So it turns out voters want labels after all

25 Nov 2015 06:41 am
Posted by: Donna


On Monday evening a Dem consultant and I got into a lengthy argument on Twitter with Chris Herstam, a former GOP legislator and current lobbyist, over the Top Two Primary proposal. Herstam was a big supporter of the measure that failed in 2012 and appears to be taking an active role in crafting and selling the “new and improved” one. Herstam is well known in Arizona political circles as a very nice guy and he has made it clear publicly that he is appalled by the hard right direction the Republicans have taken in the past several years. He seems to have a good faith belief that changing the primary system to give non-affiliated voters easier access to it will lead to more of the kind of centrists he prefers getting elected in Republican dominated districts.

After much back and forth on Twitter, it looked as though Herstam decided to delete all his tweets for some reason. I’m not sure why because he hadn’t said anything embarrassing or offensive and he was capably getting out the talking points. Herstam’s tweets were all saved in my phone, though, and one statement he made piqued my interest:

Chris Herstam (@chrisherstam) tweeted at 7:16 PM on Mon, Nov 23, 2015: @DonnaDiva @XXXXXX. Polling demonstrated that citizens preferred some guidance via registered status.Of course Sen Begay screws that up.

Fascinating. Recall how when former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson and his Open Primaries group announced they were going to try their initiative again one the key changes they proposed was eliminating party labels on the ballot. They were calling it “Open Nonpartisan Primaries” back then and Johnson wanted you to think that if, say, John McCain and David Schweikert were facing off on the same general election ballot they would somehow not both be Republicans because they didn’t have labels by their names:

Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, who led the campaign for Proposition 121 and is spearheading the 2016 measure, said organizers of the proposed Open Nonpartisan Primary Election plan on doing things a bit differently this time around.

“We get we lost last time,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to remind me of that. I get that one. So you have to look at why did I lose and what assets are out there that I can utilize to try to expand it.

First of all, the language will be different. Johnson said organizers aren’t entirely sure what the language will look like, but it may end up being quite similar, though not identical to Proposition 121. Organizers don’t expect to complete the language until this summer. But the current draft makes one notable change. Candidates’ party affiliation won’t be listed on the ballot under the proposed open primary system.

The change may seem small, but Johnson said it’s quite significant. Opponents of Proposition 121 criticized the 2012 measure because it could have led to situations where two members of the same political party face off against each other in the general election.

“That’s a big change. That was one of the very big issues that the other side used against us in the last campaign,” Johnson said. “Their TV ads said this could result in two Democrats ending up on the ballot and you really wouldn’t have a choice. That’s a big difference.”

But scratch all that, if we’re to go by what Chris Herstam says. It seems that voters do want party labels after all, despite the insistence of many of them that they hate parties and shun labels.

The other part of Herstam’s statement – the part about Senator Carlyle Begay of LD7, who announced his change of registration from Democrat to Republican on Monday – bears paying attention to as well. A lot of Democrats cried foul and even legally challenged Begay being appointed to the seat, which had been vacated by Jack Jackson, Jr. in 2013. It was well known that Begay had lived in Gilbert for years and he was believed to be working closely with Andy Biggs. Running as a Democrat, Begay won the seat in 2014 and hopes his incumbent status will get him reelected next year. We’ll see about that but it’s important to note that Begay is not the first time that right wingers in Arizona have recruited a sham candidate to mislead voters and siphon off Democratic votes.

The “jungle primary” is rife with opportunities for these dirty tricks. When I pointed that out to Herstam on Twitter, his response was to deflect that Democrats had run Libertarian candidates too. Okay, maybe they have (and not with any success that I’m aware) but this change to the primary is based on the belief (expressed to me by many Top Two supporters including Herstam) that heavily Republican-dominated districts will elect more moderate Republicans. That result is dependent upon a few highly questionable assumptions – that Democrats will cheerfully agree to step aside and not run their own candidates, that they will agreeably get out the vote for the “moderate” Republican among the Dem voter base (even if said Republican is an anti-choicer with an A rating from the NRA), and that no right wing operatives will derail the effort with fake Democratic candidates.

