Thursday, October 5, 2017

By now Arizonans interested in the 2018 election have learned of Kyrsten Sinema's intentions

In early May, "railbirds" started speculating en masse about what has actually been an open secret for the last couple of years -- Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema's intention to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. I was not convinced.

Shortly before then, Arizona's current junior Senator, Jeff Flake, had demonstrated tremendous poise under a several hours long heated (verbal) attack at a local Town Hall meeting.

Based on Flake's performance at the Town Hall and my experience with Sinema, it seemed to me that she'd have a hard time matching his composure under the (verbal) fire of angry citizens.

That may still be the case but Sinema waited several months before making her announcement, allowing for the fury over the Town Hall to subside. That may or may not end up being a smart tactical (or strategic) move.

However, given the fact that he is far from a lock to win the GOP primary nomination for reelection to the Senate, Flake has -- at least for now -- lost any momentum going into the 2018 election season.

From the October 3 Yellow Sheet Report:
Flake’s re-election campaign and Republicans have a good reason to be jittery, according to Nathan Gonzales, who publishes Inside Elections. A railbird sent our reporter an excerpt from Gonzales’ latest overview of US Senate races, and how Sinema’s entry has changed the dynamics in Arizona. “There is one rating change: Arizona from Tilt Republican to Toss-Up,” his memo said. “After publicly feuding with President Trump, GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is vulnerable in the primary and general elections, to the point where he might not even run for re-election.
Also from the October 3 YS:
One Republican railbird noted how Sinema’s Senate announcement video last week struck a decidedly different tone than other statewide Dem candidates. While Garcia and Farley have focused on progressive issues like free tuition and Medicare for all, Sinema’s video is much more moderate, focusing on service, church and country, the railbird said. “It’s not just a moderate message. It was almost a John McCain ad about serving the country and just filled with dog-whistles to Republicans about church, about service. She really is clearly reaching out to Republicans,” the railbird said...
From the October 5 YS:
Gonzales adds that Sinema is a credible opponent for the general election, with her impressive fundraising numbers and record as a moderate. “She’s regarded as a hard worker and energetic, even if her introductory video didn’t reflect it,” Gonzales notes.
As to Flake's vulnerability in this election, many observers discount chemtrail Kelli Ward. But here's the YS take on the subject, quoting Gonzales on the subject.
In a video, Nathan Gonzales, an elections analyst for Roll Call and editor of Inside Elections, explained his reasoning behind moving Arizona’s US Senate into the toss-up category today (LINK). Gonzales says Flake’s numbers are “so bad” that strategists on both sides are wondering if he will even try to keep his seat. First, Gonzales notes that Flake isn’t starting from a strong position – he didn’t win a majority of the vote in 2012 and he underperformed Mitt Romney. Plus, his repeated clashes with Trump have not endeared him to the Republican base, Gonzales says. And while Ward is considered a “punchline” in Beltway circles for losing to McCain and over her chemtrail hearing, Gonzales cautions against discounting her. “Those attacks don’t move as many voters as you might think. She’s improving as a candidate and maybe most importantly, she isn’t an incumbent serving in Washington,” he says. He adds that Flake’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” only made his problems worse: “Even if Flake was making a principled point, it might have been political suicide. Alienating Trump supporters in a Republican primary is not a good strategy if the goal is to win.” (emphasis mine)
A side note from the October 3 YS:
The moderate tone could make Sinema more likely to invite progressive challengers for a Democratic primary, the railbird guessed, but Sinema’s strategy is more likely to prevail in a state where Dems face a voter registration and turnout disadvantage.
Clearly, Sinema has (already) thumbed her nose at Progressive-leaning voters. But she also already has a capable, energetic Progressive challenger in Deedra Abboud

The newest name mentioned as a primary election challenger to Flake is GOP lawyer and member of the Arizona Board of Regents (which oversees the state university system) is Jay Heiler. From the October 5 New York Times,
... Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has taken aim at Mr. Trump, appears so weakened with Republican voters that there is increasingly talk of contingency planning should he not run again or seek re-election as an independent.
If he remains in the race, Mr. Flake, who currently faces one opponent on the right, appears likely to draw additional challengers.
A wealthy Arizona lawyer, Jay Heiler, said in an interview that he is considering a run against Mr. Flake. Mr. Heiler, a close ally of former Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, an immigration hawk, said the state should have a senator who gives full support to Mr. Trump.
Personally, I discount focus on Flake's conflicts with Trump. But what do I know, eh?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Will she or won't she? Does Sinema even know?

