What our Democratic Legislative Nominees Said About the Recent Arizona Supreme Court Decisions

Our Democratic legislative nominees across the state are united in their fury at the Ducey packed Arizona Supreme Court decisions to prevent the Invest in Education and Outlaw Dirty Money Initiatives from appearing on the November 6 Ballot. They are all equally united in promising to do everything in their power, once elected in November, to restore full funding to our public schools and Democracy to our states. Below are the comments of some of the Democratic State Senate and House Nominees in response to the Supreme Court rulings on August 29 and what solutions they propose to solve the issues of funding our schools and getting rid of Dark Money special interests.

State Senate Nominees 

LD 11 Nominee Ralph Atchue

LD 11 Democratic State Senate Nominee Ralph Atchue

“1) My opponent, Rep. Leach was the legislative champion behind the “strict compliance” restrictions on ballot initiatives. I consider this effort to be a form of voter suppression. Arizona already had statues that covered any form of fraud with regard to petitions, so there was no legal justification. Additionally, Arizona had not had any convictions due to petition fraud. Since there was no need to fix any problem, the GOP misrepresented their intent to undermine voter participation as spelled out in the state constitution. This is yet another example of an unethical use of legislative power.”

“2) The only recourse available at present is to elect state Representatives and Senators who will fight to block the growing influence of Dark Money and to fund Public Education. If elected, I pledge to work tirelessly on both fronts.

I fully support strengthening the Clean Elections Commission, as well as legislation that will bring transparency to our entire election and governing processes.

My education funding plan calls for a comprehensive audit of AZ’s entire tax policy. I will call for an immediate review of every tax loophole and credit, intended to rescind every one found to be wasteful. With over $13.7B in loopholes alone, many of which are over 20 years old, we know we should be able to find enough to fully fund education beyond pay increases for teachers. Once we bring true fiscal responsibility to the state budget, we can then assess future tax policies directed toward bringing prosperity to Arizona’s middle-class families and small businesses.”

LD 12 Nominee Elizabeth Brown

LD 12 Democratic State Senate Nominee Elizabeth Brown

“It is blatantly obvious that the Republicans do not care about funding our public schools. They do not care we are ranked 48th in education, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio and 50th in teacher pay. They just do not care!! They also do not want transparency in election donations. It appears it is OK for candidates to be bought and paid for. I am very sad, frustrated and angry. It is time for a change! And that change will come when voters realize that if you support public education you will vote for a Democrat. We must elect David Garcia for Governor and we must elect Democrats to the Arizona State House of Representatives and Senate. I am asking all voters to take away the D from my name and look deeper into what I stand for. If they do that, I bet they will see that I care about the same issues that they do. I will work tirelessly to earn their vote.”

LD 13 Nominee Michelle Harris (Air Force Sergeant, Retired)

LD 13 Democratic State Senate Nominee Michelle Harris

“1) I am extremely disappointed to hear about the court ruling for both Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest in Ed. I collected signatures to get both initiatives on the ballot and wanted the voters to decide these issues since the state legislature won’t take the necessary steps to fix the problems in our state.”

“2) The only way to address these issues now is through the state legislature and governor. I strongly encourage people to contact all the candidates running in your district and ask them if they supported these initiatives. Ask them if they will continue to do everything they can to pass legislation to fully fund public education and bring more transparency to campaign finance. If a candidate won’t answer your questions or support these causes then find a candidate who does and do everything you can to get them elected. This is the only way forward now.”

LD 17 Nominee Steve Weichert

LD 17 Democratic State Senate Nominee Steve Weichert

“I’m profoundly disappointed that the Invest in Ed ballot initiative was struck down Wednesday by Governor Doug Ducey’s stacked Supreme Court. And I’m saddened that the loudest cheerleader for striking down the initiative was my opponent for State Senate in LD-17: career politician and anti-public education crusader, JD Mesnard.”

“The petition for Invest in Ed was signed by over 270,000 Arizonans – nearly double the number necessary to appear on November’s ballot. This overwhelming support was a clear indicator that citizens no longer trust our current leaders to act in the best interests of our 1.1 million public school students.”

“The Invest in Ed initiative sought to raise more than $690 million for public education funding through a small increase in state income tax on the highest earners in our state.”

