The Arizona Senate race in Rim Country and the White Mountains is already heating up with the eruption of charges of racially tinged rhetoric and misleading statements.
The dustup involves the District 6 Senate seat, currently held by Sen. Sylvia Allen.
The first controversy involves remarks by Allen both in Payson and during a speech in Phoenix about the changing demographics of Arizona. Allen said whites were failing to “reproduce.” Her Democratic opponent Felicia French has decried those remarks as “nativist” and “divisive.”
Allen made roughly similar remarks in both Phoenix and Payson, citing statistics that the average age of Hispanics in Arizona is 27 compared to an average age of 44 for whites. She commented that, “We are not replacing ourselves. You’re going to see so many changes coming it will make your head spin.”
The Phoenix New Times released an audio recording of another speech she delivered in which she remarked that demographic changes will make the U.S. “look like South American countries very quickly.”
She based both speeches in part on demographics research by Dr. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina. He has studied population growth in the South, interracial marriage trends, declining economic prospects for men, a rise in children living with grandparents and increased immigrations and what he calls the “browning of America.” However, he has argued that the changing demographics of the nation will actually give the U.S. an entry to global markets.
Allen said the nation must control immigration. “We can’t provide that when people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us so we don’t have time to teach them the principles of our country any more than we’re teaching our children today,” according to the New Times audio recording of the meeting.
French blasted those comments saying, “I firmly believe that diversity is one of our country’s enduring strengths. I am proud to have served more than three decades with countless immigrants in the U.S. military and to have had a grandmother who immigrated from Mexico.
“I have traveled from one end of the district to the other, knocking on hundreds of doors. What I see are people of all backgrounds working side by side, to make this corner of Arizona a better place to raise their families.
“The fear and divisiveness Senator Allen is spreading does not align with the values of LD6.”
Meanwhile, another brush fire has erupted in the race — this one stoked by remarks by Wendy Rogers, also running in the Republican primary against both Allen and Rep. Bob Thorpe, who was term-limited out of his House seat and is now seeking to move to the Senate.
The Republican Party touched off this argument on July 24 when it put in its newsletter a claim that while campaigning in the district Rogers told people that neither Thorpe nor Allen were running, allegedly to get them to sign her nominating petitions. You can only sign one nominating petition in a given race.
The “alert” said “numerous reports from Navajo County have been received and confirmed by affidavit that candidate Wendy Rogers has been in Snowflake and Taylor going door-to-door asking registered voters to sign her petition. During this process, Rogers has told people that she is the only candidate running in 2020 for the LD6 state senate ... Rogers is fraudulently obtaining registered voter signatures.”
The notice went on to accuse Rogers of “smearing” and “lying” about candidates in past congressional races, including Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and State Sen. Steve Smith. The notice said Smith’s former employer is suing Rogers for defamation.
Rogers’ campaign maintained the “alert” was written by political operatives “who appear to be very upset by Wendy’s primary win last cycle and who appear to stop at nothing to take Wendy out.”
The campaign denied Rogers lied about other candidates in the senate race.
“Wendy didn’t know it was her job to promote other candidates when talking to voters. If asked who she is running against, she tells them every time. We find it bizarre that it is Wendy’s job to promote other candidates. If the other two people in this primary race are promoting Wendy, then great! But not recommended. We respectfully ask that you denounce the statement and correct the record that it is completely false and unsubstantiated. It is a complete smear job by some desperate people who are too afraid to put their name on it,” wrote Spence Rogers.
A retired Army colonel, Rogers is a fifth-generation military officer and one of the first women to earn her pilot’s wings. She flew transport jets and served as an instructor pilot. She retired in 1996 to start her own home inspection business. She holds degrees in social work as well as national security studies.
She has been development director of a charter school, a foster parent and a substitute teacher, according to her website.
The Rogers campaign was reacting to an unsigned email alert that went to Republicans.
The Roundup also received the alert in an email from Dwight Kadar. The email listed contact information for the Republican county chairs for all four counties in the district.
Rogers won the 1st Congressional District Republican primary in 2018, but lost to Democrat Tom O’Halleran. In 2016, she lost a primary battle in the same district against Paul Babeu, who O’Halleran then defeated.
Steven Slaton, who fought a bitter in-house Republican battle with Allen in Navajo County, wrote an email to the White Mountain Independent saying GOP “leaders” and “self-appointed kingmakers” have been working to support Sen. Allen and convince Rep. Thorpe not to run against her.
During her recent appearance in Payson, Allen said she decided to run again to make sure the Republican Party doesn’t lose the seat — since she considered Thorpe the weaker candidate.
French nearly beat Thorpe when she ran for a House seat in 2018.
The state’s voter approved term limits often prompt House and Senate incumbents to periodically change seats — with term-limited senators running for the House and vice versa. Incumbent Rep. Brenda Barton in 2018 tried to convince Allen to switch seats, but failed. A challenge to Barton’s nominating petition signatures forced her to drop out.
Following Allen’s remarks last week, the Arizona Education Association (AEA) called for the removal of Allen as chair of the Senate Education Committee.
“Arizona students deserve a chair of the Arizona State Senate Education Committee who recognizes and celebrates diversity, not one who uses children to spread fear and intolerance,” said AEA President Joe Thomas.
He continued, “We embrace our differences as a value in Arizona. Senator Allen has disqualified herself and we ask for her immediate removal.”
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