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Why Arizona Senators Can Clash With The Democrats Who Elected Them

Democrats control the US Senate with a single vote. President Biden has made bipartisanship a top priority. Republican senators are pushing for deals, including on Covid-19 during a meeting Monday with the president. On the economy, on immigration, on health care – the Biden administration will need the votes of every senator it can get.

This is where Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly come in.

The two Democratic senators from Arizona, both moderate, have assumed an unusual stature amid all the talk of bipartisanship. Ms Sinema made waves and frustrated progressives last month when she aligned with Republicans to maintain the filibuster, which gives power to the minority party. Mr Kelly was part of a bipartisan group of 16 senators who recently met with White House officials to discuss Covid relief. The pair represent a state Mr. Biden narrowly reversed in November; Pleasing Arizona is a new Democratic priority.

But if Ms. Sinema and Mr. Kelly emerge as actors in Washington, politics here is more complicated. Arizona Democratic Party officials and activists have jumped into the two senators’ race, despite the fact that many of those Democrats are more progressive than Ms. Sinema or Mr. Kelly. Now, they are eager for their senators not only to embrace the middle, but also to embrace the policies the left is pushing for. Many view senators’ openness to Republicans with skepticism.

“There was so much in Kelly and Sinema’s victory that no effort can take the credit, but also everything was needed so nothing can be sacrificed,” said Ian Danley, Executive Director of Arizona Wins, who helped coordinate voter education among dozens of liberal organizations last year. “They are both in a difficult situation. These different strategies from a political point of view can be in conflict. “

Ms Sinema, who was elected in 2018, and Mr Kelly, who won last year, both ran for office on bipartisan approaches from the government. And given the tight democratic control in the Senate, the two senators are likely to prove essential to Biden’s agenda as well as any major legislative agreement on issues central to the state, including immigration, health care. health and Covid relief.

Their importance was made clear last week when Vice President Kamala Harris included Phoenix ABC affiliate and The Arizona Republic editorial board in a series of interviews as she promoted the Covid relief program. administration. Although Ms Harris did not mention Ms Sinema’s or Mr Kelly’s name, she left no doubt that their loyalty was paramount.

“If we do not pass this bill, I will be very frank with you: we know that more people are going to die in our country,” Ms. Harris said in the interview with The Republic. “More people will lose their jobs and our children will miss more school. We have to be here collectively to say that is not an option in America. “

On the same day, Ms Harris made similar comments to a West Virginia television station and newspaper. Later, Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat who has represented the state since 2010 and enjoys his reputation as an independent, expressed his own frustration, saying his interview was “no way of working together.”

Ms Sinema and Mr Kelly made no such comment and some progressives viewed their silence as disturbing.

“We need to be able to count on these senators we worked so hard to elect,” said Tomás Robles, executive director of LUCHA, a civil rights group that has knocked on tens of thousands of doors in Arizona for them. Democrats last year. “If they act like a moderate Republican, we will remember that at election time. We expect them to recognize that Latinos voted overwhelmingly for these two, and we expect them to repay us for our loyalty.

For many immigration activists, a feeling of pessimism has already started to set in. They fear Democrats are trying to strike a deal with Republicans who are unlikely to approve of the sweeping changes proposed by Mr. Biden – similar to the strategy that failed during the Obama administration.

Erika Andiola, a Phoenix-based immigration activist, became the first known undocumented congressional assistant when she worked for Ms Sinema in 2013, drawn by what she saw as Ms intense interest and engagement. Sinema for the question. Now Ms Andiola has said she sees her former boss as taking a more conservative stance on immigration – more often focusing on border security than creating a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people. undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

“There is a window of time now and there is a way for Democrats to do something about immigration – and they can do it themselves,” Ms. Andiola said. “At the time of the crisis you have to choose your battles, you have to choose what you can win. Choose the right strategy. Compromising with Republicans will get us nowhere.

Ms Sinema and Mr Kelly declined to be interviewed for this article, but statements from their offices emphasized bipartisanship and border security, as well as support for the Dreamers, who were brought to the states. -United as children of unauthorized immigrants and were threatened. sometimes with expulsion.

Mr Kelly is already part of the group of 16 senators tasked with reaching a bipartisan agreement on the relief plan. Ms Sinema has been one of the most vocal critics of Arizona’s response to the pandemic, and some Arizona Democrats believe she will back the Biden administration’s package.

Raquel Terán, newly elected president of the Arizona Democratic Party and state representative, admitted that the two senators “had not campaigned on the progressive end of the spectrum.” But she said that while there may be disagreements, she expected the two to side with Mr Biden on the relief program, health care and immigration.

“They will vote for the Democratic agenda, the agenda that Joe Biden proposed – they supported it in the election and what they put on the table, so I have high hopes,” Ms. Terán. “I hope they will do anything so that his agenda is not blocked.”

Arizona has a long history with high-profile, independent senators willing to counter party lines, and others who have amassed political power – John McCain and Jon Kyl have long been considered two of the most influential senators during their tenure, and Jeff Flake became one of the first Senate Republicans to openly criticize former President Donald J. Trump.

“There is no state in America that will play a more central role in directing congressional legislation over the next two years,” said Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. “Every major piece of legislation is going to go through Arizona, and the role that many of us want our senators to play is that of someone crossing the aisle.”

Many Democrats point out that the state’s political atmosphere has changed dramatically since 2018, with voters reversing both Senate seats and a Democratic presidential candidate winning in Arizona in November for just the second time in five decades. And since the riot in Washington last month, more than 5,000 Republicans have abandoned party affiliation.

Still, Mr Hamer warned that the two senators were in a precarious political position, particularly Mr Kelly, who won a special election and is due for re-election in 2022. (The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed his opponent in the elections of l last year, and did not approve of Ms. Sinema’s race.)

