Dem urges ethics probe of Finchem at Capitol protest

Wearing a face covering and sitting among socially-distanced plexiglass, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, sits at his desk during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Wearing a face covering and sitting among socially-distanced plexiglass, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, sits at his desk during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Rep. Cesar Chavez, D-Phoenix, is asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate and possibly expel an Oro Valley Republican who was in Washington D.C. during a protest against the presidential election results that led to a pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol and several deaths.

“Based on my personal knowledge of news articles and social media posts, including those of Representative Finchem himself, I believe that Representative Finchem failed to uphold his oath of office and has demonstrated that he may lack the ethical and moral values to be an elected member of this body,” Chavez wrote in a letter to Ethics Committee Chairwoman Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton.

Chavez’ letter comes on the heels of one House and Senate Democrats sent to the FBI on January 13 asking for an investigation of the actions of Finchem and three other Arizona Republican politicians who were in D.C. for the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally.

Finchem denies witnessing or taking part in violence or anything illegal. In a statement January 11, he said he was there to “deliver an evidence book and letter to Vice President Pence showing key evidence of fraud in the Arizona presidential election” and ask him to delay certifying the state’s electoral vote. He said he didn’t learn about the mob breaking into the Capitol until around 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and blamed the violence on Antifa infiltrators posing as Trump supporters.

“To connect my presence to speak in the company of other elected officials at a properly permitted public event at the Capitol event with ‘leading an insurrection,’ or that walking with the crowd to the Capitol can be construed as anything other than an exercise of my First Amendment right to free speech it is utterly absurd,” Finchem wrote.

Finchem declined to comment to the Arizona Capitol Times about the January 13 letter and he was not immediately available to comment on the ethics complaint.

Chavez accuses Finchem of violating the part of his oath of office pledging to defend the state and federal constitutions against “all enemies, foreign and domestic,” citing Arizona law criminalizing advocating overthrowing the government by “force, violence or terrorism,” as well as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was written after the Civil War and bars government officials who supported a rebellion against the U.S. government from holding office in the future.

Chavez urges the Ethics Committee to “conduct a full investigation into Representative Finchem’s actions, and should it find that he supported the violent overthrow of our government, the ethics committee should recommend immediate expulsion.”

Nutt’s office referred the Capitol Times to Andrew Wilder, spokesman for the House Republicans.

“The first step is the Ethics chairman will receive and review the complaint and make a decision at that point at what the next steps might be,” Wilder said.


Democrats seek ouster of Republican Finchem

Democratic Rep. Athena Salman on Monday introduces a resolution to expel Republican Mark Finchem from the House based on his activities before and including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Democratic Rep. Athena Salman on Monday introduces a resolution to expel Republican Mark Finchem from the House based on his activities before and including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Rep. Athena Salman and 22 other House Democrats introduced a resolution Monday to expel Rep. Mark Finchem from the body.

“Every day the member remains in office is a threat to the Arizona House of Representatives, a threat to national security and a threat to our democracy,” Salman, a Tempe Democrat, said at a news conference.

Finchem, R-Oro Valley, was a vocal supporter after the election of efforts to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona. He was in Washington, D.C. to speak on Jan. 6 and he had planned to deliver evidence of fraud in Arizona to Vice President Mike Pence. Although Finchem said he wasn’t near the Capitol when a pro-Trump mob stormed it trying to stop the certification of the electoral vote, he said he learned of it hours later and put out a statement blaming the violence on Antifa.

Since then, Democrats have been trying to keep the spotlight on Finchem’s role in challenging the election results and in the Jan. 6 riot that led to five deaths. House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to the FBI on Jan. 13 asking the bureau to investigate Finchem’s conduct, and Rep. Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, on Jan. 14 formally called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Finchem’s actions and possibly recommend his expulsion.

Salman, who is leading the effort, conceded under questioning that many of the individual allegations detailed in what was introduced as HR 2006, by themselves, might not rise to the level of her contention that the conduct of the Oro Valley Republican “was dishonorable and unbecoming of a member of the House.” She also contends that his activities “undermine the public confidence in this institution and violated the order and decorum necessary to complete the people’s work.”

“When you look at these things in a vacuum, sure, they can appear random,” she said,  But Salman said that, taken together, they amount to evidence that Finchem “participated in, encouraged and incited the events of Jan.6,” making him complicit of “insurrection and rebellion” and therefore unqualified to serve.

Finchem declined to comment “on advice of counsel.”

He already has obtained legal representation in connection with at least one issue not now in Salman’s bill of particulars: his refusal to turn over text messages sought as part of a public records request. His attorney, Alexanader Kolodin — the same lawyer who filed lawsuits to challenge the results of the Arizona election — argued that the messages are on their own personal devices and therefore not public.

Although several dozen people, many of them residents of Finchem’s Legislative District 11, have filed complaints with the committee also calling for an investigation, it has not scheduled any hearings or taken any other action on the matter yet. Salman said the FBI has acknowledged receiving the Democrats’ letter but she hasn’t heard anything else. She acknowledged that the apparent disinclination from House Republicans, who hold a 31-29 majority, to act on the Democrats’ complaints could be an obstacle.

“The conservative majority has made it very clear that they’re not responding or even doing anything,” she said.

The resolution recounts the actions of the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and highlights Finchem’s membership in the Oath Keepers, which the resolution describes as “a far-right group with a well-documented history of domestic terrorism and violence against the government, and whose founder threatened to hang Arizona’s former United States Senator  John McCain in 2015.” Several people affiliated with the Oath Keepers are facing federal conspiracy charges, over their alleged actions on Jan. 6.

It also highlights Finchem’s ties with Ali Alexander, one of the “Stop the Steal” organizers. And, the resolution says Finchem has “failed to denounce these domestic enemies, and further, has sought to conceal the consequences of his actions by promoting a baseless conspiracy blaming leftists that has been disproven by federal law enforcement agencies” and has “a documented history of pushing conspiracies that blame the left for violence by white nationalists, including deflecting blame for neo-Nazi violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.” It concludes by calling for his expulsion for taking part in an attempt to overthrow the government.

“Finchem has no honor, is unfit to serve in the Arizona state Legislature and poses a clear and present danger to American citizens,” said Dana Allmond, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who lives in LD11. “We cannot settle for anything less than his expulsion now.”

Allmond accused Finchem of violating his oath of office.

“It’s apparent Finchem doesn’t understand what that oath embodies,” she said. “He claims a stolen presidential election and celebrates murder.”

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report. 

Failed union legislation drives primary challenges to incumbent Democrats


As she remembers it, the first time Charlene Fernandez ever had her picture in the newspaper was in 2015, when a photographer caught her on the House floor pushing back on a Republican plan to limit the role of labor unions in construction projects.

That role was already in question. In 2011, the Legislature voted to prevent governments from requiring project labor agreements – a type of pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with a given union – in public projects. Four years later, it was debating a bill prohibiting public entities from requiring that workers on government projects participate in U.S. Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship programs.

But Fernandez, then just a freshman in an impotent House Democratic minority, couldn’t stop Republicans from passing the bill, which Gov. Doug Ducey eventually signed.

In the time since, Democrats have inched closer and closer to a majority in the state House. Fernandez has ascended to minority leader, with a caucus of vocally pro-labor lawmakers at her back. But Democrats have been unable to make any headway on the labor agreement issue – a central desire of the union constituency that is key to progressive power in the state.

Now, the ghosts of defeat, of deals gone awry and of soured relationships are haunting Fernandez and several of her close allies in the party.

