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Gilbert’s 2014 was filled with a mix of progress and tumult among its governing entities. Its main school district continued to earn high marks but still went through a contentious year, while the town government itself currently faces a suit in the U.S. Supreme Court.
PHOENIX (AP) — New campaign-contribution limits added up to millions of additional dollars for some candidates in Arizona's election last month.
PHOENIX (AP) -- A top aide to Arizona's incoming state superintendent of public instruction says Diane Douglas doesn't plan to immediately throw out the state's learning standards.
A Tucson fifth-grade teacher who has been a vocal opponent of Common Core claims his First Amendment rights were violated by state School Superintendent John Huppenthal.
Tom Horne will pay $10,000 out of his own pocket to end an investigation into whether he illegally used staffers at the Attorney General's Office in his unsuccessful reelection campaign.
Democrat Felecia Rotellini officially conceded to Republican Mark Brnovich in the race to become Arizona’s next attorney general.
PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he is preparing for a strong primary challenge if he moves ahead with a re-election bid in 2016.
McCain said after a meeting with longtime supporters at a Phoenix hotel that he is leaning toward a run for a sixth term in 2016, the year he turns 80.
McCain said he will likely make the decision early next year. If he decides to run, he said he'll plan for a very difficult campaign with good competition.
"We have to prepare, we have to prepare for ... the greatest challenge," McCain said after the breakfast meeting. "Every campaign I've been in I've said, look, this is going to be the toughest. And you have to assume that. And we have seen historically that people who take anything for granted, then they put that election in jeopardy. I've never done that."
No Republicans or Democrats have yet indicated that they plan to run for McCain's Senate seat. But he faced a primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth in 2010 and said he expects another challenge from within his own party.
"I think I certainly anticipate it," McCain said. "If you're going to win a campaign, you have to plan for all scenarios, including significant primary opposition. I wouldn't like to see it, obviously."
McCain has angered the conservative wing of his own party by backing immigration reform. The state Republican Party censured him in January for that position and other stances they say weren't sufficiently conservative. McCain said after the January vote by the Arizona Republican Party that he had fought President Barack Obama and that the rebuke came from a "very extremist element" that has taken over the state party.
A handful of Republican protesters opposed to McCain picketed outside the hotel, holding signs that said "Time to Retire" and Hell, no, McCain must go."
"He's been in office for five terms as senator and if he ever did understand the Republican Party platform, he certainly does not understand it now," party activist Andrew Constanzo said.
McCain is in line to become chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee when the new Congress convenes in January. Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections, boosting their power to control the agenda.
McCain also discussed immigration reform, and he warned Obama not to go forward with an executive order legalizing many of the 11 million immigrants who lack proper documentation to remain in the U.S.
"If the president really wants immigration reform, he should know that if he acts by executive order it will be a tremendously serious blow to accomplishing it," McCain said.
PHOENIX (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain said Thursday he is preparing for a strong primary challenge if he moves ahead with a re-election bid in 2016.
A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters have given Republicans another four years to lead the state, rejecting Democratic efforts to win statewide offices for the first time this decade.
Republican state treasurer Doug Ducey won the governor's office by a wide margin, beating Fred DuVal after a campaign that saw the Democrat fail to gain traction as he was hammered by nearly $8 million in negative ads paid for by outside groups.
Ducey takes over from retiring Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in January, but he will be faced with an immediate budget crisis as the state expects a budget deficit exceeding $1 billion.
Republican state Sen. Michele Reagan was elected secretary of state, making her the state's top elections official and the first in line to become governor if Ducey is unable to continue in the job. Mark Brnovich won the attorney general's race, Republican Jeff DeWit becomes the new state treasurer after an uncontested race, and two Republicans beat their Democratic opponents for the regulatory body known as the Corporation Commission to the secure the near GOP sweep of top statewide offices.
The lone statewide office that remained too close to call Wednesday — superintendent of public instruction — was being led by Republican Diane Douglas over Democrat David Garcia.
That left Democrats who had looked at the midterm elections as a way to grab a statewide constitutional office considering how they came up short.
Democratic Party spokesman Frank Camacho said the party's grassroots organizing efforts mainly fell short and its candidates lacked the fire to inspire young people. The exceptions were Ruben Gallego, who won the 7th Congressional District seat of retiring Rep. Ed Pastor, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's win in the 9th District.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick won her sprawling rural 1st District as well. Democratic Rep. Ron Barber was locked in a tight race with retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally in southern Arizona's 2nd District.
But statewide elected offices were nearly out of reach for Democrats, who last held one before the 2010 general election.
"You see how they can inspire young folks," Camacho said. "We just have to go out there, identify them and get them ready for state, local or national office. We have to give voters a reason to vote for Democrats."
Ducey's easy win came as Republicans gained across the nation, taking control of the U.S. Senate and solidifying their control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ducey, the 50-year-old former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, portrayed himself as the inevitable winner in the final weeks of the campaign, buoyed by heavy spending on his behalf by outside groups and strong Republican turnout in early voting. He emerged from a bruising six-way primary in August in the race to replace Gov. Jan Brewer and went on to outspend DuVal in the general election by a hefty margin.
He'll take office in January and face a fiscal crisis caused by lower-than-expected tax revenue and a court order that could put Arizona on the hook for up to $2.5 billion in new education spending. The state faces a projected deficit of $1.5 billion in the current and next budget years amid promises from both candidates to cut taxes.
"I'm grateful for the privilege you have given me, for the trust you have placed in me, and I pledge my best efforts as the governor of this great state," Ducey said in a victory speech. "Whether you voted for me or you voted for someone else, I intend to be governor for all and work to create opportunities for every single Arizonan."
Ducey thanked his campaign staff, his wife, Angela, his three sons, and his opponent, Fred DuVal, calling him "a good man."
DuVal, in a concession speech at the Democrats' election-night headquarters in Phoenix, also thanked his supporters, and he said he had called Ducey to offer his congratulations.
"A registration disadvantage and clearly a bad national environment were hard enough to overcome. But we were also reminded that unlimited money is a powerful thing in politics — and is not a healthy thing," DuVal said.
He took a swipe at the massive amounts of outside spending used to attack him in the race from outside groups. Ducey and Duval each spent about $2.2 million in their general election campaigns, but Ducey has benefited from $7.9 million in outside spending compared with about $1 million for DuVal.
"I would like to call and congratulate the other big winners tonight, but frankly the other big winners are undisclosed, unknown and out of state," DuVal said.
PHOENIX -- A Sierra Vista Republican will become the first House speaker from Southern Arizona in a quarter century.
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has easily won her re-election bid in her Phoenix-area congressional district.
Arizona is deciding a full slate of statewide, congressional and local races, many of which were highly competitive heading in to the final hours of the campaign. The closeness of the contests has been reflected in the bombardment of attack ads over the final weeks as Democratic, Republican and special interest groups have spent large amounts of money in Arizona. Here is a look at the ticket, and what's at stake:
Outside groups that want Doug Ducey as Arizona's next governor have spent enough to give every man, woman and child in the state a dollar — and still have $1 million left over. That doesn't count the $2.2 million that Ducey himself has spent in the general election, on top of the $5 million he expended just getting to be the Republican nominee in the first place.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — In many ways, this year's congressional races in Arizona feel like deja vu. The state is again host to some of the nation's most closely watched contests.
One race features a rematch between the same two candidates from the 2012 election. Another race has Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick fighting to keep her job in a vast swing district, a replay of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
All of Arizona's nine congressional seats are being voted on in Tuesday's election, but the races attracting most of the attention are the 1st and 2nd Congressional District contests.
Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally are battling again for the Tucson-area 2nd District, while Kirkpatrick is squaring off against former Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, a Republican, in the other race.
Voters have been bombarded with ads as the candidates and outside groups are spending millions to influence the outcome.
In one, McSally mocks Barber's attacks on her, using an actor to facetiously accuse her of disliking puppies. The ad closes in on McSally holding a puppy. "Watch it," she tells the actor.
An ad that featured a crying mother whose daughter had been killed by her stalker accused McSally of supporting gun rights for misdemeanor-convicted stalkers.
It was sponsored by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly. McSally denounced the ad and said she'd been a victim of stalking herself.
Americans for Responsible Solutions then pulled it, saying McSally had reversed her initial position. The group later aired another ad featuring Giffords praising Barber.
Giffords and the issue of gun control have been prominent in the race for the district in which six were killed and 13 were injured in the January 2011 mass shooting at a constituent event.
Giffords and Barber, then an aide for the congresswoman, were wounded in the attack.
"I'm hearing (voters) are looking forward to seeing an advertisement from a car dealership soon because they're just so sick of the political ads," said Barbara Lubin, the spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party.
"It remains to be seen how much extra additional spending adds to either the turnout of the overall voters or really changes the results," Arizona Republican Party spokesman Tim Sifert said.
In the 1st Congressional District, Kirkpatrick is fighting a tough battle with the well-known Tobin to keep her seat.
Kirkpatrick won the seat against Republican Jonathan Paton by only a few thousand votes last time around. That was after she'd lost it in 2010 to another conservative Republican.
But Tobin was late to the game after a hard-fought, three-way battle in the Republican primary.
In Maricopa County, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is facing challenger Wendy Rogers, a Republican who lost in the GOP primary in 2012 in the district.
Sinema has raised much more money than Rogers, a retired Air Force officer who has refused to publicly debate the incumbent. Democrats are confident Sinema will win, but Republicans are hoping anti-Democratic sentiment on Tuesday will give them a chance to pick up a seat.
Arizona has six other congressional districts that are holding elections Tuesday:
3rd District: Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva is facing off with Republican Gabriela Saucedo Mercer. Grijalva has held that seat for six terms and is likely to win a seventh.
4th District: Republican Rep. Paul Gosar will also likely keep his seat, which encompasses rural areas west and northwest of Phoenix. His opponent is Democrat Mikel Weisser.
5th District: The district spans from Gilbert to Chandler to parts of Mesa. Republican Matt Salmon won the seat in 2012 and is facing Democrat James Woods this year.
6th District: Republican David Schweikert holds the seat that includes parts of Maricopa County and the southeastern Phoenix suburbs. Schweikert is running again, this time against Democrat John W. Williamson.
7th District: Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, is the heavy favorite for the seat vacated by the retirement of longtime Rep. Ed Pastor. Gallego is a Harvard-educated, Iraq War veteran from a single-parent home who was the first in his family to graduate from college. He won the August primary, easily putting him on track to win Tuesday in the heavily Democratic district.
8th District: Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, represents this district northwest of Phoenix. He is challenged by Stephen Dolgos, a Democrat.
PHOENIX -- Outside groups that want Doug Ducey as Arizona's next governor have spent enough to give every man, woman and child in the state a dollar -- and still have $1 million left over.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
PHOENIX (AP) -- The Republican and Democratic candidates for Arizona governor are making a final campaign push through the state as they try to seal a general election win and their parties pull out all the stops to get voters to the polls.
The efforts by Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fred DuVal are being mirrored by other statewide and congressional candidates who hope that voters will back them in Tuesday's elections.
Democrats are focusing on get-out-the-vote efforts, trying to mobilize voters who are seen as generally less enthusiastic than their GOP counterparts in a midterm election year.
That includes Democratic state Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is facing only token opposition as he races toward an expected win in Congressional District 7 in south and west Phoenix. He's trying to help statewide candidates by using the campaign machine that propelled him to a victory in the primary in the heavily Democratic district to turn out voters.
"We've had 60 people going out every day for the last month and a half," Gallego said. "There's never been an operation like this in this district â but this district alone cannot turn the whole state." Gallego pointed to similar efforts by Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick to get Democratic voters to the polls as well.
The state Democratic Party has more than 150 paid canvassers contacting voters and is hiring more for the final push, Executive Director DJ Quinlan said Friday. That's on top of 60 organizers who have been in the field for months.
Democrats are targeting unmarried women, younger people and minorities, especially Hispanics, who tend to vote in lower proportions.
Republicans are also pulling out all the stops, and if registered Republicans haven't returned their early ballot, they can expect a phone call this weekend from one of hundreds of volunteers working phone banks, said Tim Sifert, the state party's spokesman.
"We've got a massive statewide get-out-the-vote effort involving phone calls to voters who have not yet voted their early ballots as well as voters we are encouraging to go to the polls on Election Day," Sifert said. "Clearly the campaigns are in addition to that. We also have canvassers going door to door, where it's practical."
Democrats acknowledge that nationally the election is likely to favor Republicans, with the Senate possibly becoming majority Republican and the GOP gaining more House seats to strengthen its current majority. But they still like their chances for victories in stateside, congressional and legislative offices in Arizona.
"We feel like across the board we'll certainly win statewide - it's really a crapshoot which we'll win because the races are so close," Quinlan said. "But my fundamental point is, in a year when it really should be favoring Republicans I think we have a chance to win at every level."
Ducey plans stops in Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Coconino counties between Friday and Monday. DuVal plans 22 stops across metro Phoenix and in southern Arizona over the weekend. Both will be joined by other candidates for statewide office on many of the stops.