Approving major changes like a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour or an immigration program that does not include more enforcement, Mr Hamer said, would deflect moderate voters who also helped propel the pair in Washington. .

“I don’t believe you can have unity in America without bipartisan legislation, and I truly believe that both have a role to play in that regard,” he said. “It would be much better and more lasting than trying to blow up the filibuster.”

Mr Danley, a longtime Liberal activist, also warned the two senators could not take new voters in the state for granted.

“If we want to produce voters who support you, we need ammunition, we need to have something real and legitimate,” Danley said. “We can’t keep saying they’re better than the bad guys – that’s too low of a bar. What about really being good to those people who have come forward and have expectations? “

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Arizona GOP ready to censor Doug Ducey, Cindy McCain and Jeff Flake

Arizona Republicans are ready to censor three of their own party’s most prominent members in the state: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, widow of former Senator John McCain .

While largely symbolic, the expected political reprimand at a state GOP meeting on Saturday underscores a growing rift in Arizona between party officials who have made it clear their loyalty lies with former President Trump and those in the party who refused to support him. or his efforts to overturn the results of the Arizona election, which President Biden won.

Mr Flake and Ms McCain approved Mr Biden ahead of the November election. Although Mr. Ducey has continually made it clear that he supports Mr. Trump, he has angered some Republicans by defending the state’s electoral process, rather than supporting efforts to challenge the November results in court. .

Mr McCain himself was blamed by the state party in 2015 for his voting record, which some Republican officials there saw as not conservative enough.

The vote of no confidence comes two and a half months after Mr Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Arizona in more than two decades, and only the second Democrat in 50 years. For decades, Republicans controlled both seats in the U.S. Senate, but lost the first in 2018 and the second last year. Mr Ducey, who was easily re-elected in 2018, is the most prominent Republican still in office to win statewide.

Ms McCain, Mr Flake and Mr Ducey each attended Mr Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday and Ms McCain served on the president’s transitional advisory board. She responded to the threat of censorship with a sense of annoyance and amusement, joking that she was in “good company” with her husband.

“I think I’ll make T-shirts for everyone and wear them,” she said during an appearance on “The View,” co-hosted by her daughter Meghan. And in an interview with The Arizona Republic, Ms McCain criticized State Party Chairman Kelli Ward for pushing for such a step.

“As president of AZGOP, she succeeded in turning Arizona blue in November for the first time since 1996,” she said. “Maybe she should remember my husband has never lost an election in Arizona since his first victory in 1982.”

Mr. Flake written on twitter that he too was not affected by censorship.

“If it is necessary to forgive the behavior of the president to remain in the good graces of the party, I am very well on the sidelines”, he wrote.

Governor Ducey, in an interview on Friday, said he had given “little or no time to think” about the vote.

“I think we are better and stronger as a party when we add people rather than alternatives,” he said.

None of the three Republicans plan to formally oppose censorship, which is almost certain to pass.

Many moderate Republican officials have dismissed censorship as a distraction, saying it will largely serve to alienate other moderates in a state where independent voters make up nearly a third of the electorate.

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How Doug Ducey, Republican Gov. of Arizona, sees his party after Trump

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey drew criticism from some fellow Republicans in November for what would be routine in other years: certifying state elections. But it was only the second time a Democratic presidential candidate has won the state in 50 years, and many Republicans backed former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to reverse the results.

This weekend, the Arizona Republican Party is expected to censor Mr. Ducey, who easily won re-election in 2018, Cindy McCain and former Senator Jeff Flake at a state party meeting on Saturday. Mr Ducey, who has said he considers himself a conservative Republican, mostly tried to ignore the reprimands and traveled to Washington to attend President Biden’s inauguration. We spoke with him about the political atmosphere in Arizona and nationally, and what the no-confidence vote could mean for the future of the GOP.

The interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What has marked you about the inauguration of the president and your stay there now?

It’s incredibly special to be at any grand opening. I thought the president hit all the right notes in his speech. And this is a new start for a new administration. It was amazing to me how locked down the city of Washington, the level of security there, and the armed troops on the streets with fences and barbed wire. And of course, that was in response to what had happened a few weeks earlier.

Barely two weeks after the riot on Capitol Hill, President Biden spent most of his inaugural address talking about unity. Do you think it is possible for the country to unite at this time when there are so many divisions?

When I saw that President Biden’s theme was unity, I thought maybe it was a bridge too far. But I think his speech introduced all Americans to what is possible. And I especially liked him talking about how we can stop this “ungodly war”.

We have the capacity to continue to disagree, to advance our political concerns. And I’m sure we’ll have a lot of disagreements. But I thought for an opening speech it was appropriate. We are currently divided as a country. We can have a more appropriate discussion and debate than what we saw several weeks ago in the nation’s capital.

Since 2016, Arizona Republicans have lost both Senate seats and lost the presidential race in 2020.

What do you think the party needs to do to win statewide in 2022?

The candidate will import. And I also think for Republicans across the country we need to think in addition and multiplication rather than in subtraction and division. And in both races that I had as governor, this is the posture that I had. Going out to rooms where Republicans may never have spoken to them is something I’ve embraced and enjoyed. I think our results speak for themselves, this is the right way to gain votes statewide.

You met Senator Mitch McConnell while you were in Washington. Are you ready to run for the Senate in 2022, when you will be appointed out of the governor’s office?

I am not a candidate for the United States Senate. I knew Chief McConnell through the seat opened with the passing of John McCain. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the Covid-19 relief package.

Are you excluding your candidacy for the Senate?

