NAVAJO COUNTY — Sen. Sylvia Allen has received strong support from Gov. Doug Ducey and Senate President Karen Fann, after making racially charged remarks that prompted calls for her resignation of the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee.
In speeches in Payson and Phoenix, Sen. Allen talked about demographic changes that have increased the share of Hispanics in the state’s population. She commented that whites “are not replacing themselves” and that immigration and demographic shifts will “overwhelm” the country and lead to “changes” that “will make your head spin.”
She said she feared America will “look like South American countries very quickly” as immigrants were “flooding” the United States faster than they could learn the nation’s culture and laws.
The Arizona Education Association called for Sen. Allen’s resignation from chairmanship of the education committee, saying her remarks were helping to spread “fear and intolerance.” Sen. Allen has clashed repeatedly with the teacher’s association, most notably when she offered harsh criticism of demonstrators during the recent Red for Ed movement.
However, Senate President Fann said “The attacks on Senator Allen are unwarranted and unfair. She has explained her comments, detailing the intent and even offered apologies to anyone who misconstrued the content. Sylvia is a kind and warm-hearted person who does not condone any form of bigotry or prejudice and I find it absurd for anyone to compare her to the former representative who resigned due to reported misconduct in previous years.”
The reference to other other lawmakers is a reference to State Rep. David Stringer, who made recorded remarks saying “African-Americans and other racial groups don’t … blend in” when they immigrate to the US and so “always look different.” He also commented there weren’t “enough white kids to go around” in the state’s public school and that immigration posed an “existential threat” to the country.
He resisted calls to resign for months, but was asked to step down from chairmanship of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee.
Stringer subsequently resigned when the House Ethics Committee revealed allegations he’d been charged with sex crimes, including child pornography, dating back to 1983.
Gov. Doug Ducey also came to Sen. Allen’s defense, in contrast to his call for Stringer’s resignation
Ducey responded to questions from reporters about Allen saying, “come on, Sylvia Allen is not David Stringer,” according to a story in the Arizona Republic. “She disavowed her comments and says she has love in her heart for every person. Like I said, I’ve worked with her for years, and that’s consistent.”
Sen. Allen did not disavow her remarks but did apologize “to anyone who has been hurt by my words,” which she said had been misconstrued.
Her opponents in the District 6 race have condemned her remarks.
Democrat Felica French, a retired Army colonel and medivac pilot, said her remarks were “divisive” and “nativist” and did not reflect the attitudes of her constituents.
Wendy Rogers, a retired Air Force pilot and lt. colonel, said “The Republican Party does not tolerate racism; we stand for law and order, strong borders, and love of country. I denounce Sylvia Allen’s very racist statement. Some of America’s greatest heroes do not look like Sylvia, yet served with honor in combat preserving our way of life. The Navajo Code Talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen, the nearly 60 Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients (link provided), and many many more Americans. Sylvia needs to retire like she said she was going to do and let those who love all of America hold elected office instead.”
Sen. Allen defended her remarks on a conservative radio talk show program saying the criticism of her amount to a “verbal lynching,” with articles in the Washington Post and on news sites across the country. The controversy erupted shortly before the shootings in El Paso, which ignited a national debate about whether political comments about immigrants and race relations have fostered a resurgence of deadly White Nationalism.
On the radio program, she said “if we don’t teach them (immigrants) properly, we will end up like Venezuela, which was the reference to South America,” according to a story in the Republic.
Tataiana Peña Marchuk, the lead organizer for the “Mormon Political Pioneers: Then and Now” event at which Allen spoke, also responded to criticismof her.
“I feel compelled to speak out in defense of Senator Sylvia Allen. I am a first-generation American with Honduran and Costa Rican heritage. There were several individuals in attendance at our event who were immigrants, naturalized citizens, Hispanic, and African American. To make the false accusation that Senator Allen is a racist, and try to paint her as such, shows how unreliable, bias, and misleading many of Arizona’s current news sources have become. Her words were taken completely out of context. Senator Allen’s focus was on preserving our nation’s Constitution and was explaining how, if our nation is not careful to help new immigrants assimilate and learn our values, Americans will surely over time forget our country’s founding principles. My own family worked hard to become part of this great nation and would not want to see it turn corrupt like some of our neighbor countries to the south. The fact is that because Senator Allen spoke this sincere concern and is white, she made herself an easy target for a progressive shill of a journalist who evidently was running low on fake news to write,”
Sen. Allen said on the radio show, “I think the things I brought up, even in that just two minutes of that speech, are questions that deserve to be debated, deserve to be discussed. They need this kind of attention without attacking me, calling me racist, without trying to silence me. I think that it’s verbal lynching that’s taking place to silence us and not allow us to have these kinds of debates.”
Senate President Fann’s support ensures the calls for Sen. Allen to step down from the education committee chairmanship will likely go nowhere.