Influential labor attorney and lobbyist Israel Torres is flooding contested Democratic primaries with union cash, using an independent expenditure group run out of his firm to put new bodies in the Democratic caucus, even as most of the party and its allies have turned their attention to November, when Democrats hope to at long last topple a Republican House majority.

Israel Torres
Israel Torres

Revitalize Arizona, a PAC helmed by staffers from the Torres Consulting and Law Group, spent more than $129,000 in the last quarter alone, largely in support of candidates vying for a seat in progressive districts currently represented by progressive Democrats with close ties to Fernandez.

Torres’ enemies – of which there are quite a few – see a personal, petty attempt at consolidating power and settling scores, a union big shot embarking on a perplexing crusade against progressive incumbents with union ties, hoping that his chosen candidates will arise from the ashes of burnt bridges.

“He’s running non-union members against union members,” said Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale. “It’s disgraceful.”

But Torres sees it differently. Democrats in Arizona take union support for granted, he said, and they made promises they couldn’t fulfill. Multiple attempts to restore project labor agreements have surfaced since 2015, and all have failed, including a 2019 effort that is fueling this batch of primary challengers.

“If an elected is in a place to help a worker agenda and chooses not to, or worse — takes a role behind the scenes to kill a worker agenda — then that elected or leadership team should be held accountable by workers,” Torres said. “It’s actually not very complicated.”

Revitalize Arizona, which has raised almost $1.3 million to date, gets almost all of its funding from a group called Residents for Accountability – itself a Torres-run political spending arm for Arizona Pipe Trades Local 469, one of several building trades unions for which Torres acts as a political consultant. It’s been active in Arizona elections for the better part of a decade, and generally supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who could be amenable to union agendas. The size and political influence of the PAC and of the Pipe Trades union make it something of a state chamber of commerce for the left, several lawmakers suggested.

Athena Salman
Athena Salman

Revitalize is spending most heavily on challengers to Andrade and Tempe lawmakers Rep. Athena Salman and Sen. Juan Mendez, who all take pride in their progressive bona fides and their friendliness with organized labor. This is especially the case with Andrade, a vocal advocate for union-backed bills at the Legislature and a rail conductor organized with SMART-TD, a large industrial union.

And yet Torres’ PAC spent more than $1,000 against Andrade just last week, and makes regular expenditures in support of his challenger, a Realtor from Litchfield Park named Teddy Castro, as well as Andrade’s more moderate seatmate, Rep. Cesar Chavez.

The group began its support of the Castro campaign – which Andrade called “bought and paid for” by Torres – in June, when it paid $12,000 to a consulting firm called FieldCorps LLC to support Castro’s run. Around that same time, Castro received a $10,400 donation from Arizona Pipe Trades 469, which consults the Torres Group when making political decisions, a spokeswoman for Torres said.

In LD26, Revitalize has thrown its weight largely behind Debbie Nez Manuel and Jana Lynn Granillo, though the PAC has hedged its bets and spent in support of Salman as well.

Nez Manuel, a Navajo activist who helped lobby the Legislature to approve a study on missing and murdered indigenous women last year, is hoping to take the vacant House seat in the district. But Salman has no intentions of letting Nez Manuel be her seatmate. She’s running on a slate with Mendez – her husband, the district’s incumbent senator and Granillo’s opponent – and Melody Hernandez, a paramedic and union shop steward who’s able to keep up with Salman’s progressive rhetoric and politics.

Charlene Fernandez
Charlene Fernandez

Nez Manuel has found herself the darling of several outside groups aside from Revitalize, including the Arizona Integrity PAC, Better Leaders, Better Arizona and others. Integrity PAC, an operation of former Mike Bloomberg 2020 adviser Joe Wolf, is funded mostly through the Arizona Association of Realtors and corporations like Pinnacle West and Southwest Gas. Both it and Better Leaders, Better Arizona are backing business-friendly Democrats in several primaries – as Wolf put it last week, PACs like these support the candidates that are most likely to take meetings with them.

For the record, Nez Manuel denies knowing anything about Revitalize or any of the other groups spending on her behalf, and expressed bemusement with Salman’s attempts at painting her as a corporate-bought moderate.

But Torres said that his electoral spending has nothing to do with broader debates within the party over ideology, bipartisanship and the strength of the leadership team.

“Our strong preference is to not play in Democratic primaries,” Torres said. “However, Revitalize has and will continue to hold electeds accountable — even if that means supporting challengers to … incumbents.”

Torres is mostly referring to a tiff that arose over failed union legislation in the 2019 session. That year, Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, introduced HB2406, a bill that would have effectively reversed the state’s ban on project labor agreement requirements in public works contracts – the logic being that a center-right Republican had a better chance of getting the bill passed than a progressive Democrat.

The previous year, Salman tried and failed to run a similar bill, HB2641, which predictably did not get a hearing in the House Government Committee. Torres had convinced Democratic leadership to let a Republican run the bill that time around, several lawmakers within the party said.

Richard Andrade
Richard Andrade

But Shope’s bill fared no better, bouncing from committee to committee without a hearing. Even if it passed, its path in the Senate was uncertain. But Andrade hatched a plan. Rep. Noel Campbell, a Prescott Republican who chaired the Transportation Committee, was running a bill to increase the state gas tax, something of a masochistic annual tradition for Campbell. The legislation would substantially increase the tax, which had sat dormant since the 1990s, in order to fund transportation improvements.

The issue could prove toxic for members of both parties, but especially Campbell’s fellow Republicans, who resent increasing taxes for any reason. He would need bipartisan support to get it done, and Andrade told Cambell that Democrats could help if he allowed an amendment restoring project labor agreements on the bill.

How certain Andrade was that this would be possible isn’t clear. He maintains that he knew the plan – which amounted to tacking one controversial bill to another – was full of pitfalls, though it likely presented the only path forward. He said that he was able to convince David Martin, the president of the Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America, to remain neutral on the bill, clearing a potential hurdle.

Campbell, however, said Martin was vociferously opposed to the labor amendment, which Democrats hoped to offer during floor debate.

“The contractors did not want to be tied to that,” he said. “I couldn’t convince Fernandez … to support me without the amendment included in it.”

Without the amendment, Democrats would have to tell their constituents that they backed a tax increase without any wins for unions. It became, in effect, a poison pill: no amendment, no bill.

Ultimately, a last-ditch effort to include the amendment in the bill on the floor failed, as did the gas tax legislation itself.

The failure of those bills outraged Torres, several lawmakers said, but the apparent disinterest by Democrats to push harder for the legislation was even more frustrating. In Torres’ eyes, Andrade and his allies in Democratic leadership espoused union values but couldn’t deliver results. And in private meetings with other Democrats, Andrade was frequently critical of Torres and his personality, several of his colleagues said.

“Andrade was out of his lane,” Torres said. “It’s just politics.”

A year later, Torres is delivering on his promises for accountability. While he’s not funding a challenge against Fernandez, his support of Nez Manuel, Castro and Granillo amounts to a challenge against her coalition ahead of an election that could very well propel her to House speaker – assuming her members don’t back an alternative.

“If [Revitalize’s spending] happens to affect that race, then the leader has nobody to blame but herself,” Torres said.

To Andrade and his allies, the whole affair is preposterous. Democrats are still in the minority — with or without a purported deal to get the labor bill passed, they can’t set the Legislature’s agenda, he said.

“It goes to show, holding personal vendettas is what this is really about,” Andrade said. “Instead of investing money to turn Arizona blue, so we can get PLAs, he’s running his core to basically say that he controls the Legislature.”

