Monday, August 13, 2012

National GOP Group Spending Big on Tucson Dem's Race

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM

A national group of uber rich Republicans recently dished out more than $19,000 in one of Tucson’s legislative races to defeat a longtime Democratic incumbent — by funding her Democratic challenger in the primary election.

An independent expenditure committee called the American Federation for Children sent out a mailer supporting Maria De La Luz Garcia, the widow of former Senate Democratic leader Jorge Garcia, who is running against Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford in Westside Tucson’s Legislative District 3.

The organization is headed by well-known conservative billionaires, has ties to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and pushes mostly conservative candidates in elections. For example, it spent more than $20,000 supporting former Arizona Senate president Russell Pearce in his recent recall election, and another $12,000 supporting Tucson’s own version of Pearce, Sen. Al Melvin, in his last election.

So when the organization sent out fliers supporting Garcia and touting her record of fighting for jobs, it left some Democrats wondering what kind of company she’s keeping.

“It’s insulting to think I have anything in common with (Pearce and the like),” Garcia told the Skinny. “I have nothing in common with them.”

We’ll, maybe not nothing: Garcia supports the state’s school voucher program for charter and religious schools.

According to their website, the American Federation for Children is a “leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.”

But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the flier, which doesn’t mention school choice at all, and instead focuses on jobs.

The flier also tries to appeal to Democrats by taking a broad swipe at the Republican-led Legislature, saying the body has “shown a flagrant disregard for our communities, our families, our jobs.”

The American Federation for Children has been raising eyebrows in Wisconsin for using the same tactics of supporting pro-voucher Democrats in primary elections in safe Democratic districts where no Republican can possibly get elected.

The organization has also supported two Phoenix-area Democrats running for the Legislature in the 2012 election, to the tune of less than $3,000 each. Garcia received an independent expenditure of $5,520 in her support from the group on August 3, and another for $13,820 on August 9, which was posted with the Secretary of State’s office this morning, after we spoke to her about the initial mailing buy.

Garcia said she filled out a questionnaire from the group and hasn’t had any more contact with them since. She didn’t know the group’s background at the time, she said, and she didn’t ask them to spend any money to support her.

As a parent, she sent her kids to public schools in the Flowing Wells School District, and was always involved in their education — even moving them from one public school to another when the first didn’t meat her standards. Still, she said she doesn’t buy the Democratic line that tax credits and vouchers for charter schools detract from the public school system.

“I would prefer, of course, that the public schools did better, but it’s just not there,” she said. “As a parent and as a grandparent, we cannot sacrifice our children. If our school system is inadequate to educate our children, then you have to have other options.”

Garcia said that just because the group supports her as well as some of the staunchest Republicans in the state, that doesn’t mean she’s not a solid-blue Democrat.

“If this group did something just because I filled out a questionnaire, I have no control over something like that,” she said.

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