Pimeria Alta Dispatch, 6 de Mayo, 2011

The folks here at Progressive Majority have asked me to keep all of you informed about some of the goings on here in Arizona. I come from the Southern part of the state. I note that because I’d rather not be associated with some of the characters from the Greater Phoenix area that have become the face of Arizona politics for the rest of you.

Speaking of which, there is actually a secession movement afoot. I attended a kick-off event yesterday for a group called “Start Our State,” which is circulating a petition to put an advisory vote on the ballot to separate “Baja Arizona” from the rest of the state. The movement is seen by many as tongue in cheek, but it has become a vehicle to express frustration with the right wing nut jobbery at the state capitol, and the insistence that the so-called “small government” Republicans have in meddling with local affairs and institutions. Just last month, for example, came a legislative attempt to insert themselves into managing the U of A’s medical school and another to not allow Tucson to go through with a mail-in ballot election.

Another piece of interference has been an ongoing fight between the legislature and our local school district, TUSD, over ethnic studies classes. Tom Horne, until recently our State School Superintendent, had jumped on this horse around the same time other state politicians had jumped on the immigrant bashing bandwagon. TUSD has had a poor record in the past with Hispanic students (Dropout rates were well over 50% until into the 1960’s), but the ethnic studies program has proved successful. Unfortunately, it has become yet another proxy for our ongoing food fight over immigration. Detractors, including Horne (who is now Attorney General) and his successor, John Huppenthal (who has also pledged to go after similar classes at state universities), have made a variety of allegations that the classes teach race hatred and socialism, but it really seems another case of Mexican bashing, which takes you far in our state’s fearful political culture. Earlier this week, supporters of ethnic studies were confronted by riot police (I’m not exaggerating) at a meeting of the TUSD board.

One small ray of hope for Democrats this week came in the form of a poll handicapping next year’s US Senate race. Many of you from the rest of the country will be glad to hear that Jon Kyl will not be running for re-election next year. It looked like the Republican primary would be between Trent Franks and Jeff Flake, but Franks has bowed out, leaving, it seems, Flake to be the most likely nominee. With many Democrats keeping any plans to run on hold until Gabrielle Giffords recovers enough to make her plans known (she was talking about running before she was wounded), Flake’s election has been talked about like a done deal. A poll released this week by the firm Public Policy Polling shows that not only would Giffords beat Flake by a seven point margin, but that last year’s failed gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, who was soundly beaten last year, would tie Flake. Clearly, Flake is not as popular with Arizona voters as the political tip sheets have been suggesting.

The poll also addressed rumors that Sarah Palin would move to Arizona and run for the seat. I never bought into those rumors, but after Palin’s cries of victimhood after the January shootings, I was happy to see that Giffords would trounce her in a hypothetical match-up, 54-36.