PHOENIX — Citing his comments on immigrants and immigration, the Arizona Republican Party is calling on Rep. David Stringer to resign.
And others are following suit.
In a brief statement Thursday afternoon, Jonathan Lines said he had read news reports about what Stringer said. That includes not only what showed up in a nearly minute-long video of his speech earlier this week to the Republican Men’s Club in Prescott, but more extensive comments in an interview.
Among the things that Stringer said:
• Immigration represents “an existential threat to the United States;’’
• America’s “melting pot’’ exists for “people of European descent;’’
• Immigrants from south of the border don’t assimilate because they maintain connections with their home country.
Stringer also said the fact that there are more minorities than Anglos in Arizona public schools has made integration nearly impossible because “there aren’t enough white kids to go around.’’
The first-term lawmaker, in his interview, said he was simply informing his audience — made up largely, if not entirely, of Anglos — that they need to recognize there are changes that are occurring in the United States because of immigration.
“I’m telling them, ‘You need to be prepared for this,’” Stringer said.
Shortly after Lines took the lead, Daniel Scarpinato, press aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, said his boss “agrees’’ with what the party chairman had said.
Stringer did not return repeated messages seeking a response to the comments.
But in a Facebook post, Stringer both defended his comments and showed no sign of backing down — or quitting.
“My political opponents have taken 51 seconds out of a 16-minute speech to try to distort my message and mislead voters,’’ he said.
And Stringer said he remains convinced that “Arizona and our country as a whole are in the throes of rapid demographic change,’’ which presents challenges “because of the strain it places on important institutions of our society including schools, prisons and our health care system.’’
“This issue cries out for honest and open public discussion,’’ Stringer wrote.
“Regrettably, my political opponents seek to shut down discussion with name calling and vile accusations.’’
Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry joined the chorus a short time later saying Stringer’s comments “are those of someone morally unfit for public office.’’ Hamer said he found the remarks “personally offensive,’’ pointing out he is married to an immigrant, albeit one from Israel.
“Immigrants make our country stronger and more prosperous,’’ he said. “His views are the polar opposite of the welcoming culture of Arizona.’’
And Hamer said, he, too, believes Stringer should quit.
“If he doesn’t, I expect that voters will hold him accountable in August,’’ he said.
But House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, would not go that far, saying Stringer’s legislative future “will be up to him and the voters of District 1.’’
Mesnard, did, however, abolish a special new Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform which he had named Stringer to chair. Stringer wanted to work with Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, to look at things like mandatory sentencing.
Stringer drew a link, saying he is under attack for being “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.’’
Mesnard, however, said he did not abolish the panel to shut down that discussion, saying he is sure that will continue “as I know there is strong bipartisan interest to look at the issue.’’
The brief video of what Stringer told the Men’s Club on Monday initially drew responses only from Democrats, immigration rights activists and political progressives.
Tempe City Councilman David Schapira, who initially posted the video excerpt on social media Tuesday evening, called Stringer’s remarks, “overtly racist comments about our students.”
Josselyn Berry, co director of ProgressNow Arizona, said his comments “showed the true colors of today’s Republican Party,’’ calling it “a party of radicalism, xenophobia, and frankly racism.’’
But Lines, who wants to preserve the Republican’s 35-25 edge in the House of Representatives, broke the political barrier Thursday in becoming the first Republican to weigh in on the issue.
Stringer is in a three-way race for the GOP nomination for the two House seats from the district. Also running is fellow incumbent Noel Campbell of Prescott and Jodi Rooney of Prescott Valley.
Whoever survives that primary will face off against Democrats Ed Gogek and Jan Manolis, both of Prescott, in the November general election.