BLOG / July 22, 2020

Corporate Cash in the State Legislature Primaries

By Emily Kirkland

If you’re an Arizona voter, you probably have a ballot sitting on your kitchen table right now for the August 4th primary (unless you’re the kind of go-getter who’s already mailed yours). Our presidential primary is months behind us. So you’d think that with just county and state races on the ballot (county attorney, state legislature), this election would be relatively low-key. 

You’d be wrong. 

The basic layout of Arizona’s state legislative elections is that every district elects one state senator and two state representatives. The state legislature could flip this year, with one or both chambers going from Republican to Democratic control for the first time in more than a decade. That means that the stakes in the Democratic primary are very high, even in very blue districts. Things are getting pretty wild, and cash is flying left and right — but, unfortunately, mostly right.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest sources of corporate cash flooding into Democratic races:

Arizona Integrity PAC

Arizona Integrity PAC has spent $51,000 on Debbie Nez-Manuel, who is running for state representative in LD26, one of the bluest districts in the state. Debbie is up against three competitors for the two LD26 seats: Athena Salman (who had the most progressive voting record in the state house this year), Melody Hernandez (a political newcomer running on a slate with Athena) and school board member Patrick Morales. 

Arizona Integrity PAC has also spent $44,000 on Alma Hernandez (current state representative in LD3) and $40,000 on Daniel Hernandez (current state representative in LD2). Daniel was tied for 2nd-lowest score among the House Democrats on this year’s Progress Score, and Alma was tied for 5th-lowest. 

Arizona Integrity PAC is funded almost entirely by the Greater Phoenix Leadership Committee (see below), APS, Southwest Gas, and Responsible Leadership for AZ (the Realtors of AZ PAC), all huge players at the capitol. 

Greater Phoenix Leadership Committee

Greater Phoenix Leadership Committee is a coalition of CEOs and big businesses. They’re close Ducey allies and known for their support of Republican causes and candidates. 

Like Arizona Integrity PAC, their largest spending in a Democratic race has been on Debbie Nez Manuel’s campaign – more than $21,000 to date. They are also spending smaller amounts backing incumbents in LD19 (state representative Lorenzo Sierra, state representative Diego Espinoza, and state senator Lupe Contreras). 

They are also backing GOP candidates like Joanne Osborne and Tim Dunn. 

Better Leaders, Better Arizona

Better Leaders, Better Arizona lists as its treasurer Tim Sifert, a former GOP spokesman, and is spending exclusively in Democratic races. Their funding source is unclear.

Their biggest spending has been on Alma Hernandez ($73,000), Debbie Nez-Manuel ($52,000) and Daniel Hernandez ($49,000). They’re also spending smaller amounts on Cesar Chavez (state representative in LD29), Lorenzo Sierra (state representative in LD19) and Diego Espinoza (state representative in LD19). 

We have the power to win a progressive legislature, and the groups funding these campaigns are scared of what that could look like. At a minimum, these candidates need to denounce the money being spent on their behalf by corporate and GOP-aligned groups and publicly demand that it stop being spent. So far, to our knowledge, none of them have done so. That speaks volumes. 


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