“If Invest in Ed had passed, an Arizona family earning half a million dollars a year – nearly 10 times the median household income in our state – would pay an additional $1,775 in state tax. Every penny would be used to bring our public education system into the 21st century.”

“But Mesnard and his big-money backers fought this tooth and nail, using scare tactics and fuzzy math. He forecasted doom and gloom, predicting a mass exodus of wealthy Arizonans and businesses to other states.
In fact, the opposite is true. A good public education system – adequately funded, and led by professional, fairly paid, highly motivated teachers – will attract new businesses to Arizona and set our children up for the future they deserve.”

“Mesnard calls himself an ‘educator’, which is why I’m puzzled why he would take every opportunity to hurt Arizona’s public school students in favor of big business. The only reason I can think of is that he’s beholden to deep-pocketed special interests, and has decided to put their bottom lines above of our kids’ future.”

“He and his millionaire backers knew they’d lose this fight when voters go to the polls on November 6, so they turned to Doug Ducey’s Supreme Court. Now that Invest in Ed is off the ballot, it’s even more vital that voters support pro-public education candidates like myself. Only then can we finally do what’s right for our students, parents, and our hard-working teachers.
Quite simply, JD has to go.”

State House Nominees

LD 11 Nominee Hollace Lyon (United States Airforce Colonel, retired)

LD 11 Democratic State House Nominee Hollace Lyon

1. InvestInEd: “This ruling is a big win for the AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry which led the fight to block the initiative from making it to the ballot. This just proves that the only way we will ever deliver real, lasting support for our public schools is to elect Legislators who believe them and the critical role they play in the success of our children, our communities, and our state. Fortunately, I think the voters understand this and are going to deliver in November.”

Outlaw Dirty Money: “This ruling proves that the “strict compliance” is purposefully being used to subvert the people’s will. As seen in Tempe, Arizonans want more transparency and accountability for the influence of money in our elections and if current lawmakers won’t work to deliver that, we’ll need to elect lawmakers who will.”

2. Solutions/ideas “I propose for moving forward to combat Dark Money Interests and Fully Fund Education.”

Fully funding education:  “We should start with rearranging the Legislature’s priorities to match those of regular Arizonans. Time and again, Arizonans have said they support providing more funding to our schools, yet our Legislature continues to dole out corporate tax giveaways instead.”

Then, we should: “Have a bi-partisan review of all corporate tax giveaways to determine which are providing an adequate return on investment and curtail those performing inadequately, redirecting the funding to education.
Ensure any future tax giveaways are bounded with sundown clauses.
We also need to require any school that accepts taxpayer dollars to be fully accountable and transparent regarding the return on investment of that funding.”

“Other ways to increase public school funding include (but are not limited to):
Freeze individual and corporate income tax cuts still phasing in
Increase the minimum corporate tax to $500; must be paid after credits claimed
Issue bonds for new school construction instead of paying cash up front
Hire back collectors and audit staff at the AZ Department of Revenue to collect taxes owed.”

“We should also redirect results-based funding that’s only going to A-rated schools.”

“Unfortunately, recouping revenue via many of the above measures will take time. InvestInEd if it had made the ballot, would have allowed us to infuse a significant level of funding into schools much more quickly and would have bought us time to make the long-term adjustments needed. It will be up to the Legislature we elect in November to find the revenue our schools need.”

DirtyMoney: “The Legislature should pass a law to change campaign finance reporting and refer an initiative to change the Constitution to outlaw dirty money. We also should incentivize more candidates to campaign with Clean Elections funding.”

LD 12 Lynsey Robinson

LD 12 Democratic State House Nominee Lynsey Robinson

“The Arizona Supreme Court decision to bar the InvestInEducation measure from the ballot is a devastating blow to proponents of fully funded public education. Though the measure if passed would not be enough to meet all the public education funding needs it certainly would serve as a huge gap filler creating a dedicated funding source of six-hundred and ninety million dollars. This initiative was crucial for an urgent investment in our children. Arizona is in a crisis when it comes to education. Arizona ranks nearly last in the country for per-pupil funding, We spend almost a billion less in Education then we did in 2008; leaving our children at a disadvantage.”

Voters are not without recourse. They will have an opportunity to send a clear message to the incumbents that they demand that our children’s future becomes a priority by electing pro-education candidates on November 6. Voters must elect David Garcia for Governor, along with all pro-education candidates who are committed to fixing this crisis once and for all and giving our children the future they deserve. An all pro-education legislature needs a pro-education Governor like Garcia to sign the bills. All Republicans and Independents must stand with us and vote straight democratic ticket so that we can close the six hundred and eighteen million dollar tax loopholes that would create a sustainable funding source for education.”

