The nation’s in the midst of a “revolution,” thanks to the effort to unseat President Donald Trump and the nationwide protests against racism and policing, state Sen. Sylvia Allen told a small crowd of mask-wearing Republicans in Payson last week.
“We do not need to associate ourselves with a violent terrorist organization to prove we love all our heavenly father’s children,” said Allen, in an apparent reference to Black Lives Matter or groups that support the protests like antifa.
“I’m so alarmed about it. People have the correct political correctness tone find that free speech isn’t free — you’re attacked. Loving your neighbor doesn’t mean we have to give up our liberty or free speech rights to appease our neighbor.”
Allen, head of the Senate Education Committee and a longtime Snowflake Republican lawmaker, has been criticized for a variety of statements, including comments on immigration research that she said related to the “browning” of America and adding “we’re going to look like South American countries very quickly.”
Since then, the deaths of several black and Hispanic citizens in police custody have ignited nationwide protests, including mostly peaceful marches in Arizona. However, one protest in Scottsdale was followed by the looting of a shopping mall that caused millions in damages.
Allen faces a challenge in the Republican primary from former combat pilot Wendy Rogers, whose campaign rhetoric has been even more inflammatory. Rogers has decried the activities of “socialist” and “communist” Democrats who hate America and all it stands for, but has rarely touched on any local issues.
Former Army nurse and medical helicopter pilot Felicia French is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in District 4, which stretches from Flagstaff to Alpine and includes all of Rim Country and the White Mountains. French has stressed more funding for education, better regulations on fracking and health care reforms. She has effectively suspended her campaign to work as a nurse and volunteer on the Navajo Nation, faced with the worst per-capita COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Allen’s sole mention of her primary opponent came near the end of her speech when she said Rogers doesn’t live in the district. Allen said the Phoenix businesswoman and former congressional candidate lives in a 3,000-square-foot home in Phoenix near her business, not in a travel trailer where she’s registered in Flagstaff.
Rogers’ campaign has in the past dismissed the allegation, saying the retired colonel lives in the district.
“That’s unethical. She’s scamming you,” said Allen, probably in hopes of running for the new congressional seat Arizona’s likely to pick up after the 2020 census.
“We have issues in rural Arizona they don’t have in Maricopa County,” said Allen, who comes from a pioneering family that settled in Snowflake. “You’ve got to have people who will go to war for rural Arizona and its way of life.”
But Allen devoted the bulk of her speech to a fierce criticism of Democrats and protesters, wearing a T-shirt saying she would never compromise in her fight against abortion and in support of gun rights. She noted that in 2009 she introduced a widely criticized bill allowing people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
“Have you seen a high rise in crime?” she said. “Who carries? Law-abiding citizens. I imagine there are a fair number of guns in the room right now and we don’t know a thing about it,” she said, drawing laughter from the 70 people in the Rumsey Park ramada, including at least a dozen elected officials and candidates.
She said she’d read a Soviet KBG agent’s assessment that it takes about 20 years to turn a country to communism, which starts with convincing people to reject and destroy their history.
“Antifa is a terrorist organization and Black Lives Matter is with them,” she said.
Moreover, she said if you disagree with the subversive liberal agenda, “you’re shamed in public.”
She also raised questions about the nation’s response to COVID-19, including state mandated business shutdowns and county and town efforts to make wearing masks in public mandatory, especially after a phased reopening after the expiration of the state’s stay-at-home order expired. Arizona now has among the fastest-growing rates of infection in the country.
Allen said she’d grilled the Arizona director of health services when she testified before the Senate. “I asked, why are we treating this differently from any other virus? The Hong Kong flu had a higher death rate. It’s a cold virus. Some 90% of those infected do not need any kind of medical treatment. The deaths are holding steady or even dropping.”
As of Tuesday, new cases had risen from 480 per day when the state lifted its order on May 15 to about 3,500 per day in the past week. Some argue at least a portion of the increase reflects a big rise in testing. Deaths have risen much more slowly, from about 20 per day to about 32 per day. However, the virus generally doesn’t cause death for a month or more after the initial infection, so some disease experts fear a surge in the days ahead due to the May 15 reopening. The overall mortality rate from the virus is thought to be somewhere between half a percent and 2% — much higher than the flu but much lower than SARS or MERS or Ebola.
Allen added, “... a lot of this has been politicized. You have to be careful not to give up your rights Why is it that we can’t go to church, but we can go to the Walmart? And we can tear down statues and destroy our history?”
She added that the Republicans could lose control of the state Senate if two seats change hands and of the House if one seat changes hands.
“This is serious stuff,” she said.