Lea Márquez Peterson and Doug Yonko at the 2018 Legislative Forecast Luncheon hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix in Phoenix, Arizona. / Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0
Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced this morning on Twitter that she is running for the Republican nomination in Congressional District 2.
Marquez Peterson is a longtime Arizonan with strong ties to the business community. She received an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University. She has personally owned and operated several businesses, including several gas stations in Arizona. However, her history as a businesswoman and her stated positions on key policies show why she is a poor choice for Arizonans.
Tax havens and a poor business record
In 2005 Lea Marquez Peterson filed for bankruptcy on debt related to four businesses, which included two Chevron gas stations. As some businesspeople do, such as President Donald Trump, she decided to incorporate her businesses in a tax haven, in this case, the state of Delaware.
An article in Tucson Weekly in 2005 claimed that Marquez Peterson said that “she simply was taking her lawyer’s advice on where to incorporate.”
When all was said and done, her and her husband were behind on millions of dollars in loans and owed more than $100,000 in back taxes to federal, state, and local governments.
At the same time, Marquez Peterson was peddling her business acumen to local government commissions and the Pima County Board of Supervisors. An optimist, she saw her experience with several failed businesses and massive bankruptcy as a benefit.
“If there is a positive to this situation, it would be that I might use my experience and the struggles I have gone through to help other people,” she said. “I have all kinds of advice to give now ranging from advice on debt/equity financing to talking through the emotional issues of a situation like this.”
While her decision to take advantage bankruptcy laws may, as President Trump has said of himself, make her smart when it comes to running a failing business, her decision to game the system and file the paperwork for her businesses in a tax haven instead of Arizona begs the question of how invested she was in southern Arizona. It raises further questions of how she would vote on legislation that attempts to clamp down on tax avoidance through these types of maneuvers.
Unfortunately, her campaign website contains no policy positions at the moment. Therefore, we have to look at her recent comments on local, state, and national policies to see where Marquez Peterson stands on issues, such as the rights of employees and the current Republican tax plan.
Pro-business but soft on employee rights
In 2016, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 206. In addition to raising Arizona’s minimum wage, Prop 206 also mandated that businesses provide their employees with paid sick leave: 24 hours per year for businesses with 15 employees or less and 40 hours for businesses with more than 15 employees.
Before the sick leave requirement went into effect, Marquez Peterson wrote an article in Inside Tucson Business explaining what the new law meant for business owners. She said that “few realized that the more alarming increase in our wage expense was the addition of a mandated paid sick leave.”
Marquez Peterson also had cautionary words for the wage increase, which painted businesses as caught in a catch-22. “I believe most of our businesses want to pay higher wages, but when they are able to and their margin allows it,” she said in an Arizona Daily Star article published days after the election.
Although the measure passed with more than 58 percent of the vote, Marquez Peterson believed that the voters simply weren’t informed about the issue. “Generally, people understood the devastating financial impact . . . when they learn about 206,” she said.
It comes as no surprise that the president of a chamber of commerce is pro-business, but her stance on Prop 206 shows that she is not just pro-business but anti-employee. The benefits guaranteed to Arizonans under Prop 206 are not the radical changes that she characterizes them to be. Three to five days paid sick leave a year and a livable wage are sensible minimum requirements that all workers deserve.
Marquez Peterson’s pro-business disposition is also on display in her full-throated endorsement of President Trump’s deregulation crusade and the GOP tax bill currently working its way through Congress.
In an article for the Arizona Daily Star, she argued that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the House of Representatives in November, would be a win for small businesses in southern Arizona by “stimulating investment and providing business owners the ability to hire more people throughout our country.”
“The House’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help our local economy and the business climate in Southern Arizona,” she wrote. “We appreciate Congresswoman Martha McSally’s support of this important issue and encourage all of our lawmakers to support tax reform.”
While the House tax bill would be a win for businesses in general, it is a win for large companies in particular. The House tax bill would cut the tax burden to 9 percent for businesses with less than $75,000 taxable income. Currently, a business making that much would owe $14,250 or 19 percent before deductions. However, the benefits to small businesses are dwarfed by the tax cuts to large businesses and the extremely wealthy.
For example, Jim Click, a multi-billionaire and supporter of Lea Marquez Peterson, and his children would be a massive beneficiary under the current tax bill. Most importantly for the Click family in the tax bill is the elimination of the estate tax. Currently, the estate tax only effects estates worth more than $5.45 million. For the inheritors of Jim Click’s estate, this tax bill will mean a several billion dollar tax cut.
If she is elected, we can expect Marquez Peterson to support this kind of legislation just as Representative McSally supports it. First, however, she has to win the Republican nomination and then defeat the Democratic nominee; not an easy fight in CD2.
A tough campaign ahead
So far no other Republicans have announced their plans to run for CD02. Other possible candidates include Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller and Douglas City Council member Danny Morales.
It should be noted that Representative Martha McSally is still technically running for her seat. She is expected to run for the Senate in 2018, however, if she decides not to, it is unlikely that McSally would face a Republican primary challenger. Lea Marquez Peterson has said that if the Congresswoman chooses to run for reelection in CD2, Marquez Peterson will drop out.
Whoever the Republican nominee is, she will have a tough race against whomever the Democrats choose. Vying for the Democratic nomination are Ann Kirkpatrick, a former Congresswoman from northeastern Arizona who ran for Senate in 2016; Matt Heinz, a doctor and the previous Democratic nominee in CD2 who lost to McSally; Mary Sally Matiella, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller during the Obama administration; Bruce Wheeler, a former Representative in the Arizona Legislature; and Billy Kovacs, an entrepreneur and small business owner.
The deadline for candidates to file for the 2018 election is May 30. The primaries will be held on Tuesday, August 28. Arizonans can register to vote or update their voter registration online through Service Arizona.