Sen. Marsh’s Tenure Marked By Fierce Opposition To School Choice And Other Bills Protecting Children

Sen. Marsh’s Tenure Marked By Fierce Opposition To School Choice And Other Bills Protecting Children

By Staff Reporter |

A north central Phoenix legislative district may have a chance to replace its Democrat state senator in the upcoming November election.

State Senator Christine Marsh is running for reelection in Arizona Legislative District 4 this November. Based on her history of election finishes, Marsh may be in for another close contest in the swing district.  

Marsh has served in the Arizona Legislature since January 2021. In the November 2020 General Election, she defeated Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee by fewer than 500 votes in Legislative District 28 (under the last redistricting lines). The previous election, McGee had bested Marsh by 267 votes in the 2018 General Election.

In the first election under the new redistricting lines for the decade, Marsh won another narrow victory over Nancy Barto by less than 1,200 votes for the right to represent the citizens of Legislative District 4.

The Democrat legislator has been a fierce opponent of her state’s efforts to increase school choice opportunities for Arizona families. In January 2017, Marsh co-authored an op-ed in the Arizona Republic, entitled “Expanding vouchers is dangerous for Arizona.” She wrote, “Those of us who care deeply about public education and the future of our state must work together to focus on what impacts 80 percent of students in our state – stopping the expansion of vouchers and School Tuition Organizations.”

On June 24, 2022, Marsh voted against the historic legislation to expand Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program, joining nine of her colleagues.

The following year, Marsh penned another op-ed for the Arizona Republic, stating that “Anti-public-school Republicans have chosen a path apt to cut safety and services, and sacrifice Arizona’s next generation’s chance to succeed. It’s time our state scrapped the universal private school voucher expansion before our public school system and, more importantly, your neighborhood public school is shuttered.”

Marsh has proven to be a reliable Democrat vote during her time in office, joining her caucus on a number of controversial issues that haven’t always reflected the sentiments of her district. Many of her votes throughout her tenure in the Arizona Legislature defy one of her posted priorities on her campaign website, which reads that “we need more balance at the Capitol in order to force negotiation and compromise.”

In 2022, Marsh cosponsored SB 1281, which would have repealed the preemption on cities from banning plastic bags. That same year, she voted against bills that would have prohibited minors from having irreversible sex change surgeries, banned taxpayer money from going to lobbyists, stopped government from forcing children to mask up without parental consent, and prohibited one single politician from unilaterally shutting down businesses in a self-declared state of emergency.

That same year, when Marsh voted against a proposal requiring accommodations for students who do not want to use a bathroom with a student of the opposite sex, she said that the schools can just get shower curtains.

Earlier this year, Marsh voted against a bill “requiring students in grades 7 to 12 to be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides” – even though fellow Democrat, Governor Katie Hobbs, signed the legislation into state law.

She joined Democrats in voting “NO on a bill requiring public schools to teach Arizona students about the victims of communism.”

Marsh also “voted NO on tougher punishments for public school and public library employees who expose our children to wildly disgusting pornographic books and images.”

She voted against a bill “prohibiting the court from ending probation early for criminals who are in our country illegally and are being deported.”

At the end of the 2024 legislative session, Marsh opposed legislation “classifying Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.”

In June, she also voted against a bill “allowing Arizona kids to have lemonade stands without a license and without having to pay taxes.”

In another major action for the just completed legislative session, Marsh voted no on HCR 2060, which referred several border-related policies to the ballot in November for Arizona voters to empower local law enforcement with more tools to protect communities from the historic effects of the border crisis.

Additionally, Marsh voted against “a child safety bill cracking down on companies that don’t perform reasonable age verification before allowing access to the websites they manage with content considered harmful for children.”

Senator Marsh has also been an advocate for legislation seeking to mitigate the liberty provided by the Second Amendment, boasting about Democrats’ efforts to pass universal background checks.”

On her website, Marsh lists several endorsements from interest groups, including left-leaning Arizona List, Moms Demand Action, and the Sierra Club.

Marsh is running unopposed for the Democrat nomination for state senator in the July primary election. Republicans Kenneth R. Bowers, Jr. and Carine Werner are vying for the Republican nomination to face the Democrat incumbent in the November General Election.

According to the Arizona Legislative District 4 Democrat Party, Republicans control 38% of the district’s voter registration, compared to 27% Democrats and 35% Other. In 2022, LD 4 had a higher voter turnout than both Maricopa County and the State of Arizona at 76%.

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Lawmakers Launch Investigation Into Alleged Censorship At ASU

Lawmakers Launch Investigation Into Alleged Censorship At ASU

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday, a joint committee of the Arizona legislature launched an investigation into allegations of censorship at Arizona State University (ASU). Lawmakers issued a 60-day deadline to conduct the investigation.

The directive arose from the Joint Legislative Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Expression at Arizona’s Public Universities hearing concerning the T.W. Lewis Center, shuttered this year after the revocation of $400,000 in annual funding from its namesake, Tom Lewis, who cited “left-wing hostility and activism” as his reason for defunding the program.

Lewis’ contention arose from the efforts of 37 Barrett Honors College faculty members, who launched a coordinated campaign to prevent an event featuring prominent conservative speakers Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk. Prager testified at Tuesday’s hearing; he also published an opinion piece on the event ahead of the hearing.

State Sens. Anthony Kern, co-chair (R-LD27), Frank Carroll (R-LD28), Sally Ann Gonzales (D-LD20), Christine Marsh (D-LD04), and J.D. Mesnard (R-LD13) served on the committee, as did State Reps. Quang Nguyen (R-LD01), Lorena Austin (D-LD09), Analise Ortiz (D-LD24), Beverly Pingerelli (R-LD28), and Austin Smith (R-LD29). Kern and Nguyen served as co-chairs.

“This is to get to the bottom of a state-funded university that is not meeting its obligation to freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” said Kern.

The center relied on an annual budget of around $1 million; ASU representatives explained that the center would live on through the classes taught, though the actual center itself and the executive director at its helm, Ann Atkinson, would be gone. 

ASU Vice President of Legal Affairs Kim Demarchi explained that Lewis’ funding provided for career development and education. Demarchi testified that ASU considered what programs it could continue without Lewis’ funding, and declared that they could only sustain the faculty without Lewis’ funding. Demarchi also shared that the Barrett Honors faculty weren’t punished in any way for the letter or allegations of intimidation.

“It is possible it [their letter] has a chilling effect,” said Demarchi.

However, Demarchi clarified that a professor would have to explicitly threaten a student’s grade in order to be in violation of university policy.

Atkinson went public with the closure of the Lewis Center last month. (See the response from ASU). She told AZ Free News that the university turned down alternative funding sources that would make up for the loss of Lewis’ funding necessary to keep the Lewis Center running.

Nguyen opened up the hearing by recounting his survival of Vietnam’s communist regime as a child, and comparing that regime’s hostility to free speech to the actions of Barrett Honors College faculty. 

“My understanding is that there is an effort to prevent conservative voices from being heard,” said Nguyen. “I crossed 12,000 miles to look for freedom, to seek freedom.”

Nguyen expressed disappointment that none of the 37 faculty members that signed onto the letter showed up to testify in the hearing. He said if he accused someone, he would show up to testify.

Democratic members of the committee contended that the event occurred and therefore censorship hadn’t taken place. Kern said the occurrence of the event doesn’t resolve whether freedom of speech was truly permitted, citing the closure of the Lewis Center.

ASU Executive Vice Provost Pat Kenney emphasized the importance of freedom of expression as critical to a free nation. Nguyen asked whether Kenney read the Barrett letter, and agreed to it. Kenney said the letter was freedom of expression. He claimed the letter didn’t seek cancellation of the event. 

“When faculty speak out on their own like that, they’re covered on the same topic we’re here about, which is free speech,” said Kenney.

ASU representatives claimed near the beginning of the hearing that Lewis and ASU President Michael Crow had discussed the withdrawal of funding. However, toward the end of the hearing Kern announced that he’d received information from a Lewis representative that the pair hadn’t discussed the funding, and accused ASU representatives of lying.

Ortiz called the anonymous complaints from students hypotheticals because no formal complaints were lodged. She also claimed that the hearing was merely an attempt to delegitimize public and higher education. Marsh claimed that lawmakers shouldn’t consider the claims of student fears of retaliation because the students should’ve gone to ASU directly.

Nguyen asked whether ASU would defend guest speakers, such as himself, if ASU faculty were to lodge claims of white nationalism. Kenney said that, in a personal capacity, ASU faculty were free to make their claims, but not if they spoke out on ASU’s behalf.

Atkinson contested with the characterization that the Barrett faculty spoke out in their personal capacity. She pointed out that Barrett faculty signed the letter in their capacity as ASU faculty, emailed her using their ASU emails, and sent communications to students about opposing the event using ASU technology.

Ortiz announced receipt of a letter from the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) on the outcome of the requested investigation into the incident, the results of which Kern and the rest of the committee appeared to not have been made aware, determining that no free speech violations took place at ASU.

Marsh speculated that the professors didn’t show up because they faced death threats, citing media attention and conservative speaker Charlie Kirk’s Professor Watchlist. Kern said that would be a “lame excuse.” He also pointed out that the professors launched a national campaign and initialized bringing themselves into a bigger spotlight.

“You’re making excuses where we don’t know that’s the case,” said Kern. 

Atkinson said that she could provide “dozens, if not hundreds” of students that could testify to experiencing faculty intimidation. She also claimed that Williams told her to avoid booking speakers that were political. 

“We allow the speaker but you have to take the consequences,” said Atkinson, reportedly quoting Williams. 

Atkinson testified that TV screen ads were removed and flyers were torn down following the Barrett Honors faculty letter. She also said she shared the information for the person responsible on June 13, yet it appears ASU took no action. ASU said they weren’t aware of any advertising for the event pulled. 

Additionally, Atkinson testified that Williams pressured her to postpone the event “indefinitely.” She noted that Williams interpreted ASU’s policy of not promoting political campaigns as not allowing political speech at all.

“We were in an environment telling us that this was ‘hate speech,’” said Atkinson.

Atkinson said she was directed by leadership ahead of the event to issue a preliminary warning that the event contained potentially dangerous speech. 

Gonzales told Atkinson that hate speech doesn’t qualify as constitutionally protected speech. However, the rules attorney corrected her that the Supreme Court ruled hate speech as protected.

ASU professor Owen Anderson also testified. He said that he’s previously had to get the free speech rights organization Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIR) involved twice due to faculty attempts to suppress free speech. Anderson also said that faculty have attempted to restrict speech by adding anti-racism and DEI to policy on class content and annual reviews of professors. 

“Insults abound, but rational dialogue is rare. What we need are administrators that call these faculty to higher conduct,” said Anderson.

In closing, Kern said he doesn’t trust ASU, the University of Arizona, or ABOR. He argued that ABOR hadn’t issued a real investigation and called their report “typical government fluff [and] garbage.” Kern also called for the firing of Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Pro-Life Grassroots Activists Mobilizing Voters in Mesa and Scottsdale

Pro-Life Grassroots Activists Mobilizing Voters in Mesa and Scottsdale

By Corinne Murdock |

In the final six days before Election Day, young pro-life activists are deploying in Mesa and Scottsdale to mobilize voters. 

That impacts State Senate Districts 4 and 9, both swing districts. District 4 candidates are Republican Nancy Barto and Democrat Christine Marsh. District 9 candidates are Republican Robert Scantlebury and Democrat Eva Burch. 

Behind the grassroots activists is Students for Life Action (SFLA), the political action committee (PAC) arm of the Students for Life (SFL) nonprofit. SFLA stated in a press release that their goal in Arizona is to inform voters about the abortion lobby’s endorsed candidates and Senator Mark Kelly’s record on abortion. 

SFLA comes into play weeks after it was revealed that Kelly campaign staffers were likely telling voters that the senator is pro-life for months. Kelly supports abortion.  

SFLA also deployed groups into 10 other states: Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Washington. Notably, one SFLA captain, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Ruch, is the Republican candidate for the Montana House.

Arizona won’t enforce its ban on abortion until next year. In response to the agreement with Attorney General Mark Brnovich last week, Planned Parenthood resumed abortion services throughout the state (with the exception of a Tucson clinic, which continued operations prior to the agreement).

Even if the state’s abortion ban goes into effect, there’s no guarantee of uniform enforcement. The cities of Tucson and Phoenix both passed resolutions effectively decriminalizing abortions. Pima County Attorney Laura Conover also pledged to not prosecute violations of abortion law.

The upcoming election will further determine the fate of the state’s abortion law. Democratic Maricopa County Attorney candidate Julie Gunnigle pledged to disregard state bans and restrictions on abortion.

“I will #NotNowNotEver prosecute people or their providers for performing abortions or undergoing an abortion procedure,” tweeted Gunnigle last month. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs supports elective abortions without any restrictions, even up to birth. 

Hobbs told CNN on Wednesday that she would veto any new legislation further restricting abortion in the state.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.