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What the Devil won't tell you

Gov debate quick take: None of them should win

Ducey promises more of boom-bust, Garcia a man without a plan, Torres won't look up

I watched 20 minutes of the Arizona governor’s debate Monday and realized neither incumbent Doug Ducey nor Democratic challenger David Garcia seemed up to the job.

And 40 minutes later, it didn’t get any better.

It was enough to make me consider throwing in with Green Party candidate Angel Torres. Then he talked and not once did he look at the camera, his eyes locked on the table throwing out one verdantly Green slogan after another.

The race between Garcia and Ducey right now is a real race. The incumbent has a one-point edge in a recent poll, as Republicans across the country are facing either a Blue Wave or an Orange Head Wind as President Donald John Trump’s alternate MAGAverse buffets against reality.

Related: Garcia lets Ducey skate in forgettable debate

This is odd to me because Ducey hasn’t been a crackpot but that’s a very low bar for Republicans lately. It means I’m pretty sure he believes in gravity and several other physical laws.

Garcia, Ducey and Torres debated for the first time Monday, in a forum sponsored by Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections Commission. In terms of style, Ducey looked like a governor, Garcia came at him quick and nimble and Torres was a garden-variety Green. I deal in the currency of substance and what I feasted was an oxygen souffle. It was a rice-free rice cake.

I know I seem like a broken record dissing our choices on the ballot but all across the country I see candidates who know what's what. Can we get a plan? New ideas? Something more than slogans?

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I plainly admit, I am not a Ducey man. I liked state Sen. Steve Farley in the Democratic primary. I wanted to be, if not “wowed” by Garcia at least “hey’d” by him.

Instead he “Huh’ed” me (and don't get pissed at me lefties, look at the tape yourself).

The full Palin

The biggest glaring issue in Arizona state politics right now is K-12 education. Something happened in the last four years and a lot of us woke up to the fact that we rank 48th among the states in per-pupil funding. All of a sudden, voters seem to seeing that reality as an existential threat.

So education stands above all the other issues facing the state.

And here comes Garcia, an education professor at Arizona State University. This is his life’s work. This could get good in a hurry for Democrats chances. He’s an expert.

So what’s his education plan? What will all those years of wisdom provide Arizonans insofar as a way out?

“I’m going to challenge the Legislature (and) invite those 75,000 teachers out there to join me to go to the Legislature and put another initiative on the ballot.”

Wait. Where’s the scroll-back key. Did I miss something. What was the plan part?

Garcia took another swipe:

“I’ll say it again …. My plan, as governor, in my first administration, not to wait until the very end but to start off, (is to) go to the Legislature and to push to have an initiative and work with the business community and others to put an initiative on the ballot.”

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Ducey interjected: “That’s not a plan.”

Oh, holy hell, I have to agree with Ducey? No. That’s not a plan. At worst, it's either a full or double Palin. At best, it's a promise to have people do something. Plan? No.

How is this possible?

Imagine for a second that the state’s most pressing crisis involved the state’s lack of ice cream franchises. Business, banks and transplants were all saying “if we can’t get our fudge ripple or rocky road, we ain’t coming.” Along comes Ducey, who made his fortune off Cold Stone Creamery and we ask: Doug, pray thee tell, how will you salve our woes?

“I don’t know. Get some ice. Throw some cows in there, maybe. See what happens.”

What? What?

You’re the ice cream guy! We got to watch it! With the scraper! And the stone! The stone was cold! They folded the vanilla right there in front of us! Cows?

Go to the Legislature and have them figure it out?

What? What?

Brain shake required

Prof. Garcia, have you met Arizona’s Legislature? They’re not the 60 most inclined folks in Arizona to spend more money on schools. The reason the state short-changes public schools in the first place is because those lawmakers think it’s totally neat to do so.

Assuming just one house of the Leg remains controlled by fire-breathing right wingers, it will take a strong opening bid to get them to move toward anything more than a pittance for schools. The best way to knock some empathy into the state’s Republican lawmakers is to say “this is what I campaigned on and it’s what voters wanted when they elected me.”

At one point, debate moderator Ted Simons had to confront Ducey with what he was able to surmise about Garcia’s plan to someday plan to come up with a plan and say “it sounds like he wants a dedicated revenue source.” And Garcia threw out the equivalent of a “Yeah, sure that sounds good.”