PHOENIX -- A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
In this Feb. 3, 2010, file photo, Cook County Board of Elections workers count paper ballots in Chicago from an Illinois primary election the day before.
PHOENIX (AP) — A coalition of Arizona advocacy groups defended its practice Wednesday of dropping off early ballots for voters.
The grassroots organizations are facing an outcry in the wake of surveillance video posted last week that shows a volunteer hand-delivering numerous ballots to a Maricopa County elections office a day before the Aug. 26 primary.
"It's a nonstory. Nothing that they did was illegal," said Tony Navarrete, a spokesman for immigration advocacy group Promise Arizona. "It was them making the promise to voters that they were going to turn in their ballots during the primary."
The video has been viewed more than 360,000 times on YouTube.
A.J. LaFaro, the Republican Party's chairman for Maricopa County, said he witnessed the man, who is a canvasser for Citizens for a Better Arizona, dropping off a box full of ballots.
Lafaro said "ballot harvesting" raises issues about the security of those ballots before they're counted, even though signatures on ballot envelopes are checked by election workers.
"From the time those ballots are mailed to the time they're turned back in, lots of things can happen," LaFaro said.
Ramiro Luna, Citizens for a Better Arizona field director, criticized LaFaro and others for referring to canvassers as "thugs." According to Luna, canvassers knock on doors —mostly in Hispanic communities — and encourage voters to participate. But they are trained not to touch a ballot or mark it in any way, he said.
"The ballot is something we keep as sacred. It is between the voter and the election department. All we are doing is providing a service to make sure the ballot is counted and is turned in on time," Luna said.
LaFaro acknowledged the Republican Party has been doing the same thing when it sends get-out-the-vote volunteers to canvass neighborhoods.
"On occasion we offer to take their ballot and deliver it for them," LaFaro said. "If it's not illegal, we're going to make that offer."
But he argued it was on a much smaller scale compared to Democratic-leaning groups.
"We don't comprehend, nor do we subscribe to what we see out there on the progressive-socialist side," LaFaro said. "That gentleman bringing in several hundred ballots, what function does that serve? We still cannot comprehend why they do it."
Maricopa County Elections spokesman Daniel Ruiz said there is no law covering how a ballot gets to the poll. What counts is whether the ballot is signed and the signature can be verified. However, voters who don't plan on mailing a ballot or dropping it off in person should make sure to give it to someone they trust, Ruiz added.
LaFaro said he will urge the Legislature to change the law when it returns in January to make the process illegal.
The collection of ballots by groups like Citizens for a Better Arizona has become an issue in the Arizona secretary of state's race. The practice would have been banned under a major 2013 election law rewrite that the Legislature repealed this year after opponents collected enough signatures to send it to the ballot.
"I see no reason why any individual, whether it's a candidate themselves, a campaign operative, a party individual, myself, you, anybody, should be in possession of an extraordinary number of ballots," Republican candidate Michele Reagan said at an Oct. 7 debate. "It creates a system where there is an opportunity for fraud, and that is not acceptable."
Democrat Terry Goddard agreed that banning mass collections should be considered, within limits.
"I agree that what Sen. Reagan occasionally calls harvesting is wrong and whatever that means should be abolished," Goddard said, while warning that not all collections should be banned. "Let's look carefully before we jump, because the thing at stake is your right and my right to vote, and it seems to me that under every circumstance we ought to protect that right."
PHOENIX -- The parent company of the state's largest electric utility is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through a third party to ensure that Republican Mark Brnovich becomes the next state attorney general.
Records obtained by Capitol Media Services show that Pinnacle West Capital Corp. has given $425,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association. That amounts to more than one dollar of every six of the $2.5 million RAGA has amassed so far in Arizona for attack ads on Democrat Felecia Rotellini.
Pinnacle West spokesman Alan Bunnell refused to explain why the corporation is spending that kind of money on the race for who becomes the state's top law enforcement official.
Instead, he said that Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service "support causes of either party that are pro-business.'' And Bunnell said the company acts to ensure there is "safe, reliable and affordable energy.''
But it also comes as APS and other utilities are fighting the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for what they see as unnecessary and onerous pollution regulations for coal-fired power plants that will require larger reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from Arizona facilities than other states. And Brnovich has said that, if elected, he will join with other states "in challenging the legality of these federal regulations if they are not promptly withdrawn or significantly revised to reflect the concerns of stakeholders.''
Brnovich is not about to reject or disavow the spending by the utility on his behalf.
Spokesman Matthew Benson said the Republican has built "a strong coalition of support'' and that "he's happy to have everyone on board.''
Benson sidestepped a question of whether Brnovich thinks it is appropriate to have a regulated utility try to influence who is elected the next chief law enforcement officer of the state.
"You'd have to ask Pinnacle West about the donation decisions they have,'' he said. But Benson, in language echoing what came from Bunnell, said it's likely the company sees it as in its interest.
"If Pinnacle West has chosen to weigh in on his behalf in this race, it may be because the utility views him as the more credible candidate when it comes to pushing back against the Obama administration and fighting overregulation that threatens Arizona's ability to produce the clean, cost-effective energy Arizona families and businesses need,'' Benson said.
But Rotellini said neither the explanation from Bunnell nor Benson makes sense.
She pointed out she actually had gone on record in August as opposing the new EPA rules, even testifying before a legislative committee, before Brnovich sent his own letter threatening to sue the federal agency. Rotellini said she has no answers about why APS and its parent have opted to back her foe. But that did not stop her from blasting the company for its decision.
"It's beyond disconcerting to see a regulated corporation, the state's largest utility, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a dark money group to fund attack ads full of lies,'' she charged.
Strictly speaking, though, RAGA is not a "dark money'' group. Unlike others involved in trying to influence this year's election, it does provide a list of donors.
But it's not that simple. RAGA does take cash from other groups that do not make such disclosures.
That includes the American Future Fund which gave it $650,000 earlier this year, meaning that the ultimate source of much of RAGA's funding remains secret.
Other reports, however, show that American Future Foundation, in turn, received much of its funding, at least in the 2012 election cycle, from Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group founded by Sean Noble which has now morphed into American Encore. And Noble, who works for Brnovich, has previously been a consultant for APS.
Benson did not dispute whether Rotellini was first in blasting the EPA. But he said the timing apparently is irrelevant to APS.
"The question is which of these two candidates has credibility that they will actually fight back against the Obama administration,'' he said. "Talk is cheap.''
While the large contribution to help Brnovich could be found, albeit not from disclosure required by Arizona law, this may not be the first foray by APS into electing candidates it believes will be better for its business interests.
During the Republican primary, Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason charged that APS was behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into commercials against them by Save Our Future Now. The same organization, which refuses to disclose its donors, also spent more than $425,000 on behalf of favored candidates Doug Little and Tom Forese who have advanced to the primary.
And Save Our Future Now already has reported spending $1.3 million in commercials attacking Democrat Sandra Kennedy.
Bunnell on Tuesday again refused to confirm or deny the involvement of either APS or its parent in the Corporation Commission race. Instead, he repeated his statement about the interest in supporting candidates that the company believes will support its energy policies.
The parent company of the state's largest electric utility is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through a third party to ensure that Republican Mark Brnovich becomes the next state attorney general.
The two Republican candidates running for Arizona Corporation Commission escaped further inquiry into their campaign finances Thursday by each agreeing to pay $1,000 fines.
PHOENIX -- The two Republican candidates running for Arizona Corporation Commission escaped further inquiry into their campaign finances Thursday by each agreeing to pay $1,000 fines.
Tom Forese and Doug Little essentially admitted that they committed to spending money on their joint campaign before they actually had the cash. That is a violation of election laws.
They also acknowledged that they did not properly report money they spent on things like campaign signs and petition circulators.
The deal was approved by a 3-1 vote by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission after Tom Collins, the panel's executive director, recommended it to them. He called it an "appropriate resolution'' of the issue.
Not everyone was pleased.
The Rev. Jarett Maupin, who filed complaints, said there was a general "slickness'' to the way the pair campaigned in the Republican primary were they beat out Lucy Mason and Vernon Parker. And Maupin said the preliminary inquiry done by Collins and his staff did not explore every aspect of that race.
This deal, he said, avoids the commission conducting a full-blown probe.
"I would hate to think the commission, with all the unanswered questions, would sell its integrity for $2,000,'' Maupin said. He said that if the commission levied the maximum possible penalties against the pair it would come close to $60,000.
Collins, however, said he found no evidence that either candidate, running with public dollars, had accepted outside cash or spent more than their allocations.
Only Commissioner Steve Titla voted against the settlement, calling the penalty "too low.''
The pair face off in the general election against Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway.