The Citizens Clean Elections Debate for the LD 9 House between incumbent Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) aka “E.Orr,” and Dr. Randall Friese (D-Tucson) was actually quite interesting. LD9 General Election Debate Video Replay. E.Orr’s seat mate Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) was unable to attend.
It seems that E.Orr thinks quite highly of himself as the lone Republican in the Arizona legislature from Baja Arizona not from Cochise County. He continuously implied and suggested that without him, the blue island of Tucson and Pima County would get nothing from our Tea-Publican colonial overlords in the state of Maricopa. We have heard this line from Tea-Publicans before. The last set of Tea-Publican legislators from Pima County routinely sought to punish the blue island of Tucson and Pima County out of partisan ill will as you will recall.
It’s too bad that Victoria Steele was not able to attend because I would love to have seen her reaction to E.Orr taking sole credit for the Mental Health First Aid bill, HB 2570 (2013) which was co-sponsored by Reps. Steele and Orr. That bill failed (it was held in the Senate). Rep. Steele sponsored the bill again in 2014, HB 2490 (Orr was not a sponsor to this bill). Steele introduces Youth Mental Health First Aid Bill. This bill also failed (held in the Senate). The $250,000 was eventually appropriated in the budget.
Orr bragged about his reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats in a bipartisan manner on legislation. Apparently this does not extend to giving others recognition and credit where credit is due. It was all “me, myself and I” with him.
As in “I prevented funding cuts to our libraries.” Remember earlier this year when HB 2379 threatened to slash the operating budget of Pima County’s public libraries by approximately $5.4 million? Bill would cut Arizona library funds. A lot of people objected to that bill. The bill was held in the House Rules Committee (Orr is not a member of the committee). This is a dubious claim.
E.Orr also bragged that he got funding for JTEDs — state-funded districts that provide career and technical education courses at member schools — in this year’s budget. The budget did include funding for JTEDs in the compromise budget that finally passed after competing budgets in the Senate and House left JTED funding in doubt. Budget negotiations at this level typically involve the Governor’s office and leadership of the House and Senate, which does not include E.Orr. The JTED bills E.Orr cosponsored in the last session, HB 2176 and HB 2682 both died in committee. Whatever influence he may or may not have had, E.Orr cannot claim that “I” was responsible for this funding.
On the topic of education funding, Dr. Randall Friese said that he would vote to restore the education funding recently ordered by the Maricopa County Superior Court in carrying out the mandate of the Arizona Supreme Court with regard to Prop. 301 inflation adjusted educated spending. Governor Brewer plans to appeal, and GOP nominee for Governor Doug Ducey says he supports that appeal. E.Orr cleverly avoided stating any position on the lawsuit or restoring education funding.
On the Common Core education standards, E.Orr provided a non-responsive answer, rambling on about the book by Diane Ravitch “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” and citing an example of a teacher for the proposition to stop changing education policies. I can’t be sure, but I think that’s a “no” to Governor Brewer’s Common Core standards. Dr. Friese said that the state has made an investment in the Common Core standards and they should be given a chance to work. (Since the business community supports Common Core, they should be supporting Dr. Friese.)
Dr. Friese is a trauma surgeon who treated some of the victims of the January 8, 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. The Safeway store where this heinous crime occurred is located in LD 9. E.Orr voted for HB 2517, a bill to preempt the City of Tucson local gun safety ordinances that in no way interfere with the right of gun ownership. He previously supported the “every gun is sacred” bill preventing the destruction of guns purchased in Tucson police buy back programs. E.Orr also voted for the “guns everywhere” bill, HB 2339, which would allow anyone who has gone through the state-required training and background check for a CCW permit to ignore posted “no guns” signs, whether or not there are gun lockers made available. The Trouble With E.Orr: a tool for the gun lobby. Dr. Friese said he would stand up against the NRA and for sensible gun safety.
On the question of how Arizona could improve its image as an intolerant discriminatory backwater, E.Orr tried to take credit for his stand against SB 1062, the Religious Bigotry bill. But Dr. Friese correctly pointed out that E.Orr never took to the floor of the House to explain his vote, nor inform the voters of his district about his position. Dr. Friese also pointed out that E.Orr had voted in favor of a nearly identical bill the year before, one that somehow evaded the public scrutiny of SB 1062. Governor Brewer vetoed that bill, but for the reason that she had an embargo on bills until she got her Medicaid expansion and state budget.
On the question of access to birth control, safe legal abortions, and sex education, E.Orr made the ridiculous claim that abortion is “settled law.” There has been an explosion of legislation passed by Tea-Publican legislatures, including Arizona in recent years, followed by the inevitable litigation in Court. Arizona has cases pending in the appellate courts right now. This is “settled”?
In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Arizona House and Senate, along with Governor Brewer issued proclamations denouncing the decision as “unconstitutional” and supporting “personhood” rights for “preborn children at every stage of development.” Pro-life Proclamations – Foundations – Center for Arizona Policy. Dr. Friese pointed out that E.Orr signed that proclamation. Arizona House of Representatives proclamation (.pdf).
E.Orr has drawn opposition from Frank Antenori and his Alliance of Principled Conservatives as a “LegisTraitor” for having voted in favor of Governor Brewer’s Medicaid expansion. Antenori is recommending that Tea-Publicans not for E.Orr, “leave the bubble blank.”
Two things E.Orr said in this debate — besides working with Democrats across the aisle in bipartisanship, and standing up to his party — that will set off the Antenori Teabagger crowd.
First, while discussing economic development, E.Orr said that the proposed I-11 Interstate should be extended all the way to Mexico City to encourage trade from Mexico to Arizona. All wingnuts heard was the NAFTA Superhighway conspiracy that dwells in the minds of these conspiracy theorists.
The second came when Dr. Friese asked E.Orr if he would join with him in supporting the right of same-sex couples to a fully recognized marriage in Arizona. E.Orr, to his credit, said “yes” he would. (Cathi Herrod released her winged monkeys immediately).
However, in the last legislative session, E.Orr’s seat mate Victoria Steele, along with numerous Democrats, sponsored SCR 1012 (.pdf), a bill to recognize the marriage of same-sex couples in Arizona. E.Orr was not a cosponsor.
Victoria Steele, along with numerous Democrats, sponsored SB 1443 (.pdf), a state version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Again, E.Orr was not a cosponsor.
Sorry, E.Orr, but you don’t get credit for SB 1062 when you won’t take the extra step to prohibit such discrimination. After all, the reason most frequently cited why SB 1062 was unnecessary is that there are no state laws protecting the LGBT community in Arizona.
There were numerous issues not covered in this one hour debate. It would be great if all three House candidates would continue with a series of debates in other forums.