On April 10, I wrote an editorial calling out Gov. Doug Ducey on several points. The headline: “Ducey sells us out again and again.”
I heard from a Green Valley/Sahuarita leader — it’s not necessary to name him — who asked if I’d consider publishing a rebuttal. No problem. Just stick to the facts and don’t get personal.
He sent me his piece by email; I read it and replied with one line: “Did you write this?”
By this point I already knew the rebuttal wasn’t his idea. I’d been told Ducey’s office wasn’t happy with the editorial and had approached him to respond.
The local guy — a man of integrity — was candid in his response to me. He said he had “relied heavily upon the Governor’s office to provide a list of accomplishments in the areas of your editorial.”
In a later conversation, he told me Ducey’s office provided “the lion’s share” of what he’d sent to me. I’d guess about 80 percent; and, in a word, it was gushing.
It talked about how Ducey’s “balanced budget builds on … hard work and smart decisions,” how “the governor’s budget also includes the second installment of 20 percent teacher raises by 2020,” and how he “continues his focus to investing in Southern Arizona infrastructure.”
Then it reminded us that “Voters overwhelmingly re-elected Ducey by a 14-point margin in November, a larger margin than his election to a first term as governor,” and that “mayors of border towns like Douglas, Nogales and San Luis — representing two Democrats and one Republican — endorsed Gov. Ducey in the last election.”
The editorial also talked about how I had “overlooked” these many, many accomplishments in my editorial.
I took issue with that, because my editorial wasn’t about Ducey’s accomplishments. It was about his faults — most pointedly, that he failed to stand up to President Trump when it was suggested the U.S.-Mexico border would be closed.
I also took issue with what wasn’t in the rebuttal: A rebuttal. Nothing addressed the points I’d made in the original editorial.
Playing the game
That’s called deflection, and it’s common in politics — talk about the issue you want to talk about, not the issue on the table.
Then I came across an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic written by Mario E. Diaz, a former deputy chief of staff for former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. He also identifies himself as “a government relations and business development consultant.”
His headline: “Ignore the knee-jerk reaction against Gov. Doug Ducey on border security.”
Nothing looks better than having somebody from the other side of the aisle come to your defense, and Diaz did it in spades. But it fell short in a few areas:
•Diaz didn’t mention that he signed on to work for the Ducey campaign last fall.
•He also, like the local guy in Green Valley, failed to adequately address criticism of Ducey’s apparent support for closing the border.
•And a good part of what Diaz wrote in the Republic echoed points found in the piece our local guy sent to me.
The Governor’s Office couldn’t be trying to speak through this guy, too?
So I called up Ducey’s office and threw a couple of public records requests at them.
Lots of talking
It turns out, Ducey’s office had four phone calls with our Green Valley guy after my editorial was published. One of Ducey’s communications people acknowledged in a conversation with me that they approached our guy to write a rebuttal because it looks better to have a local speak up rather than the Governor’s Office.
Baloney, I told them. They wanted a prominent person in the community to come out and say Ducey is great and the editor is wrong — more emphasis on the former. They wanted somebody to carry their water while they stayed out of the line of fire.
(By the way, there was no record of an email exchange, according to the Governor’s Office, though our local guy said he received his information from them electronically.)
Diaz didn’t answer an email from me asking how much help he had with his column. Ducey’s office told me Diaz contacted them about doing the piece and they helped him. But, again, there was no record of any contact.
What’s going on? It’s not hard to figure out.
Ducey’s communications team — several of whom worked on his re-election bid — have forgotten that the election is over and that they work for the people of Arizona now, not “Ducey for Governor.”
They aren’t doling out information, they’re disseminating propaganda designed to make the governor look good at every turn while ignoring real issues. We see it in glowing press releases out of the Governor’s Office — and we see it behind the scenes, as in this case.
That’s how a political campaign works, but it’s unbecoming of the Governor’s Office.
One more time
So we’ll give them another shot, because we know they’re reading: Answer, point by point, the concerns brought up in the editorial. In case you’ve forgotten, I’ll go over them again and include a bonus issue at the end.
•Why did Ducey oppose closing the border one day and appear to support it two days later, after a visit to the White House? Why would a governor stand for any closure, even one “as short as possible,” as Ducey did? Shouldn’t a border governor defend the business community, even if it means going up against the president?
•Ducey said, “I think our trade with Mexico is extremely important, but border security comes first.” If the border is so insecure, why have you waited until now to address it? And since the president isn’t going to follow through on closing it, what’s the plan now? What specific changes relating to border security have we seen recently that didn’t exist a year or two ago? (Asylum seekers aren’t a border security threat, by the way.)
•On other issues, why is the governor fighting to keep a $32 vehicle license fee when the Legislature acknowledges it made a mistake in letting it go through last year?
•Why not deal with the inadvertent state tax increase for Arizonans that came with President Trump’s federal tax changes. Instead, Arizonans are paying nearly $200 million.
•School districts say Ducey’s 20 percent raise increase isn’t playing out as promised. And why did it take the threat of a teacher walkout to get him to wake up to shortfalls in education spending? Ducey’s original plan was a 1 percent pay raise.
•Why did Ducey sign legislation that neutralized a March 2018 election in Tempe? Voters there overwhelming decided they wanted to know who was donating to local campaigns. But the governor, a recipient of a lot of dark money, signed legislation prohibiting any city, county or state entity from forcing disclosure of donors to nonprofit groups.
•Here’s the new one. How come the Governor’s Office couldn’t get the head of ADOT to talk to the media after Labor Day flooding devastated Amado last year? We had to push his office twice to call ADOT to get Director John Halikowski to talk to us. In the end, ADOT still said no. This either speaks to further weakness in the Governor’s Office or a lack of motivation to help. Probably both. Remember, Halikowski is the guy who set the $32 vehicle license fee and took the heat for the governor.
See a pattern here? Ducey’s getting others to do the dirty work while his communications team works hard to ensure we’re only talking about how wonderful he is.
Who needs the drama in Washington when Doug Ducey’s around?