David Garcia, Democratic Party oppose Governor Ducey’s 20% teacher pay raise plan

PHOENIX — Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia and the state Democratic Party are both pushing back against Governor Doug Ducey’s proposal to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent pay raise.

Governor Ducey, a Republican, announced a new plan Thursday to give a significant pay raise to teachers across Arizona. The plan includes an immediate 10 percent increase in salary, effective at the beginning of the Fall 2018 school year, and 5 percent increases at the beginning of each of the next two years — for a total of a 20 percent raise.

The investment is in addition to the governor’s proposal to fully restore recession-era funding cuts to education, which he announced earlier this year.

The Arizona Democratic Party issued a press release dismissing the plan as a “bandage.”

“There’s no doubt Arizona’s teachers deserve a respectful wage, but Ducey’s pay raise proposal is the sort of ‘political theater’ that only vulnerable governors pull on an election year,” Herschel Fink, the party’s executive director, said.

Laurie Roberts, a liberal columnist with the Arizona Republic, mocked the Democratic Party’s characterization on social media.

“Democratic Party just called @DougDucey’s 3-yr plan to raise teacher pay by 19% ‘a bandage,’” Roberts tweeted in response. “Seriously?”

Hank Stephenson, a K-12 education policy reporter at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, agreed.

“lol Dems are so mad rn Ducey just took just gave them what they wanted and now they have no campaign talking points,” Stephenson tweeted.

David Garcia, one of the Democrats running against Governor Ducey in 2018, said that the proposal did not pass the smell test for him and might be “robbing from other needs” in the budget. “We do not give Doug Ducey the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Garcia has faced intense scrutiny over the past several weeks for his role in politicizing the #RedForEd movement, which critics saw as an attempt to benefit his campaign. The Democrat was confronted on the radio for “making it political” and having “trampled on #RedForEd’ Day” in March. Garcia lost the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers, a union headed by Randi Weingarten, to his Democratic primary opponent one week later.

State Senator Steve Farley, Garcia’s opponent, offered a more measured response to Governor Ducey’s plan, praising it as a “first step.”

“While it looks like we may have turned the battle in our favor, the fight is never over,” he said.

When interviewed last month about the prospect of a teachers union strike, Farley initially refused to answer the question directly.

He responded that it was “hard to tell” if such a strike would be counterproductive but ultimately said: “If the teachers are leaning in this direction and we’re not getting any action when it comes to the legislature, then we should support where the teachers are going.”

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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ABC15 investigation questions Hiral Tipirneni’s resume

PHOENIX — A new investigation into Hiral Tipirneni’s work history has raised questions about whether the congressional candidate inflated her professional resume on the campaign trail.

The investigative segment, aired by ABC15 on Tuesday evening, opened with an eyebrow-raising statement: “You could call Hiral Tipirneni ‘a doctor.’ Just don’t try getting an appointment.”

Tipirneni, a Democrat running for the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, has not shied away from touting her work as a physician during campaign events, at candidate forums, and in television ads.

But ABC15’s investigation found that, while Tipirneni may be wearing medical scrubs and interacting with patients in those campaign ads, the candidate has not actually treated any patients since 2007. That’s more than a decade ago.

The station also discovered the Democrat’s name in court filings related to medical malpractice claims.

“The last month of Tipirneni’s tenure as an ER doctor included settling a malpractice lawsuit,” ABC15’s reporter continued. “The plaintiff, an elderly woman, suffered a leg wound in 2001 and went to what’s now Banner University hospital. The woman accused Tipirneni and the ER doctor group there of failing to give her a medically necessary tetanus immunization, and she actually got tetanus, went into a coma, and had life-long injuries and disability.”

(Click Here To Watch The Investigative Segment.)

The station followed up by asking, then, whether it is “disingenuous” for her to appear in political ads wearing scrubs, to which Tipirneni responded “no.”

The Democrat’s longtime claim that she is a “cancer research advocate” is true — with an emphasis on the “advocate.” Tipirneni does not actually perform any research herself but rather “worked for a company that pairs medical researchers with groups (or the government) that fund medical research,” according to ABC15’s reporter. (One of her responsibilities was speaking engagements.)

