Happy New Year! Before you pop the champagne cork to welcome in 2019, let’s first look back on the year that was. As he does every year, Glenn Hamer hands out some honorifics with his presentation of the 2018 Ham[m]er Awards! And remember: although there is no actual award to place on the mantle, this column is suitable for framing.
Longtime readers of the Hammer Awards—this column marks the ninth edition—will recognize some familiar names in this year’s list of winners. I believe that’s because there are a number of people who don’t always get the recognition they deserve for their outstanding work. I hope this annual column serves as a needed reminder.
A quick glance at the news tells you plenty about what’s wrong in the world. (Yes, I’ve seen the stock market.) My hope is that this look back provides a small window into all the good things happening in Arizona, the country, and around the world.
On to the awards…
Sen. Jon Kyl Public Service Award
Sen. Jon Kyl wins this eponymously named Hammer Award. Sen. Kyl was possibly the only person not to be at least secretly interested in a Senate appointment following the passing of Sen. John McCain, but he answered the call to service.
Arizonans felt good about the appointment, and for good reason. He was the right man for the job at a challenging time.
I appreciated how kind he was to appear at a Chamber board meeting just a few days after his appointment, a highlight for everyone in attendance.
I am grateful to have worked for this great and decent man. Statesmen never go out of style. [Watch my interview with Sen. Kyl here.]
Lee Mazzilli Award
It wouldn’t be a Hammer Awards column without a reference to a ballplayer of my youth. (Longtime Hammer Award watchers can add this one to previous shouts out to Brent Gaff, Tom Gorman, and Ed Kranepool.) This year’s version is named for an underappreciated roleplayer on the 1986 Mets championship team. A Brooklyn native with matinee idol looks who was originally drafted by the Mets in 1973, he got a late season callup that year from AAA Tidewater to replace George Foster and performed ably at three different defensive positions and hit a solid .276.
Mazzilli was versatile and dependable, just like Eileen Klein, who has won many Hammers over the years, and who earns one this year for accepting the call from Gov. Ducey to take over as state treasurer after Jeff DeWit headed off to NASA.
The governor could not have made a better pick than to tap this veteran of various state government leadership positions. The office didn’t miss a beat and we all benefitted from her steady hand over the state’s checkbook and great communication with taxpayers. Arizonans can expect a smooth, professional handoff to new treasurer Kimberly Yee. [Watch my interview with Treasurer Klein here.]
Karl Rove, Jr. Award
JP Twist wins this Hammer Award for his textbook management of Gov. Ducey’s reelection campaign.
Don’t let the governor’s big margin of victory fool you; there was nothing easy about a campaign that won in a year when Republicans lost governorships in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, and barely hung on in several other states.
JP oversaw an operation that was smart, tactical, relentless, and never took its foot off the gas.
I gave JP a Hammer in 2014 for running what I said would become a model for campaigns in election years to come. In 2018, JP somehow improved the model. Don’t be surprised if he moves on to more races on the national stage.
Most Important Governor in America Award
The Hammer in the category for the country’s most important state government CEO goes to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Think about it: Gov. Ducey enters his second term with a state economy on fire, a relationship with Mexico that’s better than it’s been in decades, and an education picture dramatically improving in both funding and performance. He’s met the challenges of governing at every turn and the voters have wisely rewarded him for his good work.
Some of the nation’s most consequential governors of recent note – Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas, Mitch Daniels of Indiana – have moved on to new careers or were defeated in reelection bids. Gov. Ducey is now the governor who reform-minded, pro-business leaders across the country will look to for governing inspiration. [Watch my interview with Gov. Ducey here.]
Maybe Nice Guys Do Finish Last Award
This Hammer goes to Sen. Jeff Flake. Sen. Flake is a genuinely good human being.
Sen. Flake leaves congressional service with a major durable accomplishment to his credit: the end of earmarks. He also played a leading voice in making the case for free trade, and he stepped in to beat back protectionist efforts from Florida tomato farmers who wanted to dramatically curb the importation of the delicious Mexican-grown variety. [Watch my interview with Sen. Flake here.]
