The Farley Report from Phoenix #258: 11-11-16

Howdy, Friends O'Farley…

I apologize for the length of this Farley Report. I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot going on right now…

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This is my dad, Jim Farley. He served us in Korea in 1953 as a combat engineer. That meant he built roads and bridges and cleared minefields. The sergeant he replaced had been killed that way. 

I am here today because he served but did not die in Korea. As Korean War vets will tell you, death was ever-present, but that did not stop him from service. Once while crossing an ice-cold river (barefoot in order to keep his boots and socks dry) he encountered a patch of broken glass on the river bottom and suffered severe injuries to his feet that later became infected. 

His feet bothered him for the rest of his life, but I never heard him complain. He believed in our country, and he was willing to do whatever it took to protect our freedoms, fight against injustice, and keep us united. 

On this Veterans’ Day, I am so grateful for my dad and all our veterans who have put their lives on the line for these sacred principles throughout our history to the present. 

Regardless of our divisions, as Americans we are united through our dedication to service to others. The courage of our vets should inspire all of us to take that spirit of service to the next level in all our endeavors. 

—> In that spirit, I am grateful to you all for giving me the opportunity to serve you once again as your Senator for my sixth term in the Legislature. And I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus for re-electing me as Assistant Leader for the next two years of challenges and opportunities. 

Strange as it sounds, I do believe that we have opportunities to create progress here in Arizona. While the counting is still proceeding for Arizona legislative ballots, Democrats have already made gains in both the House and the Senate. That is good news for Arizonans of all political persuasions because a larger minority caucus means more pressure for alternative voices to be heard in legislation, and less chances for extreme positions to rule. 

In the State House my 2010 campaign manager, Sunnyside school board member, national hero, and friend Daniel Hernandez beat Chris Ackerley to take the second seat in LD2, powerful public-banking advocate Pam Powers-Hannley became my seat mate along with Randy Friese (who is also the new House Assistant Minority Leader — LD9 is representin’ in leadership!), Mitzi Epstein beat Bob Robson to take the second seat in LD18, and Kelli Butler took Eric Meyer’s place in the LD28 House seat he formerly held. As of this morning, Stefanie Mach is losing to Todd Clodfelter by 180 votes in LD10, where brilliant newcomer Kristin Engel has the top spot. In the house, that means Democrats gain at least one seat, perhaps two if Stefanie pulls it out when ballot counting is done next week.

In the state Senate it looks like the majority is still out of reach, but we will have one or possibly two new members. Former representative and transcendent leader Jamescita Peshlakai took the seat in the Navajo Nation (LD7) formerly held by Carlyle Begay, and one of our key targeted districts (LD18) elected Sean Bowie to the seat once held by Jeff Dial. I am so proud of first-time candidate Sean in particular — he walked door to door endlessly (losing 15 pounds that he can barely spare!) and did everything necessary to win without complaint because he knew the stakes. The ADLCC, and your support for it, was a key reason for this victory, especially after Governor Ducey dumped tens of thousands of anonymous dark out-of-state money against Sean. He could not have won his race without you. Thank you.

Out of our other three primary targets, current House Minority Leader Eric Meyer in LD28 is the closest. He had to contend with 21 (twenty-one) separate hit pieces against him in the final week on TV, radio, and mailers. Ducey and his funders threw everything they had at him, but because he is one of the smartest, hardest working candidates Arizona has ever seen, Eric was ahead early on Election Night, only to fall behind by 1,020 votes by this morning. There are tens of thousands of votes still outstanding to count, though, so this could change and we could gain his seat. 

Former Jerome mayor Nikki Bagley — another hard worker — was also leading election night over Sylvia Allen in LD6 by more than a thousand votes, but she is now down by 3,348. There are thousands more still to be counted in Coconino County where Nikki is strong, so there is still hope.  And in Pinal County’s District 8, current Senator Barb McGuire, tireless voice for rural interests, is behind her House counterpart Frank Pratt by 2,659. There are tens of thousand more uncounted ballots in that race, too. Watch my Facebook page for updates as I get them.

Tuesday was a tough night for Democrats all over the country. Democrats lost hundreds of legislative seats to Republicans even in blue states. The head of our national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) lost his seat in Iowa by eight points. Gaining seats in our own red state in the midst of this shockwave is astonishing, and testament to the hard work we have done in our campaigns and efforts to bring common sense to government. And just watch what happens during the 2018 midterms once Arizonans of all stripes have had two years to digest the effects of a Trump presidency and his surrogates here in Arizona. 

Just yesterday I talked with several legislative Republicans who are just as worried about President Trump’s future actions as many Democrats are. We all see opportunities in this climate to work together in unexpected ways on a legislative level across party lines. 

You know the reason I work to elect Democrats is not because I want one-party rule. I work to elect Democrats because we need balance in government, and the current majority has had a nasty habit of quashing alternative policy voices from outside its party. We need to work together, respecting and honoring all voices in order to solve the many challenges that face us as a state and a nation. 

