Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What good are newspaper or interest group endorsements?

Back when I worked with the John Dougherty 2010 campaign for the Democratic nomination for US Senate, I began to recognize a very frustrating game that interest groups (and newspapers) play regarding endorsements.

Striking in my mind that year was the fact that the Sierra Club declined to endorse the only candidate in that four way race who had a clear track record favorable to that club's authentic interest. Dougherty had, for years written about environmental issues. He knew them inside and out and had clearly exposed the nefarious and sinister actions (and failures to act) by government officials.

So, WHY would the Sierra Club not endorse such a candidate? There must be other factors at play (work) in endorsements that rarely, if ever, are even acknowledged, let alone explained.

The local daily newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is a classic example. If any institution should be forthcoming about the criteria used and factors considered in making endorsements, one would expect a news enterprise to be among them. Several of the Republic's endorsements this primary election season give rise to cognitive dissonance. They just don't seem quite right, on the surface.

To really understand, we would have to go beneath the surface. But that information is not always available.

Most poignantly the Republic's endorsement of State Treasurer "Scoop" Ducey this summer in the GOP gubernatorial primary raises such red flags. So much so that they acknowledged readers' concern over it. But as eloquent as the news enterprise tries to be in justifying the endorsement, so many people recognize that there must have been considerations not disclosed in making that decision.

With that in mind, it is no wonder that voters often select someone other than who the Republic annoints.

Notably problematic, several Democratic legislative primary races expose obvious cognitive dissonance when looking at choices made by the Arizona Education Association and various groups affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Retired firefighter Richard Bauer, running to be the lowest paid lobbyist for the Firefighters' union, clearly wants to make big time deals with Republican office holders. If he wins the primary, keep a close eye on him because he almost certainly will sell out Democratic interests.

 The Arizona Education Association's list of endorsed candidates shows at least a couple of questionable selections. In contested primary election races, AEA shows favoritism toward incumbents who might not be the best candidate. For example, AEA chose APS and CAP sell out Catherine Miranda over Aaron Marquez and Lupe Contreras over astrophysicist Angela Cotera.

The bottom line is that taking these interest group and newspaper endorsements at face value without checking further can lead to problems when the wrong person gets into the legislature.

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The Navajo Times ran a story on Friday about the race between state Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai and appointed (not elected) Sen. Carlyle Begay in the Democratic primary for election to the LD7 senate seat.
So why is she making a run at the state senate seat now occupied by Carlyle Begay?
"He's a nice young man," Peshlakai said of the current senator. "He's super-bright and really charismatic. But as the days at the legislature dwindled down, it just became unacceptable that he would go unchallenged in the primary."
The reason, Peshlakai said, is the number of "disconcerting votes" Begay was casting: siding with Republicans on campaign finance laws, for example, and supporting legislation that would allow payday lenders to up their fees.
"Who does that?" asked Peshlakai. [...]
Peshlakai refrained from calling Begay a Republican plant, as have some liberal political bloggers like Steve Muratore. But she did say "he definitely does not represent the people of District 7," a relatively poor, rural district which tends to be more left-leaning than the rest of the state. 

Technically, I only raised the question of whether Begay is a Republican plant. But the evidence appears substantial at this point.

The tone of public policy and lawmaking at the Arizona Capitol can change in 2015. But for that to happen, it needs to start with voters making the right decisions on Tuesday this week. Among the issues and concerns, if Democrats pick up 3 senate seats (or more) in November, Andy Biggshot be ousted from the senate presidency.

Right now, Republicans hold a 17-13 edge in that chamber. With at least five Republicans being highly vulnerable because of their record in the legislature (both on divisive legislation and pandering to lobbyists), it is conceivable that the edge could swing all the way over to a 17-13 Democratic majority.

Of course, there's no virtue or advantage to counting one's chickens before they hatch, but a 15-15 tie is well within the realm of possibility. In such a scenario, it's extremely likely that Biggshot would first go after Begay (if he wins) to offer inducements to defect. An offer of a committee chairmanship is easily foreseeable.

Remember, elections matter. If you haven't already cast your ballot, make sure you get to the polls on Tuesday. And make considered, informed decisions on for whom to cast your vote.

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