“The Outlaw Dirty Money initiative has also been taken off the ballot. Another devastating blow to voters who want to reclaim our politics from dirty money forces. The initiative did not fail any test except the one that was put in place specifically to allow judges to ignore the will the voters. Let’s be clear, it is difficult for ballot initiates to withstand legal challenges because the laws are designed to make it easy for them to fail. The judges must follow the laws. This is one reason why I became so frustrated as an attorney. Ignoring the will of the people is by design. The only way to get rid of such laws intended to silence the will of the voters is for the voters to elect leaders who want to be held accountable to the voters. Our political system is a mess because of Dirty Money. Do not let self-dealing, bought politicians rob us of a strong vibrant Arizona. Arizona belongs to all of us not just those with the means to influence policy. We the people would not need to turn to so many ballot initiates to stamp out corruption, cronyism and incompetence in our government if we elected true servant leaders. Servant leaders put people first. Lately, all we see is profit first. The time has come to stamp out corruption and put our children first. Vote straight Democratic ticket to take our government back and bridge the GAPS by building a future for all Arizonans.”

LD 12 Nominee Joseph Bisaccia

LD 12 Democratic State House Nominee Joseph Bisaccia

1) “The recent rulings by the Arizona Supreme Court are an affront to the voters’ constitutional right to referendum and initiative. This is what you get with a Ducey packed court. Our only choice is to elect more education champions to the Legislature, elect Kathy Hoffman as our State Superintendent and David Garcia as our next Governor.”

2.) “Combating dark money at the state level is a very tricky subject. We need a constitutional amendment at the federal level that clearly states “money is not speech and corporations are not people.” My solution for education in Arizona has always been a state constitutional amendment that removes the Legislature and Governor from the funding process, develops at entirely new funding formula and automatically adjusts for inflation. Some might argue that this strips the Legislature of the power to make difficult decisions when times are tough. I would argue that this is necessary after the decades-long cuts to education in Arizona. The partisanship is too strong on this issue and the majority party has proven it’s unwilling to adequately fund education.”

LD 15 Nominee Julie Gunnigle

LD 15 Democratic State House Nominee Julie Gunnigle

“Outlaw Dirty Money would have been the most important vote that Arizonans had in November. Democracy dies when our elections are funded by shadowed sources and when our legislators are beholden to interests other than their constituents.”

“To the thousands of people who gathered signatures on these important initiatives: Thank you. Your voices were heard; the fight is not over. Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest in Ed are still on the ballot in November; they just look a little different. They look like first-time candidates who are running grassroots, community supported campaigns. They look like the leadership at the top of the ticket who are ready to fight corruption in order to fully-fund education. They need your support, so don’t get mad–get knocking.

“Please remember that Outlaw Dirty Money was one step in a plan to make clean, transparent government a reality in Arizona. We need to repeal HB2153 (the measure that prohibits cities and towns from stopping dirty money in their own elections), and push for comprehensive ethics reform. We need to remember that Dirty Money doesn’t just get people elected, it controls their decisions in office by offering rewards at the end of civic duty. Please also remember that the demise of these two measures are related. Invest in Ed (and our chronic underfunding of public education) is because of special interest groups unlimited and untraceable spending.”

Arizona wants a full-funded education system. We will never get there until we stop political money laundering and conflicts of interest that infect decision making in government.”

LD 15 Nominee Jennifer Samuels

LD 15 Democratic State House Nominee Jennifer Samuels

1) Your comment on the rulings.
My heart breaks for the dedicated teachers who gave up their June and July to tirelessly collect signatures in the intense summer heat. Even more so, my heart breaks for Arizona’s students who are still missing a fully funded educational system. Now, more than ever, we must elect teachers to protect public education.

2) What solutions/ideas do you propose for moving forward to combat Dark Money Interests and Fully Fund Education.
We need to remain vigilant when it comes to analyzing elected official’s voting records. We need to examine if they truly support education, or if they simply claim to be in support. The Arizona Education Association has a great link with a rating scale to help inform voters.
When it comes to combating Dark Money, we can take a similar approach. It’s time to elect candidates who pledge to run as a Clean Elections candidate.

