Stories about Arizona

Voters to decide recall of fire district board member in Arizona on Nov. 3

A recall election seeking to remove Bruce Speirs from his position as chair of the three-member Sherwood Forest Estates Fire District Board in Arizona is on the ballot on November 3, 2020. Walter Krushinsky filed to run against Speirs in the recall election.

Recall supporters said that Speirs’ actions while on the board had “demoralized the department, divided the community, inhibited recruitment efforts and resulted in reduced participation of volunteer firefighters.”

Speirs responded to the recall effort, saying “Most of the accusations against me actually reflect the unethical behaviors of the FORMER Fire Chief, including holding secret neighborhood meetings to pit developments within our Fire District against one another and protect the illusion of his management.”

Recall supporters needed to submit 18 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. They submitted 49, and the county verified 43. Speirs had the option to resign by July 1 or face the recall election. He did not resign, and the election was scheduled for November 3. The filing deadline for candidates was September 4.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading:

Previewing Arizona House of Representatives elections

All 60 seats in the Arizona House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Republicans lost seats but maintained their majority in the 2018 elections for the Arizona House of Representatives, winning 31 seats to Democrats’ 29. Arizona state representatives serve two-year terms, with all seats up for election every two years. Thirty multi-member state House districts elect two members each.

Ballotpedia has identified eight of the races in 2020 as battlegrounds, four of which are Democrat-held districts, three of which are Republican-held districts, and one district which is split between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrat-controlled battlegrounds are Districts 7, 10, 18, and 28. The Republican-controlled battlegrounds are Districts 6, 20, and 23. The split battleground is District 17 which is currently represented by both a Democrat and a Republican. Based on an analysis of these districts’ electoral histories, these races have the potential to be more competitive than other races and could lead to shifts in the partisan balance of the Arizona House of Representatives. 

Arizona has been under a Republican trifecta since 2009 when Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was sworn into office. Brewer’s accession to the governorship ended a period of divided government that began when Republicans lost their majority in the state Senate during the 2000 legislative elections. Republicans regained their Senate majority in the 2002 elections, when Janet Napolitano (D) was elected governor. Heading into the 2018 election, Republicans had maintained control of the state House since the 1966 elections. Had the Democratic Party taken the state House, it would have broken the Republican trifecta.

Additional reading:

U.S. Senate confirms Hinderaker to federal district court judgeship

The U.S. Senate confirmed John Hinderaker to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by a 70-27 vote. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

After Hinderaker receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the 13-member court will have six Republican-appointed judges and seven Democrat-appointed judges. Hinderaker will join four other judges appointed by President Trump.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 217 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 160 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

Hinderaker was a judge of the Pima County Superior Court in Arizona from 2018 to 2020. Before that, he was an attorney in private practice. He earned his B.A., with honors, in business economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1991 and his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1996. During his legal studies, he was a member of the Arizona Law Review.

Additional reading
United States District Court for the District of Arizona
Federal judges nominated by Donald Trump

Arizona judge declines to rule on constitutional challenge to agency adjudication process

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach on September 9 upheld a decision by then-Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) Director Gregory McKay in a case challenging the constitutionality of the procedural due process protections available to individuals during the agency’s adjudication of child abuse allegations.

McKay placed Phillip B. (the only name provided) on the child abuse registry despite a finding by an administrative law judge (ALJ) that no probable cause existed to do so. Arizona law permits the DCS director to substitute his own judgment for that of the ALJ.

Mr. B. challenged the low standard of proof (probable cause) in the agency’s review process; the lack of cross-examination of witnesses; and the unilateral power of the DCS director to reverse an ALJ’s findings. The DCS director, according to the challenge, is not an impartial adjudicator because he exercises both investigatory and adjudicatory functions.

Gerlach declined to rule on the constitutional challenges raised by Mr. B. for factual reasons. He wrote in part that the bias challenge “flies in the face of well-settled law that ‘the combining of investigatory and adjudicatory functions [in a single agency] does not violate due process’ unless actual bias is shown.”

Mr. B. plans to appeal the decision.

