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Money Is the Mother's Milk of Politics

Arizona’s demographics are changing, and this now purple state is in many ways a national bellwether. With a crowded Republican field in the down-ballot AG race, Jerry Kilgore and Paul Connell postulate that it’s money that will separate the candidates and determine AG Brnovich’s successor. They discuss the candidates that have it… and those that don’t.

PRODUCED IN COLLABORATION WITH:

Chris Allen, Member, Executive Producer

Keturah Taylor, Associate

Suzette Bradbury, Director of Practice Group Marketing (State AG Group)

Elisabeth Hill Hodish, Policy Analyst

Legal Internet Solutions Incorporated

Transcript

Bernie

State attorneys general, once little-known officials, have emerged as legal and political juggernauts across the country. They make headlines every single day and they continue to grow in power and influence. As their state’s chief legal officers, AGs wield broad authority to investigate virtually any business practice across every single industry. Every company, including yours, that hires employees, makes or markets a product or service, interfaces with consumers, or contracts with the government, may be and likely will be subject to scrutiny by an AG. If your company fits into one of those categories, and every one does, this podcast is definitely for you.

Lori:

Welcome to State AG Pulse, presented by Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Group and proudly hosted by Bernie Nash.

Bernie

That’s me.

Lori:

And Lori Kalani, and that’s me. State AG Pulse is a limited series podcast that will leverage our decades of experience to help business leaders navigate the upcoming 2022 state AG elections, and understand and manage the related opportunities and risks. So now, let’s jump right into this week’s episode.

Jerry:

Welcome to the Cozen O’Connor’s State Attorney General podcast. We’re excited to be with you for another episode. This is Jerry Kilgore, and I’m a shareholder here at Cozen O’Connor. On our last episode, you heard from the Democratic Attorney General Association’s Sean Rankin, who was here to talk about Democrats and their abilities to win races in this upcoming cycle. And I know it was an exciting episode to listen to; the recruitment from the Democrat side and the incumbent protection that they’re going to go through for DAGA. We do apologize that Bernie Nash and Lori Kalani, our co-chairs, are not with us today. They’ve done a great job of leading the State Attorney General podcast to date, but they’ve entrusted Paul Connell, who’s my partner here and the former chief deputy attorney general of Wisconsin, to join me today to talk about Arizona. Thank you all for joining.

Paul:

Well, good afternoon, Attorney General Kilgore. How are you?

Jerry:

I’m doing great. It’s great to be with you to talk about another state and make more predictions.

Paul:

Yeah, there is a lot going on in Arizona on many levels. Why don’t we turn right to it? The Arizona primary is just around the corner, August 2nd. Ballots actually start to get mailed, I think in the next week or 10 days. Early voting will start in Arizona. An interesting demographic there, had previously skewed toward a lot of retirees. But obviously, with the pandemic, Arizona has seen an influx of many new citizens from other states, where I live in the Midwest, Californians, fleeing for lower taxes but the same weather. So things have changed a lot in Arizona recently. And as we talk about Arizona, Jerry, you and I believe, giving the listeners some context about where Arizona is at now really has deeply, deeply influenced by where it has been the last eight years, since really President Obama’s second term, that midterm in 2014, really started to turn things in the state. Why don’t we start there to give our listeners a little bit of background, looking back to when AG Brnovich first got elected.

Jerry:

Well, great. That sounds good. And of course, Arizona, if you just look at Arizona today, most commentators would talk about the blue state trend that Arizona had been seeing since 2018 and particularly 2020 when Arizona, their electoral votes went for Biden and they also elected in Mark Kelly to the United States Senate. Most of your national commentators were immediately saying, “Oh, Arizona’s turned blue,” but then you got to go back to 2018 when they had their last statewide election. That’s the exact point where we are in 2022 with statewide elections. And in that 2018 election you saw a mixed bag. You saw the governor remaining very popular there and winning reelection, but you also saw new Republican Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, succeeding a Republican attorney general as well in that he had defeated in the primary. You also saw a state treasurer elected who is a Republican, but you saw two Democrats elected to other statewide offices like Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction. It’s pretty much a purple state, I would say, in Arizona, but Arizona goes, I submit, a lot of the ways of the national trends that we have talked about in the past.

