Arizonans protest Tom Steyer in Tucson: “He’s ruined California. Now he’s coming … to ruin Arizona.”

PHOENIX — Arizonans flocked to Tucson in droves Saturday to protest California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Steyer is funding a controversial ballot proposal that would force Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2030. Critics — including elected officials, business organizations, and many others — contend that such a mandate would lead to higher utility bills for families across the state.

The Democratic mega-donor visited the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson Saturday for the “7th Annual Udall Dinner & Spirit of Arizona Awards” hosted by the Pima County Democratic Party. Steyer is listed as the “Keynote Speaker” on an official invitation and was expected to speak about his ongoing ballot campaign.

But the annual event didn’t go as planned.

Instead of receiving a warm welcome, the streets were lined with Arizonans pushing back against the billionaire’s political agenda and his involvement in the state’s 2018 mid-term elections.

“He’s ruined California,” one protester told KGUN. “Now he’s coming to Arizona to ruin Arizona.”

Arizonans in the crowd chanted “Send Steyer Home” and held signs with phrases like “Steyer Needs To Retire” and “Say No To California Energy Prices.” Other signs highlighted the hypocrisy of the mega-donor’s wealth. (Steyer’s hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management, was heavily invested in domestic and foreign coal operations.)

“They have no idea that this is going to cost Arizonans, raise the price of homes, [and] raise your energy bills,” David Eppihimer, chairman of the Pima County Republican Party, told the station.

No other Democrats were named on the official event invitation, but various social media posts indicate that Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman Felecia Rotellini and Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema were in attendance.

In addition to his green-energy proposal, Steyer has spent millions of dollars trying to impeach President Donald Trump. The campaign has received some support from Democrats in Arizona — including Tucson City Council member Regina Romero — but has otherwise been met with skepticism from national Democrats who fear it could increase Republican turnout in November.

The political leanings of Pima County — historically seen as “bluer” than other areas in the state — have begun to shift in recent years as the region benefited from policies spearheaded by Republican officials. Reforms to the teacher certification process, for example, helped Vail School District start the 2017 school year with zero teacher vacancies, and economic development strategies continue to attract new jobs and investments to a county where the unemployment rate topped 10 percent in 2010.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to Arizona earlier this year to make the Democratic Party’s case against the 2017 tax reform legislation. However, she skipped the Tucson portion of the tour — in what some suggested was a sign of the legislation’s increasing popularity among Democrats and Republicans.

For his part, Steyer doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The billionaire is pushing ahead with his impeachment campaign and is backing green-energy proposals in several states. An affordable energy coalition is spearheading an effort to stop the mandate in Arizona while Steyer’s committee works to collect the required number of signatures for it to appear on the 2018 mid-term ballot.

So far, not a single Arizonan has financially contributed to the green-energy campaign.

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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Smoking gun appears, as former employees of Tom Steyer-led campaign come forward

PHOENIX — The controversial ballot proposal tied to California billionaire Tom Steyer is facing increased scrutiny this week after former employees came forward alleging illegal campaign signature quotas.

The ballot proposal, if implemented, would require Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their energy from renewable sources (not including nuclear) by the year 2030. It has received widespread criticism from the business community and others as a threat to the state’s economy. Critics of the proposal say that it will lead to significantly higher monthly utility bills for families and a burdensome mandate on businesses looking to expand in the region.

The committee overseeing the initiative is in the process of collecting signatures required for it to appear on the November 2018 ballot — but its signature-gathering operation has fallen under a dark cloud of suspicion.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity (AFAE), an organization fighting the mandate, filed a complaint Wednesday asking the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to investigate the committee and its signature-gathering vendor after former employees came forward with allegations of impropriety.

AFAE says that it is aware of at least five former employees of FieldWorks, the signature-gathering vendor, who claim that they were wrongfully terminated. (The committee overseeing the ballot proposal paid FieldWorks more than $589,000 in the first quarter of 2018 alone; NextGen Climate Action, another political group tied to Tom Steyer, also provided the committee an in-kind contribution of more than $141,000 that was itemized as petition-gathering assistance though the same vendor.)