But at least they’ll have the labels now.

ASU’s Morrison Institute pushes Top Two Primary with study on “independent” voters

20 Nov 2015 01:47 pm
Posted by: Donna

The inimitable Jay Smooth explains, via rapper T-Pain and Sean Hannity, why you can’t possibly know more about politics than people who pay attention if you don’t pay attention.

ASU’s Morrison Institute issued a study of the elusive “independent voters” in Arizona. It was commissioned by the Clean Elections Commission and was pretty comprehensive (albeit with what I consider to be some gaps that I’ll get to in a bit) in that it included several focus groups and surveys and it asked what I believe is the pertinent question about this group of voters:

Are independent voters truly an untapped resource that could determine elections, aiding in the transformation of Arizona from a conservative “red state” into a “purple” moderate state or even more progressive “blue state?” Or, with no organization and a track record of poor turnout in both primary and general elections, are independents a much-ado-about-nothing “party” of non-participants?

I’m going with the latter, and not just based on my own frustrating personal experience with these voters. Oh no, thanks to this study we now have empirical evidence to go on. They not only don’t vote:

We know actual voter turnout is significantly lower than survey respondents indicate because voters tend to overstate their voting behavior – primarily because it is socially unacceptable to admit to not voting.

Actual voting statistics for Democrats, Republicans and independents in the 2010 primary and general elections in Maricopa County (the most recent data we have available) are 25 percent and 50 percent for Democrats; 42 percent and 61 percent for Republicans; and 8 percent and 34 percent for independents, respectively. In short, independents exert almost no impact on primary elections and a much-reduced voice, compared with Republicans and
Democrats, in general elections.

But they also don’t seem to know anything about Arizona politics. Not saying this to be mean but it’s true, as evidenced by this statement:

“The reason we don’t care for either party is the polarization thing: ‘We are absolutely socialist.’ ‘We are all for business.’ And neither one of those is true. But sometimes you get stuck thinking that way simply because it’s easier.”

While Arizona Republicans could certainly be said to be all for business, the same cannot be said for Arizona Democrats with respect to socialism. Perhaps this voter is thinking of Bernie Sanders, who is running for President, but no prominent Democrat in Arizona since Kyrsten Sinema described herself as one a decade ago when she was in the Legislature (and, oh boy, has she undergone a transformation!) has even so much as played footsie with the concept. Most refuse to even breathe the suggestion that income taxes should be raised. But even if Democratic politicians here were uniformly the reincarnation of Eugene Debs, they don’t run a single branch of the state government, not that the following voter seems to know that:

“I think if the existing parties were less partisan, a lot fewer people would be registered as independents. You can count me in that group, because part of what really turns me off is their commitment to their ideology rather than their commitment to governing, and so part of me being an independent is a protest statement.”

If you refuse to join a party and then don’t vote your “protest statement” is largely a shout into the windmills of your mind but at least consider letting Democrats in on some of that “governing” before you count us out, will ya? Democrats neither hold a single statewide office nor run a single committee in the Arizona legislature but the Morrison researchers claim that “the overwhelming majority of respondents” of all parties “[believe] there is too much partisan conflict at the Arizona state capitol”. It doesn’t appear that Morrison queried respondents on their knowledge of what party runs what in the state (Republicans: everything) or if they understand what that means in how our state is currently governed.

It’s very likely that these voters are extrapolating the gridlock they see in DC to the Arizona capitol and don’t understand that conservative ideology and GOP priorities are having the free run of our state and that some real “partisan conflict” might actually be an improvement. Some voters appear not to know that there is even a difference between national and state government. On Facebook recently I saw a Democratic activist in Tucson describe a town meeting about Governor Ducey’s land trust education deal where a voter there insisted the whole thing had to be Raul Grijalva’s fault, though the Congressman had no hand in it. When I ran for state senate in 2006 I was asked more than once if I was running against John McCain or Jon Kyl.

Of course, the Democrats running for statewide office and the competitive districts needed to take over at least one of the legislative chambers have done their utmost to impress upon the electorate that they are both moderate (which, per the Morrison report, 52% of both Democratic and Republican voters and a whopping 73% of voters who choose neither party claim to be) and willing to reach across the aisle. If Fred DuVal, Terry Goddard, Felecia Rotellini, David Garcia, Sandra Kennedy, and Jim Holway ran on a commitment to leftist ideology that would certainly be news to them and anyone who paid a whit of attention to their campaigns in 2014, which obviously was not the case with most of the “independent” voters Morrison interviewed.

The questions Morrison asked of the focus groups revealed a lot about what voters think of themselves:

We asked what it means to be an independent voter. They explained that “independent” means “more choices and less commitment with the parties.” With more options comes more of an obligation to do research independent of party lines, which is why independents also describe themselves as more informed and more critical of what politicians say than other voters. One participant stated:

“The independents are the ones that can sort of maintain the line, stand there in
front of all of it and make a selection of something that is not spoon-fed to you. (An)
independent says, ‘I looked at it. I believe in the system. I believe in the Constitution,
in the voting, but these two clowns ain’t got it.’”

But not what they know about the state of governance in Arizona, whatever “research” they’re doing notwithstanding. It’s kind of ridiculous to let people act like they are such careful scholars of Arizona politics without challenging them on their knowledge. Morrison does emphasize the problem of nonpartisan voters being unaware of the fact that they can vote in partisan primaries if they want:

Independent voters may believe they are better informed than their partisan counterparts, yet many do not even know they can vote in the primary election. Restrictive earlier laws regarding independents and primaries, and presidential preference elections (where only party members can choose a party’s nominee), only add to their confusion.

Yet the Morrison Institute was not interested in delving into why so many voters across the political spectrum (with the notable exception of conservative-leaning independents and registered Republicans) don’t feel that they are being represented at the State Capitol. There’s nothing nebulous or inscrutable about this: It’s because they are not being represented at the State Capitol, as it is run by conservative Republicans, for conservative Republicans! But apparently a lot of the disenchanted voters don’t know that.

In the appendix of the study is a poll of 2000 Arizona voters asked about various issues including abortion, the death penalty, and mandatory disclosure of campaign contributions. Informative stuff there.

But here is where we get to why the Morrison Institute may have tailored their research the way they did.

Election Structure

Based on the research findings, the vast majority of Arizona voters favor changes in the current election structure.

Respondents were asked whether they would “support primary elections where all candidates for an elected office are included on the same ballot, without identifying their political party.” While there is some split by political affiliation, 58 percent of all registered voters would support such a ballot change. Republicans oppose this change by a narrow margin (46 percent favor the change), while Democrats (58 percent) and moderate
independents (72 percent) favor it.

There is overwhelming support (85 percent) among registered Arizona voters to allow “all registered voters, including independents, to vote for any candidate on the ballot, rather than just those from a single political party.” Support comes from all political persuasions – 73 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of moderate independents.

Voters also “support primary elections in which the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes, regardless of their political affiliation, face off in the general election” (82 percent of all registered voters, 78 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of moderate independents).

Posing it that way really makes it seem like voters get so much choice, doesn’t it? It doesn’t reflect the reality where 20-25% of registered voters in the primary election decide for 60-75% of the general electorate whom the two, and only two, candidates they will be able to choose from for each elected office in the general election – the one that counts – will be.
The Morrison Institute brainiacs appear to see Top Two as a brilliant technocratic innovation that will usher in moderate purple state rainbows, with no evidence to support that supposition. It will definitely increase the power of money and act as a form of voter suppression (which is the effect of limiting voters only two choices in the general election no matter how “choice-y” you dress it up to be). Morrison acknowledges the disparity between stated voting behavior (most voters claim to vote in every election) with actual voting (much lower according to voting records) so it’s disappointing and troubling that they don’t do the same with basic civics knowledge. Most Arizona voters aren’t even remotely political junkies but do know enough to throw around words like “ideology” and “partisanship” so as to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they don’t know a lot. Presenting voters who pay little to no attention to what is going on with ballots on general election day with only two options for each race and no information about the candidates aside from their name is not going to shock them into becoming instant experts.

