Trump Campaign Turns Attention to Arizona as #RedforEd ‘May Day’ Event Fizzles

#RedforEd photo by Gage Skidmore for Arizona Education Association.
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
MICHAEL PATRICK LEAHY

The Trump campaign is turning its attention to Arizona, a 2020 battleground state that has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every year since 1996, when President Bill Clinton defeated Republican nominee Bob Dole there by two points.

The 2016 presidential contest there was closer than expected. President Trump won the state’s 11 electoral college votes with a four point victory over Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, 49 percent to 45 percent.

For over a year now, Arizona has been considered either a 2020 tossup or lean Republican as energetic Democratic activists there have secured a number of recent victories.

Part of that energy has come from the nationwide left wing #RedforEd teachers movement, which was launched in Arizona in March 2018 by then 23-year-old Noah Karvelis and several other young 2016 Bernie Sanders supporters who had been embedded in the teachers union with the help of the president of the Arizona Education Association, Joe Thomas.

That energy sparked a march of an estimated 75,000 #RedforEd teachers and supporters on the State Capitol in Phoenix in April 2018. The political pressure from that march, and related #RedforEd activism, moved Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to push for and obtain new legislation that will increase teachers’pay by 20 percent.

That political energy on the left carried over into the 2018 general election and helped then-Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) defeat then-Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the election to the U.S. Senate.

For several subsequent month, it appeared that the left wing energy generated by #RedforEd in Arizona was poised to carry over into the 2020 presidential election in the state.

As Breitbart News reported in February:

A well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.

This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.

The potential political move to the left of Arizona has caught the attention of the Trump campaign, as The Washington Examiner reported on Monday:

The Republican Party is moving early to build a political firewall around Arizona’s critical Electoral College votes, a recognition that the perennial red state is threatening to turn against President Trump in 2020.

The Trump campaign is hiring Brian Seitchik, a veteran Arizona operative, to run political operations in the state. He could take the helm as early as Wednesday, a full 18 months before Election Day, and would work in tandem with the Republican National Committee to build and oversee an extensive field program supported by paid staff and volunteers.

Arizona Republicans say the state is legitimately in play after midterm elections that saw Kyrsten Sinema become the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in three decades by capitalizing on the president’s vulnerability in the vote-rich Phoenix suburbs. They say the Trump campaign and RNC share their ominous assessment and expect money and manpower to pour in.

While other demographic and political issues that are troublesome for the GOP remain, the political momentum provided to Democrats in Arizona by the #RedforEd movement, however, may have reached its peak, thanks to vigorous pushback from a newly organized group called Purple for Parents, State Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16), and conservative Phoenix talk radio host Mike Broomhead.

While one #RedforEd “May Day” teacher walkout and rally in Raleigh, North Carolina generated an estimated crowd of more than 15,000, and another in Columbia, South Carolina generated an estimated crowd of 10,000, a similar event at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix attracted only a handful of participants–“no more than 20” –according to a statement released by  State Rep. Townsend’s office on Thursday.

“In Arizona, we very quickly pointed out the Socialist overtones of the movement and worked tirelessly to expose the difference between what teachers wanted, and what some leaders of the RedForEd movement wanted,”  Townsend said in the statement.

“I applaud the teachers and advocates in the Purple for Parents group, as well as radio hosts Mike Broomhead and James T. Harris for daily confronting the union-promoting RedForEd leaders. I look forward to working with hardworking teachers in an effort to get real education reform for the classrooms,” Townsend concluded.

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