The former employees signed declarations confirming that they faced signature-gathering quotas while employed by FieldWorks ranging from 65 to 68 signatures during each eight-hour shift. Those performance standards, AFAE says, are prohibited in Arizona and constitute “yet another example of the initiative campaign and its billionaire benefactor Tom Steyer playing fast and loose with the law.”

“Election fraud is a serious matter, which is why lawmakers and Governor Ducey acted in 2017 to prohibit exactly these kinds of activities on the part of initiative campaigns,” said Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the affordable-energy coalition. “Signature gatherers who know they must meet an established quota in order to keep their job are incentivized to commit fraud.”

The complaint sent to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office is requesting that all signatures gathered by FieldWorks petition-circulators subject to the quota be deemed invalid, a major possible blow to the group’s goal of appearing on the midterm ballot.

The revelation comes less than one month after State Representative Vince Leach and State Senator John Kavanagh expressed concerns about “an alarming interference with the proper functioning of Arizona’s ballot initiative system.” The legislators said that the committee, by flooding the registration system with an excessive number of petition-circulators (“who will never collect a signature”) was “purposely creating a burden on the State.”

State Election Director Eric Spencer subsequently issued a criminal referral to the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for his review of the potential violations.

The committee overseeing the ballot proposal has faced near-constant criticism for its ties to Steyer, a Democratic Party mega-donor who is spearheading a national campaign to impeach President Donald Trump. All of the green-energy committee’s funding so far comes from NextGen Climate Action, another San Francisco-based political group funded by the California billionaire. Arizonans have not contributed a single cent to the effort, according to the newest campaign-finance reports.

The proposal met the disapproval of Arizona lawmakers in recent months, who warn that the mandate would have devastating economic impacts in their districts. A physics professor at Arizona State University also posited that such a mandate would actually make the state more dependent on fossil fuels than it is today without the assistance of nuclear energy, which the proposal excludes.

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Democrats held mid-term “Happy Hour” hours after voting against 20% teacher pay raise

PHOENIX — Only hours after Democratic lawmakers tried to block a 20 percent pay raise for Arizona’s teachers, the state Democratic Party held a “Happy Hour” event to prepare for the mid-terms.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey recently approved significant new investments in Arizona’s education system, including a 20 percent pay raise for the state’s teachers by the 2020 school year.

“This is a real win for our teachers, for our kids, for our educators in the classroom,” Governor Ducey said before signing the annual budget.

The 20 percent pay raise passed both chambers of the state legislature — but not without opposition from the vast majority of the Democratic caucus. Thirty-four Democratic lawmakers voted against the legislation. The Arizona Democratic Party and one of its candidates for governor opposed it. Hiral Tipirneni, the party’s candidate in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, opposed it as well.

The 34 Democrats voted to block the teacher pay raise on the morning of May 3. Only hours later, though, the Arizona Democratic Party hosted a “Happy Hour” at an uptown Scottsdale restaurant to prepare for the upcoming elections.

An invitation posted online shows that the state party hosted the mid-term event on the evening of May 3. It also posted photographs bragging about the event, which was attended by Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego. (Gallego was widely criticized earlier this year for calling the president “a psychopath.”)

The state Democratic Party hosted a similar “Happy Hour” event in Tempe less than one week later on the evening of May 9.

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VIDEO: Democrat Minority Whip Lupe Contreras Complains About His Job For 5 Full Minutes

PHOENIX — After Democratic State Senator Lupe Contreras voted against a 20 percent pay raise for Arizona’s teachers Thursday morning, he dismissed people criticizing him and said that they should try to do his job.

Contreras delivered a similar speech exactly one year ago today — except it was much longer.

On May 4, 2017, the Democrat taunted Arizonans from the floor — “come and do my job and then let’s talk” — and complained that “they’re not the ones having to push these two little buttons up here.”

The speech went on for 4-5 full minutes, so we decided to post the video and partial transcript as a new #FlashbackFriday segment.

TRANSCRIPT:

CONTRERAS: “I have a message for any one of you, any lobbyist that’s been in my office or any other person who has spoken to me about this vote that we’re doing today: Come and do my job and THEN let’s talk. It’s NOT as easy as everyone thinks it is . . .

“The calls we’ve gotten. The emails we’ve received. The people stopping us in the hallways telling us certain things, that we have to vote a certain way. Sorry, it’s NOT right.

