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.