I am not a candidate for the United States Senate. It’s a no. I’m 100% focused on being the governor of the state of Arizona. I accepted the role of president of the RGA. So I have a full time job and then a full time job beyond that. And that’s what I’m focusing on.

Is the Arizona GOP getting hurt by taking this vote against you and Ms. McCain and Senator Flake?

I gave little or no time to think about it. I will stand by what I said before. I think we are better and stronger as a party when we add people rather than the alternative.

What do you think would be the political fallout? Does the party risk becoming a sort of fringe political group by voting against its own two-term governor?

We’ve had this type of behavior in the water before in the state of Arizona, in fact, a number of times. So this fever will break too. And they’re going to do what they’re going to do.

Do you think a busted party like this could win?

Several times it has already been busted and the Republican Party has won statewide. And I’m actually not going to pay attention to it anymore. The national media seem to be giving enough. It really has nothing to do with our agenda here, my election or my re-election. I am convinced that we will be able to overcome all obstacles in our way.

When you think of Arizona Republicans, not just party activists, is it a McCain party or a Trump party?

It’s a celebration of both. It is a broad coalition. It should be a big tent. There are a lot of people in this party who have great affection and respect for John McCain, his service, his heroism and his heritage, and we also support President Trump.

Let’s talk about the Republican Party at the national level. How do you think the party is leaving Trump without alienating its supporters? Is there some kind of reorientation that needs to happen?

I think the party is better off when it sets an agenda and actually presents good ideas and good policies. It’s also good when it comes to stopping or defending ideas that we think hurt people or may have good intentions but don’t have good results.

And when we focus too early on Election Day or think back to what might have happened on the last Election Day, it doesn’t always translate into positive steps. You’re talking about the next race and it’s now two years away, the best thing you can have is a good record, a good candidate and a good campaign.

I’m going to ask you a few questions about the housekeeper part. Arizona is currently an epicenter of the pandemic. What do you think needs to be changed to bring rates down there?

Our rates are dropping right now. What we have just experienced is our second wave. I don’t think you can ever anticipate what you know about this virus. It is vicious and unpredictable. And no one said there would be just two waves. We are seeing our ICU hospital capacity decrease, and we are also seeing our hospital discharge increasing. So these are all good signs.

But the only time a solution has been presented is when a vaccine is available. So our goal right now is to make sure we do all the steps to slow the spread, to protect the lives of people inside the state, while working as quickly as possible with real emergency and a sense of purpose to achieve this. vaccine in people’s arms.

You are the governor of a border state, which has talked a lot about border security. Mr. Trump identified so strongly with the detentions and the wall. With him gone, what do you think is going on with border security there?

I really hope the new administration cares about public safety in the state of Arizona and our border states. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. So I hope they will want to embrace the good things that have happened in terms of protection around the border.

Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner, but we also had some very real border issues four years ago involving drug cartels, human trafficking, and child sex trafficking and , anyway, these have been drastically reduced. And I hope the administration will continue to team up to protect the people, schools, and neighborhoods of Arizona residents.

Were you surprised that Trump supporters were basically split into a group between people who stood by his side when he wanted to overthrow the election and people like you who didn’t?

I look at it differently. I couldn’t have been more supportive of President Trump or his re-election until election day. After November 3, the job is to count the votes, add up the number, verify the vote and make sure it is correct. Arizona’s 15 counties certified the vote. I took an oath to uphold the law and respect the Constitution. I did my duty. I have been frank that I think the people who misinformed the Arizonans are wrong and that they should not and they should be held responsible.

What should accountability look like? And how to counter this disinformation?

I countered him in the Oval Office with the President. I talked about the accuracy of the Arizona vote, how we have implemented postal voting, reformed and improved it every two years since 1992. What we do in Arizona is proven and has proven itself. And when the administration filed a complaint with the Supreme Court, Arizona was not named.

As for the people who have lied and misinformed the public, it is up to the voters to decide. Voters must hold them accountable. And it appears that they have also received letters from private sector companies wanting to hold them accountable for their language as well.

Do you think Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs or Paul Gosar should be kicked out of the House for trying to block certification Arizona Electoral College votes?

I think people should be exposed for what they said and be held accountable for the statements they made. At the end of the day, in those offices you report to the people and the people make the final judgment. And in Congress, their peers can pass judgment.

Would you support the primaries against them?

We’re two years away from any election, so I’m not going to accept that. I want to drop politics.

How is it possible to let politics fall behind in this atmosphere by being the governor?

By leading with a political agenda that you want to advance in your legislature.

Do you think Trump is a weakened force without Twitter? Do you think he will be an important political force for a long time to come?

President Trump is a dominant voice in politics and, of course, within the Republican Party and social media it was a way of communicating. So having him off social media was unique because we haven’t heard from him except for the public appearances and speeches he gave.

But he’s a guy who has found a way to overcome obstacles in the past. And, of course, sites and platforms aren’t the only sites and platforms out there. And I am someone who believes that we should have freedom of speech and more speech is better than less speech. And I think the rules should be applied uniformly and I don’t think they have been applied uniformly.

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Arizona GOP sticks to Trumpism whether Arizona Republicans like it or not

In 2016, Arizona Republicans controlled both Senate seats and delivered a victory to Donald J. Trump. By 2020, they had lost each of those statewide elections, and Mr. Trump was one of only two Republican presidential candidates to lose the state in more than 50 years.

The losses do not spark any sort of introspection within the state Republican Party.

Instead, when the party leadership meets this weekend, the most urgent items on the agenda will be censorship of three moderate Republicans who remain very popular in Arizona. The almost certain reprimand from the State party will have no practical impact, but the symbolism is striking: a slap on the wrist for Cindy McCain, widow of Senator John McCain; former Senator Jeff Flake and Governor Doug Ducey.