Now that the AZ Legislature has passed a budget (Yuck!), the good folks over at the Yellow Sheet Report are pivoting to the magical world of who's going to run against whom for which elected office.

Still a year and a half out from the 2018 general election, the most intriguing game on which the YS is trying to divine the outcome is whether current Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD 9) will run against our state's Republican junior US Senator, Jeff Flake. Flake's first term runs through the end of 2018.

From the May 4 (May the Fourth be with you!) YS,
Sinema appears to have only ramped up speculations over her US Senate ambitions even after telling KTAR’s Darin Damme in an interview yesterday that she’ll be running for re-election in CD9 (LINK). When asked point-blank whether she could definitively say that she wouldn’t run against Flake, Sinema responded, “I’m running for re-election and it’s been the greatest honor of my life. It has been really the greatest honor of my life to serve Arizona’s 9th district.”
One Dem operative speculated that Sinema was dissuaded from a US Senate run at least in part by the backlash to her “bungled response” to the recent controversy over contributions she received from the founders of But the source said the main driver of her decision was likely the dearth of enthusiasm for her among the Dem base. “Kyrsten does fine with independents and there probably was a pathway, but I think politics right now is all about energy and enthusiasm,” said the source, who noted that Sinema was largely silent about Trump during last year’s presidential campaign. “It makes it a trickier pathway, even if it’s a good Democratic year.”
Many Dems are now waiting to see what Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who was widely expected to run for CD9 if Sinema runs against Flake, will do. The Dem operative said Stanton has plenty of options, including US Senate, governor and secretary of state, for which he’s already filed a campaign committee, and even a potential primary challenge to Sinema in CD9. But though there’s been increasing buzz around a possible Stanton gubernatorial run, the source was skeptical that Stanton would jump into the race for Arizona’s highest office. “I’ve heard that more from the press than I’ve heard it from... people around him,” the source said.
Sinema’s apparent decision not to challenge Flake leaves the Dem side of next year’s Senate race wide open. Among the potential candidates whose names are floating around are Stanton and [state Rep. Randy] Friese [D-Tucson], who told our reporter yesterday that he’s considering both that race and CD2. And at least one Dem insider isn’t convinced that Sinema is completely out of the running for US Senate, telling our reporter that her comments on KTAR weren’t especially definitive. “I don’t know that she’s made up her mind, to be honest with you,” the source said.
And from the May 5 YS,
The conclusion that Sinema won’t run for US Senate next year may have been a bit premature. 12News’ Brahm Resnik reported last night that Sinema had not, in fact, ruled out a run against Flake (LINK).
Resnik said several Dem sources told him that Sinema’s people spent Thursday morning making phone calls to assure them that the congresswoman hasn’t made a decision yet about the Senate race and that “nothing’s changed.” He said he contacted Sinema via text message, and that she told him only, “I’ve said what I always say. I’m currently running for reelection,” and that Resnik should “check out her interview.”[posted at the KTAR link above] As Resnik noted in his story, Sinema did not actually disavow a Senate run in her interview on Wednesday with KTAR’s Darin Damme, in which she responded to questions about the race by saying she’s running for re-election in CD9. Sinema told our reporter the same, saying in a text message today, “I love serving Arizona and I am currently running for re-election.” Sinema did not respond to a follow-up text asking if she could definitively say that she wouldn’t run for the US Senate in 2018.
[AZ Senate Democratic Leader Katie] Hobbs told our reporter that she hasn’t spoken with Sinema, but said she “absolutely” believes Sinema is still considering a challenge to Flake. While KTAR stated flatly that Sinema had ruled out a Senate run, Hobbs said, “That’s not what she said at all.” “It’s not a secret she’s looking at [the US] Senate and I think she’ll do it when she feels like it’s winnable.
That might be now. It might be in 2022,” said Hobbs, who would likely benefit from a Sinema campaign for Senate, since it would likely entice Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton out of the secretary of state’s race and into CD9. One Dem insider told our reporter that Sinema’s people put out the word following the KTAR story that “whatever anybody thought she said the night before... she didn’t say it and needs to reconsider.” Another Dem source said Sinema’s inarticulate answer to Damme’s questions caused the resulting confusion about her 2018 plans. “It just seems like she tried to get a little bit too cute with KTAR and wants to keep her options open,” the source said. 
Okay then...

