Some Legislative Caucus Leaders Chosen

Some Legislative Caucus Leaders Chosen

By Terri Jo Neff |

Opening day for the first regular session of the 56th Legislature is Jan. 9, and the various legislative caucuses are wasting no time getting ready.

On Nov. 10, the Senate Republican Caucus and both Democratic caucuses announced the results of their internal election.

Sen. Warren Petersen was voted in as Senate President after reportedly beating out Sen. David Gowan by one vote. Taking part in the vote were the 15 Republican candidates who clearly won their seats in the General Election along with current LD2 vote leader Steve Kaiser.

In addition, three other Republican candidates (Sen. Nancy Barto, LD4; Robert Scantlebury, LD9; and Gary Garcia Snyder, LD23) were allowed to vote even though they were not leading in their respective races.

Serving with Petersen will be Sen. Sonny Borrelli as Senate Majority Leader and Sen. Sine Kerr as Majority Whip. It is unclear whether any of the declared Republican write-in candidates for LD22 Senate participated in last Thursday’s vote.

Also on Nov. 10, the Arizona Senate Democrats elected Sen. Raquel Terán as Caucus Leader. Her Assistant Leader will be Sen.-elect Mitzi Epstein, with Sen. Lela Alston serving as Democratic Caucus Chair and Sen. Rosanna Gabaldón as Whip.

Meanwhile, the Arizona House Democrats elected Rep. Andrés Cano as their Caucus Leader with Rep-elect Lupe Contreras as Assistant Leader. Rep. Melody Hernandez and Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez will serve as Co-Whips.

The House Republican caucus initially announced its leadership vote for Saturday, but that was put off until Nov. 15 due in part to three legislative districts still being too close to call.

In LD13, the first seat was handily captured by current House member Jennifer Pawlik, a Democrat. But as of press time about 250 votes separate Republicans Liz Harris and Julie Willoughby for the second seat.

In LD16, Republican Teresa Martinez won the first seat, while fellow Republican Rob Hudelson is less than 700 votes behind Democrat Keith Seaman for the second seat.

In LD17, the three top vote getters are separated by only 1,309 votes, with Republican Rachel Jones currently up 833 votes on Republican Cory McGarr, who in turn is up only 476 votes on Democrat Dana Allmond.

Governor’s Race Remains Tight As Voters Wait For Ballots To Be Tabulated

Governor’s Race Remains Tight As Voters Wait For Ballots To Be Tabulated

By Terri Jo Neff |

As of press time, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was close to Katie Hobbs, with only 32,200 or so votes separating them, with 350,000 more ballots awaiting tabulation statewide.

It has long been believed that Election Day votes—in person and early ballots dropped off at a voting center—will break in favor of Republican statewide candidates. But there have been complaints from Lake’s campaign that tabulated ballots thought to be from pro-Lake parts of Maricopa County are being held back.

This has kept Lake at a thin margin behind Hobbs going into Saturday night, despite the current Secretary of State’s lack of involvement in widescale public events and Hobbs’ lack of a publicized platform during the campaign.  

One consideration is that many of the 17,000 “drawer 3” ballots cast in-person on Election Day, which were not immediately tabulated due to printer toner issues, have been set aside at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center  (MCTEC). Those ballots have been projected as likely coming from pro-Lake voters.

Lake and her campaign have remained positive, expressing confidence that the ballot remaining to be tabulated will break for her and the other statewide Republican candidates.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Kelly gave a victory speech on Saturday, although his Republican challenger Blake Masters called on Arizonans to wait until all ballots are counted.

And for his part, Attorney General nominee Abe Hamadeh alleged that the Election Day printer toner issue in Maricopa County was directed against Republicans.

Outgoing Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem has also declined to concede his race for Arizona Secretary of State, although Adrian Fontes had a nearly 120,000 vote lead. He would need roughly 70 percent of the remaining votes to hold even with Fontes.

One person who did concede already is Democrat Martin Quezada, who acknowledged Kimberly Yee as the winner of a second term as State Treasurer by a margin of more than 225,000 votes.

And as previously reported by AZ Free News, Arizona’s second populous county is warning that Pima County’s election results may not be determined for several more days.

Meanwhile, elections officials in all 15 counties were required to begin a state-mandated hand count audit. That audit involves a predetermined number of randomly selected sampling of early ballots cast and election day in-person ballots cast.

But those hand counts can only occur if the political party chairs in each county provided the names of participants by a pre-election deadline. And then the participants must actually show up to conduct the audit.

During the 2020 Primary Election in August, there was no hand count audit performed in Apache, Graham, Greenlee, or Santa Cruz counties due to a lack of participation.  

An effort by some Cochise County officials to conduct a 100 percent hand count audit of all ballots hit a roadblock when the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the matter on an expedited basis.

Instead, the court of appeals set several deadlines for December to hear the arguments from Cochise County’s two Republican supervisors and Republican County Recorder as to why they have authority to hand count more ballots than what is required in state law.

The appeal stems from a Pima County judge’s ruling that hand counting all ballots conflicts with language in state law for a “random” selection of ballots. A Nov. 15 meeting has been called by the board in hopes of modifying their full hand count directive to one calling for the audit of only 99.9 percent of ballots.

Attorneys for the board contend this complies with the randomness concern. One outstanding question is how Recorder David Stevens, whom the board has tasked with the expanded hand count audit, will get his hands on the ballots which are currently in the legal custody of the county’s election director, Lisa Marra.

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, himself a Republican, authored a Nov. 10 letter to Marra’s attorney outlining several “potential criminal acts” that could result if attempts are made to take the ballots from Marra’s custody without a court order.

McIntyre’s letter was copied to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, who has not taken a public position on how his deputies will respond if the expanded hand count moves forward.

Leftist Dark Money Successfully Influenced Arizona Voters on Propositions

Leftist Dark Money Successfully Influenced Arizona Voters on Propositions

By Corinne Murdock |

The left’s network of dark money appears to have successfully influenced voters in passing Propositions 209 and 308.

Prop 209, the Predatory Debt Collection Act, was passed by voters overwhelmingly, 72 to 28 percent. It’s a California-union backed effort to eradicate all debt collection in the state; the political action committee (PAC) driving support for the measure received the vast majority of its $12.7 million from the California union, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW). They’re rooted in the leftist infrastructure of dark money, since they don’t disclose the source of their millions in funding.

Marketing for Prop 209 promised a protection against medical debt collection. However, the measure goes much further by encompassing all other debts. The measure essentially makes all debt collection futile. 

Prop 308, which would award in-state college tuition rates to Dreamers, was passed narrowly, 51 to 49 percent. According to the campaign finance data, the proposition was backed by at least $1.2 million in out-of-state dark money, such as NextGen, SEIU-UHW, United We Dream, and American Business Immigration Coalition Action.

Another $1 million came from Chicanos Por La Causa, a Phoenix-based organization, though their tax returns indicate that neither their organization or their political action arm raise anywhere near that amount in revenue respectively. 

Those millions together make up the vast majority of the $2.6 million raised, $1.8 million spent to back the measure.

In-state tuition rates for Dreamers will add onto the increasing cost burden faced by Arizona’s public schools. As AZ Free News reported in September, illegal immigrant children cost Arizona public schools over $748 million in 2020. 

The influence of leftist dark money will likely only grow in strength in the coming years, thanks to the success of another proposition.

Prop 211, the Voters’ Right to Know Act, was also passed by voters overwhelmingly, 72 to 27 percent. It proposes to remedy the influence of dark money in the state. However, it establishes neat carveouts ensuring leftist dark money isn’t affected: corporate media, Big Tech, labor unions, and “nonpartisan” PACs.

The main financier of the measure, David Tedesco, is the founder and CEO of the Phoenix-based venture capitalist firm, Outlier.

Tedesco donates heavily to both Democrats and Republicans according to state and FEC campaign finance records. He spent $211,600 backing Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s failed Senate campaign. He’s given at least $116,400 to Democrats for this election: $100,000 to the Arizona Democratic Party, over $5,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, over $5,000 to Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), and over $5,000 to failed Democratic candidate Aaron Lieberman. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Former Secretary of State: Maricopa’s Elections Full of Missteps, Gaffes

Former Secretary of State: Maricopa’s Elections Full of Missteps, Gaffes

By Corinne Murdock |

Newly re-elected State Senator Ken Bennett criticized Maricopa County’s handling of this election as one full of missteps and gaffes. In a Thursday interview with “The Conservative Circus,” Bennett called Maricopa County’s handling of this election “disheartening.” 

Bennett promised to introduce legislation that would ensure elections could be more “transparent, trackable, and publicly verified.” This election marks Bennett’s return to the state legislature, having served for nearly a decade from 1999 to 2007. 

“Especially with the focus and scrutiny that’s been on our entire state and on Maricopa County for the last two years, this was the election that we had to begin reinstalling confidence that we know what we’re doing in elections,” said Bennett.

According to Bennett’s platform, the newly re-elected state senator promises to see through legislation requiring counties to publish their list of registered voters by name, address, and precinct before each election, followed by a list of who voted in the election by name, address, and precinct, as well as ballot images and cast vote records.

Bennett’s insight comes from his time as the secretary of state. He oversaw 12 statewide elections, and one recount. In 2010, one of the ballot propositions led by 126 votes and triggered a full statewide recount of two million ballots. Only 12 votes changed. He said that elections should have that level of accuracy. 

Bennett further stated that the Election Day fiasco wasn’t caused by the tabulation machines as initially thought — it was the printers. Bennett said that this was good news, since that means the tabulation machines require precision. 

“They rejected the ballots because the darkness of the ink printed on there wasn’t even enough,” explained Bennett. 

The secretary of state’s office wasn’t to blame, according to Bennett, although he noted that there could be better preventative measures put in place to ensure Tuesday’s issue doesn’t reoccur. 