Paul:

Yeah, I totally agree with you. And when we look back to when AG Brnovich first came in eight years ago, that midterm election, the Democratic party, nationally, five incumbents lost U.S. Senate seats. And the Republicans also took four open seats. To have that big of a swing in the U.S. Senate where nine seats changed. Repudiation is probably too strong of a word, but there was still very much an anti-incumbent mood that year. And that is clearly what we’re seeing nationally. And I think what we’re going to see this fall in Arizona. Notably, that 2014 midterm was what set the stage, in many ways, for the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett years later, because it gave the Republicans a sufficient number of votes in the Senate to push through and Justice Gorsuch, of course, but he was not nearly as controversial, though, when he was nominated. But, that is what that 2014 midterm still is felt today.

Jerry:

Yeah, I would say that. And you’re talking about 2014, and a lot of the issues are still around and are coming back up for Arizona this year, as they did in 2014. You have the economy, you have an unpopular president for a midterm, and you have the border situations. Those were all three around in 2014, but you add in the Dobbs case and the abortions issues. So, we have four big issues that could impact this election. And how do you see that going in Arizona?

Paul:

So, we’re going to save predictions for the very end, of course.

Jerry:

I’m just talking about voters on the issues.

Paul:

Absolutely. I agree that those are all front and center. And then you add in, I think, the national mood, generally, led by very high inflation. Something that, for anyone born after 1980, they’ve never experienced anything like this as month over month, everything gets more expensive.

Jerry:

You know, they didn’t go through the gas lines that I did when I was driving during the Carter era and all those issues.

Paul:

Who knows what could happen, right? I mean the number of gas stations that are running out of premium fuel around the country, that’s not beyond the realm of possibility, right? And you have a president with relatively low approval ratings and a right track/wrong track number, very tough for the Democrats this fall. And then you add in, I guess, we’re here to talk about the AGs race, of course. And AG Brnovich has really built a very solid record over eight years. He really took an office that was mired and struggling, came in with some big ideas, came in with a lot of other Republicans in 2014, and brought in great staff. And we always, when we do these podcasts, of course, we like to give credit where credit is due. And AG Brnovich’s office, in my view, in eight years, really loaded up that office with tremendous people from around the country that he was able to recruit, from his first solicitor general, John Lopez, who now is on the Arizona Supreme Court. He attracted Paul Watkins, who was later recruited away to lead the Office of Innovation at the CFPB. He brought in Joe Sciarrota, who is really ably and capably led the Civil Division there now for almost all of eight years, and really provided a tremendous fair guidepost for the business community to know what is in and out of bounds in Arizona. O.H. Skinner was recruited by AG Brnovich and he now leads the alliance for consumers on the outside. And of course, we should not forget Mike Bailey, who was AG Brnovich’s first chief deputy, who was appointed by President Trump then to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. And that’s not even getting into AG Brnovich’s communication staff and political staff that have been just terrific people to work with, and alongside, on issues with our clients.

Jerry:

Well, they say personnel’s policy and he certainly made great decisions in his hiring decisions. And that drove the office into the issues that Brnovich focused on during his entire tenure as AG, whether it was suing the administration, supporting the administration. I mean, he’s been a leader around the nation in leading some of these multi-state investigations, but also leading some of these Supreme Court issues and Supreme Court battles.

Paul:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, the hallmark of the Brnovich administration is something that I’ve heard Joe Sciarrota say many times. And it’s that Arizona is very pro-business, but pro-business does not mean they let businesses run wild, or flout the law. And they uphold their laws and they let the market, then, work its magic between those guideposts. And that is really to his credit to have built a team. And then, let them run with it. Well, Jerry, why don’t we turn to the candidates?

Jerry:

You know, there’s a lot going on in Arizona, as you and I have talked about. There’s so many times, and you hate to say it, as a former attorney general, or as a candidate for attorney general, that races at the top of the ticket can impact your race as much as anything. And what we’re seeing in Arizona this year is two premier top of the ticket races that are ongoing right now in the U.S. Senate race, too, whether Mark Kelly is going to hold the Senate for the Democrats. And then, there’s an open governor’s race in Arizona. So, those are sucking the wind out of a lot of the attorney general sails in the state, because everybody’s focused on those two races.

Paul:

Well, you were just in Arizona. So, why don’t you… you did a little… I call it a little field operation this week. What did you learn down there?

Jerry:

In the governor’s race, the Democrats have pretty much settled on the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, former Republican. Now running has a Democrat for governor. She’s been in the Secretary of State’s office for some time. On the Republican side, you have what was going to be a three-way race, but now it’s turned into really a two-way race for the Republican nomination, between Kari Lake, who’s a Trump-supported gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side. She’s a former TV reporter in the Arizona market, and she’s been getting a lot of support from the Trump supporters there in Arizona. But you also have Karen Taylor Robson, who is supported largely by the business community, the traditional Republicans in Arizona. So, we’ll see how that shakes out in the future and how much pull Trump is going to have in Arizona. On the Senate side, it’s really a three-way race there too, with incumbent, for the Republican nomination, with Attorney General Brnovich right in the thick of things for getting the Senate nomination, Jim Lamon, who’s a self-funder, businessman running for the U.S. Senate. And then you have Blake Masters who is the tech guy that entered the race. And interestingly enough, Trump has weighed in in this Senate race for Blake Masters. So, I think it’s anybody’s ball game in the governor’s race and the Senate race. And those two will influence, at the end of the day, who they nominate will influence turnout, influence the ticket battles that you’re going to have going into the fall.

Paul:

So, since you were just there, I’ll put you on the spot a little bit. Are the Republicans going to have a unity problem where you have a tough race on the Senate side, a primary, three or four very strong candidates all pulling at different parts of the party. And then, now two people running for governor on the Republican side, the Trumpist populist candidate and then more of the, I guess I’ll call it, the Chamber of Commerce, more middle of the road, moderate Republican. What do you think?

Jerry:

I do think that the Republicans will come out of it united. They’ll let it settle for a week or two. And an August 2nd primary, that gives them plenty of time to come together, coalesce around the candidates who are nominated, I think. They will want to keep the governor’s office that they’ve had for the last eight years. They’ll want to make sure they keep that. And they definitely, we know that the Senate race there is going to be a target for the Republicans. And it always has been.

 

Paul:

Let’s turn to our AG candidates. We’ll start with the Republican side. There are six candidates currently… Of the six, Jerry, I always like to say, when I look at races like this and, being involved in politics the way we are, money is the mother’s milk of politics, right? And who has it? And those that have it, how much do they have and how are they going to deploy it? And when and where? And those are really the questions. So with that in mind, the Republicans have six very different folks running, two of whom, undoubtedly good people, but have raised very little and spent almost everything they have raised. Lacey Cooper is a former federal and state prosecutor, doesn’t feel like it’s her year. She’s been really unable to gain any traction, has not really-

Jerry:

Brought only $141,000 raised, that’s…

Paul:

… Yeah. And it would appear she’s expended almost all of it, as well. And then, somebody that I met along the way in the last year, Tiffany Shedd, certainly has her own following in Arizona and very strong opinions about certain things, in particular, border security and very strong on constitutional rights. But, she also has raised less than half a million dollars, and has expended just under $300,000 of that. So, I tend to doubt the two of them are going to come out of the primary, which leaves…

Jerry:

You got to have money to move primary voters to your side in a down-ticket race. And they don’t. Neither of those have the money. And I agree, they’re both great candidates when you look at their resume, but it just doesn’t seem like they’ve raised the money to get on TV and to push the message.

Paul:

Yeah. So it just, I mean, sometimes as you know, it’s just not your year. And when you end up with a lot of people in a primary, without being able to self-fund, or grabbing onto that one issue that really galvanizes people to contribute to you, it’s just really tough. So, we will set Tiffany and Lacey to the side for the moment. We had former state Supreme Court justice, Andy Gould, is in. His name ID is really pretty good. He’s very interesting. He’s had a really good career. Certainly, has touched many of the bases in government and sees this as a way to capstone his career. It would appear, though, the issue he has, he’s raised a fair amount, but his expenditures have been very high. He has a very expensive team, a lot of consultants. And it’s…

Jerry:

The burn rate on his money has been very high.

Paul:

Yeah. Very high. And that’s not a great sign when you have three or four people, all of whom polling around the same amount between, say, six and 10%. So, it’s not even clear to some of the other folks I’ve spoken with in Arizona that he’ll be able to pay for a lot of the ad time he’s reserved. So, I tend to think while he, in the right year, he would’ve been an obvious, great candidate in Arizona, or someone with his background in other states. I just don’t think this is really going to be his year, either. Which leaves us with the remaining three, which we can talk about in a little more detail. And all of whom you and I have gotten to know a little bit here and there, Dawn Grove, Rodney Glassman, and Abraham Hamadeh. So, let’s start with Dawn Grove.

Jerry:

Great. I mean, Dawn’s a great candidate. She comes from corporate America. She’s a corporate counsel at the Karsten Manufacturing, which as Paul readily knows, is Ping. They’re responsible for all their golfing equipment that Paul uses so well in his golfing career. But, Dawn’s just been… She’s run a great campaign. Most folks thought she was going to enter the race, and she did enter the race. And I think it excited a lot of folks, not only in Arizona, but around the nation with her business profile, knowing that she would be not only pro-business, but also conservative on the rest of the issues that matter to the Republican base. So, I think she’s running a good race. She’s apparently getting some good outside funding to come in, to keep her on the air. And as I found out in Arizona this week, a large portion of these folks are going to vote early, and they’re going to cast early ballots, particularly in the suburban areas. And she’s on the air, the Independent group’s on the air for her. So, that bodes well for her to be on the air at the time people are receiving their ballots.

Paul:

Yeah. She has run as one would expect from, I think, a sharp business lawyer, a very competent, very smart campaign since she got in. And obviously, she’s raised a fair amount of money. She’s raised enough money where there’s a third party that’s going to dump, I think, seven figures into her candidacy in the next few weeks, in a get-out-the-vote effort, backing her. She’s gotten some good endorsements from the current Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, the former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is backing her. She’s, I guess, locked down what one would call the Federal Society network and has made good inroads with those folks. So, she has set herself up to really give it all you can. For a candidate who, three years ago, no one knew who Dawn Grove really was unless you lived in Arizona and you knew a little bit about the Karsten manufacturing company. She’s not a former prosecutor, she’s not a former land commissioner. She hasn’t held other office, so, for where she’s come from, she has really positioned herself to make a great run at this thing, all the way through August 2nd. Rodney Glassman is the next person we should talk about.

Jerry:

Yeah. I mean, Rodney Glassman has run for a lot of offices, some as Democrats and some as Republican. And here we are, again. The thing with Rodney is, though he’s raised a lot of money, he’s raised over $1.8 million, he has money ready to go. He hasn’t burned through those dollars. So, he will be a formidable opponent here for Dawn and others as they go towards August 2nd. He ran against John McCain, if you remember, as a Democrat back several terms ago. And then, he switched parties, ran for the Corporation Commission last time in 2018 and lost, the Corporation Commission battle. So, he’s back again, running again.