Apparently, his "plan" was the Invest In Ed ballot initiative but then when the state Supreme Court nixed it with a ruling about misleading language, he got himself lost. If only he knew an expert in the field. 

Can voters shake Garcia’s brain to see what his plan might sound like?

Look, when candidates for Congress or the U.S. Senate say “vote for me and I will give you X plan for health care,” they are lying to you. The rest of Congress and the Senate aren’t waiting for Martha McSally or Kyrsten Sinema to show up with the answer. Lawmakers have to play fast and loose to find opportunities to put their fingerprints on legislation.

Governors are different. They can and should kickstart negotiations with a first offer and then fight for as much as they can keep. (The phrase "kick start" was Ducey's mantra in the last election. He'd work it into a sentence seven times if he couldn't find an eighth spot for it.)

Same as it ever was all over again

Not that Ducey himself was long on details about what he'll do next. 

That's what we're going to get with Ducey. More of the same. A vote for the incumbent Republican governor is a vote for hot sun, low wages, rich enclaves and inevitable fiscal collapse. 

Ducey promised to keep using new revenues to build up the state’s school budgets but also to not raise taxes. That’s better than nothing, but it also guarantees steep cuts when the inevitable recession strikes. Leading up to the Great Recession, Gov. Janet Napolitano also heaped new funds on schools. Five years after the recession started, all those gains were lost.

Without structural changes to Arizona’s budget, no increases in school funding will truly be permanent.

Ducey also repeated a horrendous, gob-smacking lie. The dispatched Invest in Ed initiative would not have doubled income taxes no matter how often the governor makes the claim. It would have nearly doubled the income taxes on the tiny portion of Arizonans earning more than $250,000 and families with incomes over $500,000.

The state's been taking in $1.6 billion in income taxes. The Invest in Ed initiative was expected to raise $690 million.

There was a lot Ducey said that I could take issue with but this taxaphobia crap is what fuels Arizona’s boom-bust fiscal picture. Lawmakers and governors just keep cutting taxes and then realize they have first-world-level services to deliver and they make it work until revenues dry up.

Dumbest moment slides

Ducey’s biggest gaffe kinda snuck by. He was talking about how he worked with Democrats to get more money for schools and pointed (figuratively) to Garcia and said “does he look like someone who can work across party lines?”

Does he look like? What? Bald guys can’t work across party lines? Or bald guys with complexions like Garcia’s … like … vaguely Mediterranean?

It’s the sort of statement that would go viral in on cable news if cable news found out about it. I feel a certain desire to give him a pass but I’m not Latino. I don’t have that power. I’m Dutch and German and have a darker complexion than Garcia.

I think what he meant was “does a guy running as an avowed liberal seem like he can work across party lines?” The word “seem” would have been more appropriate than “look.”

Given Ducey’s Republican cohort Jim DeSantis is sucking gas in Florida after dropping the term “monkey,” Dougie should be very, very careful in how he discusses his Latino opponent’s appearance.

Ducey is a big step up from Jan Brewer and about on par with Fife Symington, which is to say he’s part of the reason Arizona continues to lag behind the rest of the country in so many ways. The state needs a change. It would help if the change agent had a plan.

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Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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have your say   

3 comments on this story

Sep 30, 2018, 5:05 pm
-0 +0

I have to agree with you about your support of Steve Farley. I went to a debate between Farley and Garcia, not really knowing about either. Garcia’s mantra: I’m Latino, I’m a vet, I’m an “educator” at ASU. Farley’s: I’m on the Senate Finance Committee, I know where the $$$ are to get education going again. I left feeling quite positive toward Farley… but I guess he didn’t make his case well enough generally.
Garcia would do himself AND us (the taxpayers of AZ) a favor if he worked with Farley to come up with a plan. Education begins in kindergarten. If children can’t read, $$$ for the university are pointless. He needs to understand that and GET A PLAN, as you suggest. I would like him to succeed—but without a plan….

Sep 25, 2018, 3:43 pm
-1 +1

We sure deserve better than this.

Sep 25, 2018, 1:52 pm
-0 +3

Let me know if one of these guys comes out against self-driving cars tooling all over the state without any supervision. I’d like to walk across an intersection without worrying which one of them took a bigger campaign contribution from Google. Thanks

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Democratic challenger David Garcia, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey


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