Steyer initiative changes course, attacks Republican candidates

Last week the proponents of Proposition 127, the clean energy mandate funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer, confused many political observers with their decision to attack Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in an ad advocating for the ballot initiative. But it appears this is not a one-off attack, but a new political strategy for the struggling campaign until Election Day.

A recent poll by Suffolk University and the Arizona Republic shows that Proposition 127 is in trouble. The initiative is trailing by about 13 percentage points, with 46.6 percent of respondents indicating they would vote no on Prop. 127, while 33.6 percent would vote yes.

Now, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona is diverting resources originally intended to advocate for Prop. 127’s passage, to encourage the election or defeat of certain statewide and legislative candidates. Top of the list is Brnovich.

An independent expenditure trigger report filed October 3 with the Clean Elections Commission shows a whopping $3.6 million in planned spending to attack the popular attorney general.

The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona committee has spent in the neighborhood of about half a million dollars on broadcast television each week leading up to the election. Given that Election Day is only three and a half weeks away, it appears the campaign is shifting the majority of its remaining resources to attack Brnovich.

“Prop. 127 is a loser of an issue and the polling bares that out,” said Barrett Marson, CEO of public relations and political consulting firm Marson Media. “The people behind the initiative have turned their fire against Republicans who they blame, incorrectly, for the initiative’s downfall. The Steyer group wants to blame Republicans when really, they should be blaming voters who just realized this is not something Arizona should do. They should be upset with themselves for bringing forward something that is unworkable.”

The committee also filed reports revealing independent expenditures of approximately $55,000 against House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, who is running for state Senate, Senator Sylvia Allen and Senator Kate Brophy McGee, Republicans who are seeking reelection in competitive legislative races this cycle.  Many political observers view those races as key to determining the balance of power in the Arizona Senate.

“The new tactics by the proponents of the clean energy mandate have made it clear that Steyer’s intention is to attack Republican candidates in an effort to turn Arizona blue,” said political consultant Jaime Molera, partner of Molera Alvarez. “This was never about renewable energy for Steyer, only partisan politics in hopes of helping his political future.”

Mario Diaz, president of Mario E Diaz & Associates, LLC, said it’s sad to see such low tactics.

“As a long-time democrat in Arizona, it’s a shame that outside influences like Mr. Steyer are attempting to unduly influence the democratic process in Arizona for self-serving purposes,” he told CBN. “I would ask that Steyer return to other hobbies and allow Arizonans to make their own democratic decisions.”

The group is also engaging in the Arizona Corporation Commission by spending more than $100,000 supporting the two Democratic candidates, Kiana Sears and former Commissioner Sandra Kennedy.

Steyer’s allies have also added Republican Governor Doug Ducey to their target list, although Ducey has a significant double-digit lead against David Garcia in most polls, causing many to believe the race’s outcome is settled.

Political consultant Ryan O’Daniel said the tactic stems from desperation.

“Tom Steyer is like a drowning man,” O’Daniel said. “He recognizes that he’s going down. He’s attempting to grab everything he can to stay afloat, but he’s dragging Democrat candidates down with him.”

Lorna Romero

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