Arizonans will have a governor who supports full public school funding, gun safety laws and electricity made from solar power if a Democrat is elected in November. Candidates Steve Farley, David Garcia and newcomer Kelly Fryer spoke at a candidate forum at the University of Arizona in Tucson on April 7.
The audience of 300 was energized by the “blue wave” sweeping the nation, electing Democrats in Alabama, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and perhaps Arizona. The public event was sponsored by the Young Democrats of Arizona and of the University of Arizona. (Compare a private GOP candidate forum that attracted only 40 people).
Each candidate pledged to support whoever wins the Democratic primary on August 28.
Ranking the candidates
Things could change but I rank state Senator Farley as the front-runner. He is the only one of the three to actually be elected — he’s been in the Legislature 12 years an has been elected 6 times — giving him a statewide network. Farley has been endorsed by more than 50 current and former elected officials.
Farley’s reports from the legislature are read by thousands every week. He leads in fundraising, which is essential to staffing an election campaign. The 2018 1st quarter report for campaign finance donations will be released between now and April 16.
“I’ve been running against Doug Ducey since he first was elected,” Farley said. “I know exactly what needs to be fixed, how to fix it and being governing on day one.”
See the video of the candidates debate at https://www.facebook.com/dailywildcat/videos/10155402727248302/
I rank David Garcia, an ASU professor and former associate superintendent of education, in second place. Garcia has never been elected to public office.
He is pinning his campaign on bringing Latinos and young people out to vote. However, these demographics did not turn out for him in his unsuccessful 2014 bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction, where he lost by 16,034 votes to Diane Douglas, who did not campaign publicly. Skeptics don’t see a significant increase in Latino voter participation.
That said, he’s picked up endorsements from the Arizona Education Association, Planned Parenthood Arizona, Democracy for America, UFCW Local 99 and LUCHA (Living United for Change in Arizona).
“What is Arizona is most known for — immigration, the wall, Joe Arpaio, [ex-state senator] Russell Pierce. The common denominator is that our Latino community is under attack,” he said. “When we win it will be a national story. Because Arizona is known for anti-immigrant hate, we are going to elect a guy named Garcia to be Governor.”
Kelly Fryer of Bisbee is openly gay, a former teacher and pastor, and CEO of the nonprofit YWCA Southern Arizona. She has never been elected to public office and I rank her as a dark-horse in third place. Fryer decided to run after speaking at the Tucson Women’s March in January.
Fryer has staked out the left end of the political spectrum, calling for taxes on snowbirds and millionaires, and saying that if there is a Republican legislature after November, she’ll lead protests and marches as governor and make national news by being arrested on the front lawn of the legislature.
“Somebody needs to stand up and stop the terrible people that are running and taking control of state government, and say “no.” I’m running because the people that I love are in danger — immigrants, my own kids buried under student loan debt, teachers, queer and trans people, and small business owners.”
Raising teacher salaries and funding education
Arizona ranks as the worst state to be a teacher. Our state is ranked 48th in funding, and dead last in teacher pay. The problem to overcome is the requirement of a 2/3 majority in the legislature to increase taxes or to close a tax loophole.
Farley has been calling for a 20% raise for teachers and proposes to finance it by closing 331 sales tax loopholes that give away $13.7 billion in revenue. “If we could eliminate just $3 billion in sales tax giveaways, we could lower our sales tax by 1% and give all teachers a 20% raise for $750 million. I know how to do it,” he said. “I have worked with across the aisle with the tea party on tax loopholes. We have the opportunity to do it, we just need a governor who knows how to do it.”
Fryer would raise funds for education raising taxes on people who earn more than $1 million per year, raising taxes on houses worth more than $1 million, and creating a snowbird property tax on people who own vacation property in Arizona but who live elsewhere.
Garcia was vague on specifics but agreed in general with ending tax credits and tax loopholes. “People are going to vote for a governor who is an educator and that will make all the difference,” he said.
Gun safety and school gun violence
Gov. Ducey and the GOP legislature have repeatedly loosened gun laws to allow guns in bars; guns on campuses; guns at the chain-link fence of a schoolyard. Ducey has proposed a thin-soup plan for school gun violence, which does not include requiring background checks to buy a gun.
Farley has repeatedly introduced bills to reduce gun magazine size to 10 bullets and requiring universal background checks — but none got a hearing in the Republican legislature. “Until we close the loopholes for gun shows, the Internet, and private sales, background checks will be easily circumvented by anyone with the motivation. 97% of gun owners and 97% of Republicans want this policy to become law,” Farley said.
Garcia said, “I’m a former infantryman and expert marksman. I know exactly what military weapons are for: to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. They have no place on our streets. We need to ban military-style weapons, have universal comprehendsive background checks, and have waiting periods. It is not about putting more officers on campus.”
Fryer based her gun safety position on the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, calling for a ban on semiautomatic guns, high capacity magazines, and assault weapons; requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales and on transfers between private parties; limiting firearms in public places, including schools and college campuses; promoting gun buy-back programs, waiting periods and smart guns.
Farley said Arizona is ground-zero in climate change. He would put Arizona back in the Paris climate change accords. “I’m sick and tired of running this country on Texas oil or West Virginia coal, when we should run on Arizona sunlight. We could make money selling our renewable energy to California. It’s time we had a governor who believes that climate change is real and is human-caused,” he said.
Freyer said she would create an Environmental Justice League, including scientists, energy entrepreneurs and people most affected by climate change.
Garcia said, “There is no reason Arizona should not be #1 in solar energy. We should be farming it out to other states. There is a solar initiative on the ballot [to require electric companies to get half their power supply from renewables by 2030] — and we’ve endorsed it. We don’t have it because the power companies have a hold on our officials, and we need to break that stranglehold.”
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