The Spike is really starting to like the way this election season is shaping up.
Infighting. Back-stabbing. And it's not just the Democrats this time.
Instead, rumblings and grumblings from state Republican headquarters are so persistent these days, they've even reached The Spike's e-mail.
February 1 was Arizona Republican Party executive director Nathan Sproul's last day. While local GOPers were all smiles over a pleasant parting, The Spike hears it was really anything but.
Sproul was very plugged in, but the word is that his political career was short-circuited when Son-of-a-Guv Bob Fannin took over as party chairman last summer. Fannin's accustomed to holding court as the unofficial King of the Lobbyists at the Arizona Legislature, but perhaps decades as a lawyer/lobbyist haven't taught him much about how to run a political party. The story is that Fannin micromanaged Sproul and Co., rather than being comfortable with the figurehead/fund-raiser role most party chairs settle into. Sproul hightailed it as soon as he could find a new job.
Sproul wouldn't talk. Fannin was gracious as could be, but cried ignorance.
"The parting was amicable and he is going to remain very close to us," Fannin says of Sproul. "From the party's standpoint and from my personal standpoint, I thought he did a great job and I was very sorry to see him leave."
"Certainly everyone here is sure working hard and I really like them all. . . . I've been here, so I should probably be the one who knows better than anyone else about that kind of thing," he says.
Well, maybe, Chairman Bob, except that insiders say you're the problem.
Word has it that several other staffers are considering walking, too. That could be disastrous for the Republicans, who are still at least a month away from replacing Sproul. And Election Day looms.
With the Clean Elections Law in full force for the first time this year, the roles of the political players will be shifting dramatically. Political action committees? Out. Lobbyists who'll hoof it for $5 contributions? In. High-priced, long-winded political consultants? Out. Pols who've found the loopholes in the Byzantine Clean Elections law? In.
Political parties are definitely part of the In Crowd. Parties can raise and spend money on all sorts of things Clean Elections candidates can't afford -- voter registration drives, early voting mailings, Get Out the Vote efforts. Anything that promotes the party without specifically touting the candidate.
Looks like even the candidates who've opted out of Clean Elections will need the parties this year. Just look at Matt Salmon, the GOP gubernatorial front-runner. The guy's surrounded himself with heavyweights -- who hasn't signed on to his campaign? -- but apparently no actual workers who get on the phones and raise the cash. Salmon has collected a pathetic $300,000 -- much of it already spent, and less than half what Jane Hull had gathered by the same time during the 1998 race.
The Right to Fiesta
Gubernatorial candidate Alfredo Gutierrez is calling for the Legislature to suspend the controversial effort to build the hapless Arizona Cardinals a new stadium.
"This whole thing has to be rethought," Gutierrez says. "I can't imagine going forward with this."
Hmmmm. The Spike wonders how much of Gutierrez's hand-wringing has to do with sound public policy and how much has to do with his strong ties to the Fiesta Bowl through his former political consulting job at Jamieson & Gutierrez, a lobbying firm. The Cardinals' greediness may end up screwing over the Fiesta Bowl.
Still, unlike independent gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney, who is philosophically opposed to public financing for professional sports facilities, Gutierrez says there is a reasonable balance that can be achieved for projects that benefit the community such as Bank One Ballpark.
But Gutierrez draws the line on the Cardinals stadium campaign that has stumbled along since early 1999 when Mesa voters rejected a plan to finance a stadium and convention center.
Gutierrez says the Cardinals deceived the public when they laid out their business proposal for a stadium during the Proposition 302 campaign. At that time, the team said it could only afford to spend $85 million on the facility.
That position changed just days before the TSA was set to make its final site selection in January 2001 and the Cardinals offered $17 million to Tempe in up-front cash to sweeten Tempe's site bid.
In exchange, Tempe gave the Cardinals development rights on land surrounding the stadium.
The whole deal imploded last summer and fall when the FAA ruled the site was an aviation hazard.
The Cardinals' devious run to be developers as well as a football team left a bad taste, Gutierrez says.
"This thing just stinks," he says. "At some point you have to stop this."
Money for Nothing
While her colleagues down at the Legislature are thinking of ways to save money, state Representative Linda Binder, a Republican from Lake Havasu, has a grand plan to spend it. She's sponsoring a bill that would give county elected officials a hefty raise: Officials who work more than 4.5 hours a day would receive a $35 per diem.
Conceivably, that's $12,775 on top of Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley's $96,600. Or on top of Sheriff Joe's $78,750.
This is a bill that's got to be dead on arrival, considering that even the county supervisors don't support it. Alan Stephens, executive director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, says his group voted to oppose the bill because the timing's bad. (Translation: It's an election year, you morons!)
Stephens says he's unclear as to whether his group would ever support such a measure, adding that it would literally wipe out the budget of a small county like Greenlee.
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So why'd the bill even get introduced? The Spike hears that thanks go to Maricopa County schools chief Sandra Dowling, who has a long history of trying to ice the cake with public sugar. (Her annual cake, for the record, is currently worth $54,600.)
How about some cash for education first, Sandy?
With reporting from Amy Silverman and John Dougherty.
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