The company she worked for received a lucrative $92 million contract during the Obama administration to help implement the Affordable Care Act, often known as “Obamacare.” Critics have pointed to the company’s contract as a potential conflict of interest, citing Tipirneni’s steadfast support for President Obama’s controversial health care law.

Groups tied to the Democratic Party have largely abandoned Tipirneni’s congressional bid, and the Democrat recently has tried to separate herself from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, refusing to commit to supporting the party’s embattled leader despite supporting her congressional agenda.

Tipirneni will face Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko on April 24.

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Hiral Tipirneni won’t “commit” to supporting Nancy Pelosi — but largely supports Pelosi’s agenda

PHOENIX — Democratic congressional candidate Hiral Tipirneni wouldn’t commit to supporting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during an interview this week, but she has largely supported the Democratic leader’s agenda.

In a new article Tuesday about the U.S. House race in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, NBC News reported that the Democrat “declined to commit to supporting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if elected.”

“I don’t know who’s going to throw their hat in the ring,” Tipirneni said during the interview.

Tipirneni’s decision to distance herself from the embattled Democratic leader comes only one week after the candidate was mocked as out-of-touch for claiming that $1,200 tax-reform bonuses are “not going to cover anything” for American workers. Her dismissal of a $1,200 bonus was compared to Pelosi’s infamous gaffe in January 2018, when she dismissed similar tax-reform bonuses as “crumbs.”

However, despite keeping herself at arm’s-length on the campaign trail this week, Tipirneni has supported the Democratic leader’s agenda on policies ranging from tax reform to health care and immigration.

On tax reform, Pelosi has expressed support for repealing the legislation, which she has repeatedly criticized since before its passage. Tipirneni has used similar language to criticize the tax package, calling it “a Trojan horse.”

On health care, both Pelosi and Tipirneni have walked a fine rhetorical line between the Affordable Care Act and a single-payer system. In 2009, before the passage of President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Democratic leader said that the bill would need to include “a strong public option” in order to pass the U.S. House, but Pelosi has not yet endorsed the “Medicare-for-all” system proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders.

Tipirneni also suggested implementing a “public option” during a recent candidate forum but pushed back on the assertion that she supports a “Medicare-for-all” system. (The Democrat tried to distinguish her support for “universal coverage” from “universal health care,” which her Republican opponent, former state senator Debbie Lesko, dismissed as political “semantics.”)

On immigration, Pelosi has criticized the president’s proposal for a border wall as “immoral” and said in April 2017 that “building a wall is not an answer.” Tipirieni echoed those comments during a March 2018 interview on 3TV, during which she said that “the wall is not the answer.”

Outside groups tied to the Democratic Party have for the most part abandoned Tipirneni’s candidacy. It was reported last week in the Arizona Capitol Times that the party has left the Democrat “to fend for herself” in the conservative district at a crucial time before Election Day.

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Exclusive: State Senator Juan Mendez’s plagiarism went on for 5 years

PHOENIX — For five full years, if not longer, Democratic State Senator Juan Mendez repeatedly plagiarized his floor speeches, committee speeches, and online commentary in his capacity as an elected official, Arizona Democrats Exposed can now reveal for the first time.

Last Tuesday, this website reported that Mendez, while serving as a state representative for Arizona’s 26th legislative district, plagiarized a significant portion of a candidate questionnaire in 2016 while campaigning for his current position in the state senate. The candidate copied and pasted blocks of text from already-published sources, ranging from Planned Parenthood to media outlets across the state, and claimed them as his own words.

This website then reported on Thursday that Mendez additionally plagiarized several paragraphs of a committee speech that he delivered in opposition to Arizona’s “right to try” health care legislation. The Democratic lawmaker, whose district includes the academic institutions of Tempe, told his colleagues that he had “consulted experts” before arriving at his ‘no’ vote.

In reality, he did not. His speech, along with the name of the “expert” whom he allegedly consulted, was derived in part from a conspiracy theory website — which once implied that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax — and in part from an Internet post published by a Wikipedia user named “WhatamIdoing” in 2008.