Captain Kirk Award
I’ve given out this award (which does not include my Tricorder set) in previous editions to someone who exhibited steady-as-she-goes leadership, but never to someone actually named Kirk. This year’s winner is gubernatorial chief of staff Kirk Adams.
In his four years as chief of staff, Kirk was steady, cool, and charismatic. He provided outstanding service to Gov. Ducey in the toughest job in Arizona state government.
Kirk already had an outstanding reputation as the former state House speaker. As he heads off to a new adventure, his reputation is even more sterling.
Freshman Class President Award
Former Phoenix Mayor and now Rep.-elect Greg Stanton wins this Hammer Award for what he’s done and what he’s poised to do in Congress.
I like the guy a lot. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a number of his trade missions to Mexico, where he made clear during even the low point in Arizona-Mexico relations that Phoenix was open for business and welcoming to our friends in Sonora and beyond.
With the Democrats now in control of the U.S. House, no one arrives on the job more prepared to accomplish big things on issues like trade and immigration. And he knows his stuff on water, too. Arizona is fortunate to have him on the Hill.
Tourism Dream Team Award
Arizona is setting records for visits from out-of-towners, and we continue to attract more flights to our airports on both foreign and domestic routes.
Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association President Kim Sabow, along with the very strong teams at Visit Phoenix and Visit Tucson, come together to keep one of Arizona’s top export industries humming.
Tourism is the ultimate gateway to Arizona, often turning a casual visit into thecatalyst for a relocation or new business investment. Give a Hammer to the tourism professionals who roll out the red carpet to our visitors year in and year out.
Azul Wave Award
The Democrats had a good election night, but it was nothing compared to the blowout victory Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Morena party earned in Mexico. AMLO’s newly formed party now controls Congress, and dominates governor offices and state legislatures. The July electoral victory was so complete that Mexicans call it AMLOVE.
True, the new president and former mayor of Mexico City will not be confused for the Mexican version of Ronald Reagan. However, the catastrophic failure of Mexico’s two major parties to control crime and reduce corruption opened the door for AMLO’s election and sets the stage for some real reforms.
His administration will also remain in alignment with the U.S. when it comes to big issues like the ratification of the USMCA trade deal and in his relations with other Latin American nations.
Mariano Rivera Award
This award is named for the soon-to-be-hall-of-fame relief pitcher for the Yankees who posted 652 career saves. Rivera’s prowess on the mound is what nailed down so many wins for the Bronx Bombers.
This Hammer goes to Jaime Molera and Kory Langhofer, who saved Arizona from economic disaster when they teamed to dismantle an incredibly destructive ballot measure scheme
that sought to double the income tax on thousands of Arizona small businesses.
Jaime chaired the campaign to oppose the initiative, while Kory provided the
legal counsel that expertly showed how the initiative authors were proposing to increase taxes far beyond what they’d originally advertised and to cancel existing tax law that pegs our tax code to inflation, which means every Arizonan was poised to pay more. The Supreme Court agreed and removed the tax-hiking initiative from the November ballot.
Their work was invaluable. They deserve our thanks…and a Hammer.
Economist of the Year
Jim Rounds wins this Hammer.
If you’re fighting ghosts, call a Ghostbuster. If you need top-notch economic analysis prepared in a way real people can understand, you call Jim. He’s the best in the state at taking on dense, complicated issues, and distilling them into a form normal Arizonans can understand.
Next time you hear someone on the campaign trail promise free college or free health care, it’s worth giving Jim a call for a reality check.
Best Election Night Gimmick
Attorney General Mark Brnovich wins a Hammer for turning Tom Steyer’s 2018 election season into a giant waste of money.
After reading the poll numbers that his Proposition 127 was going down in flames, the activist California billionaire decided to train his sights on General Brnovich. Bad move.
Brnovich, a multi-time Hammer Award winner, won his reelection by a comfortable margin, turning back the millions of Steyer dollars that were thrown at his race. Steyer’s weak case against General Brnovich’s solid record as AG never took hold.
