We can’t officially close the book on 2016 without acknowledging the people and events that shaped the year. It’s time to take stock, reflect, and hand out the 2016 Hammer Awards!
These annual awards are my way of highlighting the individuals who made a difference in the year past, the events we’ll remember and even a few dubious distinctions. If you’re a winner, sorry, there’s no actual hardware for the mantel or the bookshelf. But this column is always suitable for framing.
Shock of the Year
It’s obvious. Few saw it coming. Easily the greatest electoral surprise since Dewey vs. Truman. Where you were when it became clear Donald Trump would be the next president is one of those moments of a lifetime. The Hammer Award goes to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which confounded all the “experts,” including this one.
Ahead of the Curve – Big League
Buy low, sell high. True in finance, real estate and politics. This Hammer goes to Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit. He was the first major elected official in the US to endorse Trump. Honorable mention goes to state Rep. Phil Lovas as well as former Gov. Jan Brewer. Rep. Lovas came out early with a powerful piece as to why he supported Trump. Gov. Brewer’s endorsement was a big deal. She remains a very important figure among
Republicans across the country.
(Hammer Awards bonus feature: Does Donald Trump say “big league” or “bigly”? The New York Times gets to the bottom of it.)
Behind the Curve – Big League
Who had it wrong the entire presidential campaign? Yours truly! The Hammer was wire to wire wrong on the presidential race.
The Arizona Chamber invited Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina to Arizona as speakers for our Leadership Series. How could we miss? We did! Badly.
How much do Rubio for President bumper stickers get you on eBay? (Though I’m thankful he’s still in the Senate).
Most Consequential Arizonan of the Year
There’s no contest in the Most Consequential Arizonan of 2016 category. The Hammer goes to Gov. Doug Ducey, who put together an impressive coalition that won passage of $3.5 billion in new spending over 10 years for Arizona’s K-12 schools in the May special election. And then he made it a double by leading the successful charge to defeat Proposition 205’s marijuana legalization scheme at the ballot in November. That’s no small feat. Every other state that had such a measure on its ballot saw it pass.
The governor is the type of difference-maker that many other states wish they had. We’re fortunate to call him ours.
Tough as Nails Award
The president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lea Marquez Peterson, wins the Hammer for being tough as nails. Our Chamber loves working with Lea and the THCC. Time after time, she takes on the tough issues and tough campaigns and provides leadership in southern Arizona. Whether it’s fighting for passage of Proposition 123, leading the Unidos con McCain coalition for Sen. John McCain’s reelection campaign, or taking the arrows for fighting the unconstitutional Proposition 206, Lea is a leader you want in your corner.
Unsung Hero Award
Janice Palmer, the vice president and director of policy at the Helios Education Foundation, wins the Unsung Hero Hammer Award. Proposition 123 does not even reach the ballot much less pass without her uncanny ability to bring different parties together from across the political spectrum. Helios scored a major coup in hiring this Arizona School Boards Association alum.
The Andrew Miller Award
Good relief pitching wins baseball games and the same is true professionally. Every campaign Sara Mueller touches ends the same way: with a victory. She played key roles in the passage of Proposition 123 and the defeat of Proposition 205. Her work on Ducey races for treasurer and governor was top notch. She has a grasp on operations and numbers that few possess. Running for office? Give Sara a call. After all, she’s a Hammer winner.
The Model Chair Award
Want some tips on how to chair a major ballot measure campaign? Take a lesson from Plaza Companies President and CEO Sharon Harper, who put on a clinic in her chairmanship of the pro-Proposition 123 campaign.
The Greater Phoenix Leadership chairwoman’s work on the Proposition 123 campaign will go down as the model of how to get a proposition passed in a tough political environment. It takes tenacity, a solid belief in the cause, and a Rolodex that’s packed. Sharon has them all and then some. She deserves our thanks and a Hammer.
The Frank Sinatra “I Did It My Way” Campaign Award
The manner in which Sen. John McCain dispatched with his primary opponent and then blew out his general election opponent in a turbulent political year is one for the ages, and certainly deserves a Hammer. He did it his way. There was no compromise in his positions on trade, health care or immigration. Sen. McCain had to navigate an electorate looking for change and all sorts of cross currents from within his own party, but he did so with an adroitness that should be the basis of political science courses for years to come.