The Clean Elections Institute should think hard about lending their name to promoting this, not only because even making it to one of the two general election slots will be a difficult prospect for most publicly funded candidates under a jungle primary system, but also because it is part of their mission to educate and inform Arizona voters, not keep them in the dark.

Legal abortion is so “safe” in some places that women are resorting to DIY ones

19 Nov 2015 12:29 pm
Posted by: Donna

self induced abortion

Friday’s Supreme Court announcement was understandably eclipsed by the events in Paris but we pro-choice folks paid close attention to it. The court has agreed to hear a challenge to a passel of abortion restrictions passed in Texas in 2013 under the guise of “safety”. The Texas laws, which led to several clinic closures as intended, were the result of anti-choicers taking advantage of past court decisions allowing states broad latitude in regulating abortion prior to viability so long as their stated reason was to protect the health of women and that it did not place an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. Arizona, being a red state run by raving misogynists, has passed similar laws, modeled on national templates.

If you think that solid scientific evidence should be required before forcing women (many of whom will have to drive long distances) to wait 24-72 hours before getting an abortion, or for claiming that abortion will increase her chances of breast cancer and depression, or for requiring clinics to be fully ambulatory surgical centers and doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals before one of the simplest surgical or medication procedures available can be done, then you don’t know anti-choice judges. The famously right wing 5th Circuit, which upheld the Texas law that will be decided by SCOTUS, found such considerations to be irrelevant:

The 5th Circuit, in upholding the Texas law, said that it did not consider a 300-mile round trip for nearly 1 million women of reproductive age to be a substantial burden because that number was “nowhere near” a large fraction of the state’s 5.4 million women of childbearing age.

The circuit court also said that under the Supreme Court’s prior decisions, it was required to defer to the state’s asserted “rational” justification for the law — protecting women’s health — even though that assertion is not supported by empirical evidence.

If the Supremes hold up that reasoning, then there is no limit to the barriers anti-choicers could put in front of women seeking abortions! Basically, safe legal abortion will be completely gone in much of the country. In Texas this is now a reality, with large swaths of the giant state having no abortion provider. Anecdotes of women taking matters into their own hands have been trickling in for months now.

“If a woman wants to abort, she’s going to abort,” says Lucy Felix, a Valley-based promotora, or health educator, at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

A native of Reynosa, Mexico, Felix has a short brown bob and a bellowing laugh. She wears a thin, gold necklace, a souvenir that a friend brought back from a Catholic trip to Israel. In the middle, a pendant spells out her first name in Hebrew. Blowing on a hot bowl of soup inside a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville, Felix explains the dilemma that many local women face since the crackdown on miso. Now, to get to the nearest abortion providers, they have to pass through la garita, or immigration checkpoints.

“So undocumented women, what can they do?” she asks, flinging her hands in the air. “They put things in their vagina. I’ve heard that women are using coat hangers or some are going to Mexico and getting clandestine abortions, where it’s dirty, unhygienic.” Felix gulps down a spoonful of broth. “Other women go to the flea markets. There are still places where you can get pills.”

McAllen’s Whole Women’s Health stopped providing abortion services after the admitting privileges provision went into effect and shut down entirely in March.

“It’s just the beginning,” the center’s former patient advocate, Luzevlia Carreon, observes. “It’s in demand right now. It’s what our patients are doing and they’re going to continue taking it. … The fact of the matter is that women are going to get pills and are going to figure out ways to have an abortion.”

University of Texas just put out a research paper on self-induced abortion in Texas and the findings are that a startling number of women in Texas may have attempted to end their own pregnancies.

Overall, 1.7% of women aged 18-49 reported that they had ever tried to end a pregnancy on their own. As noted above, since women tend to underreport abortion in surveys, this gives us a low estimate for the frequency of abortion self-induction in the general population.

When asked about their best friends, 1.8% said they were sure their best friend had done this, and an additional 2.3% said they suspected she had done this. This gives us a high estimate of 4.1% of adult women of reproductive age who have ever attempted abortion self-induction. By applying these proportions to the 5,949,149 women aged 18-49 in Texas, we estimate that somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women in this age range have tried to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance

This is what happens when abortion is illegal, or made so difficult to get that it might as well be. We pro-choicers have warned this would happen for years. Allies and people in the “mushy middle” have tended to brush the warnings aside while anti-choicers seem to consider women being physically harmed by DIY abortions or prosecuted for them to be an acceptable price for all the babies they believe will be “saved” from legal abortion. And it’s not like the bad things are going to happen to nice ladies they know, or so they think.

They all must look alike to Gov. Ducey

17 Nov 2015 02:37 pm
Posted by: Donna



PHOENIX – “Given the horrifying events in Paris last week, I am calling for an immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona. As governor, I am invoking our state’s right under 8 USC, Section 1522 (a), to receive immediate consultation by federal authorities per the United States Refugee Act, and that the federal government take into account the concerns and recommendations of the state of Arizona as they are required to under federal law, in our efforts to keep our homeland safe. I also call on Congress and the President to immediately amend federal law to provide states greater oversight and authority in the administration of the placement of refugees. These acts serve as a reminder that the world remains at war with radical Islamic terrorists. Our national leaders must react with the urgency and leadership that every American expects to protect our citizens.”

I’m just going to add to the mountain of criticism the Arizona Governor and those of other states refusing (trying to, anyway) are getting by asking what should be an obvious question:

Exactly how easy do they think it would be for ISIS members to blend in with Syrian refugees fleeing said ISIS members so as to enter the US with the intention of committing terrorist acts? Have these right wing pants wetters ever considered that the ISIS members might, you know, be recognized as such by at least some of their fellow refugees? To believe otherwise is pure “they all look alike” racism, which has been known to lead to deadly outcomes. Shockingly irresponsible for Ducey and those other governors to foment such ignorance and bigotry, especially since all the evidence thus far in the Paris bombing points to no Syrian refugees being involved.

It’s also super “pro-life” of these conservative governors to want to deny safe refuge to Syrian children at risk of rape and murder at the hands of ISIS, isn’t it?

GOP chair paints Top Two Primary and anti-Dark Money initiatives as the work of dirty hippies

13 Nov 2015 02:21 am
Posted by: Donna

Robert Graham

Per AZGOP Chair Robert Graham in the AZ Capitol Times:

The Arizona Capitol Times recently reported the same people behind the failed jungle primary initiative in 2012 plan on taking another run at it in 2016. Only this time jungle primary supporters intend to team up with another group of liberals pushing an aggressive regulatory agenda designed to relieve Arizonans of our free speech rights—all under the guise of eliminating so-called dark money.

Ouch! That’s bound to leave a mark on the carefully-crafted “we’re so above the extremists on both sides!” image of the Open Primaries people. Graham’s oped is clearly signalling how conservatives plan to defeat both Top Two primaries and Terry Goddard’s Dark Money initiative – by painting both as acts of desperation by sore loser leftists.

No, really, Graham says so (though he admits the two measures are unrelated):

The supporters pushing this initiative are losing candidates who have proven incapable of winning elections in Arizona. Paul Johnson and Terry Goddard, the two people behind the jungle primary and the attack on free speech, have a combined staggering six losses in statewide races.

