On this week's episode of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson and attorney Jeff Rogers talk about the final stretch for Tucson City Council candidates, forecast what might happen with the bond election, examine Sen. John McCain's 2016 reelection effort, discuss the latest with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and look at what's up with Southern Arizona congressional campaigns.
Watch the show at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on broadcast, Dish and DirecTV, or hear it at 5 p.m. on KXCI, 91.3 FM. Or watch online here!
Here's a transcript of the show:
Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we're here to talk Zona Politics. Joining me today to catch up on the latest on our upcoming election and much more, Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party Thank you both for being here.
(Rogers) Glad to be here.
(Nintzel) Jeff, let's start with the Tucson City Council races. You've got three races here. Shirley Scott. Shirley Scott facing Margaret Burkholder, Kelly Lawton facing Paul Cunningham, Regina Romero facing Bill Hunt. It's a tough thing for a Republican to win in the City of Tucson because Democrats have a huge voter registration advantage I think one incumbent has been knocked off the Tucson City Council by a Republican in the last 30 years or so. You see any of these Democrats being in trouble this year?
(Rogers) I don't. I thought early on looking at these new candidates the Republican Party has that maybe they would have some traction, but they've raised so little money, and as I understand it, only Margaret Burkholder has qualified now for the matching funds, and having raised only $14,000 that's all she's going to get in matching funds, whereas the other candidates received tons more money than that. They've raised up to $50,000 and they got the $50,000 plus in matching funds so, you know, there's really not much there, there, for them. They haven't mounted much of a campaign, in fact, I would go so far as to say in the last 14 years I think this might be the weakest Republican campaign we've seen. There just doesn't seem to be anybody out there working for them, any grass roots, and their fundraising of course has been abysmal, so I don't see any of them being a real challenge to any of the current office holders and part of that is because of their funding, and part is a lack of organization in the Republican party locally, but, you know, some of that is that people are just pretty happy with the direction the city's going. I mean, we weathered the recession the Great Recession better than most cities in Arizona and elsewhere in America, and without laying off any police or firefighters or public safety, so, I think that people are pretty happy seeing the direction that Tucson is going in, so much so that Mayor Rothschild didn't even draw an opponent at all, so, I think there are multiple explanations for it, and I think the Democrats ... Right now, yesterday, when I was looking at the number, twice as many Democrats have voted as Republicans so in essence, the Republicans would have to be getting every Independent voter to put them over the top.
(Nintzel) Lea, your thoughts. We've heard the Republicans saying a lot about the Tucson City Council not being "business friendly enough" and so as a member of the business community, what is your sense of where the city is in terms of being business friendly.
(Marquez Peterson) Yeah, I still think we have a ways to go. I mean, you've seen the billboards around Tucson and certainly a lot of the campaign material that talks about the fact that not everybody is happy with the direction Tucson has gone. I think there's been some great work on by Mayor Rothschild. He wasn't opposed, and I believe that was justified in that. He has really done a lot of outreach and worked closely with a lot of the different business groups in the community. Unfortunately, the challengers in the City Council election have not raised enough money. I think it would be a long shot to see one of them win. We did host a candidate forum where each of the challengers had a chance to speak to the small business community about some of the things that are our priorities. I think Margaret Burkholder was pretty impressive, but I don't know if she's got enough steam behind her, enough energy in terms of grassroots effort to pull through in this election.
(Nintzel) Let's talk about these bonds here. The other big question that voters will decide. Lea the Hispanic Chamber did support putting the question on the ballot but they haven't taken a position on the bonds themselves and whether voters should support those or not. What's your sense of where folks are on these seven questions for $815 million?
(Marquez Peterson) I think there's a lot of concern still in the business community. Is $815 million too much for our community to take on? Certainly we like to see the jobs and the economic impact that the bond would have in terms of construction that would go about if all seven bonds were to pass. What I'm hearing is support for some of the bonds, you know, three or four of them, and perhaps some that support economic development tourism, transportation, things of that nature. I've not heard of forming support for all of the bonds, but I think we'll see. There's about a week left for people to turn in their mail-in ballots, and I expect to see some of them pass.
