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 Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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Steve Farley votes for 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers: “What a way to celebrate my last budget night”

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.”

A version of this article appears at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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