It’s just Israel being Israel, suggested Delbert Hawk, the political director of IBEW Local 640 — which used to employ Torres as a consultant.

“The problem I have with him is bully tactics,” Hawk said. “We used to employ them, but we let them go. It wasn’t working … we weren’t seeing anything for that kind of money. People would say, ‘Oh, Israel said to do this.’ I don’t give a (expletive) what Israel said. That’s my local. That’s when I knew we had a problem. It became the Torres Show, the Torres Brand.”


Finchem, Kern claim in lawsuit Fernandez defamed them

From left are Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, former Rep. Anthony Kern, and Rep. Charlen Fernandez, D-Yuma.
From left are Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, former Rep. Anthony Kern, and Rep. Charlen Fernandez, D-Yuma.

A current and a former state House member are suing Rep. Charlene Fernandez, saying the Democrat defamed them when she asked the FBI to investigate their connections to the deadly Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.

Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and former Rep. Anthony Kern, also a Republican, allege in Yuma County Superior Court  Fernandez “baselessly accused Plaintiffs of the highest possible crimes against the Government of the United States.”

“The malicious purpose of Defendant’s action was to chill debate, not encourage it; to shut down any discussion of election fraud in the 2020 Presidential election and of the larger question of election integrity in general; and, if possible, to criminally punish Plaintiffs for exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully demonstrate and petition the Government for redress of grievances,” the complaint says. 

Fernandez, D-Yuma, and the rest of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses signed a letter in early January to FBI Director Christopher Wray and acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen asking for help determining the roles of Finchem, Kern and Republican U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar in the riot.

“What they did outside of plain view we do not yet know,” they wrote. “But there is evidence to indicate that Arizona Representatives Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection on January 6.”

The lawsuit details why Finchem and Kern believed there were problems with the 2020 election and says neither one of them took part in fomenting violence on Jan. 6. It says Fernandez “falsely accused plaintiffs of being either directly involved in, or of aiding or abetting, the crimes of terrorism, insurrection, treason, and sedition” and of implying they were responsible for the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Fernandez said Tuesday that she hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet.

The FBI has acknowledged receiving the Democrats’ complaint against Finchem and the others but has not publicly announced any action on it. Rep. Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed a complaint in mid-January asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate Finchem’s advocacy for overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election and his presence in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, said in February she would not be acting on the complaint, calling it an attempt to use the ethics process to settle a political dispute. Finchem filed a retaliatory complaint against House and Senate Democrats that Nutt similarly dismissed.

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, and 22 other House Democrats also filed a resolution seeking Finchem’s expulsion from the Legislature, but it was never assigned to a committee.

Finchem and Kern are being represented by Alexander Kolodin, Christopher Viskovic and Bryan Blehm of the Kolodin Law Group of Phoenix, and by George Wentz Jr. and Brant Hadaway of the Davillier Law Group of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Finchem’s ethics complaint against Democrats lands in trash


Another ethics complaint — this time one Rep. Mark Finchem filed against all of the House and Senate Democrats — will not be going anywhere.

Ethics Committee Chairwoman Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, used the same basis for throwing out the Oro Valley Republican’s complaint Friday as she did Feb. 12 when she tossed 82 complaints filed against Finchem and also on Feb. 15 for complaints against two other Republicans. 

“The ethics committee is not an arena for waging political contests. That is true whether the subjects of a complaint are individual Republicans (as before) or nearly the entire Democratic caucus (as here),” Nutt wrote. 

Finchem alleged the Democrats conspired to punish him for exercising his First Amendment right to “peaceably assemble and contest the legitimacy of the recent presidential election.” He contends that the decision of those Democrats to sign a letter asking the FBI and Department of Justice to look into his activities before and during the Jan. 6 demonstration in Washington and the insurrection that followed runs afoul of not only House ethics rules but also is libelous and violates federal law.

Rep. Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed a complaint in mid-January asking the committee to investigate Finchem’s advocacy for overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election and his presence in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. Eighty-one other people, many of them residents of Finchem’s district, then sent the committee letters supporting Chávez’s call for an investigation.

Nutt said a week ago she would not act on the complaint against Finchem, viewing it as a political dispute and not a matter for the Ethics Committee, after which Finchem filed a complaint against all the Democrats who in January sent a letter to the FBI asking for an investigation of Finchem.

Earlier this week Nutt also rejected calls for an investigation into comments Reps. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, and Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, made about nonbinary people at a committee meeting, casting the complaint — like the one against Finchem and Finchem’s subsequent complaint — an attempt to use the ethics process to settle political disputes.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report. 

Former undocumented immigrants turned lawmakers want ‘Dreamers’ to speak out

Rep. Cesar Chavez, D-Phoenix, sings with a mariachi band in front of the Arizona Senate in February 2017. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Cesar Chavez, D-Phoenix, sings with a mariachi band in front of the Arizona Senate in February 2017. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, considers herself “pretty American,” a good neighbor and an engaged citizen.

She came to the United States from Mexico on a visa as a 6-year-old and was undocumented until she was 16, when she became a legal permanent resident, which allowed her to go to college and gain access to financial aid.

Her fellow House Democrat, Cesar Chavez, of Phoenix, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 3-years-old in 1991.

“I don’t remember coming to this country. I don’t remember crossing the desert with my mother,” he said.

The two formerly undocumented state lawmakers want “Dreamers” to keep making their voices heard and telling their stories as Congress wrestles with how to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA was created via an executive order from former President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect young undocumented immigrants raised in the U.S. from deportation. The so-called Dreamers were granted two-year protective terms that could be renewed.

The Trump administration announced on September 5 that it would phase out the DACA program, but gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution.

As of press time, President Trump and Democratic leaders were discussing a potential deal on DACA. While Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer said on September 13 there was an agreement with Trump to save DACA coupled with border security, but without a border wall, Trump said that wasn’t true. But he did say he supports Dreamers staying in the U.S.

The September 5 announcement struck close to the hearts of the two freshmen lawmakers.

Chavez said he would have qualified to be covered by DACA. Instead, he was able to become a legal permanent resident and then a naturalized citizen under immigration policies during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Congress should come up with a permanent fix to allow Dreamers to live here and have a pathway to citizenship, he said. But there’s always the potential that a debate over DACA becomes a political game, with border security tied into the welfare of 800,000 young adults, he said.

Still, he’s optimistic that a DACA fix will come through. Emotions are understandably high – the hopes and dreams of 28,000 Arizonans are being toyed with, he said. But Dreamers have the ability to bring humanity into the debate by telling their stories, Chavez said.

“Everything’s on the table, and when you have everything on the table, you have nothing to lose,” Chavez said. “Speak out.”

While Chavez acknowledges he can’t do much to affect federal immigration policy as a state lawmaker, he said the state can work to make people feel more welcome. Lawsuits like the one filed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich over Dreamers’ tuition at state universities aren’t helping, he said.

“Arizona can be welcoming. Arizona is diverse. It’s just a matter of releasing the noise, releasing the negative rhetoric and allowing it to be the beauty of a state it is,” Chavez said.

The DACA debate in Arizona isn’t strictly partisan. After the Trump administration’s announcement, Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake both said ending DACA was wrong. And the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, typically aligned with Republicans here, spoke out strongly against ending DACA.

“Does anyone feel safer now that the attorney general has announced the removal of legal protections for 800,000 students and participants in the US economy?” chamber president Glenn Hamer said in a statement.

Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe)
Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe)

Blanc said it’s not only DACA ending that troubles her. Many families, like Blanc’s, have people with mixed immigration statuses. There are 11 million people in the U.S. without documents, she noted, so it’s tough to disconnect the DACA discussion from immigration as a whole.