(Nintzel) Jeff, your thoughts on the seven questions out there for voters to decide.
(Rogers) Well, I think it's a rare occurrence when the Democratic party unanimously endorsed a bond package, and the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce endorses it as well. I think that goes to show you it has a wide degree of support in the business community as well as citywide and county-wide. I think most all of them will pass. My prediction. They're almost numbered in a sequence that I could tell you for sure the first few will pass, but my bet is that because you have to turn the ballot over to finish up lower ones, that you will see less support as you go down the ballot. They're almost listed in an order in which I would suspect that they had the highest degree of support of support at the top and the lowest at the bottom.
(Nintzel) Transportation right at the top there .... and that's something we hear all the time in this community, people complaining about the condition of the roads, so, that's a $160 million dollar for local road repair, tens of millions of dollars on some other specific projects like the Sonoran Corridor. What about the Sonoran Corridor question.
(Marquez Peterson) I think that's important. I think that's creating that road surrounding the Raytheon area, really building our defense contractor ability to attract new business to that area, and it shows just how much our Tucson region is focused, or county's focused, on the importance of that industry to our economy. I think it's an important one that we should support.
(Nintzel) And it's also kind of creating a bypass between I-19 and I-10 so that folks coming up from Mexico don't have to necessarily come through the City of Tucson if they're out toward New Mexico.
(Marquez Peterson) And there's a lot of talk, and certainly with the development of the Mariposa point of entry in Nogales, that, we've got challenges around SR 189 as closer tracks come up, but I think this new corridor will help some of that. It's certainly not the final answer. We still need additional investment in SR 189.
(Rogers) The, I mean, it will also relieve some of the traffic congestion on the 210, um and I-10. There's no more room to build on that portion of I-10 to expand it in any way unless you put a double-decker expressway or something like that, and that's just unbelievably costly. So this will remove some of the stress on that and extend the life of I-10 in that area, so I think we, I think many of these bonds are focused on economic development, tourism, and things that really will generate economic boons for Pima County and the City of Tucson.
(Nintzel) Pundits have said that the county can't be trusted to spend this money in the way that they say they're going to spend it. Your thoughts on that.
(Rogers) Well I think it's fascinating. I mean Ally Miller said that the county couldn't be trusted. Some Republicans in the legislature have said, "Oh, the county can't be trusted." And so what did they do? They passed a special piece of legislation, which was probably unconstitutional as a special piece of legislation, but it authorized an audit of Pima County's bond process and how they're doing it, and, lo and behold, the auditor general looked at it and said, "Not only are they doing everything to be trustworthy and honest about this, but they really are a model for how communities should actually do this." So, it got rave reviews which didn't surprise me a bit, and so, anyone who suggests that, Republicans found out otherwise when they authorized that special audit.
(Nintzel) Lea, your, thoughts — you talked a little bit about the city needing to get more business-friendly—your thoughts about your thoughts about where the county is in that respect.
(Marquez-Peterson) You know I think um, we've seen such a lack of development over the last several years because of you know, the recession and so on. We've heard a lot about changes and improvements and certainly in development services in the county is an award-winning department and doing well. And we think as the spigot kind of turns back on around economic impact in the community, we'll see how that's going. We used to hear some concerns around development that is proposed, and we've seen it around, you know, McDonalds and other issues that have come up in the community, but I have hoped that they've made some improvements during this time when it's been such a slow period in our economy.
