After making national news for claiming that immigration and changing demographics present an existential threat to America, state Representative David Stringer is facing calls to resign from prominent members of his own party, including Arizona Republican Party chairman Jonathan Lines and Governor Doug Ducey.
But Stringer's anti-immigrant views should hardly have come as a surprise to the state's Republican leaders. Videos posted on YouTube and Stringer's own Facebook page show that the Prescott Republican has made similar statements at public forums before.
Here's Stringer answering a question about immigration at a Yavapai County Citizen's Tax Committee forum on October 24, 2016, when he first ran for the Legislature:
I don’t know how any sane person cannot understand what a problem immigration is to us. As Ronald Reagan said, and Donald Trump says, and I say, a country without borders is not a country. A country is not just a collection of people. A country is shared culture, shared language, very often shared religion, shared ancestry, that’s what nations that last are made up of. We used to be like that. But we opened up our borders in 1965 with the Great Society, the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, changed our immigration policy, and we now have a flood of immigrants, and they tell us that this enriches us. How many of you feel richer? Many of you remember 1965. How many of you really feel richer? We are a poorer country that is becoming a third-world country largely because we don’t control our borders. I think immigration is a huge problem, it is destroying our country, it is tearing us apart, it will inevitably – if we don’t do something about it – result in some kind of civil disorder and a dissolution of the United States as we know it. This is the history of diversity, and the history of the racial spoil system that inevitably results from a multicultural society.
And here's a stump speech that Stringer gave at a precinct committee meeting in his district on January 13, 2018:
If I have one minute more, I want to talk about not just about my candidacy but what we’re faced with here in Arizona. Take a look around this room. We don’t look like the state of Arizona. The demographics of Arizona are changing dramatically and they’re changing very, very rapidly. Here in rural Arizona, not just in Prescott, but all over rural Arizona, the demographics are very, very different. When I took a quick survey of my colleagues in the state legislature, there are 35 Republicans and 25 Democrats. Among that Democratic coalition, 17 of the Democrats are people of color. They’re either Hispanic, African American, or Native American. That means the majority of the Democratic voters are minorities. You watch TV, you hear the news, you hear these strident, angry voices of resentment and bitterness and they have a deep sense of grievance. And I hear this from my colleagues on the Democratic side. So if our legislature flips, we have a five vote margin, but a number of those seats are very close. A number of those districts are swing districts. So if we lose our state legislature, we are just going to have the Democratic party of a Bill Clinton, we are going to have the Democratic party of a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren or even further to the left. So there’s a lot at stake in this election. I hope you’ll be mindful of that. That’s why I say I’m not just running to get re-elected, I’m fighting for our values, I’m fighting for our people, I’m fighting for our future not just of our country but of the state of Arizona.
Stringer has only been in office for one term, but there have been other reports about his tendency to make racist remarks at public events in the Prescott area.
Last July, Ali Conant, a professor at Northern Arizona University, claimed in a Facebook post to have been "racially profiled" by Stringer. Conant wrote that she'd been having a heated discussion about education with Stringer when another person present told him that he didn't know who he was talking to.
Stringer allegedly responded, "I know exactly who I am speaking to. I see the San Francisco T-shirt with the peace sign and that … that ... that … Star of David. Oh, I know exactly who I am speaking to. She’s advertising it!”
12News reporter Brahm Resnik noted at the time that "this isn't the first time I have heard a credible individual report this kind of behavior by Rep. Stringer."
Jim Small, the executive director and editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, wrote on Twitter that a "prominent Republican player" told him that Stringer had admitted to being a white nationalist.
UPDATE: A prominent Republican player told me that he was at a fundraiser for another lawmaker last month and Rep. Stringer told him point blank that he was a "white nationalist"— Jim Small (@JimSmall) June 14, 2018
Stringer has not responded to requests for comment from Phoenix New Times, the Arizona Republic, and numerous national media outlets. However, he spoke to Capitol Media Services' Howie Fischer at length on Wednesday, and expressed the belief that America "could be facing national dissolution in a decade or two if we don’t get control of the immigration issue.’’
Claming that today's Asian and Hispanic immigrants had not assimilated as well as previous waves of immigrants from Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and France, Stringer also said that African-Americans “still have not been fully assimilated into American culture.’’
