Rallies for and against Proposition 100 set up at the Capitol on Friday, chanting at each other across the mall and showing their support for the cameras.
The two rallies started at nearly the same time, with Sen. Thayer Verschoor’s Ax the Tax campaign, which drew nearly 100 people, opening with former congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth, who emceed the event. The Yes on 100 campaign started its speeches a little later, though its chants of “Save our schools,” “Just one cent” and “For our kids” could be heard while Verschoor and others spoke against the temporary one-cent sales tax increase that goes before voters on May 18. The anti-tax group countered the Yes on 100 crowd with chants of “Ax the tax.”
“That’s the kind of intimidation that the Yes on 100 folks are using all over the state,” Verschoor said.
Yes on 100, which drew more than 50 supporters, was focused solely on the special election, while the anti-tax rally combined tea party activism, campaign activities and, of course, a keynote speech by Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who became a political celebrity while campaigning for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Hayworth supporters waved signs and sold buttons, while Republican gubernatorial candidates Buz Mills and state Treasurer Dean Martin set up tables to collect petition signatures. Mills attended the event but did not speak.
Wurzelbacher said little about Prop. 100, but spoke about the need for tea party activists and likeminded people to dedicate themselves to their cause.
“You were blessed enough to be born in the greatest country in the world. There’s a responsibility that comes with that,” he said. “John Adams had to ride a horse in the dead of winter over 400 miles through freezing weather to go take a meeting. Think about that for a second. That was his commitment level. What is your commitment level?”
Along with Wurzelbacher, Hayworth and Verschoor, the Ax the Tax rally featured speeches by former gubernatorial hopeful Don Goldwater, Americans For Prosperity-Arizona head Tom Jenney, local tea party leaders Ron Ludders and Wes Harris, and Farrell Quinlan, director of the Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. About a dozen Republican lawmakers were in the crowd, but didn’t speak.
While Ax the Tax had Joe the Plumber, the Yes on 100 campaign touted itself as having the support of “average Joes,” several of whom were teachers who spoke at the event. Jo Bell, an English teacher in Gilbert, railed against the Legislature and governor’s scrapping of Arizona’s all-day kindergarten program, while Mesa Skyline High School government teacher Joe Thomas said Prop. 100 had the support of Arizonans, not just Ohioans like Wurzelbacher.
“Our students who do not have all-day kindergarten will not be as prepared,” Bell said. “Our legislators are taking that away from our kids. They are taking away that opportunity for success.”
Consultant Max Fose, of the Yes on 100 campaign, said his group decided to hold its rally at the same time as the highly publicized Joe the Plumber appearance to emphasize who was supporting the sales tax hike
“We’ll take teachers, parents and people who care about education in Arizona anytime over someone from Ohio,” Fose said.