David Garcia, the Democratic nominee for governor of Arizona, has continued paying a former staffer forced to resign from his campaign for making inflammatory attacks on law enforcement.
Campaign finance documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show that Garcia has maintained the services of Xenia Orona, the candidate's former digital director who resigned in August after a slew of controversial social media posts came to light, through her digital marketing firm.
Recent Stories in Politics
As first reported by PJ Media, Orona had a long history of using her presence on social media to convey controversial political opinions concerning Arizona, law enforcement, and immigration. In one particularly tweet that was posted on the day Arizona voted for Mitt Romney over then-President Barack Obama in 2012, Orona wrote: "An open letter to Arizona: Fuck you."
Orona exhibited a similar distaste for the Trump administration's stance on immigration policy and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.
In September 2017, on the day Trump announced his decision to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which granted legal protections to illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, Orona lambasted the president and the "bigots" that support "law and order."
"Law and order is the smokescreen that bigots hide their hate behind. Remember that when you hear talk of enforcement," Orona tweeted.
In May, one month before joining Garcia's campaign as digital director, Orona declared her support for abolishing ICE.
In another Twitter post—which has since been deleted—Orona elaborated on her support for the fledgling movement to abolish ICE, which has become a rallying cry for Garcia and other Democrats including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), by claiming the agency was "abusive." That tweet, which included the hashtag of "FTP," which is recognized to stand for "f— the police," garnered widespread attention and rebuke from Arizona's law enforcement community.
In August, shortly after Orona's previous comments became public, Garcia's campaign announced that it had accepted her resignation. Sarah Elliott, a spokesperson for the campaign, told the Phoneix New Times that Orona's attacks on law enforcement were not in line with the "values and message" of the campaign.
"It was unfortunate," Garcia said at the time. "We had a staffer who on her personal account, years ago, posted some remarks that are not reflective of our campaign, and she has resigned."
Garcia's campaign finance records, however, show the candidate did not cease his relationship with Orona upon her resignation.
Instead, it appears Garcia's campaign continued using her services through Sun Digital, LLC., a digital consulting firm that lists Orona as one of its two principals, according to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Campaign records indicate that only two weeks after Orona received her last paycheck as an official staffer, Garcia's campaign began paying Sun Digital for its services.
Sun Digital was compensated $1,000 on Sept. 1 for "website" and "graphic design" services. Only three days later—on Sept. 4—Orona's group was given an additional $1,299 for information technology services. The company was paid a further $1,000 on Sept. 15 for more "website" and "graphic design" work.
The total sum paid to Sun Digital throughout the month of September was nearly equal to the $3,000 in monthly salary Orona drew during her brief tenure on the campaign.
Prior to September, Garcia's campaign reported making only one payment to Sun Digital throughout this entire year for "website" services. That payment, made in April for $2,400, came two months before Orona joined Garcia's staff.
Around the same time that Garcia reported paying Sun Digital for its services, Orona took to social media to tout her work on the candidate's website and his vision for Arizona.
Garcia's campaign, which did not return requests for comment from the Free Beacon, told the Yellow Sheet Report it was not aware of Orona's affiliation with Sun Digital at the time it decided to contract with them in September. The campaign also downplayed Orona's role as their digital director, claiming she only "did some Spanish language and digital stuff."
It is unclear how many total employees Sun Digital has as the group did not return requests for comment on this story. Nonetheless, after scouring the organization's social media presence, the Free Beacon was able to identify at least two other employees, including Orona.
Joe Clure, the executive director of the Arizona Police Association, which has endorsed Republican Doug Ducey for reelection, told the Free Beacon that the Garcia's campaign's actions were misleading at best and disingenuous at worst.
"We initially became concerned that a staffer on a leading gubernatorial candidate's team would make such bold statements about law enforcement officers," Clure said. "Now we find out that this very staffer is still a part of his campaign team, even though the candidate has claimed her views don't represent his own."
"It appears that David Garcia has misled the people of Arizona about his true relationship with Xenia Orona," Clure added.