Of Asian-Americans, he said: “Even though they’re affluent, they’re an educated, cultured group, they still have a sense of maybe not fully participating in American life.’’
Stringer's campaign website notes that he is "currently enrolled in a graduate program at Arizona State University leading to a Masters Degree in teaching English as a Second Language to Arizona’s large non-English speaking population."
At the same Citizens Tax Committee forum where he expounded on the problems of immigration, he explained that he'd enrolled in the program "because English language learners are such a challenge to our educational system."
Stringer has claimed that the remarks he made at the Yavapai County Republican Men's Forum on Monday were taken out of context when David Schapira, a Democratic candidate for Superintendent for Public Instruction, posted a 51-second video clip on social media.
"I'm not interested in taking the fake news bait," he wrote on Facebook, then went on to double down on his comments:
Arizona and our country as a whole are in the throes of rapid demographic change. This presents issues of urgent public concern because of the strain it places on important institutions of our society including schools, prisons and our health care system. My comments about school integration were factually accurate and were intended to illustrate the challenges facing successful integration when white students are a rapidly declining percentage of the whole. This issue cries out for honest and open public discussion. Regrettably, my political opponents seek to shut down discussion with name calling and vile accusations.
Schapira has since posted the entire 17-minute-long video of Stringer's speech on Facebook.
Stringer was first elected to the state Legislature in 2016, and represents Legislative District 1, which covers most of rural Yavapai County, including Prescott, Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Mayer, Congress, and Yarnell. His campaign website describes him as the the owner of a Comfort Inn in Prescott, but financial disclosure statements indicate that he sold the hotel in 2017. He previously worked as an attorney.
Earlier this year, he was one of just three members of the Arizona House of Representatives to vote against expelling Representative Don Shooter, who was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. (The other two were Stringer's seatmate, Noel Campbell, and Shooter himself.)
Stringer previously faced controversy during last year's legislative session, when he reportedly described teaching as an easy part-time job that didn't require any special skills. He also expressed concerns that high school newspapers were being used as a vehicle for liberal propaganda.
In addition to being a proponent of the school choice movement – or, as he calls it, "school freedom" – Stringer has also been a vocal supporter of reducing the state's prison population.
In his statement defending his views, Stringer described himself as "the rarest of elected officials – a conservative Republican who is championing criminal justice reform in the face of political threats and challenges from powerful elements and politicians in my own party."
"Our criminal justice system is broken and disproportionately targets minorities, more often than not for low-level drug offenses," he wrote.
Stringer previously chaired the Arizona House of Representative's Ad Hoc Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform. On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard issued a statement criticizing Stringer's remarks and announcing that he'd be dissolving the committee.
"This does not mean that the discussion about criminal justice reform is over, as I know there is strong bipartisan interest to look at this issue, and I thank the members for being willing to serve on the committee," Mesnard wrote. "However, so as to avoid compromising the issue, future work will not take place in the form of this committee."
That decision immediately drew criticism from Democrats, who questioned the logic of dismantling the committee entirely, rather than simply appointing a new chairperson.
On Wednesday evening, after national media outlets picked up on Stringer's remarks, Arizona Republican Party chairman Jonathan Lines issued a statement calling for his resignation.
"These words have no place in our party, or in our state," he said.
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Governor Doug Ducey, wrote on Twitter that Ducey agrees with Lines, and supports the call for Stringer to resign.
But as Will Gaona of the ACLU of Arizona pointed out, Stringer's remarks aren't too far removed from a speech that Ducey gave at a conservative forum in 2017.
"What we reject is immigration without assimilation, and that is what we have had in the past few decades," Ducey is quoted as saying.
The state's most powerful lobbying group has also called for Stringer's resignation: Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer wrote that his remarks "are those of someone morally unfit for public office."
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"As the spouse of an immigrant, I found his remarks personally offensive," Hamer added. "Immigrants make our country stronger and more prosperous. His views are the polar opposite of the welcoming culture of Arizona."
Stringer has yet to apologize or respond to the calls to resign.
"I am not afraid of conservative bigwigs and I'm not afraid of liberal bullies either," he wrote earlier.
This story has been updated to clarify that Stringer no longer owns a Comfort Inn in Prescott.