“We’re too busy demonizing people who pick our lettuce so we can have a fancy meal at a restaurant,” she said.

She wonders if DACA recipients will be used as pawns by politicians who could give up on helping the broader population of undocumented immigrants. At this point, there are more questions and concerns than there are answers for her. But every day is critical as the six-month timeline ticks onward, she said.

“Every day you have 800,000 people that don’t know what their future holds,” Blanc said. “And these are young Americans that have always known America, this place, to be their home. The only thing they lack is paper to show they were born here.”

She has been telling Dreamers to organize, and she’s found them ready to have their voices heard by those in power. They’re having important conversations with their school boards and elected leaders and making it clear they expect to be protected, she said.

Blanc has talked to a lot of high school students who want to take action – “at a time when you’re supposed to be worrying about that pimple you just got before a dance, and instead they’re worrying about the future of America,” she said.

The next couple months will be critical for DACA, she said.

“I’m hopeful in people’s ability to be empathetic and sympathetic and see the humanitarian crisis that we are on the verge of creating,” Blanc said. “I am hopeful. Yes, I have fear. Yes, I feel uncertainty as well. But I am hopeful that people are being awakened by the madness of the politics.”

House Ethics panel chair rejects calls to investigate Finchem

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, speaks before the Senate Finance Committee on March 8, 2017. Democrats have targeted Finchem even though he serves in a relatively safe district in which the Republican voter registration advantage has shrunk to less than 10 percentage points over Democrats, an historical threshold for districts to flip. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, speaks before the Senate Finance Committee on March 8, 2017. Democrats have targeted Finchem even though he serves in a relatively safe district in which the Republican voter registration advantage has shrunk to less than 10 percentage points over Democrats, an historical threshold for districts to flip. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

An Oro Valley Republican who was in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of the electoral vote, will not face an investigation from the Legislature, the chairwoman of the House Ethics Committee said Friday.

Rep. Mark Finchem was a vocal supporter after the election of efforts to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona. He was in Washington, D.C. to speak on Jan. 6 and he had planned to deliver evidence of fraud in Arizona to Vice President Mike Pence. After Rep. Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed a complaint in mid-January, 81 other people sent the committee complaints supporting his call for an investigation. On Friday Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, sent a letter to committee members saying she will not be investigating.

“None of the complaints offered any facts establishing that Representative Finchem actually ‘supported the violent overthrow of our government’ or directly participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol,” Nutt wrote. “Absent such facts, the complaints amount to an objection to Representative Finchem’s advocacy of controversial political opinions. But the ethics committee is not — and cannot become — a forum for resolving political disagreements, no matter how important the issue at stake.”

Nutt also said she will not be investigating Reps. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, David Cook, R-Globe, and Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, as one complainant had requested. Cook and Blackman were not in Washington D.C. that day as the letter writer Susan Ritz had alleged. Ritz accused Roberts, Finchem’s seatmate, of “participat(ing) in a misinformation/disinformation campaign designed to disenfranchise LD11 voters by casting doubt on our election systems without evidence.” Nutt wrote that even if this is true, it “would amount to controversial political advocacy, which falls outside this committee’s purview.”

Chávez had accused Finchem of violating his oath of office pledging to defend the state and federal constitutions against “all enemies, foreign and domestic,” citing Arizona law criminalizing advocating overthrowing the government by “force, violence or terrorism,” as well as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which barred government officials who supported the Confederacy from holding office in the future. Finchem has said he didn’t witness any violence, wasn’t present for the storming the Capitol and blamed the violence on Antifa.

On Monday 23 House Democrats introduced a resolution calling for Finchem’s expulsion from the Legislature. As of Friday it hadn’t been assigned to a committee.

House panel sinks bill requiring partisan city elections

A bill requiring municipal governments to hold partisan elections has failed to clear its first hurdle.

Rep. Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale)
Rep. Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale)

House Bill 2032, which was introduced by Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, would have required cities and towns to print the political party designation of candidates for mayor and city or town council on the ballot, despite a court ruling that upheld municipalities’ rights to set up elections however they choose.

Speaking before the House Committee on Local and International Affairs on January 17, Lawrence said the bill would allow voters to make a more informed decision.

He argued that though people may question how partisan topics – like abortion, a candidate’s feelings toward President Donald Trump or who a candidate’s congressional hero is – relate to city issues, the question can be answered with three simple words: sanctuary city laws.

“I will give you just one example, and after that example of how does this pertain to city government, there can be no other question,” Lawrence told the committee. “The city of Phoenix has a sanctuary city law. It is illegal. The Justice Department has announced they will prosecute those cities who have instituted this illegal law. … I think every individual running for office should ask about that.”

His argument, however, failed to sway his colleagues. Republican Reps. Todd Clodfelter, of Tucson, and Drew John, of Safford, joined Democratic Reps. Cesar Chavez, Phoenix; Rosanna Gabaldon, Green Valley; and Isela Blanc, Tempe, in sinking the measure.

Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)
Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)

As someone who represents a rural area, John said most people already know each other well and there’s little question about which side of the political aisle candidates stand on. He said partisanship has left “a bad taste in most everybody’s mouth,” and making municipal elections partisan would create a greater divide among residents.

Clodfelter added that although voters may form a preconceived opinion of a candidate based on his or her party affiliation, nonpartisan elections allow voters to get “to know the individual on a personal basis.”

Blanc said most people living within a municipality are more concerned about their streets being improved and their garbage being picked up than their local representative’s thoughts on abortion, which she insisted isn’t a local issue.

Rep. Becky Nutt (R-Clifton)
Rep. Becky Nutt (R-Clifton)

Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, who voted for the measure along with committee chairman Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, said she supported moving it out of committee so that it could lead to a larger discussion on the House floor.

“I think this is a great conversation, and I think that it’s one that needs to go to the larger body,” she said.
Testifying in committee, Patrice Kraus, a lobbyist for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said the services cities provide to residents are “fundamentally different” than those provided by the state, and while some of the issues Lawrence brought up may be relevant at the state level, they aren’t at the local level.

“Most of our issues aren’t partisan in nature,” she said.

Injured lawmakers, travel slow House progress

Winged Victory atop the Arizona Capitol Building (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Winged Victory atop the Arizona Capitol Building (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The travel of several lawmakers and a string of bad luck for two others slowed the House’s business and threatened the Republicans’ ability to pass controversial bills with their narrow margin. 

With the return of lawmakers – mostly Democrats – from El Salvador late on March 2, the House returned to normal the next after several days in which two GOP lawmakers were hospitalized and several more were absent as they attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Reps. Justin Wilmeth, R-Scottsdale, Cesár Chávez, D-Phoenix, Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, and Alma and Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, went on a trip to El Salvador, which was organized by Chávez and paid for by the Salvadoran government. 

Wilmeth said the Salvadoran government recruited observers not only from the United States but from Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Italy, France and other Central and South American countries. 

El Salvador held legislative and municipal elections on February 28. Nuevas Ideas, a new party founded by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, was the big winner of the night, gaining a supermajority in the Legislative Assembly. Wilmeth, the only Republican on the trip, said they arrived February 26 and spent two days on training and all day February 28 watching the polls.

I was honored to be asked to attend by Rep. Chavez, as elections integrity and ensuring votes are counted properly is important to me,” Wilmeth said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Judy Burges, R-Prescott, was in an auto accident in mid-February, while Rep. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, was hit by a car while visiting the post office. Burges wasn’t there when the House gaveled in for what was expected to be a busy day on February 24 — she was seeing the doctor, and was originally expected to be there that afternoon, but was admitted to the hospital for more tests. The week before this one was “crossover week,” when each chamber rushes to get bills they want to be considered this year voted on and over to the other chamber. Given the House’s 31-29 partisan divide, a single Republican absence means a bill that is expected to pass third reading on a party-line vote can’t pass.

She joined the House February 24 by Zoom from a hospital bed, and the GOP leadership, which had spent a slow morning dealing with some non-controversial measures, moved ahead with a calendar that included numerous controversial bills that passed on party-line votes. The bills included one to expand the right to carry guns in public buildings, two inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer to more harshly punish people who take part in riots and others to override presidential executive orders and federal gun control laws.

Pratt, whose arm was in a sling due to the accident, was present on the floor and voting for most of that day, but after the House finished taking up some bills on third reading and prepared to take up a controversial Committee of the Whole calendar a little after 6 p.m., Pratt had to be helped off the floor into a backroom by other lawmakers. 

Reps. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, and Amish, Shah, D-Phoenix, who are doctors, examined him. Pratt’s wife, Janice, then took him to a hospital.

“They ran from 9 until 6, with just very cursory breaks, and by that point, he was dehydrated, and lacking nutrition and had real high blood pressure,” Janine Pratt said. “They worked him into the hospital. It’s really hard work to be a legislator and they’re really unappreciated for the work they do, particularly this time of year, (when) you have to endure a lot of stress to your mind and your body.”

With Pratt gone and with Burges having left the Zoom connection a couple hours earlier, the House voted on some non-controversial bills before adjourning for the night. Although the House started February 25 with 10 Committee of the Whole calendars plus 26 bills on third reading, it adjourned early that afternoon after only going through one COW calendar. 

Several Republicans were leaving that day to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, and the El Salvador group also left that day.

“The purpose was to observe their elections process and note any issues with their process,” said Wilmeth, the only Republican on the trip. “I believe we visited four vote centers. It was fascinating to see in-person and up close.”

Most of the CPAC attendees were back when the House went on the floor March 1, while the lawmakers who were in El Salvador returned to the United States late on March 2 and were all voting virtually on March 3. Pratt and Burges also attended via Zoom this week. 

Yellow Sheet Editor Hank Stephenson contributed to this article.

Lawmakers who lost primaries plan next steps

An old watchtower bell was mounted on the sidewalk in front of the state Capitol in Phoenix in 2021.  (File photo)

Twenty-two lawmakers lost their races this year for various offices and won’t return to the Capitol for at least two years.

Nine House Republicans, nine House Democrats and four Republican senators were knocked out of the running, several in surprising upsets from political newcomers.

Nearly all the legislators say they will spend some time focusing on their other jobs and families, but don’t rule out another run down the road.

House of Representatives

Morgan Abraham

Rep. Morgan Abraham, D-Tucson: “I can’t see a situation where I run for the lege (Legislature) anytime soon but there’s other offices,” Abraham said. He wants to go back to being an “involved citizen” in the meantime.

Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale: Andrade is a locomotive engineer who was already on vacation in Hawaii by the middle of August. He’ll take a break from the Legislature but plans to run again as a Clean Elections candidate. “My opponent was able to pull it off because he had a lot of outside help like special groups, special interests,” Andrade said. He hopes that using Clean Elections funding will boost him and he won’t turn to organizations that he said disappointed him “immensely.” He lost his race to fellow legislator Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson.

Rep. Walter Blackman, R-Snowflake: Blackman said in no uncertain terms that he will run for office again, but maybe not for a seat in the Legislature. “I’ve been asked to run for the Senate in my district, and so we’ll see. We’ll see, but I definitely am running,” he said. Blackman lost a congressional bid to Trump-endorsed newcomer Eli Crane.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers

Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa: Bowers is hard at work traveling on behalf of the state. He wants to make a trip on his own to Romania and Kazakhstan outside of work, and paint pictures of Romanian haystacks. Bowers is the best-known artist in Arizona politics and decorated the House with his own paintings and sculptures. His vacation plans are no indication that he intends to leave politics behind. “I’m very, very concerned about the direction my party has taken. Obviously, I’m not a ‘member in good standing anymore’ because I didn’t want the Legislature to take away the right of citizens to vote,” he said of being censured by Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward. Bowers said he wants to have an impact on the future of the Republican party. “I am a victim in a district against three competitors who used tactics and said things about me and my morality and my stature and my reputation that was disgusting. … It’s a vicious bunch of people,” Bowers said. His primary opponent David Farnsworth was endorsed by Trump after Bowers testified to the January 6 congressional committee about former President Trump’s efforts to overturn Arizona’s election results.

Judy Burges

Rep. Judy Burges, R-Sun West City: Burges said that she’ll be in her 80s when she runs again and she’d have to “give it some thought,” but in the meantime she’s going on a vacation to Hawaii for the first time. “I’m really looking forward to it,” she said on August 16. Burges wants to continue working for the Republican Party whether she runs again or not. “You can’t be busied out the Legislature and come back home and do nothing,” she said.

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction: Fillmore said he will never leave politics and that his election isn’t over. He said he believes that he only lost due to problems in Pinal County on Election Day that included a shortage of ballots and is considering legal action. For now, Fillmore said he is in the mountains of Oregon “recuperating” by “drinking incessantly” and camping in a motel.

Joel John

Rep. Joel John, R-Buckeye: “To be frank, I don’t think I’ll run any time in the near future. I would like to run again, but the Legislature is a huge commitment for someone who runs a business and has kids at home,” John said. He has an agricultural business to run and takes care of his children.

Rep. Sarah Liguori, D-Phoenix: She wants to remain in politics and hasn’t decided whether she’ll run for the Legislature again. “This time last year, I didn’t know I was going to be at the Legislature. So, this time next year, I don’t know what my life is going to be like,” she said on August 15. Liguori is interested in putting her experience in real estate behind her and focusing instead on politics in Phoenix. She was appointed rather than elected to this term and lost to fellow incumbents Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix.

Rep. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix: Meza said he’ll keep working at his own business and potentially come back into politics later. “I’ve never been through this before, because I always win by large amounts,” Meza said.

Joanne Osborne

Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear: “I will be doing what I always do and try and be a part of my community, and have my small business, and be a mom and a grandma,” Osborne said. She is not sure whether she’ll come back but said that may depend on what happens in Arizona. “We’re doing well as Arizonans, and I hope nobody screws that up,” Osborne said.

Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Cashion: Sierra said he may run again, but now he’s hunting for a job in the private sector and considering moving to Washington, D.C., with his wife. “We have kids who live out-of-state and one of them is getting married. We’d love to be near grandchildren,” he said. In terms of his work, Sierra said he wants to remain “politics adjacent” with community relations and marketing.

Rep. Christian Solorio, D-Phoenix, Solorio’s spokesperson (and sister) Diana Solorio said that he will continue to work in the community and combat homeless issues but has not committed to another politics run.

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen; Rep. Shawna Bolick, R-Phoenix; Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix; Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson; Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa; and Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, did not respond to requests for comment.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, Bolding and Bolick all competed and lost in the primary race for secretary of state. Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro-Valley, won that Republican primary.


Tyler Pace

Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa: Pace didn’t promise to run again, but he said the 2022 session was “probably” not his last time serving in the Legislature. “I have no plans running for office in this next election cycle. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure, but it won’t be the end,” Pace said. Pace has his own business to manage and is considering getting a cabin or a beach house to enjoy. He also said he’s not planning to collaborate with Robert Scantlebury, who beat him in the primary election for Legislative District 9.

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction: “I have given ten years plus of my life to serving the people of this state and country. I’ve sacrificed my children’s childhood, my career before politics, to some degree my health due to the high level of stress and many other things, and right now my focus is my children and my family and then I will decide,” said Townsend. She used to work full time as a doula but said she probably won’t go back to that now. “I’ve given every last fiber of my soul to this state for a long time and now it’s time to turn and focus forwards,” she said. Fellow Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, beat out Townsend in the primary.

Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson: Leach still hasn’t conceded his Legislative District 17 race to victor Justine Wadsack. He had two friends file a lawsuit against Wadsack claiming that she actually lives outside of the district she ran in and is asking that her name be removed from the general election ballots and replaced with Leach’s. “If you’re going to represent the district; you should live in it,” Leach said on Thursday.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, did not respond to requests for comment.


Legislative staffers say pro-Trump supporters called them ‘illegal’ for being dark-skinned

Four-year-old Alexander Flores stands with his back to Trump supporters shouting insults at the Capitol on Jan. 25. (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Rodriguez)
Four-year-old Alexander Flores stands with his back to Trump supporters shouting insults at the Capitol on Jan. 25. (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Rodriguez)

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include strong denials from pro-Trump protesters of allegations they singled out dark-skinned individuals, as well as video links showing their interactions during a protest at the Capitol on Jan. 25.

Supporters of President Donald Trump singled out dark-skinned lawmakers, legislative staffers and children at the Capitol on Jan. 25 as they protested congressional efforts to pass immigration reform, according to staffers of the Arizona Legislature and two Democratic legislators.

Waving large flags in support of Trump while standing between the House and Senate buildings, the protesters, who were also armed, asked just about anyone who crossed their path if they “support illegal immigration.”

They called some “illegal” and told them to “go home,” barbs they reserved for those with brown skin, according to the staffers.

Two women who said they were part of the protest against illegal immigration at the Capitol vehemently denied accusations that they singled out dark-skinned people and accused them of being illegal immigrants.

But Lisette Flores and Selianna Robles, policy advisors for Senate Democrats, said they were yelled at when they walked from the Senate to the House lawn, directly passing the Trump supporters, to get lunch at a farmers market. Three white coworkers offered to escort Flores, Robles, and Democratic staffer Dora Ramirez back to their offices, Robles said.

“We’re walking back, and they start yelling again, ‘Get out of the country.’ At that point, they pointed to Lisette, called her an illegal, and said, ‘Get out, go back home!’” Robles said. “But they pointed at Jane (Ahern), who works for the House, and they said, ‘No, you can stay.’”

Ahern, a policy advisor for House Democrats, is white.

“I was born in California,” said Flores. “I’m obviously of Mexican descent, so I think in that group I’m the darkest one. Selianna and Dora, they’re light-skinned Latinos. So, I think probably that’s why they pointed at me out of a group of six.”

“They assume things about you. There’s not much we can do,” said Robles, an Arizona native raised in the town of San Luis. “We work for the state, we’re public servants, and we’re just here to do our job.”

Lawmakers said they were also questioned based on their appearance. Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Chinle, said he was confronted by Trump supporters while helping defend a young student that he said was being harassed.

They asked Descheenie, a Navajo lawmaker, if he was in the United States illegally.

Rep. Eric Descheenie (D-Chinle)
Rep. Eric Descheenie (D-Chinle)

“I’m indigenous to these lands,” Descheenie said. “My ancestors fought and died on these lands. I just told them, ‘Don’t ask me that question.’”

Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, said he was approached by a female Trump supporter asking who he was and who he represents. For “the fun of it,” Chávez said, he replied, “I’m an undocumented legislator.” Chávez was brought from Mexico to the United States as a child.

He said he wanted the protesters “to understand that in this country, through a process, you, too, can be a part of a nation that provides opportunity to everybody. I wanted them to understand that an individual who came to this country undocumented at the age of three is now a member of the Arizona State Legislature.”

Chávez said the woman reacted by calling him “illegal.”

“She said something like, “You’re illegal. Once illegal, always illegal,” he said. “I took no offense, no attention. It was just simply one of those things where you’re going to have a stance and I’m going to have a stance and we’re never going to agree on things.”

Jennifer Caminiti-Harrison and Lesa Antone said they were at the Capitol to protest activists with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA). The women told the Arizona Capitol Times in a phone interview tonight they’re against illegal immigration and don’t believe the LUCHA activists, who they alleged are undocumented, have the right to lobby state legislators.

In denying the allegations, Caminiti-Harrison and Antone countered that their group was harassed by the LUCHA activists. In a live stream of the protest uploaded to Facebook by Antone, a LUCHA member could be heard telling a black Trump supporter, “You’re gonna be the first to get lynched.”

“First, we were a group of several white, black and Latina Americans. To make assumptions that we were only calling out Hispanic representatives or ‘non-white’ legislatures (sic) is a disgusting, blatant lie,” Caminiti-Harrison also wrote in an email. “We also had legal immigrants visiting the Capitol who stood in solidarity with us along with Republican lawmakers who thanked us for being there and stopped for a photo.”

In a video uploaded to YouTube, Republican Reps. Jay Lawrenece, of Scottsdale, and Bob Thorpe, of Flagstaff, are seen speaking and taking photos with protesters.

“We asked every rep, white or otherwise, if they supported illegal immigration and why they put the needs of illegal immigrants over the needs of American citizens,” Caminiti-Harrison wrote. “Never at any time did we ask the representatives if they were illegals. Never.”

A 14-minute video of yesterday’s protest uploaded on YouTube shows several interactions initiated by the anti-illegal immigration protesters. Near the beginning of the video, one protester could be heard assuming that members of a group are staying illegally in the U.S.

“No, they’re not legal. They’re illegal,” a woman can be heard saying.

“Yeah, we know they’re illegal. Get legal or get out of America … They’re illegal, see that?” another woman shouted at the group.

In another part of the video, a woman can be heard confronting a group of men.

“Why do you want to stay in our country if you hate it so much?” she said.

One member of the group, a man, came back to tell the protester that she and others “need to get educated.”

They exchanged a few more words, and he said, “This land wasn’t your guys.’” She yelled at him as he walked away, “You are an illegal alien.”

When the man denied the accusation, the woman responded: “Those guys are illegal … They do not have any rights here. It is not their time. This is our time. Our nation. Our laws. Our streets.”

The video also shows what appeared to be a LUCHA activist shielding a young man who was being questioned by the protester about his stance on immigration.

“So, you also believe in ‘No border, No wall, No USA at all? Do you also believe in that? … Because if you do, why are you here? Because if you don’t support America, why are you here?” the protester said.

“He’s not talking to you,” the LUCHA activist tells the protester and unleashes a profane word. Another protester then replies, “Get legal or get out. Go in there and fill your [expletive] paper out and get legal.”

Trump supporters also disrupted a press conference hosted Thursday morning by LUCHA activists who came to the Capitol to raise awareness about legislation they’re backing.

As LUCHA Executive Director Tomas Robles spoke to a crowd of supporters in Spanish, Trump supporters could be heard shouting over him, “Go home.”

“I served five years in the Marine Corps. I fought for people’s freedoms to be able to come into this space and to be able to voice their concerns to the representatives that represent their cities and towns,” he said. “The fact that I got called an illegal, the fact that all our constituents were called so many names … every single person has a right to be here.”