As some Republicans across the country begin to move away from Trumpism, Arizona is a case of loyalists doubling down, potentially dividing the party in fundamental and irreparable ways. The consequences could be particularly dire in a state that had long been a safe Republican bet, but that has seen significant political change in recent years, in large part due to both increased political participation by young Latinos and the shift in politics. vision of the white suburbs. women.

State Party Chairperson Kelli Ward, who was first elected in 2019, announced that she would only stand for election after speaking with Mr. Trump, who she says l ‘encouraged with enthusiasm. For months, Ms Ward has launched fundraising calls for what she calls the “stolen” election. Arizona state lawmakers have been frequently present at “Stop the Steal” rallies around the state, pushing conspiracy theories and refuting accusations of fraud. Two state members of Congress helped plan the January 6 rally in Washington which drew crowds that then stormed the Capitol. They also wrote statements of support for the rioters.

When Ali Alexander, one of the main organizers of the Capitol protest, wrote on Twitter “I am ready to give up my life for this fight,” retweeted the Arizona Republican Party account and asked his supporters : “He is. Are you?”

Far-right extremism is nothing new in Arizona. The state spawned anti-immigrant border militias, legislation that effectively legalized racial profiling, and is home to Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who has spread a sweeping message about immigration. But the kind of Trump fervor that has flared up in the state since the November election has gained momentum that even some state conservatives find alarming. Hours after Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the election, hundreds of protesters showed up at the State Capitol, many military-style weapons and waving flags depicting Mr. Trump as Rambo.

The Arizona Republican Party has long engaged with and promoted extremist elements, particularly on immigration, and has an anti-government streak that dates back to Barry Goldwater, a former state senator. Yet some Arizona Republicans have now started to sound the alarm bells, warning the party is slipping into oblivion in a state where independent voters make up nearly a third of the electorate.

“The message of anger and wickedness that is coming out of the party right now is not going to win over the New West,” said Adam Kwasman, a former state lawmaker who has been named one of the most conservative lawmakers in the world. ‘State during his tenure. and who voted for Mr. Trump last year.

He said his loyalty was with the party more than with the president. “If we want Arizona not to become Colorado, if we just hand this state over to the Democrats, we have to focus on working families and if we don’t we are doomed,” he said. said, adding “We are in a truly confusing place.”

Already, there are signs that Mr. Kwasman is right to be concerned. Nearly 5,000 registered voters abandoned their Republican Party affiliation in the week following January 6. Some former Republican agents warn that a steady erosion of the party’s narrow edge in voter registration is ahead.

“There is an act of serial theft going on right now,” said Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican strategist in Phoenix who changed his own party affiliation in 2017 and is now independent. In the dozens of calls Mr. Coughlin has received from concerned Republicans, he said, his advice has been consistent: don’t bother trying to save anyone who has supported “acts of sedition.” “It has become a party of utter contempt for all authority except one man. The Republican Party is in the midst of its own French Revolution now.

It is unclear how well the state party leadership represents grassroots Republicans. But thousands of voters have turned up at the State Capitol in Phoenix for several “Stop the Steal” rallies, including an impromptu demonstration on general election day in November. Like other state capitals across the country, Phoenix’s copper-domed building was surrounded by a six-foot-high metal fence over the weekend, and law enforcement remains on alert for potential violence on the day of the opening.

A group of Republican lawmakers in the state have issued a subpoena to the Maricopa County Oversight Board, demanding that he hand over the counting machines, along with images of all mailed ballots and information detailed information on voters. Although Democrats won statewide, Republicans maintained their control of both houses of the Legislature, allowing them to continue to argue the debunked notion of fraud despite the fact that all eight court challenges failed in court. law courts.

“We have kept our majority and that is more of a reason to suspect a fraudulent election,” said Sonny Borrelli, a state senator, mistakenly suggesting that the presidential ballots had been tampered with. Mr Borrelli said he had received more than 100,000 messages from Arizona residents urging the Legislature to further investigate the fraud allegations. “It just adds fuel to the fire, and we’re going to stay focused on that fire,” he said. “It’s our job.”

A statewide test for the party is not far off: Mark Kelly, the Democrat who won a special election for his Senate seat in November, will be re-elected in 2022. Mr. Ducey is widely discussed as a possible challenger, functioning as a pro-business moderate. But Republicans across the spectrum say that while Mr. Ducey was the last Republican to win a statewide election, he would face an uphill battle in a Republican primary.

“It would be a hand-to-hand fight, and it would probably be mean,” Coughlin said.

Mr. Ducey and his associates declined to comment on this article and he should not challenge the state party’s vote to censor it.

The accusations of meanness do not appear to deter the State Party or Ms Ward, who did not return calls seeking comment. Last month, Ms Ward tweeted Mr Ducey with the hashtag #STHU – talking about the internet for ‘shut up’ – when Mr Ducey defended the state’s electoral process.

Mr. Ducey responded by saying that the feeling was mutual and that Ms. Ward should “practice what you preach”.

And this is not the first time the State Party has stepped into a public torch with the McCain family. In 2014, the party censored Mr. McCain himself on his voting record.

Ms. McCain responded to the threat of her own censorship with as much annoyance as she was amused.

“It’s about doing what’s right for the country,” Ms. McCain said during an appearance on “The View,” co-hosted by her daughter Meghan. “Certainly Senator Flake and our Governor have made some very difficult decisions in recent times and in the past, but it was for the good of our state and our country.

“You know, I’m in good company,” she added. “I think I’ll make T-shirts for everyone and wear them.”

Mr. Flake, who supported Mr. Biden in the presidential election, written on twitter that he too was not affected by censorship.

“If it is necessary to forgive the behavior of the president to remain in the good graces of the Party, I am very well on the sidelines”, he wrote.

