistakes in the amended complaint and that he hoped the court would "grant him leave" to amend it again.

After Cantelme, Judith Dworkin, counsel for the Navajo Nation, which had filed a motion to intervene in the case and a proposed motion to dismiss the case, faced a seemingly even more intense grilling from the panel. Dworkin's main point was that by virtue of rules of procedure governing this case, the Navajo Nation had a right to intervene. The judges, however, wanted to know what the Navajo Nation could bring to the proceeding that would be different from what counsel for the AIRC brings.

They seemed very emphatic about insisting that in order for her motion to be granted, her client should have some additional interest. Otherwise, the Navajo Nation could simply file an amicus brief and consult with AIRC counsel during the course of the litigation.

After the panel finished grilling Dworkin, Judge Silver announced a potential trial date of March 25, 2013 and gave a deadline of November 7 (2012) for counsel to submit proposed trial management plans. Then she said -- that is, unless we decide to grant the motion to dismiss.

A couple of reporters waited just outside the courthouse to interview Cantelme. Before they did so, however, a few people exchanged some scuttlebutt guessing that the motion to dismiss would be denied by a vote of 2-1.

Cantelme, took the opportunity to spin the situation and the entire purpose of the lawsuit when he told Capitol Media Services' Howard Fischer:
In this case, though, attorney David Cantelme contends the Independent Redistricting Commission drew the lines solely to create Democrat-dominated districts with less population and Republican districts with more. He said that means those in the overpopulated districts have less individual effect on the outcome.
O'Grady, on the other hand, reiterated what has consistently been the position of the People of Arizona (officially, that is, and specifically of the AIRC) also as reported by Fischer:
...attorney Mary O'Grady told the three-judge panel the commission HAD to make population adjustments to meet other criteria, including protecting minority voting strength. And she said the commission is entitled to flexibility in how it meets its goals without having the process second-guessed and micromanaged by the courts. 
In other words, partisanship was NOT a factor outside of the considerations stated in the language of Prop 106 (2000 general election).

If Cantelme wins, the people of Arizona lose... in more ways than one. Most immediately, litigation costs go up dramatically. And the AIRC would be forced to begin the process of drawing the legislative district map all over again.

The three-judge panel took the allegations seriously, at least enough to put a good amount of time and effort into preparing significant and probing questions for the attorneys. The issue, whether there has been a genuine violation of Constitutional protection of one person, one vote, is a serious one and deserves their careful consideration.

But given the language in the Constitution and related case law (Cantelme, by the way, admitted that he had NO case references that go directly and completely to the issues in this case), it has to still be possible that O'Grady argued persuasively and the motion to dismiss might be granted.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Hitting a nerve -- 7 days until Election Day!

Imagine my surprise the other day to learn that Jon Kyl and John McCain had emphatically supported Richard Carmona, now the Democratic nominee for US Senate from the great State of Arizona.


Well, actually I was not at all surprised. Nor was I surprised at the indignation the two Republican US Senators from Arizona expressed at Carmona using their own words -- spoken during his senate confirmation hearing -- after he was nominated by then President George W. Bush to be the Surgeon General of the United States.

Of course, at that time, Carmona was a registered Independent voter. Not very long ago, that changed.

Even though Carmona is now a Democrat, he still has garnered endorsements from Republicans, though not that many from those who need to hang onto hyperpartisanship to maintain their livelihood. Of course, Kyl and McCain are still very definitely partisan.

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini put some perspective on the Republican senators' indignation:

U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona did something "shameful" to U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl.
He quoted them accurately in a campaign commercial. (emphasis added)
That's it.
It turns out that repeating verbatim the kind words the senators once used to describe Carmona has made McCain and Kyl really, really, really mad. So much so that the senators issued a statement saying Carmona "has no credibility."
Really?
Or are McCain and Kyl the ones with credibility issues?
Well, at minimum, I believe it's fair to say that Carmona hit a nerve, perhaps Kyl and McCain's funny bone. The good news is that, according to WebMD, "The funny-bone sensation can be intense, but it is not serious and will go away on its own."

That, of course, IS good news. I'm confident much of the pain (in the BEE-HIND) that many of us have been experiencing to increasing degrees over the last couple of weeks will go away suddenly on November 7 (the day AFTER the election). Even if our favored candidate does not win his or her particular election campaign. (Note that the 2014 election begins on November 7, 2012)

Anyway, very similar to the nuisance and faux outrage expressed by Kyl and McCain, the Democratic candidates for the LD26 seats in the Arizona Legislature stirred up a little bit of a brouhaha with a campaign ad sent to some voters by snail mail a few weeks ago.

The mailer fairly and correctly characterized the three Republican candidates for the LD26 seats (senate hopeful, Jerry Lewis, currently a senator in an OLD district and two newcomers Ray Speakman and Mary Lou Taylor) as Tea Party puppets. And did so using cartoon style (JibJab) images.

Well, it seems that the affable senator from West Mesa (Lewis) took offense and shopped the story of the way those dastardly Tempe Democrats victimized the guy who "vanquished" the evil villain Russell Pearce. Surprisingly, the story was so substantial that it took three weeks for Lewis' camp to get ANYONE interested in it. Finally, on October 23, the Yellow Sheet Report picked it up. For them, of course, gossip is their stock in trade.
DEMS GOING ALL IN AGAINST ‘TEA PARTIER’ LEWIS
Escalating the attack, Ableser and his Democratic teammates Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood have labeled their LD26 GOP opponents as “Tea Party puppets” in a mailer that was sent to voters in Tempe and Mesa this week. The hit piece shows Lewis and House candidates Ray Speakman and Mary Lou Taylor being held up by strings, with a caption that declares: “Between funding Sheriff Joe, endorsing Russell Pearce, and taking $100,000 from crooked lobbyists, you have to wonder… Who’s pulling their strings?”

On the other hand, for the Phoenix New Times -- which over the years has garnered numerous awards for top notch investigative journalism -- it's historically only been people like Fife Symington, who clearly had "issues" regarding personal integrity who thought NT was a gossip sheet.

Mere weeks ago, however, New Times and its parent company, Village Voice Media, changed ownership. One would have hoped that the edgy legitimate investigative reporting would not have suffered a drop in quality so soon. But that may be a reasonable way to look at what NT reporter Stephen Lemons did when he caught wind of the Yellow Sheet blurb.

Since I've linked Lemons story, I won't copy it in this blog post. But I will say that Lemons' indignation, declaration and characterization of this situation is more than just a little bit disappointing. Like the Yellow Sheet said, the LD26 Dems went "all in" with this mailer. For one, I am glad that Democrats are not afraid to be Democrats and that they are willing to take the gloves off and fight for my interests.

Politics is about power and cannot legitimately be separated from conflict.
It is difficult to conceive of a human community where there is no conflict among the members or between persons in the community and outsiders. At the same time, the degree to which conflict is overt varies widely. 
Besides the fact that Lemons drops numerous rhetorical bombs on the LD26 Democratic candidates (bombs, by the way, that the three candidates have endured without visible casualty), the most disturbing thing about his story, in my view, is that as far as he is concerned, for Jerry Lewis, since the first Tuesday in November 2011, time has virtually stood still.

Well, that and the fact that some voters may have been swayed by Lemons' insane notion that Ed Ableser having missed votes -- that would not have made the difference between passing or failing on bills -- is somehow worse than Lewis having voted almost entirely as Russell Pearce would have voted. More on that in a moment.