Antone posted on Facebook a nearly two-hour video showing pro-Trump supporters shouting at the LUCHA activists on the subject of wages. At one point, a woman who was part of the pro-Trump group yelled at the LUCHA activists, “You don’t deserve more money just for showing up … You don’t get more money ’cause you’re brown.”

Mary Lou Sandoval, a Maryvale resident who attended the LUCHA event, later saw the protesters screaming at children who were touring the Capitol on field trips.

“[It] was a little ridiculous. You can protest peacefully as well, and you can make your own presence [felt] peacefully,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, wrote a letter to Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, and Senate security officials outlining what she called the harassment of staffers who the protesters “perceived not to be white,” and complained about a lack of response from law enforcement at the scene observing the protest.

“I can tell you that the Democratic staff who were yelled at by the protesters and called illegals definitely felt harassed and were not satisfied with the response,” Hobbs wrote. “They did not feel safe.”

Hobbs said she was told by an officer on Thursday that law enforcement was instructed to stand down while the Trump supporters exercised their First Amendment rights.

Their protest went “far beyond” the First Amendment, Hobbs wrote.

“This is a public place. When armed protesters aggressively go after members, staff and visitors, there needs to be a response that ensures the safety of everyone involved,” Hobbs wrote. “I have seen instances here at the capital (sic) when peaceful protesters with a different agenda were surrounded by many more law enforcement officers with a much more aggressive response.”

“This is unacceptable,” she added.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety did not return a request for comment.

Read Hobb’s letter below.


Yarbrough Letter of Concern (Text)

Liberal groups, lawmakers call for police blacklist

In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery speaks during a news conference in Phoenix. Hundreds of immigrants who have been denied bail under a strict Arizona law will now have the opportunity to be released after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 in the closely watched case. The high court kept intact a lower-court ruling from three weeks ago that struck down the law, which was passed in 2006 amid a series of immigration crackdowns in Arizona over the past decade. Montgomery and Sehriff Joe Arpaio defended the law before the courts.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery speaks during a news conference in Phoenix. Hundreds of immigrants who have been denied bail under a strict Arizona law will now have the opportunity to be released after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 in the closely watched case. The high court kept intact a lower-court ruling from three weeks ago that struck down the law, which was passed in 2006 amid a series of immigration crackdowns in Arizona over the past decade. Montgomery and Sehriff Joe Arpaio defended the law before the courts.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

More than a dozen liberal organizations and Democratic lawmakers are asking Bill Montgomery to establish an exclusion list of law enforcement officers with a history of dishonesty, bias, or violence.

In a letter sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Friday, the ACLU of Arizona, the local chapter of American Friends Service Committee, CAIR, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, LUCHA and The Justice Collaborative signed on with Representatives Athena Salman, César Chávez, Diego Rodriguez and Raquel Terán, Senators Senators Juan Mendez and Martin Quezada and newly-elected Phoenix City Councilman Carlos Garcia, are asking that Montgomery follow in the footsteps of St. Louis, where the city prosecutor recently placed 22 officers on her exclusion list because of racially-charged social media posts.

The Phoenix Police Department was recently scrutinized for active officers’ racially-charged and violent posts on Facebook found in a database from The Plainview Project, and a viral incident in which a police officer threatened to shoot an unarmed person over shoplifting, both of which were highlighted in the letter.

“These latest scandals have surfaced after a year in which Phoenix led the nation in police shootings, demonstrating the need for true accountability and real change in our police department,” the letter says.

Montgomery took issue with the letter to state that there is already something similar in place.

“We have a Rule 15 Disclosure Database that serves the same purpose, but with appropriate requirements for thorough investigations and Due Process guarantees,” he said through a spokeswoman.

Rule 15 governs disclosure of evidence for criminal trials.

Montgomery said he doesn’t think the people calling for this kind of list “know or understand the use and effect” of the rule already in place.

The letter ends by saying Montgomery has “unmatched power to demand better police practices,” and if he does not agree, it “enables and condones misconduct that undermines the integrity of our entire legal system.”

Montgomery isn’t the only official that does not support a no-call or exclusion list asked in the letter.

Joe Clure, the executive director of the Arizona Police Association, reiterated Montgomery’s comments about the Rule 15 disclosure in place.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding for what Brady v. Maryland is and is not,” Clure said, referring to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that requires the prosecution to disclose any material evidence favorable in its possession to the defense upon the defense’s request. 

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office keeps a list – known as the “Brady list” – of police officers whose honesty is in question.

Clure said the Brady list and the Rule 15 are determined independently by a court in terms of relevance and whether things are “disclosable.” 

He said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to have these lists.

Retired Sgt. J. Gary Nelson, formerly of the Scottsdale Police Department, and a member of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, or leap, disagrees with Clure.

He says that “a no-call list would help ensure biased and dishonest police can’t get in the way of Americans’ constitutional right to a fair trial.”

“Recent events, especially in Arizona, demand that we take serious accountability measures to keep only the best officers serving our communities,” Nelson said in a statement provided to Capitol Times

Clure said he thinks the lists already in place are flawed because someone could make a mistake and then have a clean record for 10 or so years, but their name still won’t be removed. He compared it to a criminal defendant having a right to not have prior convictions held against them if the sentencing takes place after 10 years.

“There’s no doubt there is a war on police right now,” Clure said, adding that there is nothing broken that needs to be fixed.

The “exclusion” list the organizations are asking of Montgomery is, according to Clure, “a solution in search of a problem.” Clure also said that the whole process now is like double jeopardy for the officers. 

While, the organizations don’t clearly state the current rule in place, they wrote in the letter that this would just be a step in the right direction, not necessarily a final solution to the ongoing problems they point out in Arizona law enforcement.

Analise Ortiz, campaign strategist at the ACLU of Arizona, said that instituting a no-call policy is an important step toward repairing the public’s trust with prosecutors and the criminal legal system as a whole.

“Officers who’ve publicly made their racist views known put the integrity of any case they handle in jeopardy,” Ortiz said in a statement.

The letter also mentions Montgomery has remained silent in times of crisis before, so this would be an opportunity for him to act.

“The County Attorney must be a leader for police accountability, not someone who sits silently on the sidelines waiting for others to fix a broken system that he oversees,” the letter says.

The letter does briefly mention the Brady list, but only to point out that this proposed change they are seeking would do more than what a disclosure database does.

“[The Brady list] does not prevent the County Attorney from calling [officers in question] to testify or prevent the office from accepting their cases,” it says in the letter.

Clure does emphasize that the Brady list needs to improve and add the capability for officers to eventually be removed or at least go through some type of appeal process.

“We hire from the human race, and until Jesus Christ comes down and applies you’re going to get people that are going to make mistakes. There are no perfect people,” Clure said.

While it’s unlikely Montgomery will bend the knee to this request, he may not be the county attorney much longer if Gov. Doug Ducey opts to appoint him to the Supreme Court later this year. Montgomery’s term as county attorney is also up in 2020, but he hasn’t yet filed to run again. 

Proposal to give ‘Dreamers’ in-state tuition goes to ballot

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) supporters march in Phoenix on Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) supporters march in Phoenix on Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona voters will decide in November 2022 whether immigrants in this country illegally who are Arizona residents should be allowed to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. 

The House voted 33-27 to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044, with Reps. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa; Joel John, R-Buckeye; David Cook, R-Globe; and Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear, joining all 29 Democrats to advance the measure. It passed the Senate 17-13 in March, with three Republicans joining the Democrats in that chamber to pass it. 

 … today I am voting for all ‘Dreamers’ because you are our future doctors, scientists, engineers, educators and much more,” said Rep. Rich Andrade, D-Glendale. 