I don’t care who you are — if you’re in this body or if you’re one of the lobbyists around here, wherever you’re at — it’s NOT right. If you think my job’s easy, COME DO IT. There’s an election every two years.

“If you want to make $24,000 a year, come do it. Leave your six-figure income or you’re high 60-, 70-, 80-, 90-thousand dollars a year income, and come down here and work for 24-k. Let’s see how you like it then.

“I’m getting a little tired of people trying to tell us how to do our jobs. But they’re not the ones HAVING TO PUSH THESE TWO LITTLE BUTTONS up here. I’ve kept quiet all night, and it comes to a point where we can’t be quiet anymore. I’ve had sleepless nights the last three days, missing my kid’s ball games because I’m having to deal with the stuff that’s going on over here, dealing with the emails, dealing with the calls, dealing with everything else and putting my family aside for this. TO BE RIDICULED? It’s not cool. It’s not right.

I’m getting a little a tired of this DISRESPECT we get as a body coming down here working hard for all of Arizona. And, for people just to look at us and say ‘Well, you’re the minority party. You gotta vote a certain way’ — no, I don’t. So that red button that I pushed up there. That’s for me, and that’s for EVERY person that said I had to do something a certain way. I don’t have to do it a certain way.”

Source: Senate Floor Session Part 12 – Third Reading #5, Time Stamp: 18:03, Arizona Capitol Television, 05/04/17

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34 Democrats vote against 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers

PHOENIX — State legislators successfully passed a budget package Thursday morning that includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers in Arizona — but not without opposition from 34 Democrats.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced a new plan three weeks ago to provide a 20 percent pay raise to teachers across the state by the 2020 school year. The plan — often abbreviated online as #20×2020 — called for an immediate 10 percent raise at the beginning of the 2018 school year, plus an additional five percent raise at the beginning of each of the next two school years.

The governor soon after hammered out the official budget agreement with Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.

After lengthy debate and an extensive amendment process that started Wednesday afternoon and continued into early Thursday morning, both chambers of the legislature passed their respective budget reconciliation packages with funding for K-12 education. The legislation was approved in the house by a vote of 33 to 26 and approved in the senate by a vote of 20 to 9.

House Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Lela Alston, Richard Andrade, Wenona Benally, Isela Blanc, Reginald Bolding, Kelli Butler, Mark Cardenas, Cesar Chavez, Ken Clark, Eric Descheenie, Kirsten Engel, Mitzi Epstein, Diego Espinoza, Charlene Fernandez, Randall Friese, Rosanna Gabaldon, Sally Ann Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Ray Martinez, Tony Navarrete, Gerae Peten, Pamela Powers Hannley, Rebecca Rios, Macario Saldate, and Athena Salman.

Senate Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Olivia Cajero Bedford, Lupe Contreras, Katie Hobbs, Juan Mendez, Robert Meza, Catherine Miranda, Lisa Otondo, Jamescita Peshlakai, and Martin Quezada.

The Democrats’ votes — especially after the party tried to align itself with the labor union’s #RedForEd movement — risk putting the opposing lawmakers at odds with teachers across the state, who will benefit from the 10 percent portion of the pay raise in only three months. A recent poll found that more than 75 percent of voters approve the governor’s plan.

The Arizona Democratic Party and labor union-backed Democrat David Garcia both oppose pay raise plan. Hiral Tipirneni, the Democrat who lost the April 2018 congressional race in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, also opposes the plan, calling it “quick and dirty.”

But not all Democrats felt the same way.

Democratic State Senator Steve Farley, the assistant minority leader running against Governor Ducey in November, voted to approve the budget package.

“You have $405,719,100 — I did the math in there, I checked it with my Democratic staff — this year alone,” said Senator Farley. “Unbelievable. What a way to celebrate my last budget night.”

Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee celebrated the pay raise package as “the largest increase in K-12 education spending since the Great Recession.” Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli pointed to the ‘no’ votes on the roll call screen — where ‘no’ votes are indicated in red lighting — and declared, referring to the union protests, “That is not ‘Red for Ed.’”

In a floor speech explaining his ‘yes’ vote, Republican State Representative Anthony Kern reminded teachers across the state that the 20 percent salary increase would not have happened if Democrats had their way obstructing its passage.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk,” said Representative Kern. “Talk is pretty cheap. It’s your vote that counts … If Republicans voted with the Democrats tonight, [teachers] would be walking away with $0.”

