Arizona Democratic governor hopefuls debate immigration, schools
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Three Democrats vying to become Arizona’s next governor staked out stances on immigration Tuesday that contrast sharply with sitting Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
State Sen. Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia have previously said they would withdraw National Guard troops from the border, while Ducey has stood by his decision to send troops there.
During a debate Tuesday night, they were asked about the relationship between Arizona and the state of Sonora in Mexico in light of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Farley, who has spent more than a decade in the state legislature, emphasized the economic boost that Arizona’s proximity to Mexico provides, and vowed to fight plans for a border wall.
“Trump’s wall is a wall between us and our economic future and it has to be resisted,” he said. “It’s not doing anything to help our border security whatsoever.”
Fryer, a minister who has served as the CEO of the YWCA Southwest Arizona, says she would end the state’s law enforcement collaboration with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. She also said the Trump administration’s “reprehensible” border policy stems from a deeper issue.
“It is rooted in the racism and xenophobia that has been a part of our immigration system for decades, for centuries,” she said.
Garcia said he’d be a governor who could pitch Arizona to the Sonoran governor in Spanish – and he urged an end to “these scare tactics and this fear mongering” over immigration.
“We’re in a situation right now where immigration is that dog whistle issue and it’s the one that gets people fired up, and the one that Republicans have used over and over again for their political advantage,” he said. “That ends when I am governor.”
Ducey has been vocal about his role as a border state governor during his re-election bid. He’s pointed to the Border State Task Force, a collaboration among law enforcement agencies to respond to trafficking. On Tuesday, Ducey wrote an editorial that appeared in USA Today where he described calls to abolish ICE as “reckless.” He said the agency is “a lifeline” for border communities.
“For Arizonans, border security is critical,” the op-ed said. “And that’s because, at the end of the day, it’s about national security. That’s something we should all be able to agree on, no matter our party affiliation.”
Nearly 200 people attended Tuesday night’s debate in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.
Ayshia Connors, spokeswoman for the Arizona GOP, said the debate “only provided further proof that we are witnessing the most extreme candidates for governor in Arizona history.”
The debate also dove into the candidates’ stances on education funding; a key issue after teachers went on a six-day walkout this spring.
Ducey signed a budget that included his proposal for a 20 percent teacher raise over three years plus other education funding bumps. But many protesting teachers said that wasn’t enough. Some began supporting a ballot initiative to raise taxes on wealthy earners for more school funding called the Invest in Education Act.
Farley said that plan doesn’t go far enough to get more money for schools, and he proposes eliminating $3 billion worth of corporate sales tax loopholes to lower the sales tax rate by a percent and boost education funding.
Fryer says in addition to supporting the Invest in Education Act, she wants to eliminate the amount of money that goes to charter schools by making them “transparent, accountable and rare.”
Garcia, an education professor and military veteran who used to work for the state Department of Education, also supports the Invest In Education Act and eliminating corporate loopholes – as well as changing testing policies.
Ducey faces a challenger in the Republican primary, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett. The primary is August 28.