Robert Graham, who served as the state party’s president from 2013 to 2017, called censorship a waste of time at best, and pointed out that Mr. McCain had won every national election he had held.

“The only goal of a state party is to win an election,” Graham said. “When the president of the state attacks a member of his family, you break the party. The resolution will pass, it will rob a bunch of Republicans of their rights, and it will be put on file and become memories forever.

Rather than further fracturing the base, Graham said, party officials should focus on solidarity.

“The right became even more emboldened because they had someone in the top office with a giant megaphone,” he said. “But in Arizona you have a governor who is in his last term, so it’s time for the Republican Party to come together, come together and transform into what it will be for the next four years. The mission here is meant to be if you take a beating, do a transformational refresh.

John Fillmore, a state official who has attended several protests, compared the debate within the party to a “cleanup” and said he was more concerned about the purge of those who have criticized Mr. Trump than the loss of voters.

“The party is bewildered and outright facers like Jeff Flake and Liz Cheney will feel the wrath of Republican voters,” Fillmore said. “We are a family, and ultimately what happened was the family members went against the family and did it with revenge. This is what the Godfather said: never go against the family. It’s sad.”

On January 6 in Phoenix, a group of protesters opposing the certification of presidential election results erected a guillotine near the Golden Domed Capitol. The group distributed a document to reporters explaining its actions: Concerned Americans, they said, feared the votes were not counted correctly. They “gathered peacefully, telephoned and begged their elected officials to listen to their concerns.”

As they gathered, mobs in Washington violated the nation’s Capitol building – actions the Arizona party would later attribute to the antifa.

On Sunday, in Phoenix and in capitals across the country, law enforcement was preparing for another round of protests. Only a handful of protesters showed up. The guillotine had disappeared.

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As virus rises, Arizona teachers protest by calling in sick

Following nationwide debates over whether to keep classrooms open during the current surge in coronavirus cases, about 100 teachers in Arizona’s third largest school district staged an illness on Friday, demanding as schools close after winter break and stay away until infection in the area the rate drops.

The protest in the Chandler Unified School District, a sprawling chain of suburbs east of Phoenix with 46,000 students, was planned in opposition to the district’s recently announced plan to continue teaching in person in January despite a sharp rise in infections in the area, according to a letter teachers sent to the district on Thursday.

“When we went back to in-person learning, teachers and parents did it knowing that if a ONE metric went into the red, we would go back to virtual learning,” the letter said. “We were also assured that we would not be expected to teach virtually and in person at the same time. Both of these promises have now been broken.

The disease represents only a small fraction of the district’s 2,000 teachers, and the district said it had found enough replacement teachers to keep all of its schools open. But it underscores the anxiety of many teachers in a county that has hit new peaks in coronavirus infections and deaths in recent weeks.

The state and Maricopa County, home to the Chandler School District, established one-day records over the past week, and Maricopa County added more cases on Thursday than almost any other county in the States- United. This month, both parents of a student at Chandler High School died hours apart from complications from Covid-19.

The protest also reflects the controversial debate over the safety of in-person teaching that is unfolding in many school districts across the country as another wave of the pandemic continues to spread to many states.

Responses varied greatly from state to state and even district to district, as elected officials, teachers’ unions, parents and school administrators debated how to balance the issues. of health and safety with the educational concerns that students lose in distance education. The country has about 13,000 school districts, most of which are run by independently elected school boards.

In November, Kentucky ordered all schools, including private schools, to temporarily close and switch to distance learning, while Michigan ordered all high schools to temporarily suspend in-person education. . But many districts in Georgia, Texas and Florida, where Republican governors have insisted on keeping schools open, have resisted closures of classrooms even as cases of the virus increased this fall.

Providence, RI, Los Angeles and Miami-Dade County have all seen cases rise sharply in recent weeks – but all have responded differently.

Providence reduced the density of its high schools by moving 10th and 11th grade students to distance learning, but kept 9th and 12th grade students to attend every alternate day. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, has only hosted distance learning courses this semester and will do so for the foreseeable future. And the Miami-Dade School District continues to receive students who have opted for face-to-face instruction in classrooms five days a week.

The patchwork of approaches is even visible in Arizona. Some of the neighbors in Chandler School District in Maricopa County have switched to virtual or hybrid education during the push, plan to do so in the near future, or have postponed the reopening.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District, north of Phoenix, switched to distance education just before Thanksgiving due to a rising tide of virus cases. The district superintendent resigned this week, reportedly over threats from people wanting classrooms to reopen.

Chandler Unified School District started the year completely distant and has phased the return to classrooms by age group. But it also allowed students to enroll in its “online academy,” a separate, entirely distance-learning program that has attracted between 9,000 and 10,000 students, district officials said.

When the school board voted to continue in-person teaching on Wednesday, it also agreed to allow in-person students in Grades 7 to 12 to take distance education for at least the first two weeks of January, in using the same online platform that serves students in quarantine. The district requires social distancing and face coverings in all schools, officials said.

But teachers who have joined the protest want the district to become completely isolated in January and to remain closed until the rate of transmission of the virus has dropped to what they deem safer. They also asked for a role in the decision-making process between in-person and distance education.

“Our educators are exhausted and pushed to their breaking point,” said the Chandler Education Association, a teacher advocacy group.

Over three-quarters of students in the district attend all of their classes in person, with the remainder receiving distance education.

“We encourage staff to come to work in the best interests of their students and colleagues,” the district said in a statement. “We understand this is a stressful time and invite teachers to work directly with administration as we seek ways to reduce any negative impact on them.”

Kate taylor contribution to reports.

