Andy Tobin: From Thoughtful Conservative to Partisan Hack

I served in the legislature with House Speaker Andy Tobin (R-Paulden) and I liked the guy. He was first elected in 2006, when he was regarded as a pragmatic conservative in the tradition of the others in the Yavapai County delegation, namely Representative Lucy Mason (R-Prescott) and Senator Tom O’Halleran (R-Sedona). We actually worked together to (temporarily) repeal a highway funding gimmick that shafted rural areas (and, to a lesser extent, Tucson) in favor of freeways in suburban Maricopa County. I would not say that we were friends, but we were friendly.

The only time I ever saw anything that would foreshadow some of what has happened since was when an anti-abortion bill was debated on the floor. The normally calm and soft-spoken Tobin was rambling and unhinged in speaking in favor of the measure. This did not strike me as unusual, since a lot of people are passionate about the issue, and it is easy to see how such sentiments can get the best of someone.

At some point, Tobin changed. One legislator I talked to said that the change came around 2008, when the Goldwater Institute gave Tobin a lower rating than Democratic Representative Mark DiSimone. Whatever the reasons, Tobin has become a bitter and angry partisan with a habit of personalizing issues.

The latest manifestation came on a Sunday morning political talk show in Phoenix:

A few things should be noted about the Speaker’s rant. First, he never really answers Resnik’s questions. Second, a man whose leadership team includes individuals whose only distinction is pursuing petty and silly legislation is calling Representative Campbell “immature” and “insincere.” Finally, the Speaker seems to believe that there is some sort of rule that requires members to consult him before talking to the press or introducing legislation. Of course, no such rule or tradition exists, nor would Tobin ever dream of consulting Democratic leadership on such things.

Political reporters are fond of portraying such exchanges as petty feuds. This is certainly not the case here. Tobin was allegedly responding to a detailed 12-point plan, that was released on Friday. Of course, “response” may be too strong a word for a partisan rant that addressed none of the policy details. It should also be noted that Tobin himself has no proposal regarding gun violence.

For his part, and to his credit, Campbell has not responded in kind. Instead, he has challenged Tobin to a televised debate on the issue. It is too soon at this point to say fairly that the offer has been ignored, but Tobin has declined such opportunities in the past.

The Speaker can demonstrate his own “maturity” and “sincerity” by engaging in a real debate, or he can just throw another tantrum.

From Our “Put On Your Feathers, Ese…” Desk

Remember back in 2010 when two escapees from a private prison near Kingman murdered a couple in New Mexico? Our State’s leaders are hoping you don’t.

To recap, the incident at a prison run by Management and Training Corporation (who re-enter our story later) highlighed connections between the private prison industry and the governor’s office and legislative leaders like Andy Tobin and John Kavanagh. It also caused the Department of Corrections to cancel an RFP for a state private prison contract.

Well, it’s back, and tomorrow they announce who will get the contract.

Here’s the funny part: not only does the DOC admit that the number of medium security prisoners is not expected to grow over the next few years, but it actually is more expensive to have private companies house prisoners.

The folks over at the American Friends Service Committee have been tracking this nonsense, and have two posts on it (here and here) over at their blog called Cell Out Arizona.

So, we don’t need the beds, contracting to private industry doesn’t save money, and, as the 2010 incident demonstrated, private prisons are a public hazard. It goes to show how injecting the profit motive into criminal justice can warp priorities.

Five companies are vying for the contract including private prison behemoth Corrections Corporation of America, a company known as La Salle Corrections that runs escape-prone prisons in Texas and Louisiana and…wait for it…Management and Training Corporation, the company that ran the prison that had that infamous 2010 breakout.

It’s hard to see where the public good fits into any of this.

And They Are Still Complaining…

I was forwarded an op-ed from the Arizona Republic by Ruben Gallego that was a response to a piece by Andy Tobin about the redistricting process.

Yes, folks, Tobin and his friends are still complaining.

For those that need a rundown, redistricting in Arizona is done by a independent panel appointed by both the Democratic and Republican legislative caucuses. The panel also includes a fifth member who is registered as a member of neither party.

This process is horribly unfair to folks like Tobin, who were gobsmacked to find out that they didn’t get to draw the lines. They’ve been filing a series of lawsuits, at your expense and all so far unsuccessful, to stymie the things. This is despite the fact that the commission is part of the state constitution thanks to an amendment the voters passed nearly a decade and a half ago.

Tobin’s op-ed takes a new tack: he’s doing it all to help the Hispanic community.

Yeah. Andy Tobin is a fierce defender of the Hispanic community. As a member of Arizona’s Hispanic community, I say, gracias, vato. I’m so happy to read a Republican legislative leader tell people in “South Phoenix and South Tucson” what “the people of the Hispanic community should be concerned” with.

Tongue firmly in cheek there.

Hey, I wasn’t entirely happy with the redistricting process. And, yes, Hispanic organizations and politicians were not happy with it either. But, let’s remember what Tobin wants: he wants the power to draw the lines to rest, once again, with legislative leadership. As dissatisfied as I was with the process, it was open to the public.

