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So the Arizona Republican Party censured John McCain this past weekend. If they were hoping this would dissuade the senior senator from re-electing it may have had the opposite effect. After all, a man who withstood the Vietcong probably chuckles at the potbellies of rightward lunacy. They remind us that just because one can do something, doesn’t mean it is wise to do so. One Ted Cruz is just enough.McCain, John-012309-18421- 0004

Still, the Censurists do speak to the long-time detachment and disregard many Republicans have for John McCain. He is at once so damn impressive yet also such a petulant ass. The kind of guy that is both a great American symbol for resilience yet also one that would yell at the construction worker he hired for not building a monument to himself fast enough.

Evidence can be found in the numbers. Despite spending some $26 million in the 2010 Republican primary against J.D. Hayworth who raised a fraction of that amount McCain only won the Republican primary by a little more than 20 points. Fast forward to 2012 when Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon spent a relatively similar amount in that U.S. Senate primary but Flake won by 50 plus points.

And this gets us to a key point. The 2012 U.S. Senate race occurred at all because Jon Kyl decided three terms was enough; that others could carry on his good work, in their own way. And Arizona would be just fine. He left at the top of the Republican Senate world, like Bobby Jones atop the golf world some 80 plus years ago. He knew when it was time to leave. He knew there was more to life than title and ego.

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Billy Crystal watching Meg Ryan faking it was one of the most memorable movie scenes in recent memory.

It’s fair to say that’s how engaged Republican primary voters are feeling as they evaluate whether upstart Christine Jones is faking her espoused conservative bona fides or whether she really has the financial resources to become a player in the 2014 Arizona Governor’s race.  jones-governor

Fife Symington clearly had the personal dough to be competitive. He actually became an Arizona Governor. He wasn’t faking it. Buz Mills appeared to have the jack too, before pulling out of the 2010 Governor’s race because of the unique circumstances of SB1070.

Wil Cardon was soundly defeated for the U.S. Senate in 2012 but he too showed a real bank account. If Christine Jones doesn’t have the same depth she is an immediate also ran.

Judging from her very aggressive fundraising efforts we question how much there is really there. The 2013 financial reports due Friday should shed some light. But so too does a refresher course on Buz Mills’ effort.

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Tough on crime and tough on illegal immigration. That’s Andrew Thomas in a nutshell. What’s not to like? As a candidate for Governor, Thomas hopes to appeal to the most conservative voters in a split field and capture the GOP nomination. From there, he would look to ride the Republican voter registration advantage to a brand new office on the 9th Floor, from where he would wage war on corruption in the government and the judiciary. Light your torches!

But each news cycle’s coverage of settlements of lawsuits against Maricopa County related to Thomas’ conduct as County Attorney erodes confidence that Thomas is capable of winning a fight against corruption, not to mention an election.thomas_20100818180053_320_240

Thomas claims to have been hard on the trail of massive corruption within Maricopa County and for the sake of this post we are going to assume that he was sincere and correct. He indicted a lot of people for a lot of things. We can’t say they were guilty of anything though because they were not convicted. Seriously. Ever. Not any of them as near as we can tell. And we’ve really searched the news clippings hard. Was it because Thomas quit as County Attorney in the middle of these prosecutions to run for Attorney General? Or was it because the indictments and investigations were a really bad idea? Or were they simply really badly executed?

Based just on the number and size of the checks Maricopa County is writing to settle lawsuits filed by the “victims” of these acts, we’re going to concede it might be any or all of the above.

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We all remember the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher, that muffled, mumbling sound no one could much listen to for longer.

That’s the way just about every Republican candidate sounds these days. Ronald Reagan was great. I am a conservative not a moderate. I can recite my poll tested talking points with the best of them, hopefully with more money.

Is this what modern candidates and political consultancy has come to?kemp

As Arizona holds its State GOP Convention this Saturday in Tempe we should ask ourselves is it time for a change?

For nearly thirty years Republicans have been wedded to this model. It’s boring and increasingly ineffectual.

Interestingly, there have been detours. And they have been successful.

George W. Bush developed his own “compassionate conservative” vernacular and won an election he was not expected to in 2000.

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Some politicians just want it too badly. They are just too obvious. Everyone who sees what they are doing knows what they are doing. Yet these same politicians seem to have no idea that they aren’t fooling anyone.

Exhibit A for today is Arizona Secretary of State wannabe Michele Reagan.

For years she has wanted to be elected to statewide office, especially Secretary of State. Facing a daunting primary challenge just to retain her State Senate seat, Reagan decided that 2014 was the perfect time to run for it. The only problem is that after more than a decade in the legislature, she really didn’t have much of a record to run on as related to the SOS office, and what record she was known for was left of center on a host of issues.

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In fact, the Republican Primary for Attorney General may be the ugliest race of any election year in Arizona history. And we are basing that solely on how ugly it already is here in 2013. Familiar faces, familiar tactics, hypocrisy by the boatload, and two candidates who are likely to get lost in all of the mud. Oh yes, and a Democrat nominee hoping all of this comes to pass.