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Arizona man who conspired to threaten journalists sentenced to 16 months in prison

A 21-year-old Arizona man who pleaded guilty to helping a neo-Nazi group threaten and intimidate journalists was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison on Wednesday.

The man, Johnny Roman Garza of Queen Creek, Ariz., Was among a handful of people linked to a violent paramilitary neo-Nazi group, the Atomwaffen Division, who were arrested in February, prosecutors in Virginia and the United Kingdom said. Washington State.

Brian T. Moran, the US attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement that Garza had not proposed the program but “enthusiastically embraced” it.

Mr Garza, who pleaded guilty in September to a conspiracy charge in the case, admitted that he researched home addresses for potential targets and that in January he put a threatening poster on the window of the room of a publisher of a Jewish publication in Arizona. . The poster showed a hooded skeleton holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning house, with the words “Your actions have consequences” and “Our patience has its limits,” according to court documents.

The poster also included personal information about the publisher, prosecutors said.

The case was handled in the Western District of Washington because an accused was there when he led the conspiracy, a prosecutor spokeswoman said.

Mr. Garza appeared via Zoom from Arizona on Wednesday on charges of being convicted by a judge at the Seattle Federal Courthouse. He also admitted that he tried in January to put up a similar poster at an apartment complex in Phoenix where a member of the Arizona Black Journalists Association lived, but that he did not could find a place to post it.

Others at Atomwaffen have targeted a broadcasting reporter in Seattle who had reported on Atomwaffen and two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League, officials said. The New York Times earlier reported that Kirstjen Nielsen, who at the time was Secretary of Homeland Security, was also among the targets.

Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that the organization was “happy that Garza is being punished for his anti-Semitic and hateful threats,” but also said it came in the middle of a wave rising. of the violence of white supremacists.

Seth M. Apfel, an attorney for Mr. Garza, said in an interview Wednesday that his client, who will be on probation for three years upon his release from prison, was working to give up this life of hate.

Mr. Garza “has gone from those views” to “completely embracing the exact opposite point of view,” his lawyer said.

“The light bulb started to go out when he was taken into custody,” Apfel said.

Mr Garza, who will report to authorities on a date to be determined to begin his sentence, has already moved away from his former associates, Mr Apfel said. Mr. Garza has attended classes to learn more about black and Jewish culture and is keen to work with authorities and activists to prevent others from being drawn into hate groups, Mr. Apfel said.

“Certainly, in my opinion, his transformation has been very sincere,” Mr. Apfel said. “And I say this not only as a lawyer, but also as a Jewish man married to a black woman.

Mr. Garza is the first accused in the case to be convicted. Another defendant who pleaded guilty in September is expected to be sentenced in February; two more people who officials say lead the group, Kaleb Cole and Cameron Brandon Shea, are set to stand trial in March.

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After Trump’s loss in Arizona, state Republicans slam each other

The Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives did what he thought was right after Rudolph W. spread Covid-19.

But the move now adds fuel to open conflict within the Arizona Republican Party, positioning Trump loyalists determined to overturn the state’s election results against relatively moderate figures like House Speaker Rusty Bowers. and Governor Doug Ducey, who both managed to clear the results will remain.

Party this week publicly urged people to fight to the death to annul the election in which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeated President Trump by less than 11,000 votes, or about 0.3 percentage point. The plea came after 28 current and incoming Republican lawmakers called for the election to be revoked, as requested by Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal and campaign counsel.

The feud, in which powerful state Republicans openly insult each other, calls attention to the challenges the party faces as Arizona transforms from a Republican stronghold into a battleground state.

“There has been a civil war brewing in the Republican Party for the past few years,” said Marcus Dell’Artino, a Republican strategist in Phoenix. “We are now seeing the public part of it.”

Arizona Republican Party chairman Kelli Ward told Ducey on Twitter last week at #STHU – the hashtag for “shut up” – after defending the state’s electoral process. At a press conference, Mr. Ducey replied, “I think what I would say is that the feeling is mutual to him, and practice what you preach.

Separately, Andy Biggs, a Trump loyalist in the state legislature, singled out Mr. Ducey for a public rebuke over the coronavirus, theorizing that the governor “intended to force vaccinations.”

Mr. Ducey’s chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, then entered the fray, tweet to Mr. Biggs: “We always knew you were crazy, but you have now officially confirmed it for the whole world to see. Congratulations. Make the most of your time as a permanent resident of Crazytown. “

Internal fights erupted after Mr Giuliani visited Phoenix last week as part of his traveling legal battle claiming, without providing any evidence, that the election was marked by widespread fraud. Mr. Giuliani spent about 11 hours with several Republican lawmakers in a hotel ballroom, and also met at least eight people during a visit to the Arizona State Capitol.

Neither Mr. Ducey’s office nor Zachery Henry, an Arizona Republican Party spokesperson, responded to requests for comment on the public discord. After the party asked its supporters on Twitter if they were prepared to die for the cause of the cancellation of the election, Mr. Ducey claimed that the Republican Party was “the party of the Constitution and the State of law”.

“We prioritize public safety, law and order, and we respect law enforcement officers who provide our security,” Mr Ducey said on Twitter. “We are not burning anything. We build things. “

Still, Mr. Giuliani’s baseless claims resonated with what appears to be a significant part of the state’s Republican Party, which has periodically dealt with factional feuds.

In the 1980s, Governor Evan Mecham, known for canceling a paid holiday in honor of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., was removed and removed from office two years after his election. More recently, divisions have arisen between supporters of Mr. Trump and those of John S. McCain, the Arizona senator who, before his death, was one of the few powerful Republicans to push back the president.

Mr. Ducey, who sailed for re-election in 2018 while conforming to a centrist image, had moved all-in for Mr. Trump on the campaign trail this year. But then he challenged the president in a televised press conference last week, going so far as to silence a call from Mr. Trump as he signed the papers certifying the Arizona election results.