Lot's of speculation, not much concrete with which to actually make educated guesses. However, I think Hobbs is on to something with her suggestion Sinema might be considering 2022 instead of 2018. John McCain's current term runs through 2022. Plenty of people thought he was too old to run in 2016. Does anyone believe he'd run for re-election in 2022?

Whether or not anyone has done any actual polling to determine if Sinema was at all hurt by how she handled campaign contributions from the owners, it is likely very true that she hasn't exactly endeared herself to Democratic grassroots activists in CD 9. Except for obvious hot button issues like Obamacare "repeal and replace," under the guise of bipartisanship, Sinema has voted regularly with Republicans.

By the way, I wouldn't characterize Sinema's responses to KTAR questions as inarticulate. She's a very smart woman who knows how to be purposefully vague when she needs to be.

Here's the thing nobody has thus far mentioned, which I'm confident that Sinema either is considering or should consider.

Last month Jeff Flake showed a tremendous amount of poise during a rowdy and raucous town hall meeting in Mesa.

My hunch is that Flake's poise scared Sinema into liking the idea of running for re-election to her seat in the US House a whole lot more.

Sinema has an Achilles's heel. When faced with hostility... or even just difficult pointed questions, she simply acts as if the questioner is a non-entity. She then refuses to make eye contact with the person, refuses to call on her or him and all around acts like the person simply does not exist.

That's avoidance behavior. It's a coping mechanism. It doesn't fit in the American political system unless the person goes with the flow as opposed to challenging the status quo.

In Arizona, the status quo is Republican.

Of course, I could be completely off base. See if Sinema is secure enough to hold a town hall meeting and take hostile questions about her voting record.

Sen. Flake didn't control who could attend his town hall.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

More on Redistricting Commission shut down

Apparently, the only publication other than the Arizona Eagletarian that thinks the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission needs to be covered at this stage is the Yellow Sheet Report (published by Arizona News Service/Arizona Capitol Times).