Today, Arizona Democrats Exposed can reveal exclusively that Mendez’s plagiarism did not start during that committee hearing in 2014, nor did it end with his candidate questionnaire in 2016.

According to transcripts and videos of several years’ worth of committee hearings and speeches on the floor of the Arizona state legislature, Mendez repeatedly plagiarized already-published sources — claiming them as his own before colleagues — from at least early 2014 through 2018, the current legislative session.

In February 2014, Mendez attended a hearing of the House Reform and Human Services Committee regarding House Bill 2234.

“I would hate for staff to take responsibility for my typos and bad grammar,” Mendez told members of the committee in his opening line. “These are my explanations.”

What followed was praise from the state representative about the Medicaid expansion signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in 2013. He touted the “end to lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits” and said that it was “now illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel your health insurance just because you get sick.”

Those words — along with others from his committee speech — were pulled without attribution from an archived page on the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website promoting the Affordable Care Act. The website highlighted that the law “ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits” and makes it “illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel your health insurance just because you get sick.”

Mendez merely re-ordered the bullet points to give the speech the false appearance of originality.

That same month, this time on the House floor, Mendez spoke about his opposition to House Bill 2153.

“This bill allows individuals and businesses in our state to discriminate against people they do not agree with in the name of the religious freedom, resulting in increased vulnerabilities for non-believers, the LGBTQ community, and others on the targeted list of religionists,” Mendez said into the microphone.

A group called the Secular Coalition for Arizona published the same words — one year earlier. About a different bill.

The bill “expands the ability of individuals in our state to discriminate against people they don’t agree with in the name of religious belief–resulting in increased vulnerability for nonbelievers, the LGBT community, and others on the target list of religionists,” the website wrote in 2013.

Much like in the Democratic lawmaker’s candidate questionnaire and other speeches, Mendez subtly altered words and phrases, perhaps as a way of evading detection by plagiarism-checking services. In the example above, Mendez simply added the phrase “and businesses” after “individuals,” broke up the compound word “don’t” into “do not,” and turned the singular word “vulnerability” into the plural form.

About 180 words from this committee speech, in addition to the quotation above, were pulled nearly verbatim from the group’s website. Somewhere in the middle of those excerpts, Mendez added two sentences that do not appear on the website.

“This legislation will grant for-profit corporations with a powerful affirmative defense to not have to acknowledge any state law which the corporation deems religiously offensive,” the lawmaker said. “In an effort to allow economic power to dictate the free exercise of religion, Chik-fil-A and Hobby Lobby were just the most brazen before this law.”

However, while those two sentences don’t appear on the aforementioned website, they do appear in a letter written by the Anti-Defamation League weeks earlier. The letter criticized the legislation for providing companies “a powerful affirmative defense to the enforcement of any state law” (“enforcement,” compared to Mendez’s “acknowledgement”) and said that it could have the unintended consequence of “allowing economic power to dictate the free exercise of religion.”

Mendez merely tacked on his own commentary at the end of the sentence about Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby.

That same month, Mendez spoke at another committee hearing regarding House Bill 2367.

“Health care must be respected as a public good for all, financed publicly and equitably,” Mendez told members of the committee, adding that health care “must be accessible, available, acceptable, and of good quality for everyone on an equitable basis where and when needed.”

That, too, was published by a group called the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative in 2013, the year before this hearing took place. Mendez substituted “respected” in place of the group’s original word, “provided.” And not only did Mendez plagiarize the group’s website for his committee speech, he recycled the committee speech itself during the next legislative session, using it again — including the plagiarized portions — while reviewing a different bill one year later.

“Health care in Arizona must be respected as a public good for all, financed publicly and equitably,” Mendez repeated in 2015, adding that health care services “must be accessible, available, acceptable, and of good quality for everyone on an equitable basis where and when they need it, not just for five years.”

This time, Mendez made more minor alternations: He added the phrase “in Arizona” to the beginning of the sentence, changed “when needed” to “when they need it,” and tacked five words of his own commentary onto the end. The following 80 or so words also are recycled from that 2014 committee speech.

This wasn’t the only instance that Mendez plagiarized in 2015, either.

In March of that year, Mendez delivered a floor speech about Senate Bill 1047, which increased confidentiality protections for individuals who win the lottery.