Stephen Lemons' worships the undeniably affable Jerry Lewis as a hero, which -- for a day -- he indeed was. But worthy of hero worship a year later with absolutely NO analysis of Lewis' record as a senator? That's really stretching it. People who overheard Lemons' conversation with Ableser on the phone tell me that Lemons was raging at the incumbent Tempe state representative, with numerous epithets, swearing and cursing.

Now ALL of this tempest in a teapot by Lemons' is nothing more than fulfilling the role of TOOL for those who intend to keep Arizona locked in the dark ages, politically speaking. Distraction from the real reason we vote for members of legislative bodies.

Do we need a KING to rule over us, or a REPRESENTATIVE to speak ON OUR BEHALF in the making of laws and public policy?

How we answer that question determines whether hero worship is the appropriate approach. If we want a KING to rule over us in a benevolent manner, Jerry Lewis, the warm, affable guy with the mile wide smile is THE guy.

But if we (YOU, I already know that I don't need a king) want a representive voice in the state senate, then we can only genuinely tell based on his record. So, let's look at it.

According to Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy, Jerry Lewis voted eleven out of twelve times the way Herrod wanted him to vote. Those bills encompass a woman's right to make her own health care decisions (Herrod eschews that right), dictating education policy, protecting the "religious freedom" of corporations and professionals (screw religious freedom for ordinary individuals, however) AND what she calls judicial reform.

The sole contrarian vote Lewis cast, on bills Herrod considered important enough to include in her report, was on a bill that Lewis was given special dispensation by the senate GOP caucus for the primary purpose of being able to tell voters about it this year. That was the contraception mandate (HB2625). Lewis voted NO to exempt religious organizations from the mandate. But the bill passed and became law without him.

Now, about that claim in the LD26 Democrats mailer that Jerry Lewis is a Tea Party puppet. The Arizona Republic's Robert Robb wrote a very poignant and succinct column illustrating that very point just today.
Jerry Lewis and Prop. 120
For those who believe that there are too many right-wing wackos in the Arizona Legislature, Proposition 120 is one of their strongest pieces of evidence.
Referred to the ballot by the Legislature, Prop. 120 tries to change the terms and conditions under which Arizona became a state – 100 years later.  That includes taking over the federal forests and parks and declaring federal environmental and land management laws null and void in Arizona.
Regardless of what one thinks about federal management of public lands and environmental laws, this is nutty stuff.
The solution to having too many right-wing wackos, we are told, is to elect more moderate Republicans who won’t do such stuff. Jerry Lewis is often held up as an example, having achieved a special status in the anti-wacko pantheon by dispatching Russell Pearce in the recall election.
Well, there’s an interesting story about Lewis and Prop. 120.
Prop. 120 initially died in the Senate, 14-16. Six Republican senators had the good sense and fortitude to vote against it: Rich Crandall, Adam Driggs, Jerry Lewis, John McComish, Michele Reagan and Steve Yarbrough.
One of the yes votes was missing, Frank Antenori. But even with Antenori’s vote, Prop. 120 couldn’t pass on reconsideration unless one of the no votes changed to a yes.
One did. That would be Jerry Lewis.   
Stephen Lemons' brazenly brandished his bias and left all pretense of journalistic objectivity and integrity far behind in the drivel he called reporting on this issue.

I enthusiastically support Ed Ableser for the Arizona Senate but DO expect him to have a better attendance record in 2013 and beyond.

Another bit of good news as a result of this dust up is that volunteers turned out in record numbers over the weekend after the story was published on the NT website. Not only are LD26 Democratic candidates not afraid to be Democrats, but the voters and activists are stepping up too.

Stephen Lemons should issue a complete retraction and apology. But I won't hold my breath.

Yes, Lemons hit a nerve too. But Lemons, if not completely disingenuous, grossly erred in his "analysis" of the mailer and the situations about which he wrote.

The bottom line on Lemons' hit piece is that he thinks Jerry Lewis deserves a pass for, as HE put it, having vanquished Pearce. He offered not ONE bit of analysis of Lewis' conduct as a senator.

Smart voters will not fall for it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Arizona cannot afford to reelect TRASH BURNER BOB

On Thursday at noon, Marcia Busching, Sandra Kennedy and Paul Newman -- all three Democratic candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission -- held a press conference in front of Commission headquarters at 1200 W. Washington Street, Phoenix to make clear that they are the only candidates this year credibly advocating for increasing use of our state's most abundant energy resource -- Solar.

This is contrary to dubious claims that TRASH BURNER BOB Stump and his running mates, Bob Burns and Susan Bitter Smith made during the Clean Elections Debate, that THEY are advocates of increased development of solar electricity generating capacity in our state. From the right-wing blog, Sonoran Alliance dated September 16, 2011:

At the NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition meeting Wednesday, September 14, 2011, the three GOP Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) candidates discussed their views of the proper role of the ACC, regulatory issues, and the Renewable Energy Mandate.
This is the first event at which the GOP ACC candidates, Bob Stump (Incumbent), Bob Burns, and Susan Bitter-Smith appeared together for this campaign.
The candidates all said that they would never have voted for the mandate, but, now that it is in place, they would not vote to repeal it...  Perhaps challenging the likely “Solar Team” for 2012 is considered too risky by the candidates if they appear unwilling to continue with the renewable energy mandate (mostly solar energy). Bob Burns said that solar energy appears to be popular with voters – another reason not to repeal the mandate. (emphasis added)

To the contrary, on December 13, 2011, Bob Stump initiated an amendment to Arizona Public Service's 2012 Renewable Energy Standard Distributed Generation budget to cut $19 million. This amendment was adopted and reduced APS' requirement for development of rooftop solar generating capacity from $40 million in 2011 to $24 million in 2012, a 47.5 percent reduction. The $19 million reduction returned the average ratepayer a whopping $.20 (TWENTY CENTS) per month.

There is SOOOOOO much more evidence that TRASH BURNER BOB and his comrades are completely disingenuous whenever they claim to support solar, wind and other renewable electricity generation development in Arizona. In contrast, Busching, Kennedy and Newman are genuine advocates for solar.

Reporter Ted Houston, writing for KFYI radio in Phoenix wrote this about the Thursday press conference and the statements by the Democratic candidates:

The three Democrats running for Arizona Corporation Commission say they don't understand why their three Republican rivals are trying to reduce or eliminate the use of solar energy in the state.
The Republicans, who currently hold three of the commission's five seats, claim that solar energy costs too much and that requiring that a certain percentage of electrical generation come from "renewable" energy sources, such as solar and wind, drives up state residents' electric bills.
We are about ten days out from election day. There is so much at stake this year, and Arizona's short and long-term public health and economy are among the things that voters will be able to assert their voice.




I STRONGLY recommend voting for Busching, Kennedy and Newman for Arizona Corporation Commission.

I also recommend Joann Mosher for any graphic design work you may need. She made the graphic above. Joann can be reached by email joannmos (at) gmail.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dem ACC candidates Press Conference -- NOON

The three Democratic candidates for seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission -- Marcia Busching, Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy -- will hold a press conference at NOON today in front of the Corporation Commission building at 1200 W. Washington, Phoenix.

They will provide clarification and documentation that show how Republican incumbent Commissioners, including candidate for re-election, Bob Stump, have undermined Solar Development in Arizona, while claiming to support the industry.

Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman, and Democratic Candidate for Corporation Commissioner Marcia Busching will address recent claims by their Republican opponents that they favor “renewable energy.” They will provide proof that Commissioner Bob Stump was never in favor of Arizona’s already weak Renewable Energy Standards, and will document how Republican efforts have weakened Arizona’s solar industry.

Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman, and Democratic Candidate for Corporation Commissioner Marcia Busching will address recent claims by their Republican opponents that they favor “renewable energy.” They will provide proof that Commissioner Bob Stump was never in favor of Arizona’s already weak Renewable Energy Standards, and will document how Republican efforts have weakened Arizona’s solar industry.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Zocalo talk -- Mickey Edwards's "subtle" advocacy

First, what in the world is Zocalo Public Square?
Zócalo Public Square is a not-for-profit daily Ideas Exchange that blends digital humanities journalism and live events. We foster healthier, more cohesive communities by tackling important contemporary questions in an accessible, non-partisan, and broad-minded spirit.
Then, who in the world is Mickey Edwards?
During Edwards’ sixteen years in Congress, he served variously on the House Budget and Appropriations committees and was the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He was also a member of the House Republican leadership, serving as the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, the party's fourth-ranking leadership position. In Edwards' first run in 1974, he was defeated by incumbent conservative Democratic Congressman John Jarman, who switched parties to the Republican party shortly before retiring. The next time around in 1976, Edwards beat GOP establishment candidate G. T. Blankenship, a local banker and oilman who was a former state attorney general and former Republican leader in the state House of Representatives, in the Republican primary, and defeated Democrat Tom Dunlap in the general election. Edwards served eight terms before being defeated for renomination by state Representative Ernest Istook, mostly because of Edwards' involvement in the House banking scandal.
The next question, of course: what is Edwards doing in Arizona not quite three weeks before the 2012 general election? The most direct answer is that he is promoting his latest book, The Parties versus The People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. A secondary answer is that Mr. Edwards gave a Zocalo Public Square talk on the subject, Are Political Parties Hurting Our Democracy?

A tertiary answer to the question appeared to be the case, even though Edwards denied it before anyone could suggest it. However, it seemed apparent to people who've been following the issue that Edwards intended to promote Paul Johnson's so-called Open Primary proposition (Prop121).

Because I am always interested in the underlying issues in, on, around or about any given situation, I have to explore what is beneath the surface. And so I did.

The former Congressman is a delightfully charming gentleman with an engaging presentation style. Having been an lecturer at Harvard as well as a Member of Congress, that should surprise nobody.

Edwards' premise was that the Founding Fathers warned against what we know today as political parties. Of course, they have not always been entrenched on opposing sides to a deathly serious game of who is right and who is wrong.

It's that entrenchment we see today as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (leader of the "loyal opposition") declaring in 2010 that his primary goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

There should be little question that, in general, the Democratic Party could demonstrate similar behavior IF they were in a similar situation as the Republicans are today. Edwards said that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her number one goal is and has been to get the most Democratic members elected to Congress.

That contrasts with what we SHOULD expect of both McConnell and Pelosi, which would be to do their utmost to solve America's problems working with all Members of Congress and the executive branch.

But is that what Democrats would do? Perhaps, but as much as Fock Snooze watching Americans hate Pelosi, when she had the opportunity -- some think a DUTY -- to impeach and prosecute George W Bush for egregious crimes she did not pursue that course of action.

Anyone would hard pressed to make a case that what George W Bush did, by deceiving Congress and the entire country into authorizing him to invade Iraq was done solely, or even PRIMARILY because of political parties or partisanship.

But I digress.

Edwards' premise, which he stated at the beginning of his talk, was that the partisan primary process did not emerge in our country until the late 1800s (that's NOT 1-800, as in toll free area code). He then told a few anecdotes which led him to jump overtly to suggesting that the only solution to a system that rewards (incentivizes) polarization is to remove the aspects of the system that promote polarization.

But he really glossed over complex factors that cannot rightfully be ignored when considering how to legitimately solve or begin to address problems with American public policy and lawmaking. In essentially one sentence, he said that he has a chapter in his book about money, but would not talk about it (last night). He spent a just little bit more time describing the absurdity of the Supreme Court ruling equating corporations with people. Absurd, of course, is a good starting place for discussion of that tidbit.

Edwards eloquently described how the concept of corporations was antithetical to them having the same rights as people. They were established in law to essentially protect their owners from liabilities and risks they would have if not organized as corporations. Which is also true.

Yet, when boiled down to its essence, Edwards' main point for the evening was that to get rid of the polarization, we have to eliminate partisan primaries. Only, he never really made a case for it. Neither did he address any specifics of the current proposal before Arizona voters.

The problem, he says, with partisan polarization is that nobody from one side will talk to anyone from the other. He reasoned that since Members of Congress are not allowed to talk to each other while on the floor of the House, they must go to a "cloak room." But there is a Republican cloak room and a Democrat cloak room. And never the twain shall meet.

However, when I search the internet, and more specifically the House.gov website, I found NO Democratic cloakroom. I'm not sure what that proves, or even means, but it really does not look to be equivalent on both "sides." At least the US Senate website provides a definition that matches Edwards' description.

Again, the key according to Edwards is that members from one political party do not work with the other party to develop legislation.

But I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out how Arizona's proposed jungle primary process will provide ANY more incentive for members of the Arizona Legislature to conduct themselves in a bipartisan manner.

Anyway, during the Q and A discussion at the end, when I suggested to Edwards that it was NOT the same on both sides, he responded quickly and with a measure of irritation in his voice about Gabby Giffords and Greg Stanton being Democrats. It wasn't quite clear what point he was trying to make other than that he, just like partisans, was not really interested in discussing ideas that disagree with his.

Ultimately, in spite of Edwards talk, I can't get past the idea that it takes a leader with serious backbone to withstand pressure from colleagues AND sometimes from citizen advocates from all sides. And that's not a matter of whether there is an R or a D after one's name. Sometimes, by the way, the ability to withstand that pressure is more a reflection of the demographics (including voter registration balance) in the district a lawmaker represents. But that's a matter for another blog post.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Replacing Ben Arredondo -- the short list UPDATED 2:00am MST 10-19-12

Arizona Democratic Party chairman Bill Roe presided over a very quick meeting of LD26 Democrats (meeting AS the old LD17) to nominate three people pursuant to ARS §41-1202 to replace the now former LD 17 state Rep. Ben Arredondo.

2. Those elected precinct committeemen shall nominate, within twenty-one days after notification of the vacancy by the secretary of state if the legislature is not in regular session or within five days if the legislature is in regular session and by a majority vote, three qualified electors to fill the vacancy who meet the requirements for service in the legislature and who belong to the same political party and reside at the time of nomination in the same district and county as the person elected to or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy.
3. The meeting to fill the vacancy is subject to title 38, chapter 3, article 3.1, and the state party chairman of the appropriate political party shall oversee the nominations. Fifty per cent or more of the elected precinct committeemen of the district who are in the legislative district and from the county in which the vacancy occurred, or their proxies, meeting together constitutes a quorum for the purposes of this subsection.
Twenty-two LD17 precinct committeemen (and women) were physically present with an additional twenty proxies granted for the purpose of this meeting. Since the total number of PCs is about 60, the forty-two votes constituted a quorum.

As soon as Roe called the meeting to order and opened the floor for nominations, Juan Mendez, Randy Keating and Kristin Gwinn were quickly nominated. A motion came from the floor to close nominations. It was seconded and approved. State Sen. David Schapira then made a motion, that since there were only three people nominated, to waive speeches and voting and approve the three names by acclamation. The motion was seconded and approved. All business for the meeting was thereby finished.

Juan Mendez is currently running to represent LD26 in the Arizona House. He manages a local nonprofit and will be a hard working voice for Arizona's working class families.

