Randi Weingarten, head of teachers union backing Steve Farley, deleted pro-Ducey tweet

PHOENIX — Randi Weingarten, the president of a teachers union backing State Senator Steve Farley’s gubernatorial bid, quietly deleted a tweet praising Republican Governor Doug Ducey.

Farley, a Democrat, announced in a fundraising email Monday that he had officially received an endorsement from the Arizona branch of Weingarten’s union.

“Exciting news!” the campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “American Federation of Teachers Arizona has endorsed Steve for governor.”

Weingarten has longstanding ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The union endorsed Clinton’s presidential bid in July 2015, calling her “the champion of working families need in the White House.” The endorsement, only three months after Clinton announced her candidacy, drew criticism from supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dismissed the support as rushed and political.

Farley cited his own endorsement as proof that “we won’t improve K-12 education until we get rid of Doug Ducey.” What the Democratic state senator failed to mention, though, is that Weingarten applauded the governor’s education strategy.

In January 2017, when Governor Ducey announced a new plan for the state of Arizona to restore recession-era funding cuts to education, Weingarten immediately praised the plan social media.

“Good news for Arizona!” she tweeted. “Gov. Doug Ducey just said he plans to add $100 million in new K-12 education funding this year as a down-payment on the full restoration of a school capital funding formula that was slashed during the Great Recession.”

However, Weingarten quietly deleted the tweet, which no longer appears online. The Farley Report obtained a screenshot of that now-deleted tweet. The tweet can be seen above.

When asked last week if he would support a teachers strike, Farley responded that it was “hard to tell” if such an act would be counterproductive but added: “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.”

Farley recently lost the endorsement of another teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, to his Democratic primary opponent David Garcia. Garcia was roundly criticized for announcing the endorsement in the middle of an unrelated grassroots effort organized by teachers. The Arizona State University professor was called-out on the radio for having “trampled on” the effort by turning it into a campaign event without their knowledge.

“Since I came into the Governor’s Office three years ago in 2015, we have $1.7 billion additional dollars,” Governor Ducey said on KTAR radio this week. “Our per-pupil spending is up 10 percent in the state of Arizona, and the amount of dollars available for teacher pay — that’s both raises and new teachers — is plus-9 percent since 2015.”

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

###

Arizona Democrats face uphill battle in 2018

PHOENIX — Only a few months ago, Democrats across the United States looked at the national landscape and felt a twinge of optimism.

The unexpected victory of President Donald Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a blight on the party’s organizing efforts in 2016. Her loss drained the confidence of the Democratic Party’s biggest financial contributors, led to a messy leadership overhaul within the Democratic National Committee, and raised several questions internally, and often publicly, about the ideological direction that the party should take in order to get back on its feet.

It also presented an opportunity.

The Democratic Party — long expecting to enter the 2018 midterm elections as the underdog, defending a number of U.S. Senate seats while governing under an unpopular President Hillary Clinton — suddenly enjoyed the advantage of a deeply polarizing Republican figure in the White House.

For the Arizona Democratic Party, regionally-felt issues like the administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could be used mobilize thousands of Hispanic voters in the southwest, with the aim of turning a traditionally red state blue. U.S. Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) decision in October 2017 that he would not seek reelection fanned the flames of that momentum.

Three months after Senator Flake’s announcement, though, that momentum is nowhere to be found.

The three officials expected to be at the top of the ticket in Arizona — Governor Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, and Attorney General Mark Brnovich — have significant cash advantages over their prospective Democratic opponents. None face Republican primary challengers, either, virtually guaranteeing that the three officials will enter the general election unscathed and with plenty of money to spend.

U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), currently running for U.S. Senate, was expected to face former State Senator Kelli Ward after Senator Flake dropped out. Many operatives have aimed to portray Ward as a weak general-election candidate whose presence would convince Democratic donors to invest in the race, in turn buoying down-ballot candidates. However, it is increasingly clear that the Democrat will be facing a stronger opponent: U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), an Air Force veteran and one of the Republican Party’s strongest fundraisers who has represented a swing-district in southern Arizona since 2015.

Representative McSally announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in January 2018.

Representative Sinema’s candidacy, meanwhile, has been under a dark cloud since it was revealed last year that she accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial website Backpage, which in March 2016 was held in contempt by the chamber to which she is seeking election. (She donated the contributions after media reports surfaced.)

Additionally, President Trump’s first year in office has not been the effective voter-registration tool that the Democratic Party assumed it would be. According to data released by the Secretary of State’s office, the percentage of Republican voters in the state has actually increased since the 2016 election while percentage of Democratic voters has fallen, expanding an existing gap that already gave Republicans an advantage.

In what may have been an otherwise politically tumultuous year for Republicans, their success in passing a decades-in-waiting tax reform package, repealing the individual mandate, opening new land to energy exploration, and confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is certain to boost the energy of Republican voters and the confidence of the party’s most generous contributors — leaving Democrats heading into the midterm elections exactly where they were before Election Day 2016.

###