At the Yavapai County Men's Republican luncheon, Arizona legislative canddiates Speaker Andy Tobin, Representative Karen Fann and State Senator Lori Klein faced off in the first quad-city debates.
The biggest applause of the day came for Karen Fann, when asked a question by Tom Thurman about immigration issues and policies. Instead of responding directly with what she would do regarding the issue, she said this:
A part of Senator Klein's campaign materials distributed on the tables included a quarter-sheet of paper titled, "Know the Conservative Score." This topic came up more than once during the forum.
During the closing statements, Representative Karen Fann states, "When you look at the Pachyderm scores, the three of us are all within, like, one point of each other."
But Klein disagreed with that statement. "These scores, I know they would like to make them go away," Klein said. "But, facts are a stubborn thing... These scores that came out, showing the difference in our voting record, was just that, it was our voting record. I don't like some of the way that Pachyderm scores, but there's a five point difference, not a one... Ultimately, these scores are done for a reason, so that people see where their legislators are on the big issues, the issues we all care about."
Well, according to the Pachyderm Coalition website, dated May 13, 2011, which appears to be their latest 'report card', here are the scores of the three candidates:
Lori Klein came in at 10 out of 21 Senators in 2011. Her latest 'grade' was an 84, which gave her a 92 percentage. The Pachyderm Coalition rated her as a "Pro-Freedom Republican".
Representative Karen Fann received a grade of 83.7, with a 91.8 percentage. Andy Tobin received a 82.9 grade, with 91.4 percentage. Both Fann and Tobin were also labeled a "Pro-Freedom Republican".
Answer: Fann is correct. If you look at the percentages, the range is from 92-91.4%, a difference of less than 1%. If you look at the grade, the range is from 84-82.9, a difference of 1.1.
UPDATE, July 12, 2012: It turns out that Klein was correct also, based on the 2012 report cards. See this article for more details: Correction: Senator Klein Was Correct, Too
About "Report Cards"
Organizations and think tanks put out "report cards" to let their members know where candidates stand on a variety of issues important to their particular point of view. But, grading and scoring legislators is a trickier process than it might seem at first. The Goldwater Institute, which puts out a legislative report card, explains, "Letter grades are a tool for comparison of various legislators (e.g., Legislator X voted more consistently according to the principles of liberty than did Legislator Y) and are not absolute measures of quality."
"The legislative process is both complicated and nuanced," the Goldwater Institute report continues. "The importance of leadership, vision, and dedication is a critical part of legislative service. It is highly subjective work, however, that cannot be objectively measured."
For example, in the Goldwater Institute's report card, Speaker Andy Tobin got a higher score (75) than Lori Klein (71) in the area of Education while Karen Fann had a lower score (67).
In the area of Constitutional Government, Klein scored (85), while Fann and Tobin received lower scores (81). But, they were all given an "A" grade.
What's important to one organization, might be looked at with a different perspective than another organization. Grades from the Sierra Club will be just about the opposite of the grades issued by the Goldwater Institute. Each organization has a different priority and represents opinions that are polar opposite of one another.
One thing to remember is that it's difficult to compare a grade for a member of the House with a grade for a member of the Senate. The two chambers are different bodies of government, they are frequently presented with different bills or versions of bills to vote on. And the reconciliation bill can change yet again. And the bills have to go through committees, which offers many opportunities for a lobbyist to try to get it tweaked. If Klein were running for Senator against Senate President Steve Pierce, the comparisons might be more insightful.
Finally, a bill that is presented during an election year, can get a very different vote than one that is presented during a non-election year. Many times a legislator will vote one way on an issue during an 'non-election' year, and vote entirely differently during an 'election' year.
That being said, here are links to a variety of 'report cards.'
Goldwater Institute (2011) (Impossible to summarize here)
NFIB - The Voice of Small Business (2011) All three candidates, 93%
Sierra Club 2012 Environmental Report Card All three candidates, F.
Humane Voters (impossible to summarize here)
Children's Action Alliance Klein, 43%; Fann, 67%; Tobin, 67%.
Hear the Candidates
Here are the closing comments from the candidates, as well as a few words afterwards.