Randy Keating is chairman of LD26 Democrats, and runs his own small business.

Kristin Gwinn, an experienced political campaign consultant, is also currently treasurer for LD26 Democrats.

It may be advantageous for Democrats and for Mendez in particular if the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors decides to appoint him. However, because we are now less than three weeks away from the general election, and because the Board of Supervisors has four Republicans and only one Democrat, nobody seems to think Mendez will be chosen.

The next step, is for the Arizona Democratic Party to forward these three names to the Board of Supervisors.
4. The state party chairman of the appropriate political party shall forward the names of the three persons named pursuant to paragraph 2 of this subsection to the board of supervisors of the county of residence of the person elected or appointed to the office immediately before the vacancy occurred. The board of supervisors shall appoint a person from the three nominees submitted.
The Board of Supervisors will, presumably the next time they meet, make the appointment.

-----

Yesterday, Arizona lost a statesman. Former state Rep. Bill Konopnicki passed away after a short illness. Prior to the call to order at this evening's meeting, Rep. Ed Ableser and Sen. David Schapira shared stories recalling Konopnicki's influence during their mutual time in the Arizona House of Representatives.

I had met Konopnicki, a Republican from Safford, during my time at the Arizona Capitol Times. Like everyone else, I knew him to truly be one of the good guys. He is already sorely missed.

UPDATE

It occurred to me, after re-reading the language in ARS §41-1202 to look back on the time last January when a panel of LD15 activists met to nominate three people to succeed Kyrsten Sinema who had, only days before, resigned her seat in the Arizona Senate so that she could gear up to run for Congress.

Sinema, of course, has since won the CD9 Democratic primary election and hopefully will go on to represent the Phoenix district in Congress.

A couple of notable differences between that LD15 meeting and the LD17 process to replace Arredondo:

  • LD15 did not have the minimum number of elected precinct committeemen, so the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had to appoint a panel, many of whom were LD15 PCs, to conduct the nomination process. LD17, likely because it has been a competitive district throughout the last ten years, did have a large base of activists. Early in the decade, there had been Republican representation for the district at the capitol. But it was a core of passionate Democrats that took the nearly evenly balanced voter registration and got our guys elected. I am proud of Ed Ableser and David Schapira for how they have been the voice for Tempe in setting public policy for Arizona.
  • The chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party at the time, Andrei Cherny did NOT preside over the nomination meeting or process. That is consistent with his lackluster performance as ADP chair. Bill Roe is a ROCK. He is actively involved and shows up when and where it is appropriate for the ADP chair to show up. Bravo to Bill and to the ADP.
Of course, the ADP is still only a focal point for Democratic activism in Arizona. It is not a god, nor is it an institution without fault or criticism. But it is a whole lot of Democratic activists throughout the state making a difference. We are less than three weeks out from being able to see the fruit of our labor once again, from actively participating in redistricting to developing Democratic activists and candidates, to canvassing for the candidates and encouraging voters to vote early and get their ballots turned it.

And I'm proud to be part of the team.


Replacing Ben Arredondo

As you may recall, former Republican turned Democrat state Rep. Ben Arredondo resigned his Legislative District 17 seat in the Arizona House of Representatives not quite two weeks ago.


Legislative District 17 Democratic precinct committee members expect to meet next week to recommend three nominees to fill the state House seat left open when Rep. Ben Arredondo resigned last Friday after pleading guilty to felony charges. (emphasis added)
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tempe Escalante Community Center.
State law requires precinct committee members to nominate three potential replacements within about three weeks, after being notified of the vacancy by the secretary of state, if the Legislature is not in regular session, or within five days if it is in regular session.
LD 26 Democrats will hold a meeting to allow Precinct Committeemen for the old LD17 to nominate those three people whose names will be forwarded to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The meeting will be held at the Escalante Community Center, 1250 E Orange St, Tempe, at 6:30pm this evening. It is OPEN to the PUBLIC, but only the LD17 PCs will be allowed to nominate and vote.

To qualify for the appointment to the House, a person must reside within the boundaries of the old LD17 (most of Tempe).

It is a safe bet that current Democratic LD26 House candidate Juan Mendez will be one of the people approved for the list of names to be forwarded. The other current Democratic LD26 House candidate, Andrew Sherwood lives outside of the old LD17, so he is ineligible.

I will report on the meeting later tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Redistricting -- IRC Congressional map challenge dismissed

This morning, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain dismissed several counts in a lawsuit challenging the Congressional district map adopted by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The Associated Press reported that the suit had been dismissed. Judge Brain's minute entry specifically rules out some claims on the basis that they "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Additionally:
Rule 8(a) requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The first amended complaint is 135 pages long, including exhibits. The allegations themselves span including 43 pages (and 194 paragraphs). And, worse yet, much of the purported background (and several of the exhibits) have essentially nothing to do with the actual legal theories contained in Counts 1-6.
Therefore, the entire first amended complaint is dismissed, but Brain ordered plaintiffs to refile no later than November 9 for the surviving counts to be considered. Of course, that doesn't prevent plaintiffs from asserting, in filing a potential second amended complaint, claims similar (but reworded or reframed) to what the judge had specifically rulled out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deforming the Judiciary in Arizona

By now, many people have weighed in on Proposition 115*, which has been deceptively characterized as an effort to amend the Arizona Constitution to reform the Arizona Judiciary.

One group that has been vigorously advocating FOR changing the way judges are selected and retained for several years is the Center for Arizona Policy.**

Arizona’s current system of judicial selection lacks appropriate checks and balances among the three branches of government, lacks accountability, and has not removed politics from the system. In 2011, the Legislature passed CAP-supported SCR 1001 to place a measure on the 2012 ballot to make changes to Arizona’s judicial selection system.
SCR 1001 is a consensus measure to improve the system by allowing the Governor to select from a larger pool of names, removing the party affiliation restraints, and changing the role of the State Bar of Arizona in nominating attorney members for the “merit-selection” commissions. (emphasis in original)
[My] Translation of the language posted by Cathi Herrod's group is informative:
Arizona's current system of judicial selection is too difficult for the political branches of Arizona government (and therefore, me, Cathi Herrod) to intimidate and manipulate. But I have great news: in 2011, I was able to get Russell Pearce to push a senate resolution to passage that can change the whole ballgame.
SCR1001 is a measure that masks our scheme to hyper-politicize Arizona courts by including a couple of harmless provisions that other people like so that we could get enough votes to put the measure on this year's general election ballot.
Fortunately, editorial content expressing opposition to this misguided attempt to set up Arizona courts for politicization, intimidation and manipulation is plentiful. Which makes my job a bit easier. A sampling, starting with the Arizona Republic:

The greater part of Prop. 115 -- indeed, its reason for being on the ballot -- threatens the independence of Arizona's most respected branch of government, its judiciary.
The Arizona Republic strongly urges the defeat of Prop. 115. Its primary goal -- putting greater judicial appointment power in the hands of the executive branch -- has "unintended political consequences" written all over it.
Worse, it places a truly unsettling review power in the hands of the Legislature. Oh, the horror of that spectacle. If the prospect of some legislative beanie-spinner like Rep. Jack Harper presiding over judiciary show trials doesn't make your blood curdle ...
Yes, the current "merit selection" system of judicial appointments is indisputably flawed. There just is no perfect system.
Prop. 115 is the brainchild of a small group of lawmakers who see the State Bar of Arizona as too liberal and too influential regarding which candidates for the judiciary get recommended to the governor.
The conflict is a long-running one. But you need not favor either side to realize Prop. 115 re-positions power over the judiciary from the current, delicate balance between these warring parties onto the side of the Office of the Governor. Whatever the benefits of such a move, taking politics out of the process won't be one of them. (emphasis mine)
Cronkite News Service's Fara Illich wrote:
Proposition 115 would require that orders and opinions by state judges and justices be published online.
and
Under the measure, a joint legislative committee could hold hearings to gather testimony on the performance of judges and justices who are facing retention votes. 
Now, go back to what the Republic said (above) about envisioning someone like Jack Harper conducting hearings over judges up for retention.

For me to go into any more depth on this proposition would constitute rambling on unnecessarily. I believe the points I made above constitute the most salient aspects of the situation and, frankly the possibility of 115 passing is scary even to me.

-----

* Those arguing in favor of Prop 115 passage in the official publicity pamphlet sent to all Arizona voters include:

  • State Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), current chair House Judiciary Cmte
  • Republican Gov. Jan Brewer
  • Senate President Steve Pierce (R-Prescott)
  • Speaker of the Arizona House Andy Tobin (R-Prescott)
  • Kirk Adams, former House Speaker and Republican candidate for Congress
  • Cathi Herrod, president of Center for Arizona Policy
  • Steve Twist, Republican lawyer and activist
By the way, most, if not all of those listed above were very vocal in criticizing the Arizona Supreme Court for nullifying the effort to decapitate the Independent Redistricting Commission. That is the very kind of thing goons and bullies like Ms. Herrod want to be able to use to intimidate and manipulate judges, justices and their rulings.

The list of those arguing against passage of 115 in the publicity pamphlet includes:
  • Tim Hogan, attorney Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest 
  • Barbara Klein, League of Women Voters, Arizona
  • Five retired Chief Justices of the Arizona Supreme Court, Stanley Feldman, Thomas Zlaket, Ruth McGregor, Frank Gordon and Charles Jones
  • Noel Fidel, former Chief Justice, Arizona Court of Appeals, Div. One
  • Doris Marie Provine, President, Arizona Advocacy Network
  • Bill Roe, Chairman, Arizona Democratic Party
** While I argued regarding Prop 121 that favoring the measure just because of who opposes it is irrational and illogical, considering who supports Prop 115 along with WHY they support it leads to examination of the underlying issues at the center of the debate.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

How far "open" should Arizona primaries be? UPDATED 10:30pm MST 10-14-12

Proposition 121, on the 2012 general election ballot in Arizona, proposes to amend the Arizona Constitution to adopt a Top Two primary election system.  ASU Prof Jennifer Steen wrote up a brief review of the very limited scholarly writing available on similar systems adopted in other states.

Notable points:
What are the likely consequences of adopting a nonpartisan primary (alternatively known as a “top two” or “jungle” primary) in Arizona? Hypotheses abound but empirical analysis has been virtually non-existent, presumably because the nonpartisan primary has not been widely used.
By the way, NO state that has a Clean Elections mechanism for public funding of candidate campaigns has experience with adopting Top Two.

Washington state has a Top Two system, but not Clean Elections. California adopted Top Two and it was first used for its June 2012 primary election. Steen's paper review does not include any info on California's results because no analysis apparently had yet been published in academic publications.

However, California news websites have published initial observations made by political scientists about that state's first election under the new system. San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston in August wrote:

So what do we have? For the most part, in the 28 intra-party contests cited above, we see liberal Democrats running against liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans running against conservative Republicans.
None of this suggests a wave of moderation. In only one case, the 15th Congressional District, do we see a pronounced distinction, and that's where moderate Democrat Eric Swalwell is pushing ultra-liberal incumbent Pete Stark. In that radically organized district, the race looks to be tight.
Otherwise, there are major disappointments.
For example, because of those 28 intra-party contests, the second party has been automatically denied a place on the ballot come November. In this sense, party competition has suffered.
snip
A third cost is the waste of the voter's time. Under the "top-two" system, a candidate in a two-person June race who gets a huge majority in June must run off against the same person in November. For example, in the 22nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Devin Nunes received 70 percent of the vote, while his Democratic challenger Otto Lee won 30 percent. Really, is there any reason to do this again in November?

Do we really expect a different result?
Yes, the reformers sure wanted to change the system, and they have. But whatever the problems with the old method, the new system has set us back a step or two. It's just yet another layer of confusion that Californians don't need. (emphasis added)

Further, in California, in a race pitting two incumbent Democratic Congressmen against each other, both of whom ended up in the Top Two in June, the contentiousness of the primary remains.
The embarrassing moment — captured on video Thursday and splashed across the Internet — unsettled the close contest between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman and left the two campaigns fighting over what happened in a San Fernando Valley auditorium and why.
The brief altercation between the fellow Democrats speaks to an ever-deteriorating political culture and the tumult created by new California election laws that resulted in a handful of highly charged, same-party runoffs.
Remember the Democratic primary in Arizona's new Ninth Congressional District? It was exceedingly nasty.  

... California's 51st U.S. House District in San Diego? A strongly Democrat[ic] district, the lead candidate, a Democratic state senator, spent nearly $50,000 in support of a penniless Republican opponent to prevent his strongest rival, a fellow Democrat, from making the November election. The ruse worked, and now the Democrat will soundly trounce his Republican opponent in the runoff.
This is just a sample of the manipulations and strategies that are being deployed to game the crapshoot primary. In a number of these races, if fewer candidates had run, the results would have been different. It's a roll of the dice to see who survives. Political party leaders will quickly figure this out and begin discouraging candidates from running to avoid splitting their parties' vote. Political machines will gain even more influence. Such arbitrariness and perverse incentives undermine the legitimacy of the system.
But while the crapshoot primary turned some races into dice rolls, the vast majority of races looked the same as under the old system: no competition at all. Democratic incumbents like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee and GOP incumbents like Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher all finished so far ahead that there's no doubt who will win in November. Most California races at federal and state levels still had no meaningful choices and no competition.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/04/4691217/top-two-primary-hurt-competition.html#storylink=cpy

Steen wrote that two papers written (before the first election using the new system) on likely outcomes in Washington state predicted different impact on minority political parties. Election results favored the author who foresaw diminished impact of minority parties (i.e. Libertarian, Green, etc).

She also said that in one paper, 
"advocates of the Top Two primary in Washington argue that having to choose a particular party, even under an open or semi-closed primary, would discourage the growing number of unaffiliated voters from voting. Their claims are not without merit."

Here's a MAJOR point:
"In the sole study of Washington’s nonpartisan primary, Beck and Henrickson (n.d.) argue that 'there is an incentive for the major party organizations to discourage ‘too many’ candidates from entering the primary contest for a particular office with that party's label” (p. 1). They explain, “[The] top two primary system . . . creates the possibility that all of the candidates from one of the major parties might be eliminated in the primary election.... This would be most likely to occur if several candidates with one of the major parties' designation appeared on the primary ballot along with only two candidates of the other major party.'”
In fact, it can be demonstrated with crystal clarity that this is an opening for sinister political operators like the very real Constantin Querard, or John Mills (more about John Mills) or Nathan Sproul or others in their mold, will exploit this as an exceptionally effective method of gaming the system.

The language of Prop 121 provides for a candidate to call him or herself WHATEVER PARTY he or she wants to tell people they belong to. Therefore, regardless of the extent to which a political party is able to discourage candidates from running, rogue operatives like Querard and Mills (both of whom have been linked to fake candidates running for the purpose of diluting opposition votes) will still be able to manipulate the system.