(Rogers) The McDonalds is a red herring. I mean it was going to take an existing McDonalds on 22nd Street and move it a couple of blocks east to a corner. It wouldn't have meant any economic development, and it intruded upon an existing neighborhood that is that neighborhood that's behind and south of the Doubletree Inn, which is a pretty significant nice neighborhood in Tucson which would have suffered by the expansion of putting a McDonalds on that corner, so this is not something where any jobs would have gained. Maybe they would have been a little busier, hired one or two more minimum-wage people, but that's not something that I think reflects poorly upon the city in any way, shape or form. (Marquez Peterson) I think there's another interpretation of how that transpired. I think you're right, and McDonald's is not something you'd compare to bringing in a defense contractor or something, but it is a concern that the business community had was the transparency of the communication that transpired during that.
(Nintzel) What about these suggestions from Supervisor Ally Miller and some of the Election Integrity crowd that Pima County is once again trying to rig this election and they're concerned about the audit the hand count and that ....
(Rogers) Well, I sit on the Election Integrity Committee Commission as an appointee of Supervisor Valadez and we unanimously voted, and the commission includes people from the Libertarian Party and Republican Party, and it's a wide array of people across the community, and we voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they do a hand-count audit of some of the select bond issues, just randomly pick some of them, and then randomly pick batches of early ballots and randomly pick batches from precincts and count those against the machine. We're required to do that in certain state elections and legislative elections and federal elections by statute, but the statute doesn't speak to things like a bond package and we thought it was particularly important for a couple of reasons. One, we're using brand new equipment that's never been used in Pima County before, although the city used identical equipment in the primary, the so-called primary when nobody was opposed, and Pinal County has used it so far without trouble, but we think it will enhance voter confidence in the election, so to do that, against the new equipment, and then secondly, we all vividly remember the 2006 RTA election and what happened there, and it led to almost a decade of litigation over whether or not the election was so-called "rigged" and some, most, people believed that because attempts at such a funding project had been defeated multiple times prior to that by about a 60 to 40 margin and then it turned out it won by a 60 to 40 margin, but I think that's easily explainable because everybody pulled together. The business community, Democrats, public transportation proponents, I mean that package that eventually won for the RTA was a package that addressed a lot of concerns and it made a lot of people happy, so I think that's really what changed the vote rather than any kind of rigging going on, but this is something that we think will enhance the ability of the people to have a great deal of confidence in what the vote is.
(Nintzel) Lea do you think there are concerns that the county is engaged in some kind of skullduggery in fixing these elections?
(Marquez Peterson) I think there are some people out there who still question that. You hear that on local radio talk shows and so on. I recall, you know, the audit happened and the county's bond things were fine. I agree that if there are concerns about the 2006 election the integrity of that process, then yeah, doing a hand count makes sense, just to get everybody in that process. So everybody feels that it's been taken care of properly and everybody's vote counts. (Rogers) Like I say, I participated personally in this hand-count vote supervising it as party chair, with the Republican party chair, and actually sitting down counting the ballots, you know, a dozen times over the last ten years or so, and they always turned out to be correct.
(Nintzel) Okay. Let's leave it there and then we will come back to after a word from our underwriters to talk about what's going on with John McCain's re-election and some of our local congressional races. Stay tuned.
And we're back with Zona Politics. My guests today, Lea Marquez Peterson from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Jeff Rogers, the former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party. Lea, last week John McCain announced that he had a coalition of Hispanic business leaders supporting him in his 2016 re-election bid, and you are among them. What do you like about John McCain?
(Marquez Peterson) Certainly I'm personally getting involved and it's not something that the Chamber is doing What I like about Senator McCain is he's just been a very rational approach I think in the senate. He's someone who has been very responsive to issues and concerns we've brought to him. Just last week with Senator Flake and Congresswoman McSally posted a bill that would allow veterans to be hired at the Customs and Border Patrol which has been a recurring issue that we hear from our Nogales and Douglas folks that are in our Chambers of Commerce. I also like the fact that he's led on immigration reform. They were big supporters of the Senate bill, the Gang of 8, and unfortunately that hasn't gone anywhere but he continues to fight and advocate for that. He's been very responsive to our community and I appreciate that he launched this Hispanic initiative.