When politicians lose races, it is easy to make excuses and complain. It is apparently tougher to take a hard look at oneself. Has it ever occurred to these people that the reason they keep losing is that they are simply far too liberal for Arizona voters? Of course not. Paul Johnson lost his most recent run for governor by a 61-35 margin. Please don’t believe his claims that the primary elections system makes it hard for “moderates” like him to win—he’s about as “moderate” as his liberal comrade Bernie Sanders. And that’s the real reason he keeps losing, whether he is running as a candidate or pushing some harebrained electoral scheme.

The reality is that the jungle primary is simply a way for losing candidates to try to put their thumb on the scale of the Arizona election system so they might have a better chance of winning. The impending marriage with the anti-dark money forces is an awkward one to say the least, as the two have nothing to do with each other. Though the jungle primary supporters crow that it makes their measure stronger, it looks more like an act of desperation to revive a discredited measure that failed so badly a mere three years ago.

I don’t know Paul Johnson personally and he was Mayor of Phoenix before I moved here and I barely remember the 1998 Governor’s race he lost shortly after I arrived. My only interactions with him have been arguments online about Top Two primaries, which I oppose. I have also tangled with Paul’s son Justin Johnson, former legislative and Phoenix City Council candidate, a time or two. Johnson the father is now an independent while the son remains a Democrat. While both are proudly centrist and I’m a big, honking liberal, I would not characterize either as being akin to Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz, despite whatever policy and tactical disagreements I may have with them.

But Robert Graham unhesitatingly likens Paul Johnson (and all other supporters of Open Primaries by association) to Bernie Sanders. Coincidentally, that reminds me of how Justin Johnson told me that I was the left wing version of a Tea Party member on Facebook recently. I responded that it was an odd way to describe me since I have no stances that are a left mirror-image of climate change and evolution denial or taking Medicaid away from millions of people, as the Tea Party has actually done. Undeterred, Justin informed me that my left-wing Tea Party equivalence was a “state of mind”.

Sure it is. That’s why the Open Primaries campaign is leaning hard on Arizona Democrats to help them get their initiative passed, despite their public contempt for “partisans”. They obviously know that both parties are demonstrably not the same. Unfortunately for them, the strategy of denigrating both parties while enlisting one of them in their cause was bound to be called out, especially when the party they’re conscripting into their effort is the dreaded “liberal” one. Terry Goddard’s Dark Money initiative can possibly withstand the “liberal” label because voters of all stripes hate dark money in elections but I’m skeptical that enough non-liberal Arizona voters are sufficiently exercised about partisan primaries to overcome that stain. That’s assuming that Open Primaries could count on solid Democratic base support as Goddard can with Dark Money, which is doubtful.

Democratic voters sit out yet another off-year election. Let’s examine why.

05 Nov 2015 03:55 am
Posted by: Donna


This is getting old. Tuesday was election day across the nation and Democrats performed poorly, yet again, as they have tended to do the past several elections that are not Presidential general ones. The reason for it is obvious: low turnout, averaging about 30% nationwide. The explanations behind that reason that liberals will come up with are akin to the game show “Wheel of Fortune”, where in the final round the common letters picked to guess the winning phrase had become so predictable that the show just started spotting them to the contestants years ago: R,S,T,L,N,E.

The R,S,T,L,N,E of Democratic losses are as follows, in no particular order of importance and with no judgment on my part on their veracity, as all are true to varying extents:

1. Democrats don’t have a message.
2. Democratic candidates run as Republican lite and run away from President Obama.
3. Gerrymandering.
4. Voter suppression and other logistical impediments to voting.
5. Citizens United and the flooding of elections with huge amounts of money from well-heeled right wing ideologues.
6. Demographics.

Let’s take them one by one: (more…)

“It’s just a bunch of Mexican kids. Why should I pay for them?”

02 Nov 2015 07:42 pm
Posted by: Donna

There’s something that feels very inevitable about the way this Arizona school funding “settlement” is playing out.

