The 2020 race for Legislative District 26’s state Senate seat is on with the emergence of an unexpected primary challenge.
Rep. Isela Blanc announced today that she will run for the district’s Senate seat in 2020, setting up a primary battle with her fellow Tempe Democrat, incumbent Sen. Juan Mendez.
“I grew up in this district, raised my family here and it’s here where I want to continue fighting for our communities. I will continue to be a fierce advocate. #unbossed #unbought #unapologetic,” she tweeted today.
The decision came as a shock to Mendez and her seatment in the House, Rep. Athena Salman, neither of whom were given a chance to weigh in before Blanc declared her candidacy.
Mendez said Blanc did make a courtesy call of sorts before her public declaration.
“Her courtesy call was pretty much to just tell me that she had decided to do this and that this was in our best interest, for all of us,” he said, noting she made the call Friday on her way to file paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Blanc did not immediately return a call for comment.
The trio teamed up in 2016 and remained a united front until something went awry after last year’s election.
“She broke up with us in December. We literally got a text that our relationship has changed and we need to talk,” Mendez said.
They all met and agreed not to run another coordinated campaign. But when Mendez and Salman tried to put a plan for their seats in writing, Blanc would not participate, Mendez said.
Instead, she seems to have expected him to go along with her decision and swap seats, Mendez said. He told the Arizona Capitol Times he absolutely intends to run for re-election to the Senate.
“This was just her unilateral decision that we were going to move,” he said. “I was under the impression that I was going to be here for at least another term.”
He recalled telling Blanc Friday that he does miss the House, but insisted he never gave her any confirmation that he go along with her “weird power-move flex.”
Correction/clarification: This story has been revised to eliminate incorrect information that Blanc was using private campaign financing instead of public financing. The error was the result of a lag time for information to travel between the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission and the Secretary of State. The eliminated portion of the story also included a history of Blanc’s use of public campaign funding and a verbatim quote from Mendez questioning Blanc’s values. Rep. Blanc will receive public funding through the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.