Once we obtain the majority — and I now think we could very well achieve that goal in 2018 — we will allow all voices to be heard, even those with whom we disagree. Unity, creativity, and mutual respect are the tools we must use to preserve our Republic. I do believe that a change in leadership in this state will further those goals.

—> One thing that concerns me greatly is the stated intent of Mr Trump, restated by Senate leader Mitch McConnell yesterday, to eliminate Obamacare before even suggesting a replacement for the 20 million Americans who depend on its healthcare coverage. If they understand the human and financial (or at least the political) cost of dumping that many Americans (many of whom are small business owners and sole proprietors) off their coverage (and forcing more hospitals out of business), this could be an opportunity.  

To many of us, Obamacare was not our best-case scenario. It is an unwieldy compromise that could only work in an atmosphere of good will on all sides, an atmosphere that disappeared decades ago. The real solution is simple, and that solution could be enacted as the replacement: Medicare for All. 

Medicare is widely embraced by all parties in the health insurance market, including folks who subscribe to the Tea Party. 

Back when we were having town halls about health care reform in 2010, Gabby Giffords invited me to be part of her “listening audience” on the stage of Sahuaro High on the eastside of Tucson. Hostile doesn’t begin to describe the mood. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona was nearly booed off the stage for simply stating the factual number of uninsured people in Arizona. 

One older gentleman in particular sticks in my mind. He stepped up to the mic and said with fury in his voice, “I’m here to say one thing: Keep government out of my Medicare.” He received huge applause and appreciative shouts. 

Medicare is so widely accepted, many people are unaware that it is even a government program. That is a really good thing in this political climate. Medicare is well-run, well-funded, and currently provides care for the group with the most health needs. If it is expanded for all, the cost per subscriber will go down since people under 65 have fewer and less-costly health needs. 

Even the insurance companies may support this. I spoke recently with the director of a state group of health insurance agents, and he told me that they would support Medicare for All because they are currently doing well selling supplemental plans to Medicare, and they could do the same thing on a larger level if everyone were to be on Medicare. 

I am currently researching the possibility of doing that here in Arizona so we can lead the way on healthcare at last. Alternately, I am also researching the possibility of reconstituting Arizona’s own homegrown Public Option, HealthCare Group (HCG), on which I and thousands of other small business owners depended in the 90s and 00s for reasonable premiums and good coverage. We eliminated the plan several years ago because Obamacare made it moot. If Obamacare is gone, sole proprietors and small businesses will need affordable coverage again. And if we give them an option that works for them, they will create more good jobs in Arizona. 

—> As we find ways to adapt to a new government after the most contentious election of my lifetime — and move forward together in our country — this article about Syrian refugees recently welcomed to Tucson presents a wonderful (and actually uplifting) reminder of the human toll of unbridled anger that bursts into violence and civil war, and how acts of love and kindness can powerfully mitigate the damage.

I created Arizona Welcomes Refugees (AWR) last year in response to the fear-based rejection of these new American families by many US governors, including our own Gov. Ducey. We welcome families at the airport, we have monthly potlucks where we offer donations of household goods and clothes as we sing and dance together, we go to their apartments to bring pizza and show them how to carve pumpkins, we help them navigate daily life in our country, and we invite them to our homes to explain American football. Language has not been a barrier. This group has grown and taken on a life of its own, thanks to the dedication of our community members acting in love, hospitality, and friendship.

These forces are more powerful than the forces of fear, hate, and violence. And we each have the power to choose to use them each day. We can create sustainable, positive change if our first response to fear is love.

Since the election, the number of people joining AWR has increased dramatically as many of us seek a deeper sense of community and unity in the midst of widespread polarization. We want to do something to help. Already, we have welcomed seven new families (mostly from the Congo) at the airport this week. It’s something simple and powerful that we can all do, right here in our neighborhoods.

But many of the refugee families are worried that they will be deported by the new administration. They have lived in fear for many years, and now that they have found a safe home, the talk of banning all Muslims has brought a new sense of dread upon them. In an effort to help with their anxieties, the day after the election I posted this to the Arizona Welcomes Refugees Facebook group in English and Arabic. But I think it may also speak to any of the rest of us who feel anxious about where we are headed:

For those of you who are new to American democracy, and even for many of us who are old-timers, this is very scary. But this is the ultimate example of how we transfer power peacefully even to those with whom we disagree strongly. I have great faith in our American democratic structures to provide proper balances to check the power even of Donald Trump.

The important thing is that we do not give in to anger and despair, but stay loving, kind, strong, and welcoming to each other. Times may be hard, but not as hard as our refugees have experienced. We are all Americans. Together our love and courage can peacefully resist the forces of hate and fear and help create a better America.

Take some time today to smile and be grateful. Pledge not to spend so much time online where we can so easily drift into self-reinforcing despair. Do something kind for a stranger. Love yourself and others. We will rise. Together. 

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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