PHOENIX (AP) - A staffer for Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia left the campaign after a website unearthed tweets that some law enforcement officials say show disparaging remarks against police.
Garcia’s campaign on Friday said former digital director Xenia Orona offered her resignation following a post from PJ Media, a conservative news blog. The story pointed out multiple tweets from her personal account.
Arizona Police Association executive director Joe Clure condemned some of the tweets as “anti-police rhetoric.” He also called on Garcia to “denounce this attack on police officers.”
Garcia, an education professor and military veteran, is running in a three-way primary against state Sen. Steve Farley and activist Kelly Fryer. The candidates appeared on KPNX-TV Friday morning, where Garcia emphasized that the tweets were from a personal account. His campaign also released a statement distancing itself from the remarks.
“The language and the message of the tweets are not in line with the values and message of our campaign,” the statement said.
Clure said he was concerned anti-police language in the political forum can inflame violence against law enforcement. He spoke at a news conference standing alongside other Arizona Police Association officials and three poster-sized printouts of the tweets at issue.
“Campaign staffers at this level are a reflection of the candidate,” Clure said.
One of the tweets used a three-letter hashtag that Clure claimed indicated an anti-law enforcement stance. Another cursed Arizona the night of the 2012 general election, when the state’s electoral votes went to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Another tweet that the Arizona Police Association used on its posters said “Law and order is the smokescreen that bigots hide their hate behind. Remember that when you hear talk of enforcement. #DACA.” Her account has since been set to private.
DJ Quinlan, a longtime Democratic consultant in Arizona, said that in context, Orona’s tweets may have been put out “in the heat of the moment.” He also said raising concerns about past tweets is usually reserved for senior staffers like a campaign manager - especially in an era where President Donald Trump is known to fire off inflammatory tweets.
“The question is, what do we really learn about a candidate by examining six-year-old social media from a junior-level staffer?” Quinlan said.
Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s re-election campaign, disagreed that a digital director’s tweets can be overlooked given their responsibilities on social media.
When asked if the Ducey campaign played a role in unearthing the tweets, Scarpinato said he was not aware of their existence until he saw the PJ Media story. He said the campaign was troubled by their content.
“David Garcia wants to be governor,” Scarpinato said. “And that means he wants to lead the Department of Public Safety. It’s important how he reacts to these issues, and that he’s standing up for law enforcement.”
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