Dear Governor Ducey: Arizonans Are Dying of COVID-19 (OPINION)

Jul 2, 2020
5:10 PM

In this June 27, 2020, file photo, medical personnel prepare to test hundreds of people lined up in vehicles in Phoenix’s western neighborhood of Maryvale for free COVID-19 tests organized by Equality Health Foundation, which focuses on care in underserved communities. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Dear Gov. Ducey:

Arizonans are dying of COVID-19.

I know that can’t be news to you, but it apparently needs repeating given the mess of a response you’ve led to this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

If you haven’t already figured it out yet, like millions of other Arizonans, I’m angry, disgusted and scared.

The fact is you waited too long to order Arizonans to stay-at-home, and in the interest of keeping big businesses and President Trump happy you reopened far too soon.

This week, in the words of the COVID-19 trackers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “Arizona has lost control of the epidemic.”

It would be bad enough if I thought you were just incompetent. This wouldn’t be the first time someone got elected to a job they were wholly unqualified for.

I know better. I don’t believe you could have directed a multimillion-dollar chain of ice cream shops or the state treasurer’s office (your previous jobs), if you didn’t have more than a modicum of management skills.

But if gross ineptitude isn’t to blame, I can only surmise that your disastrous response to the spread of this deadly virus is being driven by the worst kind of politics instead of the best available science.

I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill partisanship. In your case, it’s the kind that comes from your habit of filtering every major public policy decision you make based on calculations about how it might affect your long-term political ambitions.

So, what’s next? U.S. Senator? I don’t think so. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has at least four years to go and former astronaut Mark Kelly is barreling toward a win against Sen. Martha McSally, your personal pick to replace the late Sen. John McCain.

Even if McSally pulls a rabbit out of a hat and keeps her seat, I just can’t see you hanging loose for the next four to six years on the off-chance that you might be able to defeat an incumbent U.S. senator. You’re way too driven for that.

My guess, and I’m hardly alone in this thinking, is that you’ve set your sights on a run for the White House in 2024. Why not? You’re a prolific fundraiser and your conservative credentials more than pass muster with the pro-business, tough on crime and immigration, and anti-abortion wings of your party.

So far, so good. Your only problem is that you can’t stop glancing over your shoulder to see if you’re managing to keep your party’s far-right extremists in your corner. It’s that growing contingent of bigoted, ultra-conservative voters, most of them white and male, who’ve been slinking around for decades in a thinly-veiled crevice of the GOP apparatus.

Republican leaders used to think they could tame the racists in their midst by keeping the likes of former State Senate President Russell Pearce, Iowa Rep. Steve King, and one-time KKK leader David Duke at arm’s length but still tucked inside their big red Republican tent.

Unfortunately, you didn’t see Trump coming, and once he arrived your party barely lifted a finger to try and stop him.

Now, it’s his GOP, and the only way to swing an invitation to Trump’s 2020 campaign rallies (also known as “COVID-19 super spreader events”) is by towing to the same slice of the electorate that showed up mask-less and itching for a fight at the president’s speech this week in defiance of Phoenix’s new city ordinance.

Not that any of this is new political territory for you or most other top Republicans.

Insiders warned your party’s leaders in a special report after the 2012 election that the GOP might not survive unless it did a better job of appealing to women, young people and people of color. Rather than change with the times, the party ignored the report’s findings.

Then in 2016, instead of kicking Trump out of the party when it had the chance, the GOP fell to its knees and surrendered to his white supremacist agenda by picking him to run for president—and you enthusiastically endorsed him.

Now, three-and-a-half years into this nightmare of a presidency, Trump still has your unflagging support, which you proved by standing front and center at the president’s rally in Phoenix this week.

There you were, dutiful and compliant, even as thousands in attendance shirked a city ordinance requiring them to wear face coverings or socially distance to keep from spreading the virus.

Trump, of course, didn’t wear a mask, but you said nothing to criticize the president’s irresponsible decision to lead the event. Likewise, you’ve been silent on Trump’s repeated use during his speech of a racist slur aimed at people of Asian descent. Echoing Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, you even had the gall earlier in the day during the president’s visit to his beloved border wall to blame the spike in COVID-19 cases in Arizona in part on Mexicans coming across the border for health care.

So, it should be no surprise to anyone that when the true test of your moral mettle arrived in the form of Arizona’s cataclysmic health crisis, you’ve buckled again and again to perverse thr will of the most corrupt president in modern U.S. history.

According to a Columbia University study released in May, a group of scientists (not political consultants) concluded that if the president had acknowledged the very real threat of the global pandemic and taken action only two weeks sooner that more than 54,000 people —the same number of men, women and children in Lake Havasu City— might still be alive today.

Gov. Ducey, the question I can’t help but ask is how many Arizonans do you think would be alive if you hadn’t wasted so much time trying to keep Trump and his diehard supporters happy in your relentless pursuit for higher office?

Arizonans are dying of COVID-19.

I know that can’t be news to you. But apparently it needs repeating.


James E. Garcia is a journalist, playwright and communications consultant based in Phoenix, AZ. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona and Vanguardia America. You can reach him via email at He tweets from @JG_Vanguardia.