At his election night victory party, Team Brnovich featured a Tom Steyer dunk tank. Unfortunately, he’ll probably have to keep it around. Steyer will need a few more crushing defeats before he takes his job-killing agenda to friendlier electoral battlefields. [Watch my interview with Attorney General Brnovich here.]
Always on Message Award
Congratulations to Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema for becoming the first woman in Arizona’s history to represent our state in the U.S. Senate. Sen.-elect Sinema wins this Hammer for staying true to her record in Congress and campaigning as a post-partisan candidate.
I still get asked whether she’s a Democrat. She is. But she’s not interested in serving in the Nancy Pelosi or Bernie Sanders cheering sections. Sen.-elect Sinema proved that she has a pragmatic message that appeals to moderates and can attract Republican voters to cross party lines.
Close Only Counts in Horeshoes, Hand Grenades, and Maybe Even U.S. Senate Races Award
Rep. Martha McSally is an American hero. Hard stop.
The trailblazing squadron-commanding combat pilot is an inspiration to young people everywhere, including my three girls. Her inspiring story makes her a sort of high school guidance counselor meets motivational speaker for the whole state.
From her achievements in the cockpit, to taking on former Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld over off-base dress code, you can’t help but be impressed by her story. Add to that her record as arguably the most effective recent member of the House delegation, and you’ve got a bio that’s made for the U.S. Senate.
Her training ground in the U.S. Air Force and as a protégé of Sen. Kyl has prepared her for the job as senator. Arizona needs someone in the Senate majority who can advance our defense, trade and water interests. She belongs in the club.
Rep. McSally may have narrowly lost the election, but she earned her appointment…and a Hammer. [Watch my interview with Rep. McSally here.]
Best New Kid on the Block Award
Chamber Business News wins the Hammer. Here’s to Lorna Romero for launching and running a full newsgathering and reporting operation that didn’t exist six months ago.
Other chambers of commerce, including even those outside the U.S., are looking at the model of reporting on important stories the business and policy communities care about, but are too often ignored by mainstream outlets. Combined with analysis, commentary, and big-time interviews, Chamber Business News’ daily news digest, the Dry Heat, with over 20,000 subscribers, is a must-read.
I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve been privileged to hold with some of the state’s most interesting people on my Hamer Time show (my wife Tali is a big fan, plus it provides video proof of what I’m up to at the office) and I’m looking forward to even more in 2019.
Best Campaign Coalition
The coalition assembled for the thorough and complete takedown of Proposition 127 wins the Hammer for what proved to be the most impressive opposition campaign I’ve ever witnessed.
Tom Steyer attempted to overrun our initiative system with a terrible constitutional amendment that would have locked Arizona into an expensive energy mandate regime. I’m being charitable when I say that even Steyer’s signature-gathering effort was dodgy. The whole thing stunk, and provided yet another reminder as to why lawmakers need to look again at ways to make our initiative system more secure.
Thankfully, the No on 127 coalition came together to blow the Steyer campaign to smithereens.
If you’re wondering how to defeat a ballot initiative, just do what the No on 127 gang did. Look for support for your argument from every corner of the state, back up your case with reliable data, employ surrogates who know their stuff, and relentlessly attack the other side’s misinformation with facts.
Bryce Harper Award
Think Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is the hot stove league’s hottest free agent? Not even close.
The Arizona Chamber Foundation, run by the amazing Emily Anne Gullickson, wins the Hammer for adding Dr. Matt Ladner to its roster.
Dr. Ladner’s research has uncovered that—whoa!—Arizona’s schools are the best in the nation when it comes to academic improvement. And for those who are interested in performance, he’s found that our charter sector by itself is performing on par with Massachusetts.
Dr. Ladner has one of the best policy minds in education in the entire country. We’re lucky that he’s joined us in Chamberville.
The Beatles of International Trade
The Arizona Mexico Commission’s Fab 4 of Jessica Pacheco, Juan Ciscomani, Kirk Adams, and Luis Ramírez, have achieved major wins in Arizona’s cross-border relationship with Mexico, on issues ranging from streamlined cargo inspections, to energy, to highway safety. They all played critical roles in Gov. Ducey’s participation in the AMLO inauguration and in his meetings with key administration officials.
Add in the work of advocates like Mr. Canada, Glenn Williamson and the Canada Arizona Business Council, and no state is better positioned than Arizona to make its voice heard in the 2019 debate over adoption of the USMCA.
The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh Award
Named for the 1979 disco-basketball fantasy starring Julius Erving, Jonathan Winters, Meadowlark Lemon, and Stockard Channing (I’ll never see a better ensemble in my life), this Hammer Award goes to Arizona’s politically engaged business community stakeholders, who came together to work to preserve a pro-business majority at the state Legislature.
If it weren’t for members of the business community who were willing to get involved in a big way during the election, the makeup of the Capitol would be a lot different in 2019. Don’t think so? Take a look at how narrow some of the margins of victory were for some pro-job-creation candidates. The business community was the difference maker. The Chamber’s effort was quarterbacked by Garrick Taylor, who once again combined his policy and communications chops to earn some important wins.
Honoring Those We Lost
In this year’s edition, I want to honor those individuals who we lost in the past year. We are all richer for having known them.
Arizona, the country, and the world lost the greatest voice for freedom and American values with the passing of Sen. John McCain. He was the greatest legislator on Earth.
Sen. McCain made our country safer thanks to his advocacy for a robust defense and his support for the institutions the U.S. cultivated in the post-World War II era to keep the world from destroying itself.
While I never technically worked for him (even though he said on more than one occasion that I did), it was one of the great honors in my life to learn from one of the finest individuals to serve in the U.S. Senate.
The shoes he leaves behind are big ones. I’m thankful that leaders like Mitt Romney will soon be serving in the Senate. He has a special role to play in mentoring a new generation of American leadership.
Ed Pastor was a good and decent man. He cared about all Arizonans. Rep. Pastor always worked for his constituents, but was known as Arizona’s congressman for his work on the Appropriations Committee.
Our last discussion was on immigration. Rep. Pastor had a big heart, which we’ll certainly miss. We’d be wise to follow his example.
George H.W. Bush
No one better exemplifies the service and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation than President George H. W. Bush.
If there’s a Hammer Award for Best One-Term President, there’s no question it goes to the 41st president.
Bush 41 had the golden resume. He fought for his country at age 17 after fibbing about his age. Served in Congress. Was head of the CIA and ambassador to China. A two-term vice president. Presided over the end of the Cold War and assembled one of the most impressive wartime coalitions in history.
Even more impressive might be his legacy as a father. His son Jeb, the former two-term governor of Florida, is the best voice for education reform in America. And his son George W., after two terms as president, continues to inspire with his artwork depicting the struggles and achievements of wounded veterans.
The character of George H.W. Bush is one we should seek to emulate.
One of my favorite people, Carolyn Warner passed in 2018.
The Democratic state superintendent from 1975-1987 and the Democratic nominee for governor in 1988, Warner had a long and distinguished career in Arizona politics and civic life.
I knew her almost from my first day at the Chamber as an outspoken passionate advocate of career and technical education and proper professional certification tied to the needs of employers. She was on the skills-based bandwagon long before the rest of us—including the Chamber—caught up.
Her accomplishments were impressive. More important to me was her radiant smile, unbridled optimism, and legendary work ethic. The last time I saw her she was being recognized for her work by the Maricopa County Community College District at its Maricopa Foundation Heroes of Education.
At the conclusion of her speech she quoted John Wesley. “Do all the good you can for all the souls you can and every time you, in every place you can with all zeal you can as long as ever you can.”
It’s a credo that defined her life.
She did and will always remain a role model to me.
(The passing of my friend deserved recognition in the first publication of this year-end column. I regret the omission. Thank you, David Bolger, for writing to me about her.)
Thanks for reading and watching in 2018. Here’s wishing you all health, happiness and prosperity in 2019.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry