Guest Opinion, for the Arizona Capitol Times
A hundred years ago my grandfather emigrated from the Ukraine to escape the anti-Semitism and ethnic conflict that would soon engulf most of Europe. We talk of never forgetting. I will not forget, that when my grandfather came to this country as a teenager he could never have imagined that today, in his beloved adopted homeland, a century later, in the great state of Arizona, where he lived the last twenty five years of his life, there would be elected officials who publicly embrace antisemitic sentiments.
Today, while an Arizona State Senator attacks Ukraine’s democratically elected President Zelensky, she and other Arizona elected GOP officials debase themselves in support of white nationalists in our own country, Governor Doug Ducey has remained worse than silent. Ducey has refused to denounce these representatives of our state or express regret for the more than $500,000 he helped raise and spend to elect one of them. In fact, he is on-record as continuing to support her as being “better than a Democrat.”
This year’s elections in Arizona are important for so many reasons. We must protect the right to vote and ensure our children have fully funded schools. We must solve serious environmental challenges and invest in innovative sustainable solutions. However, this election will also be a battle for the heart and soul of Arizona. Unlike our Governor, I am an Arizona native. I know the heart and soul of Arizona is pragmatic, fair and just. Arizona’s heart is with the people of Ukraine, supports freedom, and rejects blind hate. These values are more important than Party.
For decades now, some Republican leaders in this state have failed to stand up to the most extreme voices in their midst. I saw this firsthand in the legislature, where many from the other side of the aisle were more interested in maintaining their slim majority than working together to advocate for all Arizonans. They have tolerated abhorrent behavior and entertained wild conspiracies that paint Arizona as a hot-bed of radical, incoherent extremism. That picture and perception has hurt our state. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans are not on any fringe–we are in the center. We need leaders who will stop letting a few speak for all and who will return civility to our discourse.
I ask all of my fellow candidates running in this election to join with me in calling on Governor Ducey to publicly denounce Senator Wendy Rogers and pledge to no longer support her–and those with similarly dangerous views–financially or otherwise. Words and symbolic actions are not enough. Arizona deserves and demands leaders who do not hesitate to condemn racism in all its forms.
Governor Ducey’s time left in office is limited. For the sake of the state, I pray that he uses the time he has left to show some of the courage we’re seeing the Ukrainian people so clearly demonstrate. It is what our state needs right now.
Aaron Lieberman is a former state representative for Legislative District 28, an education entrepreneur, and candidate for governor of Arizona. To date, the companies he founded have helped nearly one million high-need children succeed. Aaron was born and raised in Arizona and resides in Phoenix with his wife and two sons.