LD23: Pennypacker v. Kavanagh

From Michael Clancy in Saturday’s Scottsdale Republic.

LD 23 Senate debate spotlights contrasts


Paula Pennypacker was determined to point out the differences between her and state Rep. John Kavanagh during their Clean Elections debate for the Senate seat in Legislative District 23.

Kavanagh remained calm at the Oct. 1 event in Scottsdale, occasionally accusing his opponent of unwarranted attacks, as he explained his conservative record in two terms in the Arizona House of Representatives.

The contrasts were clear from the beginning. Kavanagh, a Republican who has been chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, gave his work and educational history in his opening statement, turning to the issues only to mention the expected budget shortfall in 2015.

Pennypacker, the Democratic challenger, briefly described her background and then jumped into her positions and attacks on the Republican majority in the Legislature.

“We’ve had the tax cuts, but where is all the growth?” she asked. She called for an end to divisive partisan politics.

The heavily Republican District 23 covers most of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.

Questions from the small audience at Kerr Cultural Center ranged from positions on private prisons, identification of donors, Scottsdale’s sign ordinance, means of balancing the budget, term limits, gay rights, jobs, Medicaid expansion, pensions and the state’s most serious challenge.

They both oppose legislative term limits. They agreed campaign donors should not be able to remain anonymous and that a 401(k) approach is not the best way to address pension reform. Pennypacker said the Legislature could have a cted on the latter two while Kavanagh was a member, but didn’t.

Kavanagh, noting his experience as appropriations chairman, said most of his positions, from favoring private prisons to opposing Medicaid expansion, had to do with balancing the budget.

He acknowledged the decisions were difficult, but in the absence of new revenues, some programs had to be cut. Not likely to face cuts this time around are education, due to the court decision that the state owes money to the schools, and to the state’s revamped child-protection office, which was a priority last session. He also promised to try to maintain the Highway Users Revenue Fund.

Pennypacker said the deficit could be made up by reforming the state tax code. Kavanagh called it “smoke and mirrors.”

On the gay-rights issue, Pennypacker said all people deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while Kavanagh noted that Senate Bill 1062, which would have permitted businesses to turn away gay people on the basis of religion, was aimed at protecting “substantial religious belief.” He said he did not oppose gay rights but he supported rights of religious believers. “There’s a happy medium,” he said.

Pennypacker, at the end, said Kavanagh would have been fired by now if he worked in the private sector because his positions have failed. She said despite his calls for reduced regulation, he supports intrusive regulations when it comes to women’s and children’s health care and other issues.

Kavanagh ended by accusing Pennypacker of “ranting” and summarizing some of his legislative accomplishments.

“There’s a happy medium.”

JOHN KAVANAGH, state representative and candidate for state senate, on balancing gay rights and religious beliefs.

“We’ve had the tax cuts, but where is all the growth?”

PAULA PENNYPACKER, candidate for state senate.

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  1. Pennypacker is a victim of “wannabe-itis.” I met with her several times for coffee a couple years ago with other Republican friends when she considered herself a die hard Republican. She couldn’t stand Obama or any other Democrat. When she discovered the Reps had no interest in her all of a sudden she was an overnight hard core Democrat crying in her beer about how the Reps want a “war on women” along with other nonsense.

    Paula Pennypacker is a mercurial political wannabe who wants to win an office somewhere and somehow regardless of how uninformed she is. She ran for a AZ House seat against Michelle Ugenti when both were running for the first time. Ugenti beat her and she has never recovered. Maybe she should bring Sandra Fluke in to speak on her behalf. That should get her a lot of votes.

  2. Because of the gerrymandered redistricting, I am in LD24, so I have no dog in this fight as they say. I do know that Kavanagh is a ‘problem’, to put it lightly, for Arizona. For Ms. Pennypacker, I can say she has every right to change what party she wants to be on. I would not consider that to be mercurial, but more of a wise decision.

    Politics have become to polarizing, and that is the problem. Nobody wants to discuss the issues, just what side you are on. So out goes the issues, and everyone gets to debate whose side you support. That is what leads us to this disastrous condition we are in now. Why is everything like a bad version of the school yard? No, stop the bickering and finger pointing, and address the issues!

    Ms. Pennypacker tries to do that and she gets what in response? Wow, no wonder she left the Republican party. So, I would suggest before people complain about the candidate, you look at what you complain about. Is it what side the person is on, or what they say about the issues?

    1. Edmond, can you say more about how Kavanagh is a ‘problem’? Not saying he isn’t, just want to know some details. Thanks.

      1. I’ll let Edmond share his observations, however, a couple of my own:

        Kavanagh is part of the cabal that overrode local control of city/town election calendars via legislative mandate to convert from spring elections (which typically saw participation from mostly very engaged voters who are aware of local issues) to fall elections (alignment with state/federal elections brings out more folks who vote-the-ticket without regard to knowledge of local issues).