His campaign team was top notch. Campaign manager Ryan O’Daniel, Political Director Stephen Shadegg, Communications Director Lorna Romero, Field Director Blaze Baggs, Outreach Director Ana Pereira and their lieutenants and the hundreds of college and high school student interns who kept the campaign headquarters and field offices all over Arizona buzzing with energy for over a year deserve recognition. If you were skeptical about the millennial generation, a visit to McCain campaign headquarters in 2016 was a welcome jolt of optimism.
This Hanukkah week calls for a little Yiddish. A mensch is a person of integrity and honor. No one fits that definition better than Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Yavapai County Attorney Shelia Polk, and Debbie Moak, the director of Gov. Ducey’s Office for Children, Youth & Families. All three put their heart and soul into defeating Proposition 205, which would not only have severely comprised Arizona’s competitiveness, but would have endangered our kids. As a chamber president and a dad, thank you!
Main Man of Media Award
I very much appreciate the work of my friend Seth Leibsohn. He deserves a Hammer for courageously taking on Proposition 205 and serving as one of the opposition campaign’s leading surrogates in the media and on the stump.
Seth is also a leading voice for conservative reform and one of the right’s most thoughtful minds. You can hear him on his radio show. Tune in!
Most Likely to be the Next Scott Pruitt
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich wins the Hammer in this category. His leadership to push back against the Obama administration’s near-constant regulatory overreach is critical to Arizona businesses and our state’s economic competitiveness. And employers who have been hit with bogus Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits appreciate his work to bring reforms to this area.
Yes, our Chamber has a major disagreement with the attorney general over Proposition 206, which we believe is unconstitutional, but he’s still getting a Christmas card…and a Hammer.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Award
This one will get me in trouble. You’ve got to say that the functioning of the State Board of Education has done a 180 since Reg Ballantyne took over as chairman. The work done to finally fully replace (I’m banned from saying the exact term by Glenn Beck) the previous standards was a piece of art. If my kids are reading this (doubtful), bringing back cursive is positive. Superintendent Diane Douglas delivered on her promise to end (again, you know what).
These two deserve a Hammer for hitting the reset button and putting education policymaking on a much firmer path.
The Podcast You Should Be Listening to Award
Grab your smart phone and subscribe to the Arizona Originals podcast hosted by Jason Isaak. Each episode, Jason sits down with some of Arizona’s best and brightest for lessons on leadership inside and outside the workplace.
The Chamber is proud to help promote Jason’s work. He’s an outstanding interviewer and elicits great insights from his guests. It’s well worth a listen. (I expect that now that the podcast is a Hammer Award-winner that it will rocket to the top of the charts.)
The Policy Page-Turner Award
The Hammer goes to the Arizona Chamber Foundation and the Prosper Foundation for their joint policy paper The Proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument: A Monumental Mistake?
Don’t think a policy white paper can be a page-turner? Read this one, which is an excellent overview of the damage the designation of a national monument over a huge swath of northern Arizona could do. The paper is a 101 on what federal regulatory overreach can do to a state.
We’re days away from the end of the Obama administration. Here’s hoping the president leaves the White House without making a designation that will severely impede the state’s resource and wildlife management.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners
A final point of personal privilege. This marks a decade for me at the Chamber. My deepest appreciation goes to those who provided me with this opportunity. There are so many I wish to thank but I will mention three people. Steve Twist, a friend and mentor of mine for over two decades, has taught me so much on policy and more importantly, how to conduct myself. He was my first board chairman. Jessica Pacheco, my very first hire at the Chamber. She ran our legislative shop and quickly put in place a process that survives to this day. She has remained a confidant and dear friend. And my wife, Tali. She has given me the latitude to do the job that I love without complaint. (Although a couple of the trips to Mexico pushed things a bit.)
We look forward to seeing you at the unofficial kickoff of the legislative session at our annual Legislative Forecast Luncheon on January 6, with special guests Gov. Doug Ducey and our state legislative leaders. Here’s wishing all of you a prosperous New Year.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.