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard agreed.

“[The pay raises] are real,” said Speaker Mesnard. “I don’t know how we can make anyone believe it until they start materializing in your paychecks. But it is real. And, when that happens, remember this day. Remember who voted for it and remember who voted against it.”

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Debbie Lesko defeats Hiral Tipirneni in AZ-08 race

PHOENIX — Debbie Lesko officially defeated Democrat Hiral Tipirneni Tuesday night in the race for Arizona’s eighth congressional district.

The Associated Press called the race for Lesko, who received 53 percent of the vote to Tipirneni’s 47 percent after early-voting ballots were counted. The Arizona Secretary of State’s office will continue to report updated numbers as they come in.

Lesko, a Republican, served in the state legislature for ten years, overseeing many areas in the district that she will now represent as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She often touted this record on the campaign trail, speaking with constituents about her legislative achievements that range from allowing golf carts on the street to expanding Arizona’s successful school choice program.

Tipirneni, the Democratic candidate, mounted an uphill bid for the conservative district despite her candidacy having been dismissed by liberal pundits and abandoned by allied groups who didn’t want to spend money on a race that the party likely wouldn’t win.

The Democrat also faced several stumbles along the way, including her opposition to the 2017 tax relief package and her last-minute admission on MSNBC that she doesn’t oppose partial-birth abortions — which garnered widespread criticism.

The candidate also faced increased scrutiny after an ABC15 investigation questioned her professional history, discovering that, despite campaigning on her background as a physician, Tipirneni was named in a medical practice lawsuit and had not actually treated any patients since 2007.

Lesko, the Republican, appeared on national television early Tuesday morning, to praise the constituents she will now represent.

“This is a good district,” Lesko said. “We have lots of veterans. People that are very patriotic. They believe in lower taxes, less government regulation, and they want to secure the border. And I share their values.”

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Hiral Tipirneni defends partial-birth abortion

PHOENIX — During an otherwise low-key interview on television Sunday night, Hiral Tipirneni defended laws allowing partial-birth abortion and said that she doesn’t want Congress to legislate against the issue.

Tipirneni is running for the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district. Widely seen as an underdog, the Democrat is hoping to capitalize on liberal voters’ enthusiasm (in response to the Trump presidency) to score an upset in the deep-red district, where Republicans have a significant voter-registration advantage. The area extends from Litchfield Park to New River and includes the densely populated communities of Sun City West.

Tipirneni appeared on MSNBC for an interview about her campaign and was asked point-blank by Kasie Hunt, the host: “Would you support, for example, a ban on partial-birth abortion?”

The candidate responded by talking about her background as a physician — which itself has been the subject of scrutiny — but then defended the legality of the practice: “I truly do believe that that is a decision that should be between a woman, her partner, her physician, and her faith.”

“We know that we have Roe vs. Wade in place, and we want all of our legislation to be in alignment with that,” Tipirneni said, adding that Americans should focus on more “sex education in the classrooms” and making sure that women have “access to contraception.”

(Click Here To Watch The Exchange.)

Hunt then asked her a follow-up question, “Is there a point at which you do think that abortion should be limited?” to which Tipirneni gave a similar answer.

The Democrat said that late-term abortions — which, conducted during the later stages of pregnancy, are significantly more controversial among voters — are “based on medical input from very experienced physicians.”

“I don’t think that that is something we should be legislating,” Tipirneni said. “We need to let medical professionals make that decision . . .”

The admission during the uncomfortable, televised exchange could end up placing another barrier between the candidate and a potential victory Tuesday as Republicans ramp up their get-out-the-vote operations.

Tipirneni has long tried to paint herself as a moderate Democrat but has been criticized for her opposition to the tax relief package and U.S.-Mexico border wall — as well as her support for the Affordable Care Act, often known as “Obamacare.”

Tipirneni’s position on abortion was not common knowledge until the MSNBC appearance.

The interview came after a week-long media blitz, including the Democrat’s Q&A sessions on KAET Thursday evening and KSAZ early Sunday morning, when she announced her opposition to Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20 percent pay raise to teachers in Arizona.

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