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Big Red's Back

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As usual, Phoenix Republican Representative Susan Gerard is the only one who will say out loud what others at the Capitol are mumbling behind their hands: that overall, Hull's staff performed poorly this year, and that's the real reason the governor vetoed so many bills.

At the end of the session, Gerard was so irked that she ran to Capitol reporters to complain about Hull and her staff before Hull could veto any of Gerard's bills.

"I wanted them to know ahead of time so it wouldn't just be sour grapes," she says.

Gerard and others are concerned over Hull's vetoes of "omnibus" bills, which can include dozens of provisions for each state agency, everything from technical corrections to funding for programs. A single undesirable provision can kill a complex bill. Gerard maintains--and many others agree privately--that if Hull's staff had monitored those bills effectively and had been there in the closing days of the session to hammer out the details, it wouldn't have been necessary to get so tough in the end.

The scarcity of Hull's staff was a constant criticism throughout the session. Gerard says Hull will turn around and explain her vetoes by complaining that lawmakers failed to keep her informed.

"The reality is," Gerard says of Hull's staff, "they're nowhere to be found, and that's their strategy, so then they can say, 'We weren't consulted,' and use that as an excuse. . . . [Hull Chief of Staff] Rick Collins saying that you never returned his phone calls when he never called you--that kind of crap."

Collins, who acknowledges that he's clashed with Gerard, says only, "Sometimes in the heat of battle, things are said that shouldn't be said, and that's unfortunate. But I would just say, 'Look at the governor's record.'"

By the way, Collins is widely credited with prompting the quick Granny Hull-to-Big Red makeover. Many say he, not Hull, runs the show on the ninth floor, that she's not around much and doesn't make the big decisions.

He denies that, of course.
"As much as I might love to take credit, she's her own person," Collins says.

But then, he won't even concede that Hull changed her stripes late in this session.

"I would contend this is the same lady that was there last year," he says.
Once Hull has yeaed or nayed the session's bills, the war stories will soon follow, Gerard promises. "Probably after all these vetoes are done, you're going to get yourself some good stuff," Gerard tells me.

Americans in Paris, Arizona-Style: Buoyed by their relative successes in the Legislature this year, Democrats are looking forward to November 2000 with the anticipation of winning more seats. Ironically, party activists haven't learned anything from the elected officials, whose unity enabled legislative triumphs.

When last we left the state Democratic party, chairman Mark Fleisher had been reelected in an ugly battle that pitted the relative newcomer against a cabal of old-time Dems that includes John and Lorraine Frank, Sam Coppersmith, Rick DeGraw, Earl Katz and others.

Disgusted with Fleisher, the Franks, et al., have decided to take their party elsewhere, as it were, by forming an exclusive new group to raise money for Democratic candidates. They've joined ranks with trial attorney Dan Salcido to create what is now being called the Udall Caucus, according to state Senator Chris Cummiskey. (Salcido was out of town and could not be reached for comment.)

Cummiskey, who tries to stay above such frays, chooses his words carefully.
"I think that there is a confidence problem right now with raising significant sums of money and having it at the control of a few people at the state party," he says.

Cummiskey says the Udall Caucus wants to raise $2 million, primarily to focus on winning a majority in the state Senate (they'd need only two more seats) and gaining more seats in the state House. He says there's also talk of creating a nonprofit research organization, sort of the Democrats' version of the Goldwater Institute.

Fleisher says he's never heard of the Udall Caucus, and is making it his own goal to elect more Democrats to the Legislature. He does admit he's heard that his naysayers have broken off to raise money independently.

"As long as they elect Democrats, that's fine with me," he says. Has the breakaway hurt party fund-raising? "Nope," says Fleisher.

That claim stretches credibility, but this spring's fund-raising reports haven't yet been filed, so I'll have to take Fleisher's word for it.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.