Republican House and Senate candidates in District 7 struggled to distinguish their views from one another during a two-hour Clean Elections debate on June 24.
The challenge became apparent early in the debate, and was underscored by the fact that the candidates hold similar conservative philosophies.
“It’s pretty even. I don’t think anybody stood out,” said Hans Herambasic, a voter from Phoenix who watched the debate at a Scottsdale library. “There were differences in passion, but not in philosophy. I think they all believe the same things.”
Indeed, all candidates in the crowded House and Senate primaries support a strict approach to confronting illegal immigration, want lower taxes, and view the budget through conservative lenses. The tone was civil all throughout the debate as the candidates refrained from directly attacking each other.
If there were any larger themes that emerged during the debate, it was a hint of an anti-incumbency sentiment on the part of some candidates.
“I think we need more business people as opposed to career politicians involved, again, in state government,” said Michael Farrar, a commercial real estate broker who is running for the House.
Bob Green, who is running for the Senate, echoed the sentiment.
“I don’t think we need lawyers and politicians in the Legislature,” Green said. “Our current Legislature in all districts throughout the state has failed us over the last several years. It was a Republican Legislature that went along with and passed a budget that got us into this mess.”
But some candidates, like former Rep. David Smith, emphasized their capitol experience.
“I can hit the track running,” Smith said. “None of the rest can. They’re going to have to learn, but I don’t need to learn.”
In 2006, Smith became the first lawmaker to be ejected from the Legislature for violating Clean Elections laws. He had exceeded spending limits.
Four Senate candidates are vying for the Republican nomination: Rep. Ray Barnes, Rep. Nancy Barto, Brad Buch, and Green. Whoever wins the contest will face Democratic candidate Eric Shelley in the general election.
Meanwhile, it’s a seven-way House race for the Republican nomination for two vacant House seats. Those who are running are Barton Craig, Kristen Burroughs, Heather Carter, Michael Coskun, Michael Farrar, Howard Sprague and Smith.
The winners will face off with Democratic candidates Don Chilton and Peter Royers, and Libertarian candidate Jim Iannuzo in November.
Here are snippets of what the candidates said during the debate:
Sprague: “I have the track record to go on. Back in 1997, I was co-chair of No Transit Tax. And at that time we defeated the transit tax that the city of Phoenix wanted to impose on the people… I also was (state treasurer) Dean Martin’s campaign chairman back in 2000, when he was running for the Senate. I have been Ray Barnes’ campaign chairman twice. I have been involved with Proposition 13 Arizona.”
Smith: “Russell Pearce – why does he support David Smith? Because he knows I’ve been there… and he can count on my vote. We need to balance that budget and it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to go back to zero balancing. Every department is going to have to come in to us and say, ‘We need this amount of money.’ And we’re going to have to say, ‘Prove it’.”
Farrar: “I don’t come from the political establishment. I come from the private sector… I think we need more business people as opposed to career politicians involved, again, in state government. I am committed to this district.”
Carter: “I am running a traditionally funded campaign. This debate was hosted by Clean Elections. Now several of the candidates up here have chosen to take taxpayer dollars to fund their campaign. I said our state is broke. The taxpayers are not going to pay for my campaign… Know that if you elect me to be your representative in Legislative District 7, I will absolutely listen to what you have to say and I will bring a conservative, rational, educated voice and a new voice to the Legislature.”
Barton: “Citing this business experience again, I have built a half a dozen schools, private and public charter schools. My wife knows because she sat there through my trials and errors and I have always come up within about $200 of the budget. (These are) very different schools. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars for some schools and millions with others. That’s a skill.”
Green: “We probably all heard the same definition of insanity – repeating the same mistakes over and over. And I don’t think we need to repeat the same mistakes. Our current Legislature in all districts throughout the state has failed us over the last several years. It was a Republican Legislature that went along with and passed a budget that got us into this mess.”
Buch: “Our goal should be to take back our government – not overthrow it. That includes the federal, state and local. I know that we are upset on all levels of government but we need to be involved and take our government back… We all have the issues that face us. I’m not only asking for your vote. I’m asking for your commitment, with your ideas and your assistance, and we can make our part of the world successful.”
Barto: “Why should you support Nancy Barto for Senate? It’s not because I’m a career politician. I never really saw myself doing this. But I come back to where we’ve been and where we’re going and I think as Republicans we can look at these last couple of sessions under a Republican governor and really rejoice in how much we were able to get done…. As far as effectiveness goes, I think that’s an important value to consider when you’re looking at who to vote for in this important race because even from the very beginning, as soft spoken as I can be, I’m a lioness when I get down there.”
Barnes: “My biggest critic is my mirror. I might be able to deceive you, lie to you, cheat you and you’d never know about it. But every time I look at my mirror, my mirror knows about it. And so I can’t deceive my mirror… I’m a private investigator. The rules for a private investigator are the same as rules for a politician: Follow the money. I have never hidden how I feel about an issue. I will tell you how I’m going to vote and then I’ll go to the floor and I’ll vote that way.”