        As a consequence, we went from a relative balance on the Scottsdale City Council of 4 Republicans and 3 Dems to 100% Republican. This is a pattern that has repeated itself in other communities like Scottsdale since that little calendar trickery (cleverly implemented in the name of “cost savings”).

        Now I’m a Republican and a few years ago I would have thought that a good thing…that is until I discovered the concept of “RINOs.” Now we have a Mayor and Council majority who vote in virtual lockstep to give money and zoning concessions to their supporters: Millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded subsidies for polo matches, Super Bowl parties, the PGA and Phil Mickelson, 10,000 apartment units in the pipeline with no regard for supply-and-demand impact on our home values, etc.

        Another example and I’ll stop (for now, but read a few of the 1000-odd articles on ScottsdaleTrails and you’ll get more): Political signs.

        Kavanagh and Ugenti were sponsors of legislation to override local (city) control of political signs, and now you see them everywhere. Scottsdale’s pioneering sign ordinance is one of the big reasons (along with our General Plan for development, also eroded by state meddling) that Scottsdale looks so different from other communities and is general thought to be more desirable (evidenced by higher–for the moment–home values).

  3. Gregg S – the ‘problem’ of Kavanagh is his inability to be responsible. It does not take much to find videos of him making off color comments and supporting the more radical elements of the Republican party. So if we let that slide, we have to look at his ability to perform his elected position.

    His stance has been to not raise taxes and at the same time support education. Stop and think about that. The largest portion of the states budget is education. So his stance is no more taxes, and he his boastful about cutting government spending (including education). Now how does that support education? That is just item that becomes fodder for the media. It also impacts the children of the state. With the recent victory for the school funding, what did he say? This is from:


    Rep. John Kavanagh said the ruling means at least $190 million in immediate cuts to other parts of the state budget — and possibly as much a $1.8 billion if retroactive payments are ordered.

    “This is a real fiscal crisis,” said Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

    So he is charge of the ‘purse strings’ for the state and he has NO idea how to address this. It did not spring up over night you know.

    I personally can not over look his racist rants, and his associations with the radical sides of the Republican party. His inability to do his job properly seems to only compound his ‘problem’. I just brought up ONE of his issues.

    Mr. Washington just touched on a few of his local impacts. Mr. Kavanagh is a ‘problem’ to be polite, and must not be elected to again.

  4. Thanks, Gentlemen.

    I have a few responses:

    I think you have the RINO bit wrong on a couple of fronts. Off-year and non-standard election dates tend to elect much more ideological candidates than those that follow the national/state calendar, as only the highly motivated make it to the polls when it isn’t a major media event. This is fairly well documented in political science research. So I don’t you can attribute the change in the Scottsdale Council makeup to the election date change. A more reasonable explanation, in my mind, is the general change of the political landscape in Scottsdale, AZ, and nationally. People vote more conservatively today and it is reflected in the council makeup. Also RINO usually means “acts like a Democrat but says she is a Republican.” But what you describe sounds like standard Republican behavior to me. Aiding the business community through govn’t policy is fairly mainstream Republican behavior. Not that their behavior fails to be despicable, I just don’t think the RINO label fits.

    As to the political signs, I am not sure what I think about that. I agree that they are an eyesore, but I do think that they raise awareness about the elections and sometimes provide entertainment (at a minimum to me). I am trying to get a handle on the larger political debate about “keeping Scottsdale unique” and trying to figure out what people are debating. I can see how people do not like the signs, but there is a much larger debate about limiting the growth of downtown and keeping Scottsdale’s “western” charm, right? On these latter issues I am not so sympathetic. I don’t get the appeal of old, rusted wagon wheels lying around everywhere and certainly don’t think that the future of Scottsdale lies in the charm of the west’s most western town. That has been always been a lie, anyways, and our future lies in a diverse, complex, modern economy. I guess I don’t want to see downtown turned into a continuous nightclub, but I also don’t think the large number of Native American jewelry and cowboy trinket stores are good too–that is the Scottsdale’s past.

    As to Kavanagh, he sounds he is just like every other Republican in AZ. I thought maybe there was something truly bad about him and maybe the racist comments qualify, but if you don’t like Kavanagh then you don’t like any Republican in AZ. Name one AZ Republican running for office who doesn’t share Kavanagh’s views on taxes and spending outside of the Medicare issue? The years of tax cuts have really hurt the state and I think that raising taxes is the only way we are going to get out of this mess.


    1. Hi, Gregg, again appreciate the conversation.

      I’ve pretty carefully observed 7 (or is it 8?) election cycles in Scottsdale, two as a candidate and four working on other campaigns. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the shift from spring to fall municipal elections has been very harmful for municipal governance. All you have to do is look at the turnout and undervotes (ballots cast wherein lower offices had no vote) before and after the shift.

      At the same time, partisan registration differentials have remained relatively balanced, with both major parties losing ground to unaffliated status.