The resolution was never assigned to a House committee after passing the Senate and appeared to be dormant for two months until Udall made a motion to revive it last week, prevailing with John’s support against the rest of the House Republicans in a series of procedural motions to force it to be put on the calendar for a vote. Udall said it isn’t fair to penalize people who were brought to the U.S. as children for either the actions of their parents or this country’s failure to fix its immigration system. 

“We cannot continue to hold them hostage based on the actions or inactions of others,” she said. 

The measure, if approved by voters, would repeal a portion of 2006’s Proposition 300, which bars immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally from receiving in-state tuition, instead letting them receive it if they went to high school in Arizona and have lived in the state for at least two years. 

Several Republicans said they supported the policy behind the proposal, but were voting “no” because of the way the measure was brought to the floor against the wishes of the GOP majority. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, who falls into this camp, said he had hoped to get more of his fellow Republicans on board and felt a responsibility to protect the House’s normal procedures and committee process. 

“I congratulate those who feel a gain and a benefit, but I cannot support the way that this was done, and I must vote no,” he said. 

Cook objected to this way of thinking, and urged his colleagues to vote on whether they support the policy. 

“That’s what we are voting on is the policy on the board, not the manner in which it got here, because if we were all 60 members, I’m sure we would run the place a little differently if we were king for a day, but we’re not,” he said. “We’re 60 people inside this building who do respect it, and 31 is the magic number … so I’m voting on the policy on the board.”  

A couple Republicans said they would support extending in-state tuition to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or people who were brought to this country as children in the past and enjoy federal protections from deportation, but that the measure would apply to more people than that, including people who cross illegally in the future. 

“It is taking a good intent to further a not-so-good intent,” said Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton. 

Other Republicans said they oppose the idea of providing a benefit to people who are in the country illegally. 

“Americans should not have to pay for non-American citizens, illegals, giving them favored status for their trespass and invasion into America,” said Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction. 

Numerous Democrats spoke in favor of the measure, saying it would be good for the state and for the children who would now be able to receive an education, and broke into loud applause after the vote. Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, talked about how his own parents brought him across the Sonoran Desert to the U.S. when he was a toddler. 

“This country has allowed that 3-year-old little boy that left his home country to become a state representative in the great state of Arizona, and with this vote we are one step closer to providing that same opportunity to many of those children that only know the United States of America, that only hold that oath of loyalty to this country and no other country,” he said. 

Sen. Quezada: ‘please don’t be that.’

The Westgate retail district is closed off as law enforcement officers gather May 21, 2020, in Glendale. Police say one person is in critical condition and two others were injured in a shooting near the shopping and entertainment district. A Glendale police spokeswoman said Wednesday that the suspect was taken into custody safely. PHOTO BY MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Westgate retail district is closed off as law enforcement officers gather May 21, 2020, in Glendale. Police say one person is in critical condition and two others were injured in a shooting near the shopping and entertainment district. A Glendale police spokeswoman said Wednesday that the suspect was taken into custody safely. PHOTO BY MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Martín Quezada has long feared that the type of mass shooting that plagued other cities would happen close to home.

When a gunman intent on harming shoppers began firing on his own doorstep Thursday night, the Glendale Democrat hoped it was a joke.

Quezada was on a video call shortly after 7 p.m. at his home on the third floor of a mixed-use building in Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District when he heard a series of loud bangs outside and the power went out. Instantly, his mind went to gunshots.

Martin Quezada
Martin Quezada

“I’m hoping it’s a firecracker, it’s some other type of explosion,” he said. “I’m hoping it was something else, please don’t be that.”

Peeking outside, he saw people running and walking away. And one man, wearing a mask, walked calmly through the crowd reloading a black rifle.

“I saw people who were running as if they were scared for their lives, and I saw others who were walking casually as if they weren’t sure what was happening,” Quezada said. “I wasn’t completely sure what I had seen. It was all happening so fast that I couldn’t really put it together, whether it was an active shooter or some kind of joke.”

It was one of the first days shops and restaurants were open at the outdoor mall, a West Valley destination near the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium and the Arizona Coyotes’ arena. Families and groups of teens were out socializing, though the crowd was thinner than it would have been on a pre-pandemic summer night.

“Had this been a typical Wednesday night any other time of the year when there wasn’t a pandemic happening, it would have been much much worse,” Quezada said. “We shouldn’t have to go through a pandemic to keep this from happening. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Quezada ran outside, where he saw two of the gunman’s three victims lying in the street screaming in pain. Other witnesses were shaking and crying as police subdued the gunman.

Quezada tweeted that he witnessed an “armed terrorist with an AR-15 shoot up Westgate,” breaking the news to most of the world. At the time, he said, he was responding as a shocked witness, not a senator, and didn’t speak in the “politically correct” way he would have if he were representing himself as an elected official.

Police later confirmed that the accused gunman, 20-year-old Armando Hernandez Jr. of Peoria, was carrying a black rifle but did not identify the make. Quezada said he stands by his characterization of the gunman as a terrorist.

“Any time anybody takes action like that, whether it’s domestic or foreign, it’s an act of terror,” he said.

Hernandez told officers he wanted to shoot 10 shoppers at the outdoor mall because of bullying he endured, Glendale Police Sgt. Randy Stewart said at a news conference.

“He said that he went to Westgate to target victims,” Stewart said. “He wanted to gain some respect, and he felt that he had been bullied in his life.”

Police confirmed the authenticity of a Snapchat video that circulated on social media Thursday night showing a man who identified himself as Hernandez announcing his plans to shoot up the mall.

A 19-year-old man is hospitalized in critical condition, and a 16-year-old girl was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A 30-year-old woman was injured but did not require hospitalization.

Rep. César Chávez, one of Quezada’s seatmates in the Glendale district, said he spoke to the owner of a cigar lounge in the entertainment district. The owner was able to go inside when the shooter approached, Chavez said.

“You hear it over and over again on the news. It doesn’t really hit you until it hits home,”said Chavez, who lives just five minutes from the open-air mall. “I am dumbfounded. My own backyard.”

The gunman should never have been able to get that rifle in the first place, Quezada said, calling for lawmakers to at least start discussing gun control policies that have been anathema to the Republican majority at the state Legislature.

But he doesn’t expect those calls to go far. After all, he said, it was just a couple years ago that he described in vivid detail on the Senate floor how his best friend was shot and killed in 2003, and GOP lawmakers unswayed by mass shootings far from home didn’t change their minds then either.

As of Thursday afternoon, none of his Republican colleagues had reached out about the shooting in his home district.

“This hit close to home today,” Quezada said. “It could happen in another district tomorrow. It could happen in another city tomorrow.”

The shooting shook the Capitol, where three Democratic representatives have already been affected by gun violence. Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, was a 20-year-old intern for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011 when a gunman shot her and a dozen others at a constituent meeting outside a grocery store. Hernandez staunched Giffords’ bleeding and has been credited with saving her life.

Rep. Randall Friese, a Tucson trauma surgeon, operated on victims of that 2011 shooting. And Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, was paralyzed from the chest down in a random 2004 shooting.

Hernandez and Friese, like Quezada, said they want to see the Westgate shooting lead to legislative action on gun control, but they’re not holding their breath.

“Every time a shooting happens, it’s the same playbook,” Hernandez said. “Thoughts and prayers — it’s too soon to politicize. A month or two goes by, and the only people who remember or care are the people who were directly impacted.”

  • Capitol Times reporter Arren Kimbel-Sannit and The Associated Press contributed to this report.