To illustrate this point, let's take a look at the August 28 official primary results for the CD9.

Total votes cast = 87,976

Cherny Dem 11,146
Schapira Dem 11,419
Sinema, Kyrsten Dem 15,536



38,101




Powell Gamill (write in) Lib 90




Borowsky Repub 3,281
Schandlbauer Repub 2,139
Grantham Repub 9,179
Parker, Vernon Repub 11,184
Rogers Repub 10,479
Sepulveda Repub 10,165
Thompson Repub 3,358



49,785

Vernon Parker and Kyrsten Sinema emerged from the primary as their party's nominees. Under the Top Two system, if these same candidates ran and received the same number of votes, David Schapira and Kyrsten Simema would have been the only two candidates to appear on the general election ballot for this district.

That is despite the FACT that 11,684 MORE votes were cast, in total, for the seven Republican candidates than for the three Democrats.

Under the current system, a candidate not affiliated with a recognized political party can be placed on the general election ballot by obtaining enough nominating petition signatures. That process, of course, would no longer be available under Top Two. 

Steen writes further:
[One study] predicts that general elections will become more competitive, although not because the party nominees will be more moderate, an outcome predicted elsewhere. Rather, in seats that are dominated by one party, “’safe’ incumbents may find themselves facing a November challenge by another candidate from their own party. In this case, the consequence will be to broaden voter choice.” The 2010 election results indicate that this did happen in ten (out of 123) Washington state legislative contests; however, six of them cannot reasonably be deemed “competitive,” as the winner took more than 60 percent of the general-election vote. 

And it did happen in California.

For Arizona, THIS means that in districts where Tea Partisans, for example, are particularly vocal and have access to media (ads and social media/websites), there is ample evidence that the eventual winner will NOT be the "moderate" candidate.

And to restate a most obvious drawback of the Top Two system, as proposed, would dramatically suppress or altogether eliminate use of Clean Elections funding for primary elections. That further emphasizes the influence of Big Money on Arizona elections.

In the event the proposition passes, major revamp of Arizona Revised Statutes Title 16 (Elections and Electors) would be necessary (because the language of the proposition says so, not because I think so). The first such reference in the amended language in the Constitution, "All candidates wishing to run for elective office... shall file... petitions containing the signatures of registered voters in an amount to be established by law..." That's law as amended by the Arizona Legislature. Do you trust them to do a thorough job in addressing this aspect of a revamped primary system?

-----

Make no mistake, Top Two will wreak havoc on Arizona and if passed would take a MINIMUM of four years to reverse by way of any other citizen initiative.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle opponents of Prop 121 have to overcome in the hope the measure fails is the persistent MYTH that "if the political parties hate this proposition, it must be worth voting for..." or, in the alternative, "if the Republicans/Tea Partisans (or, if you prefer, substitute Democrats/Liberals) hate this, then I should probably vote for it."

Both of those notions are irrational, illogical and constitute simply a shortcut so that people do not have to put any thought into figuring out why they do or do not support such a radical change to the Arizona Constitution.

PLEASE do NOT take those shortcuts. Do you want to open our political system up to more radical exploitation from political operatives that would make it more like the inside of a casino than a straightforward way to elect people to represent our values, views and positions in Arizona government and Congress?

-----

UPDATE

Lest any Arizona Eagletarian readers think what Querard or Mills or Sproul do is limited to Arizona (well, we know Sproul is under investigation for criminal activity in other states already), Florida Republican Congressman David Rivera has been making (8-23-12) news for similar reasons lately.

MIAMI -- The FBI is investigating whether a little-known Democratic congressional candidate improperly received thousands of dollars for campaign mailings from Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a senior law enforcement official said Thursday.
At least one of the mailings from Justin Sternad's campaign was critical of the eventual Democratic nominee, Joe Garcia, who has previously tried to unseat Rivera in Florida's 25th congressional district that stretches from suburban Miami to Key West.

Then just a couple of days ago, in a Reuters story:

In a bizarre twist, Rivera is accused of interfering in the Democratic party's August primary by allegedly funneling at least $40,000 in cash to the campaign of a candidate running against Garcia, according to two sources who worked on the campaign.
The money went to pay for campaign mailings backing another virtual unknown, Justin Sternad. An unemployed former hotel worker, Sternad was making his first bid for public office.
Among the mailings, Sternad professed to be an Obama fan while raising questions about Garcia's recent divorce, suggesting he left his wife while she was battling cancer, an accusation the Garcia campaign strongly rejects.
Will Arizona voters be naive enough to believe that Prop 121 will do anything other than make this kind of "bizarre twist" more appealing to desperate politicians.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Redistricting -- possible insight on federal court case

On October 31, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission heads to federal court for the hearing on its motion to dismiss the complaint by Wes Harris and his merry band of Tea Party misfits who claim that the new state legislative districts dilute the power of Republican voters.

It's not so easy (for me) to keep the various lawsuits straight in my mind but I am very clear on the fact that one of them relates to the poor, victimized Republican voters having the power of their vote in and for the state legislature diminished. Like, how in the world do they even justify thinking that Republicans have a hard time getting their ideas made into law for Arizona? Good freakin' grief.

So, when the US Supreme Court ruled last month on a similar case in West Virginia, it caught my attention.

In its September 28 response in support of the motion to dismiss, the AIRC cites Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission (the ruling was dated September 25) as an authority. That case challenges Congressional district lines drawn by the West Virginia state legislature.
Plaintiffs also allude to technological advancements since Reynolds v. Sims, 377 25 U.S. 533 (1964), presumably to argue that because technology allows for legislative maps with equal population, such should now be the standard. (Response at 10:18-21.) While there undoubtedly have been advancements, they do not change the standard applied to an equal protection challenge. Tennant v. Jefferson County Comm’n...
The essence of Tennant and prior settled case law is that claims of vote dilution are obviated when variations in population between districts are decided upon based on legitimate state interests. Those interests as detailed in Tennant are similar to those cited by the AIRC during public sessions and deliberations.

AIRC counsel cited this Supreme Court ruling because plaintiffs in both cases claim current technology exists to eliminate population differences between districts while still considering legitimate state interests. However, the court said:
Despite technological advances, a variance of 0.79% results in no more (or less) vote dilution today than in 1983, when this Court said that such a minor harm could be justified by legitimate state objectives.
Harris' claim against the AIRC challenges the state legislative districts. So, the variances at issue in each case are different, but the significance of technological advances between a court ruling in 1983 and 2012 is the same.

The Supreme Court, in its Tennant ruling also discussed the issue of creating a record of changes and the reason(s) for changes in maps. In the course of the 2011 redistricting in Arizona, extensive record of deliberations and reasons for changes was made. Which is what the AIRC request for judicial notice of various documents was all about. From the AIRC reply in support of its request for judicial notice:
Because the Commission’s consideration of legitimate bases for its redistricting decisions, as illustrated by the public record, is not subject to reasonable dispute, the Court should take judicial notice of such record in support of the Commission’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs do not dispute that they cannot prevail on their claims unless they can show that the deviations “in the plan result[] solely from the promotion of an unconstitutional or irrational state policy."
Subsequent to the October 31 hearing, the federal court will make a ruling on the AIRC motion to dismiss. If the motion is granted, we can easily expect Cantelme and his clients will appeal the ruling. If the motion is denied, Cantelme will then be allowed to further squander taxpayer money by forcing AIRC members and staff to submit to extensive discovery (depositions and who knows what all).

-----

In the meantime, we are about 25 days out from the general election and early voting in Arizona has already commenced.

