A Vote to Poll Arizona

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, is once again doing something that loyal readers will know is a favorite of mine. They're asking ...
by | September 11, 2009

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, is once again doing something that loyal readers will know is a favorite of mine. They're asking the public where they should poll. Here's their criteria:

1) We want to poll something there's little or no other polling on...the world doesn't need another poll showing Charlie Crist is the favorite for the open Florida Senate seat.

2) We're particularly interested in looking at races for Governor and Senator that might be more competitive than is the conventional wisdom.

Maybe I should add a third criterion that we want to poll something that might make Democrats happy...we've delivered enough bad news lately!

I was inclined to suggest Idaho, where Butch Otter might be vulnerable in a Republican primary and where it would be interesting to hear what the public thinks about Rex Rammell. I was also inclined to suggest Wyoming, where I'm curious whether Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal is popular -- and whether voters would rebel if he sought to overturn the state's term limits law.

But, I suspect that I'm the only person who is interested in Idaho and Wyoming. So, I have the perfect place, which might actually have some widespread appeal: Arizona.

Jan Brewer, a Republican, took over as governor of Arizona in January when Janet Napolitano left for the Obama administration. There could hardly have been a worse time to become governor.

Brewer's task was to cope with a budget shortfall of $3.4 billion on a budget of less than $10 billion -- one of the worst in the country. Despite her fiscally conservative reputation, she proposed a public referendum on a sales tax increase this spring to try to close the gap.

Some polling at the time showed support for the sales tax hike. Brewer didn't have support from the most important constituency, however: The Republicans who control the Arizona legislature. They recoiled at being branded as tax hikers.

Brewer tried to sweeten the deal by coupling the sales tax vote with future tax cuts, including the implementation of a flat income tax. That move guaranteed that Democrats wouldn't back Brewer's plan and it also didn't win the governor enough Republican support to get her way.

The result has been months of Republican infighting. Though Brewer recently signed some budget bills, the state's books are still out of balance. Brewer also vetoed a bill to continue the suspension of the state property tax -- effectively raising taxes -- thereby angering Republicans. Brewer is very likely to face primary opposition, with State Treasurer Dean Martin a leading potential opponent.

So, there are lots of great questions to poll in the state. How popular is Brewer? Do voters blame her or the legislature for the stalemate? What do voters say about the sales tax? What do they say about the state's plan to sell the state Capitol? How does Attorney General Terry Goddard (the probable Democratic nominee) perform against Brewer? What about a primary between Brewer and Martin?

If I had to guess, I'd say that Brewer is trailing both Martin and Goddard. Then again, there's a chance that she's survived relatively unscathed, as voters appreciate the difficult circumstances and acknowledge the intractability of the legislature. Without a poll, we won't know.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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