Paul:

Rodney is an interesting candidate. Party switchers are always fascinating characters on some level. Why they switched, when they switched, what led them to do it? People forget very conservative Senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby, was once a Democrat. Phil Graham of Texas was once a Democrat. So, I don’t necessarily think it’s dispositive that somebody switches parties. It is curious. It certainly gives fodder for your opponent, the ability to run ads against your opponent, that they clearly don’t believe in anything. Because given the polls of the party now and how far they are apart from each other, the median voter is not very close to the 50th percentile anymore. They are well apart. So, Rodney has name ID, and that matters. And money. And as we said, money matters. So he and Dawn are both polling, I think, around the same percentage. And I think it’s going to be interesting to see the money they have and that is about to be deployed by them, and on their behalf, by any third party, is going to make a big difference. And then, the other candidate who would seem to have… Is going to come out of this, one of these three, is Abraham Hamadeh, a young man with a Trump endorsement, in 2022, is not nothing, Jerry.

Jerry:

Abe has been in this social media sensation in Arizona, I would say. His Twitter followers are massive in number. The question is, how many of those are really Arizona voters? I mean, you don’t know that. But, he touts himself as being a former prosecutor. The Trump endorsement was huge for him in this race. The question becomes, will he have the money? The Trump endorsement, doesn’t always bring you money. And in a bottom-of-the-ticket race, like the attorney general’s race is, you’ve got to have the money to get your message out and convince the voters that when they go in there, and they’re voting for their governor’s candidate and the Senate candidate, they recognize your name from those ads that they see. So, that’s my question about Abe. Will he have the money to withstand these next few weeks?

Paul:

And let me take the other side of that. I’ll discuss the Trump endorsement side of it a little bit. It’s not clear the former president’s endorsement is mattering as much as it would’ve a year ago. Part of that, I think is frankly, due to the hearings that have been held by the January 6th committee. Whether the accuracy of some of that information coming out, or not, is irrelevant to, it just continues to tarnish and beat down President Trump’s brand a little bit.

Jerry:

Well, it’s been a mixed bag around the country on his endorsement. I mean, some candidates endorsed by Trump have won easily. Others have lost in a bad way. So, it depends on the state. And I think if you look at the governor’s race in Arizona, and I think the election day, primary day showing of Kari Lake will show you how Abe is going to run on down the ticket.

Paul:

I think that’s exactly right, Jerry. In a one-on-one, if there were two people in this primary, President Trump’s endorsement would go a long way. But, with six people in, one of whom, former Supreme Court justice, Andy Gould, has pretty good name ID, too. So, there’s going to be a lot of pull on this. So, I don’t know that it’s going to be as dispositive as it might have been otherwise. And it will be very interesting to see the influence that it does have in this primary, especially since there is a gubernatorial primary at the very top of the ticket, along with a very high level, a lot of money Republican U.S. Senate primary, which includes of course, the current elected attorney general, Mark Brnovich.

Jerry:

Every candidate on the Republican side is running an ad mentioning Trump’s name. I mean, whether you’re running for governor or you’re running for attorney general. Even the attorney general races we’ve already talked about, the ads all mention Trump or Trump policies.

Paul:

On both sides, actually, too. Plenty of Democrats running that we don’t want to go that direction, vote for me. So, that covers the Republican side, I think, pretty well. Let’s talk about the Democrat who has a free run, Kris Mayes. Interesting background, former reporter. It would strike me… she is really running and will run in the general election on the Dobbs/Roe v. Wade issue. Consumer protection is clearly one of things in her bailiwick. And I suspect she’s going to sidle up to Mark Kelly as much as she can and ride his coattails. Because if Mark Kelly’s going to win his U.S. Senate race this fall, it’s going to be very close, no matter who he’s up against. I mean, he barely won the first time. And he has a very, very large treasure chest of money to spend in his race. I think he’s got over $12 million cash on hand.

Jerry:

He’s not voting as Senator Sinema is voting in the U.S. Senate. So, it puts him more in jeopardy than, say, a Sinema candidacy.