(Nintzel) Jeff, your thoughts on where John McCain is in his re-election campaign.
(Rogers) Well, let's start off with the fact that he voted against the Dream Act Let's add to that that he voted against the bill that will allow our current Dreamers or DACA participants, Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals to join the military and defend this country. Let's also remember that while he was a member of the Gang of 8 he very quickly after that repudiated that vision and he's probably more correctly depicted now as the "Build the dang wall" kind of guy. I mean John McCain is all over the map. Whatever he needs to do to further his personal political career, he will do. I don't expect to hear him say anything friendly or moderate about immigration reform while he is being challenged by Kelly Ward from the right. He's going to assume the same posture that Donald ... you won't find any daylight between Donald Trump's positions on immigration and other issues and John McCain's for this upcoming election. That's the kind of politician he's always been. He'll assume the positions that he needs to do to make it through a primary, and once he's succeeded at that primary challenge, he will then falsely try to portray himself as he always does, as a maverick, as a as somebody who's independent of the Republican party. John McCain is as conservative as it gets in the Republican party. I'd put him far to the right of Senator Flake, to tell you the truth.
(Nintzel) What about Ann Kirkpatrick? She wants She wants to take on McCain next year, provided he survives his primary What are Kirkpatrick's chances?
(Rogers) I don't think John McCain since he was in the congress and all of his terms in the senate has ever had a credible opponent, and this time he does. This time he has someone who's won in one of the largest geographic districts and most contested districts, congressional districts in all of the nation and in Arizona as well. She is a practical moderate who appeals to this state. She's been elected and re-elected, and only when we had a devastating year in 2010, did she lose that seat. She held it three out of four times and won by a wide margin the last time out. I think Ann Kirkpatrick is practically the ideal candidate. She's going to have one bit of an uphill drive in that she raised about a third of what McCain did in this last reporting period McCain has an absolutely huge national fundraising base. Money coming from out of state is going to fund a lot of his campaign. That's going to be the big difficulty we're going to see, in addition to possibly "dark money" entering into it as we saw in the last general election as well, so it's not going to be easy but this is the highest-quality opponent he will ever see.
(Nintzel) Lea, we hear this a lot. We heard it with Jeff Flake vs. Richard Carmona. This was the chance for the Democrats to win a senate seat, but it doesn't tend to go their way here in Arizona.
(Lea) Well I think having our senior senator chair the Armed Forces Committee means a lot to us in Southern Arizona. You know certainly his support and his advocacy for military and certainly Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca and others that is so important to our community, so I believe he's going to make it through the primary and continue on as our in a sixth term as our federal senator for the state. I think he's someone that we need to look at. He's in a position where he is listening to a lot of different voices, certainly even Donald Trump himself has come after Senator McCain a little bit. Senator McCain certainly in his way pushed back, but I think he's certainly a leader we need to continue to have in Arizona.
(Nintzel) What about Donald Trump? He remains in the lead and in several recent polls. Why do you think he's appealing so well to Republicans at this point?
(Marquez Peterson) I don't know, Jim. I don't know. Because coming as a Latino Republican in our nation, you know, I hear nothing but negative. I don't understand why he's leading the polls. Certainly there's a group that's being polled that is supporting him But his words are so off-putting to I think the Latino community, those of us certainly on the board who work closely with partners and friends in Mexico, I don't understand the support for him.
(Nintzel) Jeff, are you understanding what's going on?