From the May 1 YS,
The plaintiffs in the last remaining case against the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will not appeal as part of an agreement with the IRC, bringing an end to the lawsuit. That also likely brings to a close the current incarnation of the commission. The commission voted unanimously on Friday to accept an agreement with the plaintiffs in Leach v. AIRC, under which the plaintiffs will not appeal Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman’s ruling against them, and in exchange, the IRC will abandon its quest to recover legal fees in the case. The IRC had been seeking $18,000 in legal costs.
“That will effectively end the case, assuming the judge accepts that settlement, which I’m sure he will, and pretty much ends this chapter in redistricting for this decade,” IRC attorney Joe Kanefield told our reporter. Under the Arizona Constitution, the commissioners’ duties don’t technically expire until the appointment of the next IRC, which will take place in 2021. But the commission may not meet or incur expenses past the completion of its legislative and congressional maps, except to deal with pending litigation or government approval of a redistricting plan, or to revise the districts if ordered to do so by a court.
Commission members and staff said Friday’s meeting will almost certainly be the current commission’s last. “There will be a definite sort of withdrawal, I guess,” Republican Commissioner Scott Freeman told our reporter. Freeman noted that Friday marked the 80th business meeting of the current IRC, not counting the many public comment meetings the commission held for its maps. IRC Executive Director Ray Bladine said the unanimous vote was an appropriate end to the commission’s business. “I guess it’s fitting that the last vote they take, they finally can agree with each other,” he said. Bladine said the commission will have 30 days to shut down its office at 4000 N. Central Ave after the judge accepts the agreement. Presuming the agreement to avert an appeal in Leach brings the case to an end, the 2011 IRC will wrap two years earlier than its predecessor, which didn’t conclude its final lawsuit against it until May 2009.
Though Freeman made the motion to accept the agreement with the plaintiffs, it was somewhat bittersweet for him because he wanted to see an appeal move forward in Leach in order to settle the legal issues from the case. Freeman, one of the IRC’s two Republican members, has been a vociferous critic on his colleagues’ conduct throughout the redistricting process and shared some of the concerns that led the plaintiffs in the case to sue the commission. Freeman, an attorney, noted that Brodman’s ruling doesn’t set a precedent, but said it could influence the next commission. And by ruling that the IRC can essentially abandon the grid map, Freeman said future commissions may be free to draw whatever maps they want, regardless of the constraints imposed by the Arizona Constitution, parts of which were rendered “sort of superfluous and just fluff” by the commission’s arguments. “The public can’t have confidence that the map is something the commission developed pursuant to the constitutional process, versus just taking an outside map or a district drawn in Commissioner McNulty’s living room and inserting it into a hole in the map,” Freeman told our reporter. Had the plaintiffs appealed, Freeman acknowledged that the case likely wouldn’t have been settled in time to affect the current maps. But an appeal could have set important precedents for the next commission.
The May 1 YS also noted that the Leach win makes the AIRC 3-0 on lawsuits brought against it. From my vantage point, all three lawsuits were frivolous on the face of them... but as Commissioner Freeman noted, there was the matter of precedents. However, had there been any measure of common sense on the part of the sour grapes-tainted GOP interests that brought each of the three lawsuits (one actually brought BY the GOP-controlled state legislature) millions of taxpayer dollars WOULD have been saved.

Further, Freeman's remarks to the YS reporter reaked of deep-seated bitterness. The YS treatment of Freeman, obviously with kid gloves (i.e. "bittersweet" vs deep-seated bitterness) was emphatically euphemistic. For example, the excerpt emphasized in BOLD print above.

Freeman talks to YS staff but doesn't return my phone calls. Because he won't return my calls, I can only surmise that he knows I wouldn't buy his bullshit at face value and would ask follow up questions to get to the heart of the matter.

Judge Brodman did no such thing as Freeman claimed. The AIRC record is exhaustive and explicit that the commission complied with ALL requirements of the Arizona Constitution and related statutes, including by starting with a "grid map." Further, Freeman betrayed the trust he swore an oath to uphold when he suggested the Constitutional requirements were rendered "sort of superfluous and just fluff," and when he demeaned his colleague, Commissioner McNulty.

It's difficult to believe how anyone could take Freeman's remarks as anything but inflammatory, derogatory and disparaging. In that regard, as a commissioner, Freeman frequently demonstrated a lack of professionalism.

I find Scott Freeman's demeanor toward AIRC staff and colleagues disheartening.

Otherwise, the commissioners overall and staff, especially executive director Ray Bladine and deputy ex. dir. Kristina Gomez conducted themselves with an outstanding level of professionalism and integrity in the face of high levels of acrimony from GOP interests. And I would be remiss to leave out the excellence Commission Chair Colleen Coyle Mathis demonstrated throughout the process (from 2011 until now).

There are still issues to be resolved -- hopefully before 2021 -- by addressing the matter of having only one person serve as the fulcrum on which IRC decisions swing. That situation caused Mathis to be subjected to extraordinary abuse from lawmakers, political party activists and many everyday citizens.