To the frustration of staunch supporters of Mr. Trump in the state, including some who have been protesting the election results for weeks, Mr. Bowers, the Speaker of the House, has also made it clear he will resist calls to to cancel the certified results.

“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election,” Bowers said in a statement. “I voted for President Trump and I worked hard to re-elect him. But I cannot and will not accept the idea that we are breaking current law to change the outcome of a certified election.

When Mr. Bowers then closed the room for a week after Mr. Giuliani tested positive for coronavirus, Arizona Republican Party chair Ms. Ward, took him to task on Twitter, saying, “This is a 100% unnecessary and cowardly gesture.”

Some warn that the increasingly caustic bickering is clouding an election in which Republicans have actually performed better than many anticipated. While Mr Biden narrowly won the state and Democrats won a second Senate seat, Republicans held control of both houses of the Legislature and won most state offices up for grabs. .

Regarding ambitions to curtail Democratic gains, Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican strategist in Phoenix, said the bickering reflected the rise of a “more militant conservative part of the party” personified by Ms Ward, who had been unable to form relationships. with the larger Arizona business community and run fundraisers without relying on Mr. Trump.

“The party is no longer the relationship-building apparatus it was for many years under previous governors here in Arizona,” Coughlin said. “It’s a vestige of Trump’s authority.”

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Native Americans helped Flip Arizona. Can they mobilize in Georgia?

“No one has ever taken the time to really reach out to the individuals themselves and say, ‘Here is the list of reasons why you need to register to vote and vote, because it’s something that affects you.’ said Tara Benally, Field Director for the Rural Arizona Project and Navajo Citizen, “Building that relationship with the people is what the federal government has to do. They have never done that with the indigenous nations.”

The Rural Arizona Project, a nonprofit that engages voters in rural areas, had seven to 10 field organizers this year and worked with 200 Indigenous artists and influencers to promote a voter registration tool designed to communities without traditional addresses. Native Americans are often disenfranchised when clerks mistakenly register them in the wrong neighborhood, but the tool allows voters to enter more codes – essentially shortened coordinates – to more accurately identify their location.

Ms. Benally’s team reached out to thousands of Navajo and Hopi voters, held drive-thru events to safely register voters during the pandemic and ultimately registered over 4,500 voters, the group’s executive director said, TJ Ellerbeck.

A separate Four Directions effort – led by Mr. Semans’ daughter, Donna Semans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe – has registered around 2,000 Navajo voters. VoteAmerica, a non-partisan group focused on low-propensity voters, sent more than 400,000 texts, according to its chief of staff, Jordan James Harvill, a Cherokee and Choctaw citizen. Advocacy groups have also reached out to postal workers, who have agreed to drive the ballots straight to their destinations to avoid the roundabout route Navajo Nation mail often takes.

Native Americans were also influential in Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden won by about 20,000 votes. The most democratic area in the state, where Mr. Biden got 82% of the vote, was Menominee County, which is near Green Bay and is home to the Menominee tribe. Ashland and Bayfield counties, which have sizable Native American populations, were blue spots in a sea of ​​red in northern Wisconsin.

Indigenous participation was substantial and strongly democratic, even in states where the race was not close, such as North and South Dakota (which Mr. Trump won) and Minnesota (which Mr. Biden won) . Four Directions has registered more than 8,000 voters in Minnesota.

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Former Arizona official sentenced to over 6 years for adoption fraud

A former Arizona official was sentenced Tuesday to more than six years in federal prison for leading a multi-state adoption fraud scheme that prosecutors say attacked women in the Marshall Islands and to adoptive parents in the United States wishing to start a family. .

The official Paul D. Petersen, a Republican who was twice elected as a Maricopa County assessor, has arranged at least 70 illegal adoptions in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah, prosecutors said. In some of those cases, prosecutors said, he falsified residency information so he could enroll pregnant women in the South Pacific island nation for state health care coverage.

A 1983 pact banned citizens of the Marshall Islands from traveling to the United States for adoption. The pact allows Marshallese citizens to enter and work freely in the United States.

“He exploited a legal loophole and used it to run an intercountry adoption business outside of the necessary oversight of the United States or the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” said David Clay Fowlkes, the United States’ first deputy lawyer. western district of Arkansas. A declaration. “This unique case deserved the harsh sentence ordered by the court today.”

“During the scheme,” said Mr. Fowlkes, “the accused lied to judges in state courts, falsified records, encouraged others to lie during court proceedings and manipulated the birth mothers. for them to consent to adoptions that they did not fully understand.

On Tuesday, Mr. Petersen, 45, appeared via Zoom at a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark., After pleading guilty to a federal trafficking charge. human beings in June.

Mr. Petersen, a resident of Mesa, Arizona, is awaiting conviction on state charges in Arizona and Utah, where he previously pleaded guilty to human trafficking and fraud.

His lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors in the Arkansas case had requested a 10-year sentence for Mr Petersen, whose attorneys said he helped create many loving families over the years as a lawyer for private adoption and had accepted responsibility for his actions.

Under the terms of his Arkansas plea deal, Mr. Petersen must also pay a fine of $ 100,000 and will be on probation for three years after his release from prison.

As part of the program, prosecutors said, Mr Petersen offered each of the pregnant women $ 10,000 to put their newborns up for adoption, siphoning money for housing and health care after arranging their trip of more than 5000 kilometers in the United States.

Then, after falsifying the residency records of some of the pregnant women to enroll them for state health care coverage, Mr Petersen demanded a fee of $ 35,000 from parents wishing to adopt, authorities say. from Arizona.