(Rogers) I have spent some time over the last five-to-seven days looking at polling data and articles about polling, looking beneath the result at what they call the cross-tabs, and I've actually noticed some rather interesting things that I didn't realize before. But if look at Trump, before Trump entered the race, you look at the numbers of Rubio's niche and how high they were, and how immediately they plummet down into fourth, fifth and single digits, and a lot of their support went to Carson and Trump, and what some recent polling data is showing is that they're pulling an awful lot of blue-collar working Republican voters, although Carson is pulling heavily in the evangelical area and is now up on Trump in one poll from Iowa this morning, but other than that the Trump support is working class men. And it's an interesting demographic. It's a demographic that used to be pretty solidly Democratic, and Reagan was the first one to peel off that demographic for the Republican Party, and that's a pretty strong demographic. I think that's the reason why his numbers haven't changed. We thought they would plummet and so they would go down that's a pretty solid demographic group, you know, white male conservative blue collar voters, and that, to me, kind of explains the odd phenomenon of why he's remained strong in the polls And I think people are realistically starting to talk about he could be the Republican party nominee. And that, I must say, is terribly frightening. Not quite as frightening as Ted Cruz, but it's pretty darned frightening that someone, that a reality TV star has reached the point where America would actually make him the nominee of a major party. I find it unexplainable and terribly frightening.
(Nintzel) A lot of people I hear are saying that Trump is not going to go the distance, and we will see whether he does or not, but a lot of people are now taking a second look at Marco Rubio in this race and saying that Rubio will emerge if and when Trump starts to slide, here. Do you think Rubio is the next best shot at this in the long run?
(Marquez Peterson) You know, interestingly, the Arizona Chamber has hosted a number of leadership series in the Phoenix area, and I had an opportunity to go up and meet Marco Rubio as well as Jeb Bush, and they had, both, very impressive Marco Rubio, such a dynamic speaker, very warm, you know they always say "You're going to vote for a president you'd like to have a beer with" and things like that, and he's someone who just really resonates one-on-one. Jeb Bush not as much. I think there's some coaching that could help, that could happen there in terms of the campaign, but in terms of their policy positions I probably personally align a little closer to Jeb Bush than I do Marco Rubio, and I don't know where that will go, especially in the primary race for Republican Perhaps Marco Rubio is the next in line.
(Nintzel) And Jeff this week Joe Biden said he was not going to seek the presidency. That probably leaves Hillary in a pretty safe spot to win this nomination
(Rogers) Well, I think that it's all a matter of timing. If he were going to be in this race he needed to be ramped up six months ago. It's now too late for him to run. And when you add the personal tragedies in his family, the son or the former attorney general of Delaware dying recently, and this man has survived a lot of tragedies and losses in his family over multiple decades. And I love the guy. I think he represents, in a way, the sort of soul of the Democratic Party as a working person's party because he came from a blue collar family. His father was a salesman, and then he got an education, became an attorney and prosecutor and then went on to the Congress, so I think very highly of Joe Biden, but, I think if you add the timing together with Hillary's performance at the debate, I mean we once again were reminded of why she's going to be such a formidable candidate and why Republicans feel the need to do such dishonest things as the fake Benghazi attack on her and this Benghazi committee, and why they engage in these kinds of unfair tactics because they know what an unbelievably formidable candidate she is and will be for the Republicans. So, I think this kind of clears the field. Bernie Sanders has always been a flavor of the day for what our most liberal members of the Democratic Party, Progressive Democrats of America, it's kind of like the most leftist element of our party. He is not going to get traction anywhere other than, maybe New Hampshire. Remember he lives in the neighboring state of Vermont, so, he might get a lot of support there, but I don't see Bernie Sanders ever really being a distinct threat to Hillary Clinton.
(Nintzel) He brought out a huge crowd again in Tucson when he came here. I didn't attend that. I caught his show up in Phoenix when he came through there. Obviously he does have that appeal to folks on the left.
(Rogers) He does. The activist part of the party, you know, the people who you can count on always to walk precincts and man phone banks, those people are the they love some of the things that he talks about, particularly income inequality and Wall Street and demonization of the Wall Street bankers, and some of those things are well-deserved but I don't sense America and the Democratic party predictably ever having a nominee who is a who describes themselves, personally, as a democratic socialist. I just don't see that being a realistic alternative.