Paul:

I could couldn’t agree with you more. But I think, for Ms. Mayes to prevail this fall in this environment, circling back to where we started, all the headwinds that are against the Democrats. She’s really going to need Mark Kelly to drag her across the finish line, I think. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. On her own, she’s raised just over half a million dollars and has spent about $150,000 thus far. She’s just going to need to sidle up to Mark Kelly and run side by side with him. And if he prevails, that is going to be her best shot, is to get all those crossover votes that he gets.

Jerry:

Well, she would need to also make sure that her gubernatorial candidate prevails, as well. Because as we saw in ’18, I mean, you had Sinema winning, but you also had Doug Ducey winning in a big enough fashion that helped his attorney general candidate and other Republican candidates running at the statewide level, too.

Paul:

Jerry, I can just feel our listeners out there. They’ve been waiting and waiting for the prediction. So, as I always like to say, age before beauty, so I will let you make your prediction first.

Jerry:

So, are we predicting on the primary and the general? Or, just the primaries?

Paul:

Well, we don’t want to give our listeners too much because we want to do more of these podcasts into the fall. We’ll come back in the fall, right? I’m sure people are dying to hear from us. So, why don’t we, on the Republican side for the AGs race, tell me what you think is going to happen when they call it on August 2nd.

Jerry:

I do think this is going to come down to a… Because of the money, I do think it comes down to a race that Dawn Grove will be in it at the very end as one of the final two. She’ll be one or two in this race. And I’ve had a tough time deciding which male candidate is going to be, one or two. Whether it’s going to be Glassman or Abe Hamadeh. And I just think at the end of the day, we’ve seen strong female candidates win around the nation as Republicans. And I just think that she pulls this out.

Paul:

Well, I would never want to disagree with a former Virginia attorney general. So, I shan’t. And I do think at the end of the day, with the cash that she has raised on her own and the third party money, and I have a sneaking suspicion, if more third party money is needed, it will come in for her to squeeze every last vote out of Maricopa county, from the suburbs there around Phoenix and into Scottsdale and whatnot. And I think she is a very good candidate. You and I have both seen her at different AG meetings. Her ability to speak to the business community augurs very well. And in this environment, given the Dobbs decision at the end of June, I think having a female, having a woman run and lead, really, I think that’ll help blunt that issue in Arizona. So, I also think she is probably the person who’s going to… I shouldn’t say probably. I think she’s going to be the winner on August 2nd, in first place.

Jerry:

Right. And we need to remind our listeners that this is not a runoff state. I mean, whoever gets the most votes on the primary day is the nominee. It could be 25%, they’re the nominee. They don’t have to get 50%.

Paul:

I was going to say, the way we were talking, it sounded like maybe there was going to be a runoff down the road, but it is certainly winner take all. Nobody’s going to be over 50%, that’s for sure. That would be very unusual given the fractured nature in six candidates in, all of whom have a base constituency. So, we’ll take home, certainly, some portion of the vote of the electorate. Well, Jerry, this was delightful to see you as I sit here. I’m actually in your office in Washington, DC. Seeing you in your office, down in Richmond.

Jerry:

Well, great. It’s great to see you. And the next episode will be about Kansas. What’s going on in the Kansas Attorney General’s race. We do want to apologize to our listeners that our co-chairs, Bernie Nash and Lori Kalani, were not able to join us today. They left it in our trusted hands to talk about Arizona, and they will be back for future episodes of our State Attorney General podcast.

Paul:

Thanks for listening, everybody. Have a great day.

Lori:

You have been listening to State AG Pulse, brought to you by Cozen O’Connor State AG Group. Research for this podcast was provided by our associates, Ryan Bottegal, Hannah Cornett, Gianna Puccinelli, and Keturah Taylor, as well as our policy analyst, Elizabeth Hill Hodish. If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please leave us a five star rating and review. That will help our visibility and will allow other listeners to learn about the podcast. And of course, please tune in again next week.

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