Editorial: An Analysis of Winners & Losers

31 August 2012  
"The winners were sending out for beer and sandwiches, and the losers were saying, 'Deal, da** it, deal." ~Unknown

Now that the celebrations are over, and the euphoria/depression has lifted, it's worth taking a second look at Tuesday's election results.

District 1 Board of Supervisors

District 1 Board of Supervisors (BOS) contest was arguably the most competitive of the BOS races. Two former city councilmen, one former mayor and a lady who was both a former city council woman and a former member of the Arizona House, and a local teacher with roots dating back generations all went head to head as they vied for the position. What was refreshing and remarkable about this race, was the camaraderie and respect shown to each other. Did they disagree? Yes, on occasion. But, when they did, it was simply a case of saying, "I disagree with my opponent, and this is what I think..."

No personal attacks, no mudslinging, no negative campaigning. During one of the debates, one candidate remarked, "Look, we're all friends up here. And when this election is over, we'll still be friends."

Tuesday night a Republican Victory Party was held at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon. B efore the results were known, Rowle Simmons, in making a few comments said, "I want to thank all of you that voted for me. And if you voted for one of my opponents, I want to thank you, too, because you came and you got involved. No matter who wins, you've got good people here who will do a good job for the county."

When all was said and done, Simmons came out on top, with only 166 votes more than John Hanna who had just 250 votes more than the third place candidate, Lucy Mason. That's just 416 votes separating first from third.

Congratulations, BOS 1 candidates. You are all winners.

Other Supervisor Races

Other supervisor races were relatively calm. They stuck to the issues, and although things might have been a little rambunctious from time to time, for the most part, they agreed frequently, and disagreed occasionally but courteously. Welcome your new and returning supervisors, Craig Brown (District 4), Tom Thurman (District 2) and Chip Davis (District 3) - who never once disagreed with his opponent - oh, wait! he was running unopposed!

BOS District 5 is the only one that is not yet finally decided, since there will be a general election in November. Republican Jack Smith introduced a bit of controversy during the primaries, when he said he planned to keep his current job as the Ace Hardware Transportation Manager. However, he promised that if he were unable to do both jobs effectively, he would resign from Ace Hardware. The voters didn't seem to be too concerned about this, since he won by 16%. Smith will face Democrat Bill Williams in November.

State & Federal Races

With the exception of the LD1 Senate race, in which Steve Pierce ran unopposed, the state and federal races were contentious and the campaigns were frequently ugly and negative with many personal attacks. And money poured into these races. But the interesting thing is that this time, the negative campaigning didn't seem to work.

US Senate

"Only in an Arizona Republican primary could you base a campaign on the assertion that Rep. Jeff Flake isn’t conservative enough," states the Payson Roundup.

The Republican primary between Wil Cardon, Jeff Flake, Bryan Hackbarth and Clair Van Steenwyck got nasty almost immediately. Hackbarth and Van Steenwyck weren't in the crosshairs much, as most of the finger-pointing was from Cardon to Flake - although Flake and his supporters were able to get in a zinger here and there. Cardon poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into the attack campaign, which included fake images of Obama and Flake on a podium together, mislabelled photos and half-truth accusations. According to Malcolm Barrett, Jr., Cardon spent at least $7 million of his own money in the campaign. Add to that the money spent by Independent Expenditure committees (Club for Growth spent about $583K in Flake's behalf), and this ended up being a very expensive primary race, with probably more than $12 million spent all in all.

The general theme of the attacks? "I'm more conservative."

So, what did Cardon get for his big bucks negative campaign? At one point he claimed he was within the "margin of error" in the polls, but when the voters came out, Cardon only got 21.19% of the vote, while Flake got 69.08% of the vote. That's a pretty big "margin of error".

US House, District 4

"I'm known as the State Contrarian," Gould said at the beginning of this election cycle. The CD4 race was yet another negative campaign, although not nearly as bad. Gould distorted Gosar's record on a regular basis, although he didn't resort to Photoshopped images. That's ok, Gosar's campaign had a few distortions of their own. But, for the most part, Gosar focused on meeting people in forums, town halls and even some unexpected places, like pumping gas for folks, or waiting on tables (at least he didn't drop any plates!)

Again, the theme of the attacks were, "I'm the conservative one."

Club for Growth got involved in this campaign, dumping close to $600,000 in the race against Gosar. They also spent about $18K to support Gould. Good thing, too, because Gould didn't have a lot of success in fundraising compared to Gosar, who pulled in about $957,000 in donations.