      The term “RINO” is a double-edged sword, and to know which way it’s cutting you have to establish your baseline. IMHO, the most fundamental plank of the Republican Party is (or should be) fiscal responsibility and accountability. So why is it that Mayor Lane and the Scottsdale City Council (including incumbents Linda Milhaven–Republican precinct captain–and Dennis Robbins–Republican precinct committeeman) vote consistently to dole out taxpayer-funded subsidies to Phil Mickelson, the PGA, polo matches, rugby matches, and Super Bowl parties; all in the face of years of deficits, over a billion dollars in municipal debt, and at least a billion dollars’ worth of deferred capital maintenance? What else do we call them, but RINOs?

      With regard to ‘growth’ in Scottsdale, I encourage you to read back through articles on ScottsdaleTrails (via convenient ‘search’ box and/or dropdown ‘categories’) at literally hundreds of articles on this topic.

      You fallen into the trap of believing that the debate is about a marketing slogan, and that those who oppose unwise development also oppose ALL development. Don’t feel bad, it’s a sucker bet and a lot of people have taken it.

      There’s a reason property values in Scottsdale are higher on average than any other city (PV is technically a ‘town’ and doesn’t have to support the amenities we offer) in the Valley. It’s because of carefully PLANNED growth.

      Guidance for that planning comes from Scottsdale’s voter-ratified 2001 General Plan, the predecessors of which were the model for state requirements for city planning. Unfortunately, the mayor and council routinely ignore (through plan amendments, zoning code amendments, conditional approvals, etc) the General Plan.

      The principles of planning and zoning (and common sense) tell us that higher density development carries greater infrastructure costs and public services costs. In the longer term, higher densities change the attractiveness of the community to those who visit, thus the visitor demographics change.

      And ultimately the question becomes, do we turn our backs on the low-density community character that built our number one industry (tourism)?

      “Trinket stores” are not the heart of that economy. And as much as some folks like to think of our economy as more sophisticated that just tourism, it’s not. Just look at the numbers.

      There may be a ‘diverse, complex, and modern’ economy in our future. But why turn away from one that is successful right NOW?

  5. Mr. Washington and Gregg S,

    Here is the issue, our city ‘leaders’ they see the 2001 General Plan as something they don’t have to follow. They consistently mention it as a guideline, at best, or something that the voters wrote to appease some legal statute. Heck, why should they listen to the voters? I mean since the General Plan is not a legal document to them, why should they care? They seem to listen more to the developers more than the voters, so what does the General Plan mean to them? Heck, we (the city of Scottsdale) still can’t get our General Plan done yet, see a big issue?

    There is the issue. The city council doesn’t care, but we the voters care and put the work into it. I thought the city council was supposed to listen to the voters, or did something change? I know I got older, hmm. When I was much younger, I thought the trinket shops were cute and hokey too, but I knew they had their place. I was taught about Arizona’s history, so I respected their existence, and I know that Scottsdale is a tourist city.

    Now think about this, today I would not dare let my children go where I could go as a child! How about that. Our ‘leaders’ ignored the General Plan and filled it with bars and the accompanying crime. How tourist friendly is that? Yes children, you go see the local artists and just watch out for the drunks. Oh which ones? The ones in the bars, the cars, and the ones that will run you over, or try to hurt you. I know you are not going into the bars, but how can you avoid the bars. When the city council allowed them to be put EVERYWHERE!

    Look if I was some old guy yelling at the clouds about losing the ‘West’ from Scottsdale because of the vast riches and booming economy from this new growth, then call me out. What do we have now? Crime, crime, crime, did I forget to mention the wonder duo of crime and lawsuits. So that replaces the ‘Western’ from Scottsdale? Thank you city council for my higher taxes, I love paying lawsuits because of the drunks and additional crime. That is NOT smart or productive growth for Scottsdale.

    I want smart growth, not more crime and high rise crime pits. I have researched how cities grow, die, and are reborn. This way that the city council is trying to make a ‘new Scottsdale’, does not grow Scottsdale. At best it creates a high crime, transitory community. Yep, people who stay for a short time, put high demands on the infrastructure (police, fire, medical, power, roads, etc.), and work and spend ELSEWHERE! Oh that is a great change for Scottsdale. Let us all get a drink from the abundant bars, sorry am I supposed to call that area the entertainment district?

    So Scottsdale is to become the rental and booze capital of Arizona? Wow, I think I will stick with something else. You know the General Plan does not just exist to satisfy a state statute, but to help guide a city. Now only if the people who run the city could get that clue and do that. I am voting for two people who want to listen to the people – Cindy Hill and Cathy Littlefield.

    PS – Oh what about Kavanaugh? Yeah, he is like our city council, do the things against the voters wishes, but you know its good for them, right. Party does not matter, listen to the voters, that is your job. How can so many people mess that up?

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