Democratic Arizona House candidate Kirsten Engel signed an anti-cop activist’s reparations pledge earlier this year, a position that could cost her moderate support she’ll need to win her highly competitive race.
Engel, a University of Arizona law professor, said in June she was "proud" to sign the Reparations Pledge PAC pledge to support reparations if elected, and vowed to "fight for racial justice in all forms in Congress." The PAC, which endorsed Engel, is led by an activist who called defunding police departments a "moral thing to do." Redeem Robinson, the PAC’s founder, also railed against the "disgusting police system" that had declared "war" on minorities.
Engel’s support for reparations and links to left-wing activists could hurt her chances at capturing the open seat in Arizona’s Sixth Congressional District, which Democrats consider a "must-win" for them to maintain control of the House. Americans strongly oppose reparations and defunding police, according to recent polls. Sixty-five percent of respondents to a Washington Post poll last year said they oppose the federal government paying reparations, compared with just 28 percent who support doing so.
Engel’s campaign released an internal poll this month showing her leading 49-47 over Republican Juan Ciscomani, though election analysts have given Republicans a slight advantage in the district, which FiveThirtyEight estimates leans 7 points in favor of Republicans.
It’s not the first example of Engel embracing unpopular left-wing causes. In 2020, she solicited donations for a Minnesota bail fund that freed a child molester and a man who later committed murder, the Washington Free Beacon reported. She also encouraged donations to Showing Up For Racial Justice, a coalition of white civil rights activists that publishes a "defund the police toolkit."
The defund movement’s popularity has waned in recent years amid a nationwide crime surge. Just 31 percent of Americans support reallocating money from police departments to social services agencies, down from 38 percent the year before, according to a University of Massachusetts survey conducted in May. Seventy-five percent of respondents to a Politico poll in February said that defunding police departments was a reason that violent crime is increasing in the United States.
Reparations have been a fraught issue for Democrats. President Barack Obama rejected the idea during his 2008 campaign, though he has flip-flopped on the matter since leaving the White House. President Joe Biden supported a commission to study reparations during the 2020 presidential campaign but has not endorsed full reparation payments as president. Members of Congress, mostly from reliably safe Democratic districts, have introduced reparations bills over the years but none have been held for votes in either the House or the Senate.
Engel’s campaign did not return a request for comment.