Doug Ducey's Arizona State Problem: Unite a Divided Arizona – ABC15 Arizona
Governor Doug Ducey will practically deliver his state speech on Monday in a very different tone than his 2020 celebration. After a year of uninterrupted pandemic and hostile politics, the governor is urged to unite a divided Arizona and find a way out from the uncontrolled spread of COVID 19 that kills thousands and rushes to hospital.
Typically, the state of the state outlines Ducey's legislative priorities for the upcoming session. This governor's previous speeches touted tax cuts, continued growth, and creating the business-friendly environment in Arizona. At the height of his power in January 2020, Ducey drove a winning lap for his victories over five years as governor, including converting a billion dollar deficit into a billion dollar surplus.
"Our phones rang upstairs in the governor's office. Red states, blue states, everyone wants to imitate what Arizona did," Ducey said at a joint Arizona Legislature meeting and a gathering of invited guests.
The optimism reflected Governor Ducey's significant power at the time, said Kirk Adams, who stepped down as spokesman for the Arizona House to lead the governor through his first four years as chief of staff.
"Any elected official to high office, the first two years, is likely the peak of power and then the first two years of his or her second term," Adams told ABC15 in an interview last week.
Often cited as a candidate for national office as part of an expected 2020 win from President Donald Trump, the governor delivered his 2020 speech 13 days before the first confirmed coronavirus case in Arizona. In the months that followed, it became clear that the pandemic had no interest in celebrating record budget surpluses or, as the governor would boast, his transition to a "government that must move at the speed of business".
Looking back at the past year shows a mixed response to the chaos caused by the pandemic and a cut of a thousand caused by calls for police reform and an angry future ex-president. It was a battle for Governor Ducey, who shaped his image as the buttoned CEO of a successful ice empire. From the lack of early testing to the economic impact of business closures to the dysfunctional state response to processing unemployment benefits, the stripped-down Ducey government had neither the people, the expertise, nor the technology to hold its ground relentlessly and forever – changing developments.
Since March, when Ducey was fully engaged and visible in dealing with the pandemic, his personal leadership has increasingly declined. The governor has relied on a gentler stay at home and a decision to keep businesses and schools open, regardless of whether the readings set by his Department of Health suggest a shutdown might be needed. In addition, Ducey continues to ignore warnings from government model builders and hospital managers that a stressed medical system will result in decreased care and many unnecessary deaths.
“We mourn every death in the state of Arizona. All we've done since the original Emergency Ordinance on March 11th and the first Executive Ordinance to protect people in long-term care has been to reduce the spread of this virus and save and protect as many lives as possible, "Ducey said at one June press conference asking about deaths and decisions to open up the state.
Ducey claims that his decisions were guided by public health. Instead of executive orders to directly address a public health crisis, however, it focuses on public relations and promotional campaigns called "Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected", which urge Arizonans to wear masks without to demand this. Rather than facing an increasingly challenging press corps that questions its motives and results, he reduced the weekly personal briefings in March to about every two to three weeks. In the meantime, the pandemic has made Arizona the world's leading COVID 19 hotspot twice, first in July and now in January. The daily cases are increasing, as are the deaths of over 600 per week in mid-December.
"It's absolutely worse than summer," said emergency doctor Dr. Quinn Snyder. "Will the virus burn itself out at some point?" Yes, but literally thousands of people will die unnecessarily in the process, if we even know the formula for getting it under control. "
He is also faced with protests from Arizonans who believe he is either not doing enough or too much and violating their rights. It is a widespread disappointment that the summer protests calling for police reform did not get anywhere in the state. that the police shootings will continue at high speed and that the prosecution has decided not to charge any officers. And there are the Red State-Blue State-Trump demonstrations and threats. The Trump team apparently forgot that the governor spent months and months outside of pandemic management trying to win the state over to president.
In December, when the governor confirmed President-elect Biden's victory, the move sparked a Twitter feud with Trump. The president tweeted that Republicans would "long remember" that he signed the vote while Trump's legal team was still trying to battle the results. When Ducey turns to the state on Monday, he learns a tough political lesson. Nobody is happy.
"The basis for decision-making has shifted enormously," political advisor Chuck Coughlin told ABC15 in December. "It tests people who have never been able to lead in this environment."
"Any elected official who is a superior, or who represents a district or state senate, or even a congressman, doesn't understand until he's in that role where you actually represent everyone," said Coughlin, who serves on the Fife governors' offices Symington and Jan Brewer worked on "You Actually Run the Entire State."
The governor will face the entire state in the address on Monday. The Arizonans haven't heard from him in three weeks. The last COVID-19 briefing was in mid-December when he toured the vaccination launch site at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.
“We want and wanted to see all the time that we are doing more. We'll help you do more, ”said Rebecca Rios (D), Chairwoman of the Senate Minority. "I alone lost two family members last week, and that hits Arizona hard."
Senator Rios, a seasoned lawmaker, said that to be an effective leader, you have to acknowledge that there will be different opinions and listen to everyone: "But at the end of the day I think it's up to the leaders, themselves to identify." What can I do to offer the best to most Arizona people? & # 39; ”
Despite the setback, Ducey will find allies among audiences within the business community. Last Friday, a 2021 virtual legislative lunch with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce gave insights to those who might be wondering who is in the governor's ear and what they're hearing.
"The way you dealt with things in COVID-19, you brought the state together, you brought both parties together," said Chamber President Glenn Hammer. "It's a model. It's an inspiration."
Even if his only friends are the Arizona business leaders, even if the pandemic death toll increases, even if a state is divided and angry, even if the Trump camp is threatened, Governor Ducey still has a lot of authority and power.
"Without the governor's signature, nothing will happen at the state level," recalls former chief of staff Kirk Adams. "He's the only indispensable person in the room."