The current House Appropriations chairman was signing in when I entered. I said "hello, John" and he gave me a strange look. I wouldn't necessarily say it was a "dirty look," but it did express some level of consternation.
After I signed in, I was able to chat one on one with him in the men's room. I said it seemed like he might be mad at me. He replied that he was displeased that I had accused him of having committed a felony when I didn't have any evidence. My retort, "how do you know I don't have any evidence?" Kavanagh then sheepishly said, "because I didn't do anything wrong." To which, my one word response ended the conversation, "Bullshit."
Both candidates, Paula and Kavanagh, then took seats at the table in front of a small audience. I counted 24 people, excluding staff and recording equipment operators. There may have been a few more come in after the questioning began.
However, before the start, this happened:
Paula reviewed her notes while Kavanagh, center background, took a phone call he answered, "Hello Sheriff."
I should note that the entire debate was recorded for posting on the Clean Elections Commission's YouTube channel. The moderator tonight indicated at the end of the debate that the video would be posted within 72 hours.
When the subject of Dark Money came up in a question (about 13 minutes into the debate) Kavanagh declared himself a VICTIM.
Actually, if he wasn't grandstanding, he would have used the word "target." Because he was the target of IE expenditures to the tune of nearly $98k in the primary election, from Arizona Victory Alliance, Stand for Children IEC, Friends for Arizona's Future and Arizona Liberty Alliance. At least some of those expenditures were made by organizations that do not disclose their contributors.
But since Kavanagh did not lose, despite these organizations advocating his defeat, he was dead wrong in claiming he was a victim. Even if he had lost, I would have a difficult time believing he was a victim of anything other than his own positions on issues and his own actions as a member of the legislature.
The subject of Kavanagh's big money campaign contributors came up, but the moderator refused to allow questions directed at only one of the candidates, so he wasn't really called on the carpet for his quid pro quo. But there were several individuals who wanted to level him on that subject.
Kavanagh boasted that it was he who introduced the bill to allow Tesla to sell cars directly to Arizona customers rather than having to go through a dealer. That is technically true. But the smoking gun of Kav's involvement in killing the bill may be his admission during this debate that he had a big group of lawmakers and lobbyists meet in his office. After that, the bill just died. And on July 5, Kavanagh reports, the Arizona Committee on Automobile Retailers gave him $2,000.00.
But Kavanagh sheepishly said to me earlier, "I did nothing wrong."
On this, I believe technically he is incorrect. He DID do something morally and ethically wrong. Whether he did anything illegal that will ever be prosecuted may be a different matter.
Then there was a question about political signs. Kav made a brazenly false statement that Fountain Hills (where he lives, which is part of LD23) does not prohibit political signs. Here are the facts.
Fountain Hills sign ordinance is found online. Arizona Revised Statutes provides, in § 16-1019 C, that cities and towns must not prohibit political signs meeting certain specifications. That's probably what Kavanagh was referring to. HOWEVER, subsection F says,
Subsection C does not apply to commercial tourism, commercial resort and hotel sign free zones as those zones are designated by municipalities. The total area of those zones shall not be larger than three square miles, and each zone shall be identified as a specific contiguous area where, by resolution of the municipal governing body, the municipality has determined that based on a predominance of commercial tourism, resort and hotel uses within the zone the placement of political signs within the rights-of-way in the zone will detract from the scenic and aesthetic appeal of the area within the zone and deter its appeal to tourists. Not more than two zones may be identified within a municipality.In other words, cities and towns MAY prohibit posting of campaign signs within a "sign free zone." Fountain Hills DOES prohibit political campaign signs, in its sign free zone.
From the Fountain Hills sign ordinance:
R. Except for those areas designated as “sign free zones” by the Town Council in accordance with Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-1019(F), as amended, political and ideological signs are permitted in commercial zoning districts, subject to the size limitations of the applicable zoning district, but shall not be counted against the total allowable sign area. In residential zoning districts, political and ideological signs may be located in such areas within the following parameters:
1. Maximum aggregate size, per individual candidate or ballot issue, shall not exceed sixteen (16) square feet on any residential lot or parcel.
2. Maximum length shall not exceed six (6) feet.
3. Maximum height shall not exceed four and one-half (4.5) feet.
4. Except as otherwise permitted by State Law, no such sign or portion of the sign may be located in or project into a public right-of-way.
Political signs shall be removed within fifteen (15) days after the election or referendum for which the signs were posted. Candidates successful in a primary election are permitted to leave their respective political signs in place until ten (10) days after the general election, or if necessary, until ten (10) days after a run-off election.
On November 15, 2012, the Fountain Hills Town Council passed and adopted Resolution 2012-31 designating the sign free zone. A map is attached to the resolution. It was signed by the mayor (John Kavanagh's wife, Linda).
One last highlight. I observed, in previous forums, Kavanagh being overtly dismissive of his opponents. In this debate, he had the last word, giving his closing statement after Paula. He took a cheap shot by saying he was not going to attack his opponent like he believed she had done to him in her closing statement. However, the dismissive tone of voice was very brazenly a passive-aggressive attack on Pennypacker.
Herein I've cited four instances where John Kavanagh was caught doing or saying something improper. Of course, this isn't kindergarten, it's politics. So, one has to expect a candidate who doesn't have the moral high ground to take cheap shots. On that, Kavanagh did not disappoint. But it's something else altogether for a candidate to either intentionally misrepresent the facts, the law, or his actions. Kavanagh was caught doing so.
Because of the voter registration imbalance, plenty of people think focus on this race is a waste of time. I'm tremendously thankful Paula Pennypacker does not consider it a waste. Paula can win this senate seat. Of course, it's a long shot. But my entire approach to writing on Arizona politics is that state government, lawmaking and public policy belong to the PEOPLE. The Republican Party has abused the process and abused the people of Arizona.
Reclaiming the State Capitol for the people means taking a stand against those abuses and to the degree possible shining light on as much of the situation as possible. We are in the middle of a revolution. The people will, sooner or later, win. It will be a bloodless revolution but the way our state is governed, and the way public policy is formed and implemented will change.
John Kavanagh, in the men's room, told me -- and did so decidedly in a sheepish manner -- that he had done nothing wrong. That's just not true. Whether or not the law enforcement institutions in this state are jaded enough by the loose moral and ethical climate to do anything about it, again is a different question. But the PEOPLE will do something about it and ARE doing something about it. And John Kavanagh will be banished -- sooner or later -- to supplement his three public pensions -- with a position promoting the private prison industry he so dearly loves and serves already. But he will have to do so without the authority that comes from being a public official.
Rise UP, Arizona! Paula Pennypacker and her campaign team are rising up.