“I will be supporting this bill, but I would like to come out and share with everybody that I believe lotteries are the single most insidious way that our state government raises money,” Mendez said on the Senate floor. “Many of the people who buy lottery tickets are not financially well-off, and the odds against winning a big jackpot are astronomically poor, far worse than the odds of a Vegas slot machine. All of this makes the get-rich-quick marketing by our government mean and offensive.”

Again, this text was plagiarized almost word-for-word from a column published by Joe Nocera, a writer at the New York Times, in 2012.

Nocera referred to “state governments,” while Mendez changed it to “our state government.” Nocera characterized the odds against winning the lottery as “astronomical,” while Mendez changed it “astronomically poor.” Nocera compared the odds to “an Atlantic City slot machine,” while Mendez changed it to “a Vegas slot machine.”

Mendez’s stolen paragraphs would not have been detected by most plagiarism-checking services because of his decision to intentionally manipulate portions of the text.

The behavior did not stop after the lawmaker plagiarized his candidate questionnaire in 2016.

In April 2017, as state legislators debated expanding school choice through Arizona’s empowerment scholarship account program, Mendez voiced his opposition to the legislation — ultimately signed by Governor Doug Ducey — on the Senate floor.

“ESAs allow students to re-arrange themselves within, across, and entirely outside districts in ways that courts would never have allowed a district to do so,” Mendez said.

An op-ed that appeared in the Arizona Daily Star two years earlier made a very similar criticism: Families are “re-arranging themselves within, across and entirely outside districts in ways that some government agency or the court never would have permitted of TUSD,” the original author wrote in August 2015.

In Mendez’s plagiarized version, the phrase “some government agency or the court” was condensed into “courts,” and the word “permitted” changed to “allowed.”

Other portions of his floor speech were stolen from a Web page published by the Children’s Action Alliance in 2016, an article written by reporters at the Arizona Republic, also in 2016, and an archived version of a blog post published on a website called Bringing Up Arizona in July 2015.

According to that July 2015 article, “When it comes to education, ‘white flight’ no longer requires a moving van.” Mendez echoed that: “[R]ight now with the ESAs it’s pretty easy see you don’t even need a moving van for our evolved version of white flight,” he quipped.

In his May 2017 floor speech regarding Senate Bill 1525, Mendez also appears to have copied an article published by the Arizona Sonora News Service in February 2016. That article was written by a student journalist who, at the time, attended the University of Arizona.

Mendez has worked as a substitute teacher on the side.

The plagiarism also was not contained to the state legislature. This website identified instances online in which Mendez plagiarized online commentary in his capacity as an elected official.

The state representative recycled his May 2014 committee speech — which itself was plagiarized from a conspiracy theory website, as detailed above — in a series of posts on Reddit. Mendez told users that he was “working off my phone without much at service” but managed again to plagiarize from the aforementioned website and Wikipedia, both published in 2008.

In his online answer, Mendez plagiarized from a third source.

“Most cancer patients are deemed ineligible for drug trials beyond phase I testing because drug corps are looking for the healthiest patients at the earliest point in their disease to give the highest probability of a positive outcome in order to fulfill regulatory requirements.”

This text appeared in a BBC News article published seven years earlier.

“He points out that most cancer patients are deemed ineligible for drug trials beyond phase I testing – these tend to enlist the healthiest patients at the earliest point in their disease to give the highest probability of a positive outcome to fulfil regulatory requirements,” the London-based news outlet wrote in September 2007.

Mendez copied-and-pasted portions of an additional Reddit post in October 2014 inviting users to a movie screening hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona at the office of Congressman Ruben Gallego. More than half of his post was plagiarized from two separate pages on the website of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

This pattern of repeated plagiarism, which has not been reported until now on Arizona Democrats Exposed, went on in at least five of the six years during which Mendez has served in the state legislature.

It is possible that more examples of plagiarism occurred throughout these years but have not yet been found.

“It only takes 300 Republican signatures to run against me in the general and nobody even tried anything this election,” Mendez bragged in one of those Reddit posts. “I don’t think there will be that big of a line to run against me in 2018.”

You can view the substantiating research at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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