This Democratic state senator thinks he can beat Gov. Doug Ducey

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State Sen. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat, is jumping into the race for governor, setting up a primary fight in which he will try to position himself as the best candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Farley has served 11 years in the Legislature, where he has been among the loudest voices of opposition to Ducey’s agenda.

He signaled his intentions on social media Monday and was also scheduled to make a public announcement of his bid joined by supporters at a hotel in his hometown of Tucson.

“It’s official: I’m in for governor,” Farley wrote. “I have a vision for Arizona to make our great state even better.”

The owner of a small graphic-design business and a father of two, Farley will face David Garcia in the Democratic primary. Noah Dyer, a political unknown, is also running.

Garcia hastily called a news conference in April to announce his run, following the Legislature’s passage of a Ducey-backed school-voucher bill.

Ducey, of Paradise Valley, will not formally announced a re-election bid until next year; he has no Republican primary challengers and is expected to mount a well-funded campaign.

Farley said in a telephone interview Monday that he will focus on what he sees as Ducey’s shortcomings on public education, infrastructure, state finances and health care.

He said he his administration would focus on transportation projects, raising public-education funding and health care. He said he’s developing a plan to pay for his proposals by reducing Arizona’s $13.7 billion in yearly tax carve-outs.

“Sadly, it feels like at this point we’re being governed by ideology more than anything else, and this governor is more concerned with his national profile with conservatives than he is governing Arizona,” Farley said. “And that’s something I’ve heard not just from Democrats but from Republicans, as well. … We’ve just been so poorly led.”

With the turmoil surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, Farley said he thinks Arizona voters could, for the first time since 2002, elect a Democratic governor. Farley was referring to Janet Napolitano, who was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. Voters, he said, are ready for change.

“The question for people is: Who is best going to beat Doug Ducey in November (2018)? And who is best able to transform our state for the better and actually carry out his platform once inaugurated?” Farley said. 

Farley was first elected to the Legislature in 2006 and has served as House Assistant Minority Leader. He now serves as Senate Assistant Minority Leader. He talked with The Republic about his candidacy on Monday: 

Why are you running for governor? 

“I’ve been a dad for the last 22 years, I’ve been a small-business owner for the last … 26 years now, I’ve been a legislator for the last 11 years. I know that this state can be run so much better than it has been. The number of missed opportunities I see on the Senate floor all the time is mind-boggling, and you contrast that with what we can do when we work together — the Medicaid expansion (in 2013) was one of the top points of my legislative career — being able to work with (former Gov.) Jan Brewer to cross the aisle helping get 400,000 people with health care. That’s what we should be doing.

“…Just imagine what things could be like if we had good leadership. And I don’t want to just imagine it anymore; I want to make it happen.”

What are your top priorities? 

“Education is key. My youngest daughter just graduated … (from) Tucson High School last week and, in the process of going through that high school education with her and with education before that at Tucson public schools, I see the carnage that’s left at our schools from the 21 percent cuts to K-12 over the last eight years. At Tucson High in particular, they’ve got 10 percent of their classrooms shut down because they’re hazardous to inhabit since we haven’t been funding the building-renewal formula that’s now subject to a lawsuit.”

“…And they only have six counselors for 3,200 kids. … The teachers are amazing and they are doing incredible things under difficult circumstances, getting paid the lowest average salary in the country. And Gov. Ducey’s solution is four-tenths of one percent raises — that was his proposal. And now we’re up to one percent. It’s still not going to solve the problem, and it’s certainly not going to solve the problem to reduce teaching standards, like he did this year.

“And it’s certainly not going to solve the problem to enact a voucher system, which he himself called an experiment on our children — a six-year experiment on our children. It’s an experiment that has always been proven to be faulty because in other states where this has happened, student achievement is cut in half the first year that a student switches from a public to a private school. …” 

Corporate tax cuts have been a big issue for you — will we hear about them during your campaign?  

“Yeah, it’s huge, as well as the sales-tax loopholes. When people say, ‘Hey, revitalizing our education system is going to cost money,’ — yeah it is, but we have the money. We have been choosing to spend it in the wrong places. We’ve been giving it away to out-of-state corporations who have fleeced the state. It does nothing for our economy, it doesn’t create higher wages, it doesn’t create better jobs, it doesn’t create more businesses. So instead we’re giving away that money …  $13.7 billion is the latest figure of tax loopholes in the sales tax code that disappears every year. If we could find $2 billion of those that were put in place by high-priced corporate lobbyists over the years, and then we could lower the overall sales-tax rate by a penny … and get $1 billion more for education, that can happen.”

You’re setting up a Democratic primary. How could that affect Democrats’ ability to unseat Ducey? 

“I’m not running against (David Garcia), I’m running against Doug Ducey. I actually see it as a positive that we have a primary. One of the problems that Fred (DuVal, the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee) and Terry (Goddard, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee) … had … was that nobody paid any attention to them until late August of the election year. Two months wasn’t  enough time for them to be able to define themselves with the public. They were hurt by the fact that they didn’t have a primary. I think there’s going to be a lot of attention paid to this race starting now, for the next 18 months, and that can only be good.”

How much money do you think you’ll need for this race?

“Well, it’s not going to be easy. I’m not deluded here. It’s hard running against the (billionaire) Koch brothers because they have a whole lot of money and they have shown they’re willing to use it in support of their golden boy, Doug Ducey.

“I’m not going to raise as much money as them, but I’m going to be competitive. I’m committed to doing what it takes to raise money, I have a lot of small donors, which I don’t think he’s going to see, and I’m going to have a lot of people interested in helping out in creating the type of vision for the future that I’m going to be laying out over my next 18 months of non-stop road-trips throughout the state.”

Follow the reporter on Twitter and Facebook. Reach her at [email protected] or 602-444-4712.

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