Democrat Steve Farley launches bid to be next Arizona governor - Tucson News Now

Democrat Steve Farley launches bid to be next Arizona governor

Steve Farley (Source: Facebook) Steve Farley (Source: Facebook)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Democratic state Sen. Steve Farley on Monday formally entered the race to knock Republican Gov. Doug Ducey out of office next year, vowing to crisscross the state over the next 18 months to get out his message that Ducey's policies are harmful to Arizona.

Farley scheduled a Monday afternoon event in his hometown of Tucson to make a formal announcement. But he went ahead and made his bid official with a post on Twitter at midday and confirmed it with The Associated Press.

Farley is a highly visible member of the Senate, serving as assistant minority leader and often serving up sharp criticism of legislation pushed by majority Republicans.

In an interview, he said Ducey's policies that favor corporate tax cuts over boosting spending on the state's schools are the wrong direction for Arizona. Cuts to education funding have left the state at or near the bottom of per-public funding for schools and its teachers among the lowest-paid in the nation.

"We have the money. We've just been choosing to waste it on corporate tax cuts - and that's something that Gov. Ducey has made worse," Farley said. "Just this year he approved another $107 million in corporate tax cuts."

Farley also said he can boost education spending by a large amount without major tax increases.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

"Our sales tax loopholes are now up to $13.7 billion," he said. "If we're able to identify $2 billion of those that are purely corporate pork, and we're able to get rid of them, we can lower our sales tax rate by a penny while increasing education funding by a billion dollars a year."

He joins Arizona State University professor David Garcia and political unknown Noah Dyer in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Ducey so far is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Both Farley and Garcia have hit Ducey on his signing of a massive expansion of the state's private school voucher program, which they say will bleed even more cash from public schools.

"He plans to cut public education until our schools bleed out," Garcia said when he announced his bid in April. "We are dead last, Doug Ducey. And instead of supporting our public schools, which are the bedrock of the middle class and the gateway to opportunity and the key to Arizona's economic strength, he's made it harder for our students to reach their dreams."

The 54-year-old Farley runs a graphic design and art company in Tucson and said he knows what businesses need to succeed - and it's not more corporate tax cuts, which he said sends money out of state.

"What it needs is investment in education, investment in transportation, and creating a strong workforce," Farley said. Boosting K-12, community colleges and university funding to train and retrain workers as the economy evolves is more important, he said.

"That's the story of this century," he said.

While saying he's focusing on Ducey and dodging questions about Garcia, Farley said he's happy to have a legitimate contender in the primary. That's something the last two Democratic candidates for governor lacked, leaving them to scramble after the August primary to get their message out.

"They were all but ignored until two months to go in the election," Farley said. "That's not going to happen this time."

That may not be a boost as Farley hopes, said Chris Baker, a Republican consultant who has run campaigns for GOP Reps. David Schweikert, Trent Franks and others. That's because primary and general elections both cost money, and conserving cash for the general can pay off.

"I would submit it does not help them, the primary reason being it does deplete their resources," Baker said. "And in a state like this with a fairly decent Republican advantage, they have had their best success when they've been able to clear the field for one particular candidate."

The bigger question for Farley and Garcia is funding. In 2014, Ducey spent $7.9 million on his campaign and benefited from a like amount in outside spending backing him or attacking his Democratic opponent. Some of that outside cash came from groups aligned with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who frequently back conservative GOP candidates.

"I'm going to be raising a lot money," Farley said. "I'm not going to outraise the Koch brothers, but I'm going to be competitive."

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