LD 16 Nominee Sharon Stinard

LD 16 Democratic State House Nominee Sharon Stinard

“My solutions to underfunded schools is a major part of my platform of “strong schools, good jobs and fair taxes”….. and by working to stop the draining of our state revenues with the yearly reckless tax cuts, tightening up unregulated charter and voucher funding accountability and reduce tax credits that benefit a wealthy top 10% of our corporate citizens. The ball is now in the hands of our elected leaders to do the right thing for all Arizonans who, with their signatures, have demonstrated their strong desire for not only “good” government” but “better” government than we have had with our one-party state governance.”


LD 18 Nominee Jennifer Jermaine

LD 18 Democratic State House Nominee Jennifer Jermaine

1. “Hundreds of thousands of voters exercised their Constitutional right to petition the government for change and I am disappointed that the voters of Arizona will not be allowed to decide on these issues.”

2. “For education funding, we need to take a serious look at the priorities in our state budget. Can we reverse engineer some of the funding cuts? Where did the money go? Why was public education de-prioritized? I will continue to work with Invest in Ed leaders to come up with new solutions. This needs to be a broad discussion with all of the stakeholders. No more closed meetings or midnight hearings.”

“For Dark Money, we can start by repealing HB2153 and allow cities, like Tempe – where it passed with 90% of the vote, to pass campaign finance reform ordinances at the local level.”
(HB2153: https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/53leg/2R/laws/0134.htm)

LD 21 Nominee Dr. Bradley Hughes 

LD 21 Democratic State House Nominee Dr. Bradley Hughes

“While I’m disappointed the Supreme Court took this opportunity away from voters, Public Education will still be on the ballot in every legislative and statewide race this November. Educators remain a force to be reckoned with and will never give up this fight. I continue to stand with them and with the students of Arizona. The plan remains the same, to find a comprehensive and fair way to fully fund our Public Schools. Only now we do it via newly elected legislators instead of a ballot initiative. And the same goes for Outlawing Dirty Money. Voters are fed up with wealthy donors controlling our elections and our legislators. This ruling may have slowed us down, but we continue marching towards a day where anonymous mega-donors do not control Arizona. I look forward to that day.”

LD 23 Nominee Eric Kurland

LD 23 Democratic State House Nominee Eric Kurland

1) Your comment on the rulings.
“This ruling was decided in 2016 when the majority party, despite the objections by the Chief Justice, packed the court by expanding the number of justices from five to seven. It is quite clear that the few, well-connected can remain anonymous as they buy their politicians and then sit back smoking cigars while the voice of everyday people is muted.”

2) What solutions/ideas do you propose for moving forward to combat Dark Money Interests and Fully Fund Education.
“The solution is to not just vote for people like myself but to get others to do so as well. I will put legislation in play that models the Tempe ordinance on dirty money that garnered 91% of the vote. Then, we will honor the will of the voters and place a revenue source for public education on the ballot and let the people decide. As a teacher, I see this in terms of a math question. How many doors must a person knock on to get 31 + 16 + 1 ?”

“I also might add. The incumbents haven’t listened when the vast majority of their constituents one public education funded properly. They haven’t listened when 91% of the voters in Tempe wanted to unmask Dirty Money. They only listen to those that puts money into their campaigns. And I will make a prediction that they will continue not to listen and won’t show up to any of the debates. They just can’t be bothered by the everyday person.”

LD 24 Nominee Jennifer Longdon

LD 24 Democratic State House Nominee Jennifer Longdon

1. “I am disappointed by this end-run around the democratic process and this subversion of the will of the people. Arizona’s voters should have had the right to be heard on this matter. They have been silenced unfairly.”

2. “We have to out-work the Dark Money interests and ensure we elect strong Democrats across Arizona and across the nation this November to return the power to the people. Advocates led the way this last session from the Women’s March, to March for Our Lives to Red for Ed. We must stay involved and hold Arizona’s elected leadership accountable to the public interest.”

These candidates and all the other Democratic Nominees want an Arizona that supports high quality and well-funded schools so children will be educated and thrive in a vibrant open democracy where the majority, and not the Dark Money plutocratic Republican-aligned few shape public policy. Voters should seriously consider what the forward-looking Democrats offer the people in contrast to what the backward leaning Republicans embrace.