The secretary of state’s office included two main responsibilities, one of which includes ensuring a month before the election that county machines are spot-checked for accuracy. Based on the Election Day fiasco, Bennett suggested that the on-demand printers receive more scrutiny during the spot-checking process. 

Bennett served as the liaison to the State Senate’s controversial Cyber Ninjas-led audit of the 2020 election. His time in the role was fraught with issues that would prompt him to step down and later continue to haunt the Cyber Ninjas.

During this election, Time sought out Bennett and a fellow former secretary of state, Democrat Richard Mahoney, to obtain their perspective on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs’ oversight of her race. Both Bennett and Mahoney suggested that Hobbs recuse herself.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

24k Military Personnel Have Unclaimed Property in Arizona Worth $7 Million

24k Military Personnel Have Unclaimed Property in Arizona Worth $7 Million

By Corinne Murdock |

Military personnel stationed in Arizona anytime over the past 30 years may have thousands in unclaimed property.

The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is seeking 24,009 military members who have a combined $7 million in unclaimed property or funds in Arizona. The largest amount of unclaimed property is worth over $217,000.

Relevant personnel were stationed at Camp Navajo Army Base, Fort Huachuca Army Base, Luke Air Force Base, Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Yuma Proving Ground Army Base, and the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Yuma.

Those who believe they have unclaimed property should visit MissingMoney.com, then enter their name as well as their state and city of residence. Individuals listed as having unclaimed property may then submit a claim form, linked here.

In the last fiscal year, the ADOR Unclaimed Property program returned $47 million to owners. Over the last three years, they returned about $155 million. Presently, ADOR reports having over $2 billion in unclaimed property.

Some unclaimed property over the years has all the makings of a blockbuster movie. According to Block Club Chicago, a Chicago man left behind $11 million in unclaimed property in 2016. That’s a record high for unclaimed property. The man, Joseph Stancak, died at 87 a multimillionaire without a will and no immediate living relatives. It wasn’t until this year that a company specializing in unclaimed money awarded the property to 119 distant relatives, none of whom knew Stancak.

An average of one in seven people have unclaimed property averaging $2,000, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Unclaimed property doesn’t remain in safekeeping forever, depending on what type of property is held. In January, ADOR hosted an auction for $1.8 billion in property from unclaimed safe deposit boxes. 

ADOR holds onto that type of property for around three years before auctioning it off. The profits from those items are retained by ADOR in a bank account for another 35 years. That collection of property had one owner who potentially owned $1.5 million, according to 12 News.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio Compares Arizona Elections to Third-World Country

Florida Senator Marco Rubio Compares Arizona Elections to Third-World Country

By Corinne Murdock |

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Arizona’s elections reminded him of a third-world country, calling the state “an embarrassment.” 

Rubio told Fox News on Wednesday that the chaos of the state’s election processes confused him.

“I don’t have anything against the state of Arizona, great people, but it seems like you guys are reporting on some third-world country that’s having one of these elections where every day they’re finding new boxes here, new votes there,” stated Rubio. 

Rubio won re-election on Tuesday, leading with greater margins in historically blue, Hispanic counties. His state’s election law enables processing of early votes ahead of Election Day, enabling them to count the last of 7.5 million votes in a matter of hours.

Rubio’s not alone. Voters may feel frustrated by the Secretary of State’s trackers for general election results and ballot progress estimates. For some counties, the percentage of ballots counted have fluctuated, increasing then dropping as more ballots are reported. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, most of the counties didn’t report estimates for the total ballots counted, let alone the types of ballots left to process. As of press time, seven counties haven’t reported the total percentage of ballots counted. Only one county, Greenlee, has 100 percent of ballots processed: accounting for about 2,500 votes. 

The other counties who issued percentages of ballots counted range in completion from 70 to 90 percent.

Perhaps the slowest to process their ballots may turn out to be Pima County. Their recorder informed reporters on Wednesday that it may take another week before they finish counting. 

As of press time, the following Republican candidates are behind: Blake Masters for U.S. Senate, Kari Lake for Governor, Mark Finchem for Secretary of State, Abraham Hamadeh for Attorney General, David Schweikert for U.S. House District 1, Kelly Cooper for U.S. House District 4, and Robert Scantlebury for State Senate District 9. Most of these races remain close and difficult to call due to outstanding ballots.

Other Republicans currently leading their races include: Eli Crane for U.S. House District 2, David Farnsworth for State Senate District 10, Anthony Kern for State Senate District 27, Janae Shamp for State Senate District 29, and Wendy Rogers for State Senate District 7.

Both parties have expressed confidence that the outstanding ballots will end up in their favor.

Ahead of Thursday’s update to the election results, Secretary of State and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs issued another update in a series of pleas with voters to have patience for the ballot processing.

Lake took the opposite stance. She insisted that counties were “dragging their feet” on ballot processing. Lake insisted that Election Day ballots would give her the lead on Hobbs.

Like Lake, Masters expressed confidence that the in-person ballots and those mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day would weigh in his favor.

Kelly expressed confidence that he would ultimately prevail, though he didn’t offer thoughts on the breakdown of the remaining ballots.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.