For example, here in Tucson, a group of Hispanic leaders organized to lobby the commission and were able to get some changes to the final map. Would they have been let into the room if folks like Tobin and Steve Pierce were meeting to draw the lines? Excuse me for being a bit dubious.

Who knows? Maybe Tobin’s sudden concern for the rights of Hispanic voters will now extend to other areas.


What Ever Happened to…?

One of the interesting side bars from this week’s ouster of two members of the Rio Nuevo Board is that Jonathan Paton has still not been replaced on that body.

Paton is currently running for congress in CD 1. How are things going in that race? Well, kind of sluggish.

His first quarter fundraising was at $197,000, dwarfed by Ann Kirkpatrick’s $1.1 million. He’s running against a crew of unknowns (the strongest of which seems to be Sedona businessman Doug Wade), but he ain’t exactly known in the district either. His old district 30 has no overlap with CD 1, and bragging about endorsements from Andy Tobin and the like probably doesn’t mean much to a voter in Flagstaff or Safford.

Also, once you get beyond getting his name out there, how much will he have to do to prove his right-wing cred? Despite a conservative record, he got beat last go around by a candidate that offered more red meat to hungry tea partiers than he did.

I think he comes out of the primary, but with his anemic fundraising, how much money will he have left to face Kirkpatrick? Even if Wenona Benally-Baldenegro starts to run a stronger campaign, Kirkpatrick will be left with a lot more resources than Paton.

By the way, expect to hear the “Payday Paton” phrase again. It’s no accident that Gabrielle Giffords’s campaign threw that out there last time: lobbying for payday loan magnates doesn’t fly any better among rural voters than it does among urban and suburban ones.

Post Mortem

Monday, Speaker Andy Tobin announced that he isn’t going to run for congress. In his press release he talked about work that he’s left undone.

Yeah, that’s exactly what the rest of us were afraid of.

The budget got signed yesterday has already generated the threat of a lawsuit. It turns out that $50 million dollars were transfered from a fund that the legislature has no control over. The fund was from the settlement of a lawsuit against mortgage lenders, and legislators claim that the money wasn’t really helping struggling homeowners any way.

Of course, they haven’t explained how this fund transfer helps them either, but hey, who cares?

There is a threat of a lawsuit over this. There are two things that are no surprise here. One is that they were warned that there would be problems with this, but they did it anyway. Two is that Tom Horne, who administers the fund, says that he’ll let the lege take the money. Not only that, he’ll fight for their right to do it. He’s looking for another fight that will get him into the headlines. Remember that AG stands for “aspiring governor.”

More than the budget itself, which of course underfunds education, state parks and health care but included a tax cut that could cost the state $108 million per year, another last minute move reflects where their priorities really are. They legislature voted to move forward with yet another tantrum-inspired lawsuit against the Independent Redistricting Commission. The last lawsuit cost $10 million; their cut to KidsCare was $7 million.

Ash Joins the Black Helicopter Crowd

Another gem from our favorite Republican talker, Bruce Ash, this time from his Facebook page:

Kudos to AZ House member Judy Burges ,Speaker Tobin and Senate President Pierce for their leadership on moving SB 1507 through the Arizona Legislature !!

SB 1507 will prohibit the imposition of UN Agenda 21 here in Arizona which an insidious plan by the United Nations to force their governance on our state , counties, municipalities, schools and even neighborhoods.

UN Agenda 21 preaches population control as well as control of where we live and how we live. UN Agenda strips America of our wealth and threatens our sovereignty.

If SB 1507 passes and is signed by Governor Brewer we will join OK,NH,MS and TN in passge of this important legislation to protect our liberty and way of life.

This is a must pass piece of legislation.

Agenda 21, by the way, involves encouraging local governments to enact sustainable development plans. Near as I can tell, there is no enforcement mechanism, no coercion, no jack booted thugs. The bill itself is three paragraphs and probably unenforceable. This “must pass” piece of legislation does, well, nothing. But hey, it lets folks like Bruce Ash sound the alarm and flap their jowls. Next up, he’ll be stopping the Amero.

I’m sure, though, that Bruce’s argument here is carefully reasoned and involved researching every last fact. But, wait, what’s this in the first comment on his post:

Robert Burges: She’s a State Senator now Bruce.

Couldn’t have gotten something so simple wrong, could he? He always cares about the facts.

Something to Consider

Reporter Jim Small got into a short Twitter colloquy last night with Reps. Chad Campbell and Katie Hobbs over what to do with Daniel Patterson.

Small’s question was, why skip the process and go for a quick expulsion vote?

My question too. Of course, I think Patterson should just resign. It’s become obvious, however, that his megalomania wont allow for that moment of reflection and contrition necessary for him to call it quits.

I spoke to a Democratic member yesterday and there is a genuine fear on the part of members and staff of what Patterson may pull next. There are already reports of Patterson lashing out at staff over the revelations. The member told me that the push for a quick expulsion is because of safety concerns.

I appreciate that, but I’m concerned about the precedent that a vote without an ethics hearing would set. This puts me, for probably the first time in my life, in league with Andy Tobin (I’ll shower later). There have already been instances of the rules against impugning a member being used to muzzle arguments from minority party members. The last thing we need is to set a precedent for kicking out a member by simply a vote.

There is, however, another precedent that may address safety concerns. Back in the early 80s, a member named Danny Peaches was highly abusive towards his staff. Leadership was in a bind, since there were actually no rules that prohibited such behavior towards staff in those days. They got a legal finding that said that a member is not entitled to anything but a desk on the floor of the legislature. So, they took away Peaches’s office and his access to staff.

Something similar could be done here. Patterson’s access to Democratic staff is already cut off with his “principled” re-registration this weekend. But a Peaches-style cut off would keep him out of members-only areas and limit his staff contact. Heck, it may even make him want to resign.

Best of all, it wouldn’t set a precedent.

Just When You Thought the Whining Stopped

At the height of the Republican pity party over redistricting, I asked how many districts for the Republicans would be fair. That’s because despite the hollering and blubbering about “unfairness,” they did pretty well: fifteen or sixteen Republican legislative districts depending on how one chooses to measure such things. For the math challenged among you (and by “math challenged,” I mean members of the Republican legislative leadership that troll here), that’s a near guarantee of a majority.

Apparently, I have an answer to the question about what’s fair: seventeen.

That’s how many Republican districts there are on a map drawn by Tlatoani Andy Tobin.

By the way, the complaint is that the IRC process wasn’t open enough. This map was drawn by Tobin and a single staff member. I don’t know if the room they worked in was smoke filled or not.

Tobin’s plan is to have the legislature refer the map to the voters, who would of course pass this, right?

Okay, want a list of problems with this? Sure.

  • Do rank and file Republicans have the stomach for another fight over this? Keep in mind that a previous proposal to put junking the IRC process on the ballot in a special election never really got anywhere. Heck, do they want to monkey with the maps this close to when they have to file for office?
  • The reversal of the putsch against Colleen Mathis showed how little constitutional authority the legislature has over the IRC once it’s appointed. Does anyone really think that a court would allow the legislature to just replace the work of the commission because they feel like it?
  • What about Department of Justice preclearance? I have a feeling that Tobin wasn’t consulting with the Feds while drawing his map.  According to the Yellow Sheet, he didn’t even consult his senate counterpart, Steve Pierce. A bit more supposition, but I bet that Tobin didn’t put a high priority on drawing minority districts.
  • The election will cost $8.3 million. $8.3 million dollars for a blatantly partisan purpose. I mean, we can spend that money to recruit a new person to run the Arizona Commerce Authority for a few months, right?

Well, Tobin may care about none of this, actually. This has more to do with his trying to curry favor with Republican activists for a planned congressional run.

NB: Tobin also drew a new congressional maps, and, surprise, his “fair” map gives Republicans more districts.

Sauce for the Goose Department

I’ve been wondering for a while when there would finally be some attention paid to Rick Stertz. There have been attacks on IRC chairman Colleen Mathis supposed connections to the Democratic Party that are, at best, tenuous. The press has been more than happy to buy into the partisan attacks on Mathis and the commission process, but have let allegations against Stertz go unaddressed (I’ve been writing about them since before he was appointed). Something else unaddressed: Stertz is a key source of information for Tom Horne’s ongoing jihad against his fellow commissioners Mathis and José Herrera.

With him pulling this sort of monkey wrenching, I wonder if Stertz is as disinterested in the IRC process continuing the way the voters intended as Terri Proud and Andy Tobin are.

Well, that probably ends today. The Arizona Democratic Party has sent a letter to the Attorney General, Pima County Attorney and Maricopa County Attorney, alleging that he:

[W]ithheld information regarding his political affiliations, employer and business disclosure from Mr. Stertz’s spouse and children, tax information, accusations of fraud, and judgments. A sworn statement was submitted to the Commission of Appellate Appointments where the facts where omitted.

Bill Montgomery and Horne will ignore it, and the Star will run an editorial blaming both sides for Stertz’s omissions.


So, we are still hearing complaints from Republican office holders about the Independent Redistricting Committee. The root of these complaints is legislators seem to be under the mistaken impression that the IRC is obligated to keep them in safe districts.

The ongoing complaint about the hiring of Strategic Telemetry, a firm that has done work for Democrats, to handle the data and mapping for the commission. This has led to a few laughable charges of conspiracy. The trouble here is that there are a limited number of firms that do this sort of work, all of whom are aligned with the two major political parties. So if the Democratic firm didn’t get hired, a Republican one would have. In other words, these guys are arguing the process is unfair unless a Republican gets hired.

I’m most amused by Terri Proud’s allegation that the commission is not listening to suggestions from the public. It looks as though the suggestions from Proud’s side so far are that one commissioner or another resign. They are supposed to respond seriously to that one?

I’ve made this point before, and I’ll make it again. What is getting lost here is that this commission exists in the first place to re-draw legislative district lines so we have competitive elections. When Proud, Frank Antenori or Andy Tobin go to the press with another ginned up complaint about the commission, someone ought to ask them if they want Arizona voters to be able to vote in a competitive election.