“The court decided not to review the myriad due-process and separation-of-powers problems for factual reasons,” said attorney Aid Dynar of the New Civil Liberties Alliance in a statement. “At the same time, the court decided not to take a look at the facts to avoid the serious legal problems with Arizona’s administrative law. The court’s double-dodge offers an enticing recipe for appeal, and that is precisely what we plan to do.”

Read more about the case in the September 2019 edition of Checks and Balances: The Checks and Balances Letter: September 2019

Additional reading:

Arizonans to decide ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in November

On November 3, Arizonans will decide a ballot initiative, titled Proposition 207, to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old, enact a tax on marijuana sales, and require the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses.

Proposition 207 is the first statewide initiative to be certified for the ballot in Arizona in 2020; three additional ballot initiatives are undergoing signature checks as of August 11.

On August 10, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced that 255,080 signatures were projected to be valid—17,435 more than the minimum requirement of 237,645. On July 1, 2020, the campaign behind Proposition 207, Smart and Safe Arizona, filed 428,481 signatures.

Proposition 207 will be the second time that Arizonans address a marijuana legalization proposal at the ballot box. In 2016, a citizen-initiated measure, titled Proposition 205, was defeated, with 51.3% voting “No.” Arizona was one of five states to vote on a citizen-initiated legalization measure in 2016. Voters in neighboring California and Nevada, along with Maine and Massachusetts, approved their respective ballot measures.

Stacy Pearson, a political consultant for Smart and Safe Arizona, said that Proposition 207 “incorporates lessons learned from the 2016 campaign, as well as from other states that have already legalized cannabis.” One of the differences between Proposition 205 and Proposition 207 is the proposed regulatory structure. Whereas Proposition 205 would have established a new government agency, the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, Proposition 207 would make the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services responsible for adopting rules to regulate marijuana. The excise tax on marijuana sales is also 1 percentage point higher—16%—under this year’s proposal.

Lisa James, chairperson of Arizonans for Health and Public Saftey, and six other individuals are seeking a court order to remove the initiative from the ballot. Plaintiffs argued that the ballot initiative is invalid because, according to the plaintiffs, “the measure’s 100-word summary is materially misleading and creates a substantial danger of fraud, confusion and unfairness.” On August 7, 2020, Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled in favor of the defendants, stating that the ballot language was sufficient. On August 11, James appealed the superior court’s ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Smart and Safe Arizona raised $3.48 million through the most recent campaign finance filings on July 18. The deadline for the next scheduled reports is October 15, 2020. Harvest Enterprises, which is a marijuana business based in Tempe, contributed $1.43 million to Smart and Safe Arizona.

Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, which opposes Proposition 207, raised $142,065. The Center for Arizona Policy provided $100,000 of the opposition campaign’s funds.

In 2016, opponents raised $6.37 million in their effort to defeat Proposition 205, while supporters raised $6.55 million.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Except in Illinois and Vermont, marijuana was legalized through the ballot initiative process.

In 2020, New Jersey and South Dakota voters will vote on ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in November. Signatures have also been submitted for a legalization initiative in Montana.

Additional reading:

Voters in Gilbert, Arizona, approved the 2020 General Plan for city land development

Voters in Gilbert, Arizona, passed Proposition 430 on Tuesday approving the 2020 General Plan for city land development with 81.84% of the vote. Proposition 430 was put on the ballot through a vote of the Gilbert Town Council on March 3, 2020. The last general plan was approved in 2010.

In 2020, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California, and all statewide ballot measures. Ballotpedia’s 2020 local ballot measure coverage includes Gilbert, Arizona.

Incumbent McSally receives Republican nomination in Arizona’s special U.S. Senate election

Incumbent Sen. Martha McSally defeated Daniel McCarthy and write-in candidate Sean Lyons in the Republican special primary election for U.S. Senate in Arizona on August 4, 2020.

The special election was called to fill the rest of the 2017-2022 term that John McCain (R) was elected to in 2016. McCain died of cancer on August 25, 2018. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Jon Kyl (R) to the seat in 2018, and Kyl resigned later that year. Ducey then appointed McSally.

Prior to her appointment, McSally ran for Senate in 2018 and lost to Kyrsten Sinema (D) 47.6% to 50%. McSally served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2015 to 2019. During the primary, she highlighted her military service and said she would work to protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, lower prescription drug costs, and hold China accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic.

McSally will face Mark Kelly (D) in the general election, which forecasters expect to be competitive. As of July 15, McSally had raised $41.3 million with $11.9 million on hand. Kelly had raised $46.1 million with $21.2 million on hand.

Blue Dog Coalition co-chairman O’Halleran faces Our Revolution-backed Putzova in Arizona primary

Rep. Tom O’Halleran faces challenger Eva Putzova in the Democratic primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District on August 4. O’Halleran was first elected to the House in 2016 and did not face a primary challenger in 2018.

O’Halleran, who served eight years in the state legislature as a Republican before leaving the party in 2014, is co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of House Democrats describing themselves as “pragmatic Democrats, appealing to the mainstream values of the American public.” His endorsers include Everytown for Gun Safety, the League of Conservation Voters, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Putzova, an immigrant from former Czechoslovakia and a former member of the Flagstaff City Council, says she is running to limit the influence corporations have over policy. Putzova says she will fight for “freedom from illness and medical bills, freedom from crushing student loan debt, freedom to enjoy a healthy life on this planet.” Former 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson (D), Brand New Congress, and Our Revolution each endorsed her.

Arizona’s 1st Congressional District is one of 30 districts nationwide represented by a Democrat that Donald Trump (R) carried in 2016. Trump carried the district by a margin of 1.1 percentage points that year, while O’Halleran was re-elected in 2018 by a margin of 8.8 percentage points.

Arizona is among five states holding Congressional primaries next Tuesday. Ballotpedia identified one other Congressional primary in Arizona as a battleground: the special Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Incumbent Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat in 2018, will face Daniel McCarthy and write-in candidate Sean Lyons as she seeks the Republican nomination to fill the remainder of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) unexpired term.

Additional reading:

Three Arizona Supreme Court justices seek retention in November

Arizona Supreme Court Justices Robert Brutinel, Andrew W. Gould, and John Lopez IV are all standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Lopez and Gould were both appointed by current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), while Brutinel was appointed by former Governor Jan Brewer (R).
Currently, all seven judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor: five appointed by Ducey and two by Brewer.
Each of Arizona’s seven justices is appointed by the governor from a list of names compiled by the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. The commission is chaired by the Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice and has four vacancies as of April.
A newly appointed justice’s term is at least two years, after which the justice must stand in a retention election. Subsequent terms last six years. Since 2008 across the country, state supreme court justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Arizona, no justices have lost a retention election in this time frame.

Signatures filed for Arizona ballot initiative designed to reduce prison sentences for persons convicted of non-dangerous offenses

The campaign Arizonans for Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety (Second Chances Arizona) reported filing 397,291 signatures for a ballot initiative designed to reduce prison sentences for persons convicted of non-dangerous offenses and expand rehabilitative programs. At least 237,645 (about 59.8 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid for the initiative to go before voters on November 3, 2020.
The ballot initiative would define certain crimes as non-dangerous offenses, such as non-violent drug crimes. The ballot initiative would expand earned release credits for persons imprisoned for non-dangerous offenses; allow judges to impose sentences for non-dangerous offenses that are less than prescribed sentencing ranges and terms found in state code; and exclude those convicted of non-dangerous offenses from the process of charging a person as a repeat offender for multiple offenses at a single trial. The ballot initiative would also establish a Victim and First Responder Support Services Fund.
Through March 31, 2020, Second Chances Arizona received $1.27 million, with 99.8 percent from Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ). ASJ is a project of Tides Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides grants to progressive charities and organizations. Along with ASJ, the ACLU of Arizona, American Conservative Union, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Arizona, and FWD.us were involved in crafting the ballot initiative.
Roopali Desai, a lawyer who worked on the developing the proposal, said, “The idea here is that we’re wanting to have people in prison for long enough where it has a deterrent effect, but not so long that it breaks people to the point where they can’t reenter into society. I think voters really understand that, and they want people to have second chances.”
The process of verifying signatures could take until August 26, 2020. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) has until July 31 to remove ineligible petition sheets. Counties then have until August 21, 2020, to conduct random samples. Hobbs will then have until August 26 to aggregate the random samples and announce whether the initiative will appear on the ballot.
Additional reading: