One year into his campaign for Governor, Democratic candidate Steve Farley is on a roll. Polls show that Gov. Ducey is vulnerable, Farley has raised $1.1 million in contributions, and his message of rebuilding Arizona’s impoverished schools is resonating with Democrats.
“I’m the only Democratic candidate who’s been elected to public office and I’ve been in the Legislature for 12 years,” he said at a recent campaign stop in Tucson. “I’m the only Democratic candidate who has ever won an election, and I’ve won 6 in a row. I know how to win.”
It’s about 60 days before early ballots drop in the primary election, which will be held on August 28, and Farley is crossing the state to see voters, debating his primary challenger David Garcia, and even talking on conservative talk radio.
Farley is the state Senator from legislative district 9 (Casa Adobes and the Foothills in Tucson) and is on the Appropriations and the Finance committees. He is the Assistant Minority Leader in the state Senate.
“I speak good “Republican,'” he quipped. “I go on conservative talk radio a lot and like to preach to the unconverted. People call in and say, ‘I’ve never heard a Democrat speak before, but you make sense.’ With that kind of change in thinking, we can make something good happen.”
Farley was the first elected official to call for a 20% raise for teachers more than a year ago and this has cemented his support from teachers in the #RedForEd movement.
When 50,000 teachers descended on the capitol in May, he gave them tips on how to avoid being ejected from the Legislature’s gallery. “I suggested they do ‘jazz hands‘ so they would not get tossed out. They spread the word and everybody was doing jazz hands all week. They didn’t get kicked out.”
“We offered 27 amendments to 9 budget bills to move Arizona forward. It was a demonstration of what life could be like if we had different leadership. All the teachers were watching in person, on TV, and in the plaza.” When Farley made a point the teachers liked, he heard a roar from outside the building. “I’m used be being there at 3:30 in the morning on empty galleries.”
Farley gave his summation speech at 4:45 am. One of the teachers filmed his speech and posted it on Facebook. “Within a week it had 53,000 views.”
“Last year Ducey offered teachers a .4% raise. Then the teachers walked out,” he said. “Ducey was saying no more than a 1% raise for K-12 teachers for the next fiscal year. Then the teachers showed up. More than 50,000 teachers were there.”
Ducey backed down and signed legislation May 3 granting teachers an average 19% pay increase within three years. “It was a great start, and I intend to do a lot more,” he said. “We have the money but we just choose to give it away.”
There are 331 sales tax loopholes in Arizona, costing $13.7 billion (the entire state budget is only $10 billion). “Some have been there since the 1950s. If we eliminated $3 billion of them, we could increase education spending by $2 billion a year and lower the state sales tax by 1%,” he said. “Even the tea party agrees with us that special interest giveaways are a bad idea.”
“The state has cut $1 billion from education since 2009,” he said. “We can provide a real raise for teachers, it would be enough to replace Tucson High computers, which are 12 years old. We can pay for more counselors to students, we’ll end up with less dangerous situations in schools, and our kids will get into better colleges.”
“We are running against the Koch brothers,” Farley said. “Ducey is responding to Koch network and not people who care about Arizona. When the Koch brothers start lying about me on TV, which they will, no one will believe them because they will believe you, and word of mouth will take us over the top,” he said.
Farley encouraged voters to sign the Outlaw Dirty Money ballot initiative. “It will force disclosure of the original donors to political campaigns,” he said. Farley introduced the ALEC Accountability Act. “ALEC is funded by large corporations, it flies Republicans to fancy resorts, gives them model legislation and the Legislature enacts those bills.” Farley’s bill would have forced ALEC and the Goldwater Institute to register as lobbyists. However, the bill never got a hearing in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
In February Ducey signed a law protecting dark money donors. “One thing I can do as Governor is roll that back,” Farley said. “When Michelle Reagan became secretary of state, she hired a dark money lobbyist as her chief of elections. He rewrote the elections laws to make dark money easier to hide, and it was signed by Governor Ducey. “We need people in the Legislature to get it done. We need to govern Arizona for Arizonans, not just for people who want to reduce their taxes and put money in New York investment banks,” he said.
The Blue Wave
“People are getting involved like I’ve never seen before,” he said. “November 2016 was a difficult and dark moment,” he said, referring to the election of Donald Trump. “That was the day complacency died.”
“We have not only the opportunity to win, we can heal our democracy at the same time. I’m really worried about the polarization in this country. We’ve seen the Russians use that against us. We cannot let that happen. If we have adults in the Legislature, and not reality show stars, we can get this all done.”
“Arizona has been so poorly led, and that can change.”
For more information, visit Farley’s new website at FarleyforArizona.com.