September 2, 2004
Opponents of Proposition 200 decided Tuesday night to drop their legal battle seeking to remove the Protect Arizona Now initiative from the Nov. 2 ballot.
Instead, they will focus on adding to their coalition of business and political interests for their campaign.
Alfredo Gutierrez, who has been a spokesman for the opposition, said appealing a judge’s order to leave Prop. 200 intact would distract from efforts to build a campaign against the proposed law intended to target illegal immigrants.
"We have an enthusiastic, widespread coalition ready to explain to voters what this initiative really means," Gutierrez said.
Service Employees International Union had sued to keep Prop. 200 from the ballot on behalf of other opponents. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Armstrong ruled the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office and the initiative’s summary description complied with election laws.
Kathy McKee, chairwoman of Protect Arizona Now initiative committee, said she’s skeptical of the labor union’s announcement that it will drop the case without going to the state Supreme Court.
"We’re going to keep preparing for court, at least until after the 10-day deadline to appeal has passed," McKee said. "Twice before, they have sued us at the last possible moment so we didn’t have time to prepare and we didn’t have time to raise funds (for legal fees)."
Gutierrez and other leaders revealed in mid-August they were reorganizing the opposition committee, now called the Statue of Liberty Coalition, to include interest groups with deeper pockets. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce plans to be a key player along with labor unions and Hispanic civil rights groups.
The group has hired a Phoenix political strategy firm whose partners include former state Rep. Art Hamilton, a former House Democratic floor leader, and Wes Gullett, the chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Fife Symington. They’ve said they hope to raise $1 million.
The new coalition will have to act quickly in order to reverse momentum for Prop. 200, as early voting for the Nov. 2 general election starts in less than a month. Recent polls show the initiative to be popular despite opposition from Gov. Janet Napolitano and Arizona’s congressional delegation.
Prop. 200 would require proof of citizenship to register to vote and photo identification to cast a ballot. The initiative also would require government officials to check a person’s residency status before offering "public benefits" and those officials could be charged with a crime if they didn’t report suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities.