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Political Notebook: Sinema faces new backlash, this time over prescription-drug position
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Political notebook

Political Notebook: Sinema faces new backlash, this time over prescription-drug position

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Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is facing another big backlash from the side that supported her in the 2018 election.

The main source of anger this time: her opposition to a plan to reduce prescription drug prices that is a key part of the Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion spending proposal.

It came out in a Politico story published Sunday that Sinema told Biden administration officials during a negotiating session last week that she opposes their prescription drug proposal. She also opposes a pared-down version offered in the House.

Giving Medicare the right to negotiate prescription drug prices not only would be key to paying for the spending proposal, because it is projected to save around $500 billion, but also is very popular with the public. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from May found that 88% of respondents favored the action the Biden administration is proposing.

And Sinema herself campaigned for U.S. Senate in 2018 on reducing prescription drug prices.

After the Politico story came out, critics noted Sinema is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest recipients of donations, a relationship that has gone on since she was in the House.

Salon reported that she has received a total of about $750,000 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries. More than $120,000 came from pharmaceutical industry donations in 2019 and 2020, Salon reported.

And the Daily Poster website reported that the Center Forward Political Action Committee, which has received large donations from the pharmaceutical industry, put out TV ads and sent out mailers supporting Sinema in the week before she objected to the prescription-drug provision.

Tucson physician Dr. Cadey Harrel, who leads the Committee to Protect Healthcare in Arizona, sent a letter signed so far by 150 other doctors and health professionals demanding that Sinema “put people’s lives ahead of the profits of pharmaceutical corporations.”

“As medical professionals who aim to prevent harm and promote the health and safety of our patients, we urge you to live up to your promises and support current proposals in Congress to reduce the high cost of prescription drugs,” the letter says.

Sinema’s office told Politico she will not comment on the details of the ongoing negotiation.

— Tim Steller

Attorney general goes anti-vax

In a speech at the Quail Creek Republican Club, Attorney General Mark Brnovich appeared to question the point of getting vaccines for COVID-19.

Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate, spoke to the Republican club in the Sahuarita subdivision on Sept. 17.

A leaked audio recording of his comments, broadcast by KPHO TV Channel 5 in Phoenix, showed Brnovich denigrating the vaccine as seemingly useless.

“If you can get COVID after you’ve had the vaccine and you can still spread it, then what’s the point of the vaccine?” he asked the crowd, which responded with cheers.

Asked by reporter Dennis Welch to explain the comments, Brnovich did not address them directly but called the recording “misleading,” Welch reported.

The vaccine minimizes the likelihood of severe COVID-19 disease or hospitalization in vaccinated people. From March through August, unvaccinated people made up more than 90% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 and those killed by COVID-19 in Arizona.

However, opposing vaccine mandates and even the vaccine itself has become a strong current of opinion in the Republican Party. Brnovich, who is running for the GOP nomination, has refused to say whether he is vaccinated.

— Tim Steller

Anti-Prop. 206 campaign forms

A new political action committee has formed in opposition to the ballot measure to raise Tucson’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The measure, Prop. 206, would gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2025 and establish a new labor department within the city to enforce the initiative’s components. A new group, “No on 206,” is starting to raise money to encourage voters to reject the initiative.

The PAC filed its statement of organization with the City Clerk’s Office on Aug. 31, listing its chairpersons as Jesse Lugo, a longtime local businessman, and Carlos Ruiz, owner of the stainless-steel supplier HT Metals.

Ruiz said the campaign is starting to receive donations. He wouldn’t get into specifics on the PAC’s communication strategy but said the group will engage in “a traditional campaign to educate the public on the detrimental effects” of the minimum-wage proposal.

The group has yet to issue any campaign spending reports, but Ruiz said “everything will be filed properly.”

The new PAC will be up against a longstanding campaign by the Fight for $15 group that has already raised $80,000 and won prominent allies in City Hall, including Mayor Regina Romero.

— Nicole Ludden

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