Update at the bottom.
In August, David Garcia, the Democratic candidate for governor in Arizona, parted ways with his digital director, Xenia Orona, after PJ Media unearthed old tweets. Orona had tweeted “an open letter to Arizona: F*ck you,” a hashtag meaning “f*ck the police,” a tweet attacking “law and order” as “the smokescreen that bigots hide their hate behind,” and a message calling the U.S.A. a “sh*thole country,” with an American flag next to the “sh*thole.”
On Friday, the subscription service Yellow Sheet Report revealed that despite accepting Xenia Orona’s resignation in August, Garcia’s campaign paid Orona’s firm, SUN Digital, nearly $3,300 in September. The campaign claimed it wasn’t paying Orona, but rather her partner, for IT work. PJ Media analyzed the records and discovered that the campaign paid SUN Digital before and after Orona’s stint at the campaign, but not during it.
Xenia Orona has worked for SUN Digital (an abbreviation for Self Us Now) for years. The Arizona Corporation Commission lists her as a “principal,” along with Dominique Medina, for Self Us Now, L.L.C. The organization named her as part of the team in May 2017, and Orona posted on Facebook that she was “proud of our team” earlier this year.
More importantly, the Garcia campaign paid SUN Digital in April and in September, but not in between. The Garcia campaign also paid Xenia Orona from June through August. This pattern suggests that Orona was the key staffer for the Garcia campaign when she worked at SUN Digital, and that Garcia’s campaign returned to SUN Digital after parting ways with Orona.
Even more telling, the campaign finance records from the Arizona Secretary of State listed the exact same address for Xenia Orona, digital director at the Garcia campaign, and SUN Digital.
PJ Media reached out to the Garcia campaign and to SUN Digital, asking whether or not Orona worked on projects for the Garcia campaign. Neither responded by press time.
When Yellow Sheet Report reached out to the Garcia campaign, they said the campaign is paying Dominique Medina, not Xenia Orona. Orona remains a principal at the firm, however.
Ian Danley, Garcia’s campaign manager, expressed surprise when he learned that Orona is a principal at the firm. “That’s news to me,” Danley told Yellow Sheet Report. “Our relationship with Xenia ended when she resigned, but we continue to use Dom for digital stuff.” He noted the limited number of Democrat-leaning digital firms in Arizona.
“I knew Dom and kind of got to know [Orona] though [building] the website, then she came on and did some Spanish language and digital stuff [for us], then resigned, and we kept the relationship with Sun Digital,” Danley said.
Danley’s remarks seem rather confusing. He admitted to getting to know Orona through building the website — which may have been the work for which the campaign paid SUN Digital in April — but he later expressed surprise that she was a principal at the firm, a position she has held since 2015. He did not explain whether or not the campaign took steps to make sure Orona would not work on the campaign’s projects at SUN Digital.
While Garcia’s campaign publicly separated from Orona after the tweets became public, the campaign kept working for her firm. If Danley is to be believed, he met Orona while contracting SUN Digital but forgot that she worked there when the campaign returned to SUN Digital after accepting Orona’s resignation. How convenient…
Garcia has run an identity politics campaign, focusing on his Latino roots and even saying that someone with his last name should win the election. He also has called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Orona’s anti-Arizona, anti-America, and anti-law enforcement tweets may hint at the ideology behind Garcia’s campaign.
While the campaign publicly rejected Xenia Orona, it immediately returned to her digital firm. If the campaign split from Xenia Orona to send a message, what message does hiring her firm send?
Update: SUN Digital’s response.
After press time, Dominique Medina, one of the principals at SUN Media, clarified the September payments.
“The money SUN Digital received in September was to re-enforce the Garcia campaign website’s security. This included 2 checks for labor and one check to reimburse me for a security product,” Medina said. “I am the website developer on the team and worked on this project.”
While this does suggest that Xenia Orona honored her resignation from the campaign, it does not prove the campaign continued to distance itself from her. Furthermore, Medina’s remarks did nothing to address the issue of how the Garcia campaign could have considered Orona separate from SUN Digital after her resignation — when it seems they should have known her longstanding connection with the company.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.