The offending group is the ironically named Arizona Public Integrity Alliance. Don’t bother trying to find out who is paying for their work because their donors are secret. Their Vice President and spokesperson is Tyler Montague who, when we last saw him, was working with liberal bomb-thrower and racial demagogue Randy Parraz to recall conservative Republican Russell Pearce and replace him with Jerry Lewis.

Their target is Republican Attorney General Tom Horne. Their tactic is smear. They want you to know that Tom Horne has been accused of having an affair, was accused of giving jobs to “cronies”, was investigated by the FBI, and took campaign contributions from law firms who do business with the AG’s office.

They are spending a lot of money on ads and mailers designed to soften up Horne before the Republican primary and, to avoid campaign finance laws, they are disguising their attacks as issue ads in support of a newfound agenda to pass two reforms to the AG’s office. One of their early ads has already had to be pulled and redone because it was proven factually inaccurate.

What isn’t clear is if they simply hate Horne, they want to elect his Republican challenger Mark Brnovich, or they want to elect the Democrat candidate Felicia Rotellini. Because AZPIA’s donors are secret, we can’t know where their money is coming from. But Montague’s history of working with Democrats to elect more liberal candidates is well established, and the AZPIA’s attacks are basically rehashes of the Democrat Party’s talking points about Horne.

Republicans across Arizona are rightfully worried about Horne losing the general election to Rotellini in 2014. But they are ignoring that Horne has a largely solid record as AG and that Arizona remains a solidly red state. Rotellini and her allies outspent Horne and his allies in 2010 and he won anyway. It is quite probable that a united Republican Party would be able to defend Horne’s office in 2014. But smear campaigns fronted by Republicans and funded by dark money a year before the election promises to muddy both Republican candidates to the point where neither can recover. Then Arizonans will get to see what Chicago style politics really look like with Rotellini in charge.

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In the 2012 legislative session, the Arizona Legislature raised the contribution limits for statewide candidates from $912 per person once during an entire election cycle to $2,000 per person for the primary election and another $2,000 per person for the general election. The usual liberal suspects sued to stop the change, the Legislature and the Secretary of State's office argued that the changes were great, and the first judge agreed the changes were fine. So the liberals appealed and to the surprise of many, the appellate courts overturned the decision and ordered that the old limits needed to be reinstated. Now the whole battle is headed for the Arizona Supreme Court, except not everyone is on the same sides anymore.

Lo and behold the Secretary of State's office has reversed itself and is now arguing that the old status quo should remain to eliminate uncertainty. We’re not sure how uncertain a decision from the Arizona Supreme Court should be. Supreme Courts tend to have the final say on things, but the Secretary of State’s argument seems to have changed from what is right and Constitutional about the higher limits (and conversely what is wrong and un-Constitutional about the lower limits) to now arguing that it would be more convenient to keep the un-Constitutional limits in place. Ah yes, what to do about that pesky First Amendment, eh Mr. Secretary?

Fire up the conspiracy engines though. Because Secretary of State Ken Bennett is running for Governor using Clean Elections, and the establishment favorite is State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is running by collecting money the old fashioned way. As it is, Ducey is going to raise a boatload of money, far in excess of Bennett¹s $800,000 take from Clean Elections. If Bennett wins at the Supreme Court, Ducey only gets to collect $912 per person. But if Bennett loses, Ducey can raise it $2,000 per person and that boatload becomes ocean liner huge.

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The entire story would take too long to write, but anyone can go online and find the entire history.

For now, all you need to know is that two groups in Arizona gave approximately $15 million to two campaign committees in California during the 2012 elections.  One group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, is led by former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams.   The second group, The Center to Protect Patient Rights, is led by Arizona-based political consultant Sean Noble.

The contributions were what is being called ”dark money” because the original source is concealed.  These sorts of contributions are illegal in California, and the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigated these donations and the groups involved.  The result of the nearly year long investigation is a series of financial settlements whereby the groups involved will pay massive fines and the Commission will allow these groups to continue to conceal the original source of their funds.  Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights will each pay $500,000 while the two California committees are being asked to pay nearly $15 million in penalties.

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What do Republican primary voters think of House Speaker John Boehner and why might it matter in next year’s CD1 Primary here in Arizona?  Let’s call it “a Speaker thing”.

Activists in the GOP are largely disappointed with Speaker Boehner and his leadership and they are critical of what they see as his lack of conservative resolve.  They don’t trust him to lead his caucus in a conservative direction if that means taking on established interests.  They expect him to be weak and to cave at the end of each legislative battle.

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conservative-voteWhile the divisive fight over Medicaid Expansion was widely expected to produce primary challenges to the small number of Republicans who joined with the Democrats to pass it, early indications are that conservatives who voted against the expansion are increasingly finding themselves targeted by left-leaning Republicans who believe that crossing the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation ought to be a primary goal. Whether or not these challengers are successful will make a big difference to whether or not Arizona's Legislature remains solidly conservative.

In the West Valley, Litchfield Park City Councilwoman Diane Landis is challenging State Representatives Steve Montenegro and Darin Mitchell, who are two of the most conservative legislators in the State House. Both voted against the Medicaid Expansion and Landis'

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