(Nintzel) We saw the campaign finance reports in recent days. Martha McSally killed it on the fundraising front—$800 thousand in the most recent quarter. Democrat Matt Heinz pulled in about $200 thousand. Victoria Steele, a state lawmaker, also a democrat, raised about $50 thousand. Will either of those Democrats have the kind of money they need to compete with Martha McSally. Well, remember we've got a contested primary, so you're not going to see a lot of people taking a position I mean I'm not taking a position and I'm not donating to either one of them because I want to be impartial and there are a lot of the Democrat people who would donate aren't going to donate for one or the other in a contested primary so the large money will come in from Democratic donors and from D triple C, which is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and those kinds of monies will come in after we have a somebody determined to be the nominee.
(Nintzel) You only have two months at that point to win the election, so ….
(Roger) If it becomes apparent that one of them is going to be way stronger than the other then that might happen earlier than after the primary, but right now people are probably waiting to see what these first fundraising pictures look like and try to go on from there.
(Nintzel) Lea what do you think of the job that Martha McSally has done her first year in office here.
(Marquez Peterson) I think she's done a good job, I mean we're engaged with her in Cochise County as well as Pima County. We hear a lot of her meeting with business folk and the Fort and certainly in Cochise as we operate the service the Hispanic Chamber and the Douglas Hispanic Chamber. She led on renaming the Douglas Port of Entry as the Raul Castro Port of Entry which was, meant a lot to us. We honored Governor Castro at our Gala last year. So it was neat to see that approach also, but she's been very active and very engaged with us. (Rogers) She's made, had some problematic votes, and one of them is she voted to de-fund planned parenthood, and she won't even answer her phones and talk to the press as to why she voted to defund Planned Parenthood, so I think the you know, the question is, that's an issue that's near and dear to a lot of women. A lot of women get their health care through Planned Parenthood. Only three percent of what they do nationwide is actually abortions; 97% of what they do is family planning and cancer screenings and other women's health care, so I think that's a vote she's going to have trouble selling to that district. Remember the last Republican to hold that district was pro-choice. And Kolbe was pro-choice the entire entirety of his political career, and that helped him a lot in that district because, this is a pretty close district, pretty moderate and even Republican women support planned parenthood to a large degree
(Nintzel) Let's move over to CD 1 in the about a minute we have remaining here on the Republican side, we saw Ken Bennett. He raised about $100 thousand. Gary Kiehne has more money but it's mostly what he's loaned his own campaign. Two other candidates House Speaker David Gowan, Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeau are in there in that race, they got in just a few weeks ago so they didn't have to file reports. Lea, how do you see this race shaping up. And this is the seat that Ann Kirkpatrick is giving up to run for senate.
(Marquez Peterson) It's certainly highly competitive. We've not yet seen all the candidates coming through working our community in the Tucson area or in many of those other particular areas but I think it is going to be very controversial. We have seen speaker Gowan certainly out and talking about his campaign but in terms of fundraising and so on, haven't really seen that activity yet.
(Nintzel) Very crowded on the Republican side, Jeff.
(Rogers) Very crowded. You and I have both met Kiehne, he's a , he's said some rather extreme things on occasion, but he's a very charming guy and at a grass roots level, and, you know, shaking hands and just meeting him
(Nintzel) Very authentic, I think he's a rodeo cowboy.
(Rogers) Very authentic. He's a hard guy not to like on a personal level despite some of his policy positions so, in a very wide field like that, with his ability to sell fun, he might be a guy who slips through, and it's probably not good for Republicans because he might be the most extreme of the five candidates. And Tom O'Halloran is an outstanding candidate for the Democrats. Previously was a Republican He says the Republicans abandoned him. A former homicide detective in Chicago. Great candidate.
(Nintzel) I'm going to have to leave it right there. I want to thank Lea Marquez Peterson from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, Jeff Rogers, former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party for joining me. That is our show for this week If you missed any part of it, you can catch us at zonapolitics.com where you'll also find transcripts of this and previous programs.