To request an early ballot or find an early voting location the Arizona Secretary of State has links to all (Arizona) county elections websites.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pres Clinton says Elect Rich Carmona to US Senate! UPDATED 3:30pm 10-11-12

In front of a field covered "wall to wall" with people at Arizona State University in Tempe, former President Bill Clinton told the crowd (reportedly more than 5,500 in attendance) a number of reasons why we must (and will) elect Dr. Rich Carmona to be the next US Senator from Arizona.



Declaring that creative cooperation beats constant conflict, the former President captured -- in a nutshell -- why Carmona is the best possible candidate for the job to come along in a very long time. He has tackled large jobs and small for decades and has a knack for bringing people together to solve problems.

Of course, Carmona has his detractors (as noted in broadcast commercials funded by GOP related SuperPACs), but even those are grasping at straws these days. One criticism is that in 2002, under Carmona's leadership, the Pima County Health System went into millions of dollars in debt. Well, county hospitals are literally the provider of last resort and MUST provide medical care to all who seek it, regardless of ability to pay.

It was in 2002, if you recall, that Carmona was nominated by President George W Bush to become the Surgeon General. Carmona, despite whatever happened in the Pima County system, was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.

Clinton has been making the point about creative cooperation, apparently to every group he addresses, for some time. There can be no question and no doubt that Richard Carmona is well suited for doing that very thing in the contentious environment in D.C. Jeff Flake, on the other hand, is entrenched in the party of NO.

Arizona Capitol Times reported on the rally and Clinton's speech:
Clinton highlighted the ways that Carmona was given a helping hand from the government, namely in the form of the GI Bill and subsidized post-secondary education.
“If you believe in the legacy of the GI Bill that made this man, if you want there to be a 21st century, modern American middle class, with good education, you’ve got to vote for Rich Carmona for the United States Senate,” Clinton said.
Republicans, including Carmona’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, want to erode those institutions, Clinton said, to advance a minimal vision of government programs.

I am convinced that if the GOP, the Party of NO, takes control of the US Senate and the White House to go along with it's majority in the US House of Representatives, they will consummate the promise of Grover Norquist to shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub. And they will do it in no time flat.

Sending Richard Carmona to the US Senate will not, in and of itself, cure all the ills in America. But it will be an important move in the right direction.

And after next month's general election, the next big challenge -- for the American electorate -- must be to Amend the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sadly, Vernon lives up to expectations

Last evening Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee to represent Arizona's Ninth Congressional District, appeared at the Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center in the Disability Empowerment Center in Phoenix to debate Vernon Parker's EMPTY CHAIR. The occasion was a Health and Human Services Forum sponsored by Children's Action Alliance. The forum was moderated by KTVK political editor Dennis Welch.



While it may seem silly to call it a debate with Parker's empty chair, the fact is that we are well past the point where there can be any guessing about Parker's campaign strategy.

Mr. Parker has repeatedly dissembled when asked about his willingness to appear face-to-face with Ms. Sinema to openly discuss issues of concern to citizens of CD9. Parker's dishonesty goes well beyond simple misstatement of facts.

The word dissemble connotes intent to conceal his real motives by pretence. The persistence and consistency of his practice of avoiding directly answering questions posed by (me or) journalists in mainstream media, as well as feigning desire to debate when asked by friendly media (conservative talk radio) has made this abundantly clear.

In fact, Parker has pinned his hopes on GOP Super PACs demonizing Sinema and scaring the socks off of voters. Television commercials broadcast on his behalf portray her as a space alien -- "she's really 'out there'" and worse.

-----

The Arizona Republic, which has been virtually schizophrenic* in its candidate endorsements over the last week or so, had no choice but to emphatically recommend Sinema over Parker.

Parker would be a reliable Republican vote. Sinema would be just as reliably Democratic. If that's all that matters, you know how to vote.
But we look for more in a member of the House. And when we add up these factors, Sinema is the stronger choice.
Parker served in both Bush administrations. He brings a decidedly national view of issues to the race. Sinema's background is as a state legislator. That makes her more likely to tackle and deliver on Arizona issues, something Sen. Jon Kyl and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords excelled at.
Giffords resigned. Kyl will step down in January. The rest of the delegation shows more interest in big issues. There's a big vacuum to fill, and Sinema is the congressional candidate most likely to fill it.
Her record in the Legislature suggests she will find a way to do this even if, as expected, Republicans maintain control of the House. Sinema understood that the only way a member of the minority party could get anything done was by working with the majority, including members whose politics could not be more different.
I've known Kyrsten Sinema for more than ten years. She is tenacious. She is a hardworker. There is no doubt in my mind that she can verbally run rings around Vernon Parker on any issue that could come before the next Congress. And she is hands down, the best advocate the voters of CD9 could get in this election.

-----

*schiz·o·phren·ic  (skts-frnk)
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or affected with schizophrenia.
2. Of, relating to, or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements.

I wish that the description of the Arizona Republic's editorial endorsements of candidates this month as schizophrenic was hyperbolic. Unfortunately, it is not. In some races, the Republic incisively sizes up the candidates. In others, it panders to a market it knows is precarious at best. Even when it does endorse a Democrat, it must tread lightly on the Republican, for fear of losing that market.

If the Arizona Republic's editorial board were to honestly evaluate every race for the legislature and Congress based solely or even just primarily on the individuals running in those races, it would have to acknowledge that the KOOKOCRACY that Laurie Roberts has recently begun campaigning against is the product of more than just nutjobs like Carl Seel or Sylvia Allen. Andy Tobin and Steve Pierce are given accolades as being sane and wise and better than the likes of Russell Pearce. But Tobin and Pierce, who hold the reins of each chamber, are complicit in outrageous legislative practices.

That makes the Republic complicit for not exercising legitimate watchdog journalism to call out those practices. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is State Sen. Jerry Lewis a Moderate Republican?

State Sen. Jerry Lewis is a good man. By all accounts a kind man. To first become a state senator, he ran and successfully "knocked off" nativist Senate President Russell Pearce in the historic Legislative District 18 recall election. That made him, at least for a time, a hero to many. And he has a killer smile.

Lewis took office in an environment where many of the members of the Senate Republican Caucus were Pearce loyalists and highly resented him. But Lewis was undaunted and served the entire 2012 regular legislative session.

Eventually he decided to run again for the state senate in the entirely NEW Legislative District 26, which encompasses west Mesa (where he lives), much of Tempe and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. LD18, where he was first elected, was predominantly Republican in voter registration.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State's office (as reported on August 14, 2012) LD26, where he is now running, has registration as follows:

  • 27,150 Democrats
  • 288 Green
  • 988 Libertarian
  • 21,807 Republican
  • 34,274 Other (Independent or No Party Designated)
So, conventional wisdom, which Lewis appears to be following, is that in order for him to win, he must convince voters that he is not a Tea Party type Republican. 

How is he going to do that? 

The first thing he appears to be trying to do is market himself as a strong willed, independent minded senator who is not afraid to vote contrary to what his caucus wants him vote. 

Donna Gratehouse, who blogs at DemocraticDiva.com posted, on September 25, excerpts from a story reported by the Arizona Capitol Times:
That was the opening Lewis was waiting for.
He told Habib he ran against and defeated a “very strident” legislator. He said his voting record would show his independent streak, and he voted against his party’s wishes when he thought it was best to do so.
Yes, about that voting record...