The plan ends a lawsuit filed by schools in 2010 after the Legislature stopped giving required yearly inflation increases to basic school funding. It would funnel $3.5 billion to K-12 schools over 10 years. About $2 billion comes from increasing land trust withdrawals, and the $1.4 billion from the state’s general fund. The deal also contained several triggers that would allow the Legislature to stop mandatory inflation boosts in tough economic times.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, voters would have to approve the changes in a May special election.

The total figure represents about 72% of what the court ordered to be paid to the schools in the lawsuit and practically none of it is new funding at all. The $2 billion from the state land trust comes from funds already promised to the schools per dictate of the state’s constitution. Basically, it’s like you paying me back money you owe me by withdrawing it from my bank account. And that account is actually a trust held in abeyance by my relatives, who will be voting next May on whether the funds can even be withdrawn or not. Oh yeah, you repaid me all right. Sure you did.

Ballot measures involving fiddling with the state land trust have a history of failing so the prospects of this scheme succeeding are sketchy, at best. The result either way will represent the speed at which the public schools of Arizona will be starved. Liberals here wrack their brains over how people can tell pollsters they consider education their top priority while returning politicians actively hostile to raising revenue and funding the schools to office year after year. Maybe some insight into that is to be found in a not-atypical encounter I had at the door of a voter in LD28 (North Central Phoenix, Paradise Valley) during the 2014 election. It was a week prior to the general election and my assignment was to contact voters mainly about Dr. Eric Meyer, a Democrat who somehow manages to get elected in that R-dominated district. I had a list of mostly Republicans believed to be “persuadable” and voters listed as Other (unaffiliated with any party). As you might imagine, this tends to be a more challenging task for a Democratic volunteer than talking to Democratic voters, and things can get really interesting.

So I knocked on the door of an Other voter, and a white woman responded who looked to be in her late 30s. I explained why I was there and things were going along pleasantly until I mentioned that Dr. Meyer and the rest of the Democratic candidates held education as their signature issue. I recall noticing kid-related items around the home that indicated the voters were parents, which is why I was shocked by what the voter said to me about the subject of public education, which was something closely along the lines of: “I’m for education but I feel like I pay enough taxes for it already. It’s just a bunch of Mexican kids. Most of them don’t even belong here legally. Why should I pay for them?” I remember beating a quick retreat after that because I did not care to have that particular debate and it would have eaten up time available to talk to other voters.

Granted, it’s one anecdote but – let’s be honest – it’s far from the first time any of us have heard this rhetoric from our coworkers and neighbors, isn’t it? SB1070 wasn’t supported by over 60% of Arizonans in 2010 in a vacuum. It is commonly believed here that immigrant families are getting huge amounts of public assistance that native-born families are somehow not qualified to receive. I’ve heard the “illegals get free college tuition” canard more than a few times, as well as the apocryphal tales of scores of children being bused in daily from south of the Mexican border to attend American schools. So it’s no surprise at all that a lot of voters here tell pollsters they value education while having a record of voting accordingly that is spotty, at best. They’ll sometimes vote for sales tax increases or bonds and overrides and their districts and other times not. People who really want to see K-12 succeed consistently vote for funding increases. I do, and I know you do too. The electorate as a whole doesn’t (and if the 2014 statewide election didn’t drive that home, I don’t know what will) and it’s pretty frigging depressing to ponder why.

Furthermore, I don’t believe it is solely a reflection of the right wing Norquist anti-tax cult that the Legislature got really parsimonious with school funding just as the K-12 and college student body started getting browner. They fret over “throwing money” at the schools and supposedly high administrative costs, while pointing to places like Washington, DC that spend a lot per pupil (and just so happen to have a large percentage of non-white students who rely on services provided by their schools to mitigate their poverty) as a reason to fund public schools as little as possible here in Arizona. It’s frankly preposterous to watch Governor Ducey and Republican lawmakers preen about how they are the ones who truly “care” about the very schoolchildren they have been kicking dirt on for years.

My hope is that the people who are motivated to improve education in Arizona outnumber those who aren’t in Tuesday’s bond/override elections, but I’m not overly optimistic about it.