Far be it from me to claim to have all the answers but right now the only solution I can see is for the legislature to put forward a ballot measure to expand the membership of the commission (possibly to three Dems, three GOP, and three non-affiliated). The commissioners do not receive compensation for their time but the state general fund (taxpayer money) does reimburse them for associated costs like mileage traveling throughout the state for meetings. Therefore, it is likely that the legislature will do nothing about this problem for two significant reasons. First, more commissioners means the process will cost more in reimbursements. Second, if the pressure is taken off of the chair (the one political party non-affiliated commissioner), it gives those politicians who will continue to want to undermine the concept of independent redistricting less to bitch about.

Last but not least, I can say from the depths of my heart that it has been a tremendous honor for me to have had the time and as much understanding of the process as I've had so that I could bring you insight on Arizona redistricting that you have otherwise not been able to get (nearly as much) from corporate media in our state.

Thank you dear readers.

God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be back on the redistricting beat in 2020 when applications are screened for the next "incarnation" of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.


Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Friday, April 28, 2017

AZ Independent Redistricting Commission votes to end its work for this decade

This afternoon, following news that the Leach plaintiffs will decline to appeal the summary judgment Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman granted the Independent Redistricting Commission in March, the five commissioners voted unanimously to end the work of this decade's Congressional and legislative redistricting.

In his ruling, Brodman had granted the AIRC attorney fees in the approximate amount of $18,000. That generally is not done when there appears to be a reasonable basis for the litigation in the first place. The Arizona Eagletarian has consistently indicated, since the suit was first filed five years ago, that it was frivolous and a fool hardy waste of taxpayer funds. Of course, the AIRC had to defend itself and its work, but the expenditure of state general funds would have been spared if the plaintiffs hadn't proceeded with the complaint. The offer to forgo the appeal reportedly was contingent on AIRC voting to decline enforcement of that $18k judgment.

Two members of the plaintiff group, are elected state lawmakers, both of whom also serve on appropriations committees: Vendon (Vince) Leach and (House Approps chairman) Don Shooter. Those two knew all along that they were causing taxpayer funds to be spent for a lost cause, but I'm confident neither of them will take responsibility for such a foolish endeavor.

This final resolution of the Leach case means there are no more legal challenges pending against either the maps or the commission as a whole or individual members. Therefore, there is no longer a need to keep a commission office open. Staff will box up all documents and send them to State Archives for posterity.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to meet April 28

Late this evening, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission issued notice (1) that on April 28 (Friday) at 1:30pm MST, it will meet.

On March 13, in Maricopa County Superior Court, the AIRC won summary judgment in Leach v AIRC, which challenged Congressional district maps claiming that proper procedures were not followed when developing that map.

Appeal of the summary judgment seemed unlikely at that time. If there is no appeal, the work of this current commission will be finished and new commissioners will be selected in 2021.

However, the agenda for Friday's meeting suggests state Rep. Vendon Leach (R-Saddlebrook) and his fellow plaintiffs may have found funding (Koch brothers?) for continued litigation -- forcing the state general fund to continue funding the AIRC and its defense of the current Congressional districts (which include three districts that either political party could have a realistic chance to win in each election).

What possibly -- outside of forcing complete annihilation of the will of Arizona voters -- could plaintiff/appellants expect to accomplish with such an appeal? Ultimately, it seems the target is elimination of any and all competitive Arizona districts in the US House of Representatives.

I will update this post with any additional information that may come my way.


The primary issue to be addressed on Friday appears to be this item:

Legal briefing, discussion and possible action relating to pending litigation in Leach v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. CV 2012-007344. The Commission may vote to go into executive session, which will not be open to the public, for the purpose of obtaining legal advice and providing directions to counsel. (A.R.S. §38-431.03(A) (3) and (4)). (Estimated Time 30 minutes)


(1) The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is announcing a meeting.
April 28, 2017
4000 N. Central Avenue Suite #1150
Phoenix, AZ 85012
1:30 PM
This meeting will NOT be streamed online (No live meeting)
Agenda Info