One of the House seats in Legislative District 10 has become the center of attention and drama in the GOP primary – Republicans want to protect it, ousted former lawmaker Doug Quelland wants it back and rising star Kimberly Yee wants to keep it.
And it doesn’t end there.
Veteran lawmaker Jim Weiers ended his political partnership with Quelland and joined in a team with Yee, who was appointed to occupy Quelland’s seat after he was removed from office for violating Clean Elections laws.
Weiers doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.
“You’ve got four people working toward the base as to ‘we can do the job, we can do it better and we’re more conservative,’” Weiers said. “There’s not much more to that, it’s pretty much basic politics.”
The field in the largely north-central Phoenix district also includes Bill Adams, a member of the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board, who has taken a few lumps from Weiers and Yee in mailers.
Quelland still believes he’s the man to beat, though, despite his removal from office and a pronounced effort to keep him out of the general election in the highly competitive district.
Quelland said that in the 30 years he’s owned a small business and coached soccer in the district, he’s developed a network of supporters who trust his word over what they read in the news. He said his record as a legislator, which includes votes for SB1070, gun rights and no tax increases, will help him at the polls.
“The Q is a household name,” he said. “When you walk up and down the street in my district and you say, ‘have you seen The Q lately,’ they know exactly who you’re talking about.”
Chris Baker, a Republican political consultant, said he doesn’t believe Quelland will win because so much has been written recently about his problems with the Clean Elections Commission and his removal from office.
“At the end of the day I think Yee and Weiers are the favorites,” Baker said.
Weiers, a former House speaker who is running for his fourth consecutive term in the House, has the name recognition, and Yee, a former policy analyst, is “good on paper” and has enough support to carry her to victory, Baker said.
Republicans activists are also opposed to Quelland.
On June 3, the Maricopa County Republican Committee formally asked Quelland in a resolution not to “jeopardize this critical seat” by running again.
Democrat Jackie Thrasher’s victory in 2006 made her the first from her party to win a seat in the district. She not only beat Quelland, but she was a close second to Weiers, who was House speaker at the time.
Thrasher, who lost to Quelland in 2008 by 553 votes, said she has no preference who wins the primary.
Baker said District 10 is one of the districts where Democrats could have made a credible run to pick up a seat because it has gained Democratic voters over the years, but polling shows there is significant voter anger these days with Democrats.
“It’s just not the right environment for them,” Baker said. “The last two election cycles have been two of the best ones they’ve had in recent history. If they couldn’t make significant inroads in those two cycles, it’s tough to make a plausible argument this time around.”
Yee declined to discuss Quelland in an interview Aug. 16, but she did bring up his problems at the July 14 Clean Elections debate, saying the Democrats became empowered by his removal from office and are poised to take back the seat they lost in 2008.
After Quelland recaptured the seat, the Clean Elections Commission found he overspent his campaign funds and ordered his removal from office. The decision was upheld by an administrative law judge and Superior Court judge before the secretary of state declared the seat vacant on May 28. He dropped his appeal of the Superior Court ruling on July 27.
Weiers said he still respects and likes Quelland, but he chose to end their political partnership after three elections because Quelland didn’t step down gracefully.
“If Doug would have on the first blush simply stepped down and paid the fine and said ‘OK, I’ll do this, I’m going to come back,’ I think things would have been a whole lot different for everybody,” Weiers said.
Weiers and Yee are letting voters know about Quelland in mailers.
One mailer characterizes Yee and Weiers as the “proven conservatives you can trust” and highlights Quelland’s removal from office “for violating the law.” They also mention his removal in three other mailers.
Quelland said many people ask about his Clean Elections problems during his door-to-door campaigning.
“I say, ‘it’s not over,’” he said. “I don’t have to go into details with them because they know me, they know me.”
Yee and Weiers also sent a mailer painting Adams as leaning left by voting “to increase business and personal property taxes by $37 million in overrides alone” while serving as vice president of the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board. The mailer said he was also for cutting classroom spending and redirecting it to administrators and that he failed to comply with a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights order that ended up costing $6.3 million.
“I don’t vote for an override,” he said. “I vote to go out for an override so that the public can make a decision.”
Adams said the rest of the mailer is also inaccurate because there is disagreement on the way the federal government categorizes administrators. He said he doesn’t even know what Yee and Weiers are referring to with the civil rights claim.
Quelland and his seat aren’t the only issues in the campaign, although it is difficult to find many differences in the stances between the candidates.
When it came to Proposition 100, however, a voter-approved temporary 1-cent sales tax increase dedicated to education, health care and public safety, Weiers and Adams were both for it, while Yee and Quelland were not.
Weiers voted to put it on the ballot, saying that spending cuts weren’t going to fix the problem without an infusion of revenue. Adams said the tax was necessary after all of the cuts education has taken in recent years.
The Legislature has cut more than $800 million from education, including cuts to K-12 and higher education since fiscal 2008. The figure doesn’t include rollovers, stimulus money and baseline changes.
Yee said she opposed the tax increase because she believes it will have an impact on families and small businesses during a recession. Quelland voted with 12 Republicans who were against putting the measure on the ballot.
Weiers doesn’t apologize for the Legislature’s cuts to education, either.
“Education was cut least out of the percentages of everything else,” Weiers said.
Quelland said he has voted against education funding cuts.
“It raped education and it put education even farther behind than it is,” he said.