In October 2019, Mr. Petersen was charged in his home state of Arizona, as well as in Arkansas and Utah.

At the time, he had been an appraiser for Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is the most populous county in Arizona. The assessor is responsible for property assessments and property tax policy. In 2016, Mr. Petersen received over one million votes in the Evaluator Race. He resigned from his post in January of this year.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Petersen’s adoption website listed the average cost of an adoption from $ 30,000 to $ 40,000, which “covers the birth mother’s monthly expenses, prenatal medical costs and childbirth, assistants and office costs ”.

A co-defendant in the Arizona case pleaded guilty to fraud, theft and failure to file an income tax return in December 2019, the state attorney general’s office said.

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Arizona, Wisconsin certify Biden wins: ‘system is strong’

Arizona and Wisconsin on Monday certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of their presidential elections, formalizing his victory in two other battlefield states as President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the The election continued to fail.

Such certifications would be an afterthought in any other year. But in a political environment where Mr. Trump’s false claims about widespread electoral fraud have created an alternate reality among his staunch supporters in the West Wing and beyond, the results have opened a new path to victory for him.

While Mr. Trump has injected daily drama into the normal post-election bureaucratic process by urging his Republican allies to push to block the certification of results or overturn them entirely in the battlefield states that Mr. Biden won, Monday’s debates were lapsed business.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, the Democratic Secretary of State, formalized her state’s results as she sat at a long table with three Republicans who signed the election documents: Governor Doug Ducey; the State Attorney General, Mark Brnovich; and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel.

Ann Jacobs, the chairman of the Wisconsin Election Commission, signed a document during a three-minute videoconference in which she recounted certifying Mr Biden’s victory.

“I am signing it now as the official state determination of the November 3, 2020 election results and prospecting,” Ms. Jacobs said before presenting the document to the camera. Later Monday afternoon, Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin, a Democrat, announced that he had signed the state verification certificate naming Mr. Biden’s voters list to represent Wisconsin in the electoral college.

Mr Trump, backed by his legal team and supporters in the conservative news media, hoped he might somehow triumph in Wisconsin and Arizona, as well as Georgia, where Republican officials steadfastly refused on Monday to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory there. . In all three states, as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania, the other two states that switched from voting for Mr. Trump in 2016 to Mr. Biden this year, the Trump campaign has sought to undermine the results through legal efforts. and public relations to deliver the electoral college president vote.

But as has been the case elsewhere, election officials from both Arizona and Wisconsin parties refused to undermine their state laws to overturn the popular vote in their states.

“We are doing a good election in Arizona,” Ducey said Monday, signing documents certifying Mr. Biden’s victory in Arizona and awarding him the 11 votes in the state’s electoral college. “The system is solid.”

In Wisconsin, Ms Jacobs chose to certify Mr Biden’s victory there a day before the state’s Dec. 1 deadline to do so.

Ms Jacobs’ certification followed the conclusion of recounts, requested and subsidized with $ 3 million from Mr Trump’s campaign, in Dane and Milwaukee counties, which revealed Mr Biden had added 87 votes to his statewide margin.

Ms Jacobs, a Democrat from Milwaukee, said certification of the presidential election result was at her discretion and that she expected the move to trigger legal challenges from the Trump campaign.

“The power to do this rests solely with the president,” Ms. Jacobs said in an interview on Monday.

All states must certify the results of their presidential elections, exhaust legal challenges, and send the names of their Electoral College delegates to Congress by December 8. Voters’ lists will meet in their states on December 14, sending the results to Congress, which is slated to resolve any final disputes and certify the Electoral College’s vote on January 6.

Unlike other states where the Trump campaign has claimed, without producing any evidence, that widespread fraud led to Mr. Biden’s victories, Mr. Trump’s legal strategy in Wisconsin hinges on an effort to reject hundreds of thousands of missing ballots on what amounts to a technicality.

The Trump campaign argued in its recount petition that all ballots cast on absentee voting sites in person before election day should be disqualified. The campaign falsely claimed that these mail ballots were issued without each voter submitting a written request requesting the ballot, but the first line of mail ballot requests that voters filled out on early voting sites read: “request / official certification of postal voting”.

This argument would reject hundreds of thousands of ballots across Wisconsin, including those cast by prominent Trump supporters, such as several state lawmakers and one of Wisconsin’s top attorneys, Jim Troupis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

On Twitter Monday, Mr. Trump called on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia to “quash” Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The president also baselessly claimed that there had been “total electoral corruption” in Arizona. The Trump campaign has yet to identify systemic electoral fraud in its court challenges.

Ms. Jacobs’ certification of Wisconsin’s results represents opening a window for legal challenges from the Trump campaign, which argued the president should have won the state and its 10 Electoral College votes despite the fact that ‘he lost to Mr. Biden. by 20,682 votes.

Two weeks ago, the Trump campaign demanded recounts from Dane and Milwaukee, the two largest and most democratic counties in the state, in an effort to build a legal case against Mr. Biden’s victory in everything. the state. The Trump campaign is also likely to take legal action to challenge Ms Jacobs’ certification.

Republicans on Wisconsin’s six-member bipartisan Election Commission had said they hoped Ms Jacobs would wait to certify the presidential election results until the Trump campaign has exhausted its legal challenges. But the Trump campaign has filed no complaints in Wisconsin; he had nothing to dispute until Mrs. Jacobs certified the election results.

The Trump campaign and the Wisconsin Republicans are also expected to challenge Ms Jacobs’ power to certify election results on her own. State law gives her, as chairman of the electoral commission, clear authority and responsibility to certify the election, although other parts of the Wisconsin Election Code refer to the entire bipartisan commission of six members certifying the results of the presidential elections.

Glenn Thrush contributed reporting.