We are at that time of year to announce Arizona’s favorite year-end awards. It’s time for Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer’s Hammer Awards. Admittedly, winners don’t get an actual award to put on the mantel or in the trophy case, but trust us: the worldwide acclaim they earn is recognition enough.
Political Figure of the Year
This one wasn’t close. Doug Ducey’s rise to the Governor’s office was extremely well prepared and executed. The man behind the rise of one of Arizona’s great brands, Cold Stone Creamery, served with distinction as state treasurer before two double-digit wins in primary and general elections against accomplished foes. When you look at the team of all-stars he’s assembling for his administration, this is just the beginning of what is shaping up to be an outstanding political career for the Toledo, Ohio native.
Most Disciplined Campaign
JP Twist and Danny Seiden
The winning Ducey campaign, managed by J.P. Twist, was always on message. The alumnus of Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane’s administration ran an operation that was focused on winning each day of the campaign. Partnering with Danny Seiden, longtime aide to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the two made a great pairing on the campaign trail.
It was a campaign that political operatives in Arizona will view as model in election years to come, and it’s a campaign deserving of a Hammer.
Most Disciplined Campaign Runner Up
The Martha McSally congressional campaign wins an honorable mention Hammer for doing all the right things for a challenger: raising money, staying on message and grinding it out. It all ultimately resulted in the defeat of a good man and tough foe in Ron Barber.
McSally, who once sued Donald Rumsfeld over the off-base dress code for military women serving in Saudi Arabia, will be a member of Congress of national consequence. Arizona cannot ask for a better voice in saving the A-10 than a former pilot of the aircraft.
Rising Star Award
This year’s Rising Star Hammer Award goes to state Rep.-elect Tony Rivero of Peoria.
Rivero brings a perspective to the Legislature of someone who understands how much Arizona has to gain from a close relationship with our neighbor Mexico. This year Rivero, who is wrapping up his service on the Peoria City Council, was instrumental in bringing former Mexico President Vicente Fox and former Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla to the Valley. He’s a leader who looks south and sees opportunity.
Gov.-elect Ducey has made strengthening our international trade ties a priority. He has a willing partner in Rep.-elect Rivero.
The Keith Hernandez Prince of Darkness Award
Keith Hernandez and Sean Noble
New York sports scribe Mike Lupica used to refer to former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez as the “Prince of Darkness,” implying that Hernandez was the shadowy man behind all the craziness in the Metropolitans’ clubhouse in the mid-1980s.
This year’s political version of the Prince of Darkness goes to Sean Noble. To read the press clippings, you’d think Sean was pulling all the levers of power in Arizona politics, relying on his huge stash of “dark money.” But going after Sean, one of the country’s top political operatives, and promoting the dark money narrative proved to be a big electoral loser this year.
Voters showed that they care a lot more about kitchen table issues like jobs and the economy than they do about the vagaries of campaign finance laws. Sean’s opponents would be better served to fight over the message rather than the messenger.
Favorite Campaign Giveaway
The Doug Ducey ice cream scoop has become my five-year-old daughter, Maya’s, favorite possession. It has also become a useful item for 10-year-old daughter, Ella’s, cooking efforts. World class diplomatic efforts have kept the peace in the Hamer household. While I probably could do better on gifts when I travel, it says something about how much people love ice cream.
Fluency in Serbian Award
Mark Brnovich and Mike Ditka
While not a qualification for attorney general, it is impressive that our incoming AG, Mark Brnovich, is fluent in Serbian.
Brnovich has a brilliant legal mind, with top drawer qualifications. The veteran and former prosecutor also worked for the Goldwater Institute and ran the Department of Gaming. I had the chance to serve with him on a privatization commission and got to see this talented public servant in action.
Taking some liberties here, but he also reminds me of Mike Ditka. He has a wonderfully humorous and good natured personality to go along with his serious nature when it comes to work. Give the man a Hammer.
Beating the Spread Award
Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema
The Hammer Award goes to Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema cruised to victory while Kirkpatrick, who probably was considered the underdog going into the race, won going away on election night. The GOP faces an uphill slog in these districts if it wants to flip them from blue to red.
Legislative Craftsmanship Award
The Hammer for Legislative Craftsmanship goes to state Senate President Andy Biggs for crafting a budget that every Republican voted for. Those skills will be put to the test in 2015, but President Biggs is up for the challenge.
The Karch Kiraly Award
Karch Kiraly and Jeff DeWit
The Hammer goes to former volleyball standout Jeff DeWit, who played some competitive ball with the gold-medal winner and beach volleyball king Karch Kiraly.
(And really, when we think of beach volleyball, shouldn’t we think of freedom? Newt Gingrich does. At the 1996 Republican National Convention, Newt said, “A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning. No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that’s what freedom is all about.”)
DeWit deserves applause for letting voters meet his wonderful family in the Frozen-themed YouTube video in the primary election. It was a needed dose of fun when so many political commercials during the campaign were too dour. It wasn’t necessarily the difference-maker, but it helped the political newcomer break through in a tough primary field. Karch would be proud.
Favorite Campaign Commercial
Talk about Hammers, I knew we had a special commercial when I heard several people in my office exclaim, “What Guns!” after watching the Frank Riggs workout video/campaign commercial. For those of you who celebrate Festivus, my money’s on Riggs to win the Feats of Strength.
Intern of the Year
Glenn Hamer and Gretchen Martinez
While there are many worthy contenders, this honor goes to yours truly. Let me explain.
Gretchen Martinez is headed off to the Ducey administration, and I can attest that she can do it all. During her tenure at the Arizona Chamber, she was a vital member of our policy and advocacy team, while in her spare time in 2012 serving as campaign manager for the No On Proposition 204 campaign and this year as a policy adviser for the Ducey campaign.
People thought I was joking, but I really felt like I was Gretchen’s intern during the Ducey campaign. She was a great boss. I just wish I had the chance to do more driving, but there was sensitivity to my inability, even with GPS technology, to find anything new on the first try.
Gretchen is smart, has a servant’s heart and a tireless work ethic. I know she’ll do great things for our new governor.
The There’s No “I” in Team Award
Who says there’s no bipartisanship in Washington? The effort to pass legislation allowing a historic land swap to make the Resolution Copper project a reality was an all-hands-on-deck affair deserving of a Hammer.
In the House, Arizona’s delegation of Democrats and Republicans led by Reps. Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick, introduced the legislation, while in the Senate, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake deftly moved to insert the job-creating language into legislation that was headed to the president’s desk. Our friends Ron Ober, Jason Isaak, Paul Senseman and their talented colleagues at Phoenix’s Policy Development Group also deserve credit for their years of hard work to get this bill passed.
The Resolution Copper project will mean billions in economic activity and thousands of new jobs. This was no pork-barrel giveaway; this was a textbook example of a congressional delegation fighting for its state’s best interests.
They Make Us Look Marvelous Award
Fernando Lamas, Michael Bidwill and Eileen Klein
Fernando Lamas told us that “it is better to look good than to feel good.” Michael Bidwill and Eileen Klein make us look marvelous.
The Cardinals are one of the great stories in sports and business this year. Michael has also been chosen by his peers for an important assignment for the NFL. He took heat for his early public support for Doug Ducey, but refused to budge.
His motivation is to help build not only a great NFL team, but a great state. He has been integral in bringing the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl to Arizona in 2015, two huge wins for our tourism sector. (And proving that Hawaii in January is overrated.) I believe he’s the most charismatic business leader in this town.
And by the way, if his general manager, Steve Keim, and head coach, Bruce Arians, don’t win Executive and Coach of the Year, respectively, then get me Mark Brnovich on the phone to open an investigation.
As she begins year three at the helm of the Arizona Board of Regents, Eileen Klein has left no doubt that she has one of the sharpest minds in Arizona public policy.
Since leaving an executive position at United Healthcare to work in the administration of Gov. Jan Brewer, the state has been fortunate to have Eileen in top leadership positions of great importance. It’s no wonder that Doug Ducey tapped her to join former Sen. Jon Kyl and former state House Speaker Kirk Adams to head up his transition team.
Before she headed to the ninth floor of the Executive Tower, Eileen was the chair of our Public Affairs Committee, and her influence over the Chamber’s policy development process still looms large. Much of the credibility the Chamber has earned over the years is a result of our reliable process, which Eileen played a major role in shaping.
The state’s universities are critical to our job attraction efforts. Having Eileen running ABOR makes Arizona even more competitive in the fight for top jobs.
Best Former Roommate of the Year
This year the Hammer goes to John Ragan, who joined the Arizona Chamber this year as our chief operating officer. John and I have worked together on four or so occasions now. An entrepreneur, John is gifted in policy development and operations as well.
This year he edges out the winner from 2012, Sen. Jeff Flake’s chief of staff, Steve Voeller. When Congress starts passing some more stuff of consequence, it will bolster Steve’s chances for another win in this coveted category.
Radio Host of the Year Award
John C. Scott
No one covers the southern Arizona political scene like John C. Scott. We thought we’d heard the last of John earlier this year, but he found a new home on the dial and listeners couldn’t be happier. He’s an outstanding talk show host, and he deserves a Hammer.
John shines a light on legislative goings on that often get overlooked by so many in the media. I always look forward to my chats with him.
Sammy Davis Jr. Award
Many can sing well, many can dance well, but few can do both well. Garrick Taylor does neither well, but he’s the Chamber’s song and dance man all the same.
He runs our advocacy shop, making sure our priorities get proper consideration at the Capitol, while on the communications front he brings a James Bond elegance to his writing. He’s the glue that holds us together. The king of trivia in the office, the man knows something about everything. This is our third posting together and I am deeply grateful.
A Job Well Done Award
Gov. Jan Brewer and Speaker Andy Tobin
Finally, I want to acknowledge the career of public service to Arizona of Gov. Jan Brewer and Speaker of the House Andy Tobin.
Two thousand fourteen marked Gov. Brewer and Speaker Tobin’s last year in elected office, and they finished strong. In the years they worked together, two major job creation packages became law, one when Tobin was majority leader under Speaker Kirk Adams, and another with Tobin in the speaker’s chair. Together their work saw major corporate tax reforms, a reduction in the capital gains tax, and other moves to make the state’s exporters and startups more competitive nationally and globally, as well as sweeping tort and regulatory reforms.
The leaders of the executive and legislative branches are never going to agree all the time. But together these two were a highly effective team on behalf of Arizona, leaving the state in a much better position than they found it. They will both be missed, and they both deserve our hearty thanks.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.