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.


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.


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


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.”


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.”


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.


Hiral Tipirneni opposes Governor Ducey’s 20% teacher pay raise plan

PHOENIX — Hiral Tipirneni admitted Sunday morning that she opposes Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20 percent pay raise to teachers in Arizona.

Governor Ducey recently announced the plan, which will provide a 20 percent pay increase to teachers across to state by the 2020 school year. That includes an immediate 10 percent salary increase at the beginning of the Fall 2018 school year and an additional five percent for each of the two school years after that.

Tipirneni, a Democrat running for the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, made the admission that she opposes it during an appearance on KSAZ’s “Newsmaker Sunday.”

When asked about Governor Ducey’s plan and whether he should “be given a chance” to solve the issue of teacher pay, the Democrat responded that she was aware of the “recent effort by our governor to propose salary raises” but dismissed the idea as too “quick and dirty.”

“I don’t think you can throw this sort of quick and dirty solution at it and think it’s going to fly,” Tipirneni said.

(Click Here To Watch The Exchange.)

The Arizona Democratic Party, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia, and the union boss backing them said that they oppose the plan as well, a decision that was mocked in the press as a knee-jerk display of partisanship. The union has long pushed for a statewide teacher strike, and, despite teachers receiving a 20 percent pay increase, the union said that it will move forward with a strike regardless.

Families did not react well to the walk-out that closed several schools last month. One parent complained that “it takes away from the kids” and that her son would suffer from “the repercussion” of the decision. A grandmother who looked after her grandchildren agreed, saying, “It bothers me a lot.”

The plan, currently being debated in the state legislature, has garnered significant support from education advocates and business organizations across the state. The Governor’s Office created a new page on its website touting support from teachers, superintendents, and other school officials, too.

Debbie Lesko, a former state senator and the Republican running against Tipirneni in the U.S. House race, called Governor Ducey’s 20 percent pay raise plan “a fair proposal,” adding: “I really hope the teachers don’t walk out because that’s going to hurt the students.”


Hiral Tipirneni, under fire: “I did not profit from” Obamacare

PHOENIX — Congressional candidate Hiral Tipirneni claimed during an interview this week that she “did not profit” from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, attempting to push back on recent criticism to the contrary.

Tipirneni appeared on “Arizona Horizon” Thursday night to talk about her uphill bid for the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district.

Even though liberal pundits and allied outside groups have largely given up on the party’s chances in the conservative district, the Democratic candidate said that she believes the race is winnable — not just a symbolic bid to make a point.

When pressed by host Ted Simons over criticism that she financially benefited from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — often known as “Obamacare” — Tipirneni responded that it was “political mud-slinging” and “not even worthy of response.”

“I did not profit from it,” she said. “The company has other arms. That has no connection to me. My work has never had anything to do directly with the ACA.”

The truth is a little more blurry.

The company that Tipirneni referred to — SRA International — received a lucrative $92 million contract under the Obama administration in part to help implement the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic candidate has worked as a Scientific Review Officer at SRA International since 2010. Republicans point to her $1.5 million home — fitted with a large pool, tennis court, and solar panels — as proof that the Democrat made a fortune in the private sector.

Tipirneni has been an outspoken supporter of President Obama’s health care overhaul on the campaign trail and often argues that the government should implement a “public option” to supplement it. The proposal for a “Medicare-for-all” system is popular among supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, for which Tipirneni’s opponent, Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko, has criticized her as fiscally irresponsible.

“How are you going to pay for this?” Lesko asked during a recent debate. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I want to give free things to everybody’ and not have a way to pay for it.”

Tipirneni’s career as a physician has been scrutinized as well. While shown wearing medical scrubs and interacting with patients in campaign ads, an ABC15 investigation revealed that the Democrat had not actually treated any patients in about 11 years and was mentioned in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Both candidates recently released campaign-finance reports for the latest filing period. Tipirneni, despite pledging to reject influence from lobbyists, received thousands of dollars from lawyers and lobbyists between February 8 and April 4, including a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The general election is on Tuesday, April 24.