Democratic Diva goes into some of the details, one example:
HB 2036 – (Strike-all) – 20 Week Abortion Ban – Rep. Kimberly Yee. This bill prohibits abortions post 20 weeks, except in a medical emergency with no exception for health or for a fetal anomaly. Physicians are threatened with criminal and civil penalties as well as unprofessional conduct sanctions and loss of license. The bill requires the use of outdated protocols that are medically unnecessary and costly. Signed into law 4-12-2012  

Lewis voted WITH the RWNJ supermajority on this bill. Some perspective on this bill is that the 20 weeks is counted from PRIOR to conception. That might explain why Todd Akin claimed very recently that some women who are not even pregnant get abortions.

Perhaps Lewis voted his conscious on the bill because of religious conviction and not because of pressure from his colleagues? Well, Rep. Ed Ableser, Lewis' Democratic opponent in this race shares the same religion -- but voted AGAINST imposing governmental mandates on a woman's health care and personal religious freedom which is what this bill is all about. Another example:
SB1359 – Wrongful Life/Birth – Senator Nancy Barto. SB1359 protects doctors from fully informing pregnant women of prenatal health issues if such information could lead to an abortion. Signed into law 4-17-2012 
Actually, this bill EMPOWERS doctors to LIE to pregnant women about the fetus. Lewis was a prime sponsor of SB1359. He also voted with the Republican majority to EMPOWER doctors to LIE to pregnant women. Yes, I know I repeated it. I'm astounded at the hubris of Republican lawmakers.

On other legislation:

Lewis voted with the Republican supermajority on HB2640 which specifically PROHIBITS putting a limit on the capacity of firearms magazines. Recall that magazine capacity was a critical factor in the number of people killed and injured on January 8, 2011 in Tucson. The Republican response, to the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in the Arizona Legislature was to PROHIBIT limiting the firearm magazine capacity. And Jerry Lewis went right along with the flow of the insane Republicans on this issue.

Lewis both sponsored AND voted with the RWNJ supermajority on SCR1035 to REPEAL the Independent Redistricting Commission. The measure would have put the issue on this year's general election ballot. It passed the senate but did not come to a vote in the House of Representatives. The PEOPLE of Arizona already spoke on this issue. Let's not entirely rehash last year's AIRC controversy in this blog post.

Lewis currently works as an administrator for a charter school organization. He voted with the RWNJ supermajority on a bill, SB1047 that WILL allow (it was signed into law) for up to a $1,000.00 state tax CREDIT (a direct reduction of personal income tax liability) for a married couple making a donation of that amount to a school tuition organization (STO).

STOs provide funding for private school tuition. This is an example of SELF-INTEREST legislation pushed and directly benefiting state Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler).

The list of special interest legislation that Jerry Lewis sponsored and voted for -- when he had ample opportunity to demonstrate his backbone and independence but FAILED to do so -- is long. Perhaps I will update this blog with more detail after a night's sleep.

The bottom line is that Jerry Lewis, a man I genuinely like, has a smile that is sweetly seductive but hides the truth about his record as an Arizona lawmaker. If he was running in a Republican district against someone like Russell Pearce or Andy Biggs(hot), I would support him in a heartbeat.

But he is not. He is running in MY district. And my district is going to elect a Democrat who has a record of fighting FOR the people in the district instead of going along with extremist Republicans.

For the record, THIS blog post is all about accountability. I do not (and cannot) attack Jerry Lewis on any personal issue. But the detail of his record as a state senator needs to be in the forefront as voters decide for whom to vote in this election.

State Sen. Jerry Lewis (R-LD18) is NOT a moderate Republican, despite any and all claims to the contrary.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Vote Republican, End... this and EVERY other safety net program

There are MILLIONS of American voters who need a splash of cold water in their faces before early voting starts across the country... except that in some states (like Iowa), it already has begun.

Months ago, Republicans in Congress denied that this was their intent, but if you cut through all of Mitt Romney's flip-flopping and etch-a-sketch rhetoric and through all of Paul Ryan's obfuscation, there is NO denying that their ultimate intent is to eliminate the last vestiges of the New Deal (FDR) and the Great Society (LBJ).



The Powell Memo (aka the Powell Manifesto) was first published on August 23, 1971, just a few short years after the implementation of Medicare.

The essence, sum and substance of the Powell Manifesto was a blueprint for establishment of a corporate plutocracy to dominate every level of government in the United States.

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.
Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.
The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

The 2011 documentary film HOT COFFEE illustrates the role the US Chamber of Commerce has asserted for itself in American government, the judicial branch in particular.

The 2012 documentary just released by Bill Moyers, the United States of ALEC puts the American Legislative Exchange Council -- a lobbying cabal launched in September 1973 -- in perspective.

And the 2012 documentary HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream ties it all together by exposing the Powell Manifesto.

Additional insight into the Powell Manifesto is found on BillMoyers.com:
In this excerpt from Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, authors Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explain the significance of the Powell Memorandum, a call-to-arms for American corporations written by Virginia lawyer (and future U.S. Supreme Court justice) Lewis Powell to a neighbor working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In the fall of 1972, the venerable National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) made a surprising announcement: It planned to move its main offices from New York to Washington, D.C. As its chief, Burt Raynes, observed:
We have been in New York since before the turn of the century, because we regarded this city as the center of business and industry. But the thing that affects business most today is government. The interrelationship of business with business is no longer so important as the interrelationship of business with government. In the last several years, that has become very apparent to us.
To be more precise, what had become very apparent to the business community was that it was getting its clock cleaned. Used to having broad sway, employers faced a series of surprising defeats in the 1960s and early 1970s. As we have seen, these defeats continued unabated when Richard Nixon won the White House. Despite electoral setbacks, the liberalism of the Great Society had surprising political momentum. “From 1969 to 1972,” as the political scientist David Vogel summarizes in one of the best books on the political role of business, “virtually the entire American business community experienced a series of political setbacks without parallel in the postwar period.” In particular, Washington undertook a vast expansion of its regulatory power, introducing tough and extensive restrictions and requirements on business in areas from the environment to occupational safety to consumer protection.
While no individual elected office holder or other politician in the United States is above criticism, there can be NO doubt that the urgency for voting to keep the Presidency and both chambers of Congress out of the hands of Republicans is paramount in this 2012 general election season. What started forty years ago as an incredibly thoroughly thought out plan -- to regain its footing in what it believed was a political environment stacked against it -- has turned into a juggernaut that has completely decimated the American Middle Class.

The rhetoric on the (economic) Right is the same today as it was forty years ago. In 2012, we are bombarded by broadcast and print media propaganda proclaiming the socialist menace, even though the stock market is at or near all-time high levels. Business productivity, even in America, though MILLIONS of jobs have been sent overseas, IS at all time high levels. But worker income over the same forty years is STAGNANT. The cost of a college education has skyrocketed, with nearly all students, whether they succeed in earning a degree or not, encumbered by a mountain of debt.

There are only two ways to gain political power: organized money and organized people. Politics is ALL about conflict. Major political victories have been won across the globe (not only in the United States) as a result of vigorous, non-violent organization of the political power of individuals. To change our economic lot in life, WE must organize to demand the playing field be made level for American workers.

We must organize the power of our vote.

The bottom line to all of this is that voting Republican in 2012 is -- more than ever before -- a vote AGAINST your own self-interest, unless you are genuinely super-rich.

Then, as soon as the votes are counted and oaths of office taken for the new terms, we must organize to demand the United States Constitution be amended to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

Unfortunately, none of this is hyperbole. It's damned serious and may be understated. But we CAN cause change. And I will stand with YOU as WE wage non-violent campaigns to make the promise of the American Dream available to ALL Americans.