My Turn

Why it's time to give Arizona Sen. Steve Yarbrough the boot

This article first appeared in the Arizona Republic, on October 27, 2016.

State Sen. Steve Yarbrough’s rebuttal to Mike McClellan’s My Turn article was a fascinating read. For me, it showed the senator is afraid that voters recognize his obvious conflicts of interest and ineffective leadership, and are demanding change.

Why else would he take the time to come out of the woodwork just three weeks before the end of a campaign during which he has been virtually absent?

First, let me point out that I immediately corrected the record about my father’s military service on social media after reading Mr. McClellan’s column. And I confirmed this in a phone call with The Arizona Republic. I’m humbled that my dad, Keith Weichert, fought for our country, as have millions of other brave men and women. And as state senator, I will do everything in my power to recognize their patriotism and provide them with the services they deserve.

Now let’s set the record straight on a few policy issues.

Underpaid, really?

The senator’s joke that minimum wage would be an increase because he’s an overworked, underpaid public servant is laughable. We know Yarbrough was joking because he voted against raising the minimum wage earlier this year.

State Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who has introduced bills to expand Arizona's school tuition organization program, is also the executive director of one of the largest non-profit school tuition organizations. (Photo: Jack Kurtz/The Republic)

It’s well-documented that Yarbrough has built a lucrative personal empire that benefits from private school tax credit legislation he has aggressively championed during his 13 years as a state representative and state senator, draining well over $100 million from our public coffers since 1998. As executive director and legal counsel for the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO), the past three years of available tax filings show he has received more than $400,000 in compensation.

A minimum wage worker in our state would have to work nearly 24 years to earn that much money. I doubt they’re laughing.

It is well-known that he also happens to be controlling shareholder of HY Processing LLC, which has processed ACSTO’s contributions and scholarship applications since 2005 at a cost of at least $1.2 million, according to tax filings in 20132014 and 2015. And just for good measure, Yarbrough owns the building in which both companies are located.

If you’re thinking all this smells a little fishy, don’t try telling Steve Yarbrough. He’ll tell you you’re beating a dead horse.

Voting record tells a different story

The sudden affection my opponent has shown for public education in his column is betrayed by his voting record and, incidentally, that of his pal, Rep. JD Mesnard, who has absurdly promoted his pro-education credentials in a series of recent ads. Each received dismal ratings for their support of public education from AZ Schools Now based on their votes in the state Legislature during 2015 and 2016.

Finally, Yarbrough’s article criticized Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of my candidacy. I’m proud to support Planned Parenthood’s mission, which provides services such as low-cost reproductive healthcare, cancer screening, and STD/STI testing and treatment to more than 90,000 people in Arizona.

Contrast this with Yarbrough’s  (and Mesnards’s)  vote against restoring KidsCare, which will provide healthcare to 30,000 of our poorest children. Can someone honestly claim to be pro-life if they don’t support a child’s health after it’s born? I think not.

As state senator, I pledge to invest in public education and support our most vulnerable neighbors. I’ll work tirelessly to build an Arizona that is both prosperous and compassionate.

That’s simply not Steve Yarbrough’s goal, nor his legacy. After 13 years in the state Capitol, it’s clear that his time has run its course.

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