But, at the end of the day, what was the result? Close to a 20% lead for Gosar, bringing him a strong victory in the primary.

Arizona House of Representatives, District 1

Another crazy campaign, with three candidates vying for two seats. Speaker of the House Andy Tobin and Representative Karen Fann were the incumbents, while state Senator Lori Klein was moved into the district via the magic of redistricting. Admitting she didn't think she could run a campaign and win against Senate President Steve Pierce, Klein chose to run for the House of Representatives. At first, she hoped to target Fann, thinking her support might be soft. But, then she turned her focus on Speaker Tobin, trying to remove him. Labeling him a RINO (Republican in Name Only), saying he loved unions, and much more, Klein frequently pointed to "report cards" from various conservative organizations that gave her the highest scores.

While she was attacking Tobin, he was actually defending her, fiercely denouncing an article in the Republic that called her and several other Republicans at the Capitol a "kook". Another time, a flier was put out by an Independent Expenditure (IE) committee that mentioned a member of her family. Tobin released a statement that noted he didn't like it when his family members were brought into the fray, and he didn't like it when his opponents' family members were targeted either. He called for a calming of the rhetoric of the campaign.

An IE group formed to support Klein by attacking Tobin. This group was headed up by Floyd Brown, and consisted of donations largely from out of state - Herman Cain (Georgia $5,000), Rich Howard (Pennysylvania, $10,000) and William Dunn (Florida, $25,000) called Arizonans for Honest Government (AHG). AHG had $59,000 to spend attacking Tobin, and attack they did. In the last couple of weeks before election night, a letter from Senator Rick Murphy was sent out by AHG accusing Tobin of blocking union bills. Of course, Tobin had IE's supporting him, and advocating against Klein. Fann even got a little support. All together, $113,000 was spent in the LD1 house race by IE groups alone - and that doesn't count the funds raised by the candidates themselves.

Some mystery individual, evidently a supporter of Klein's, placed smaller signs that were arrows on both sides of Tobin's signs, that read, "Andy Tobin Union Owned". Who did it? Who knows. They didn't have the courage to acknowledge the signs as theirs, instead they put a notice below that read, "This sign was placed here by an individual, not a political committee. It is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly remove, alter or deface this sign without the sign owner's or property owner's permission. ARS 16-1019." Then they emailed and posted photos of the signs all over, most notably on their Facebook page. In response, Tobin simply had his signs removed.

Now, all mention of the signs have now been removed from the AHG Facebook page.

By the way, what was Klein's campaign theme? Of course - "I'm the true conservative."

The election result? While Klein did come out on top in Maricopa County, where she lives, only 30% of the district is located there. The rest of the district is in Yavapai County. So, by the time all was tallied and added up, Tobin had 41% of the vote, Fann had 34% of the vote, and Klein had 24.74% of the vote.

Wrapping It Up

Who were the winners? In this election, the voters seemed to trust those that stayed (mostly) on message and spoke about issues, not personalities. The BOS races were highly competitive, but genial. During one forum for District 2, Tom Thurman even helped out the candidates running against him by offering valuable information for their points.

The winners were incumbents, with good local name recognition. They had been trusted in the past, and voters seemed willing to continue to place their confidence in a known quantity. The winners knew their communities and were able to communicate local values.

The winners also spent a lot of time in the district. Gosar waited on tables, organized a job fair, pumped gas - all in an effort to reach people that might not attend political events. Tobin and Fann had numerous events in the district. Flake made several appearances.

That's not to say the losers didn't come to the local communities. To be fair, Klein held a couple of headliner fundraising events in the quad-city area, and Cardon came through Prescott and the nearby comunities many times, probably more often than Flake. Gould came to Prescott on several occasions, also.

These winners won big - mostly double digit leads. Flake led Cardon by about 48 points, practically unheard of. Gosar lead with almost 20 points, and Klein trailed Fann by 9 points, and Tobin by 16 points. If you look at Yavapai County alone, Klein was even farther behind.

The big losers in this campaign seemed to be negative campaigns, personal attacks, out-of-state IE expenditures. And, claiming the title of "The Most Conservative" didn't play well with this year's voters. Voters seemed to be a bit more pragmatic than the losing candidates expected, perhaps associating recent political turmoil with the "conservative" label.



Lynne LaMaster