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AZ Secretary of State faces freshman lawmaker in race

Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, Chris Deschene, of the Navajo Nation, addresses supporters as gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, right, watches during primary election night in Phoenix. Bennett and his Democratic opponent Chris Deschene say making ballots available from all precincts in a county at voting centers makes sense for commuters. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, Chris Deschene, of the Navajo Nation, addresses supporters as gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, right, watches during primary election night in Phoenix. Bennett and his Democratic opponent Chris Deschene say making ballots available from all precincts in a county at voting centers makes sense for commuters. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Arizonans who are registered to vote at a Tempe precinct, work in Glendale and drive their kids elsewhere for school would have more options to cast a ballot under a goal shared by the candidates for secretary of state.

Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett and his Democratic opponent Chris Deschene say making ballots available from all precincts in a county at voting centers makes sense for commuters.

The winner in the Nov. 2 election will serve as the state’s chief election officer, a custodian of official state records and a regulator for consumers. The secretary of state also is the first in line to succeed the governor if there’s a vacancy.

Bennett, a Prescott businessman, was appointed secretary of state when Jan Brewer left the job to become governor. He served eight years in the Legislature, including four as Senate president, and previously served on the Prescott City Council and the state Board of Education.

He says that diversity of experience is unequaled in the race.

“That combination of private sector experience and a broad cross section of public service is hopefully something that will help me to serve the citizens of Arizona in the very best way possible,” he said.

Deschene beat out another Democrat in the primary election by about 70,000 votes despite being outspent. The former Marine major has degrees in engineering and law and was elected to the Legislature in 2008, where he worked on voters’ rights bills. He also has represented American Indian tribes and rural communities as an attorney.

He said Arizonans are looking for strong leaders who make good decisions and believes he fits the bill. “I have a plan for the future, as opposed to what does he (Bennett) bring to the table today,” Deschene said.

Deschene has criticized Bennett for what he says was improper vetting of Green Party candidates who allegedly were recruited by Republicans to siphon votes from Democrats.

Bennett said Deschene was trying to score “cheap political points” and that his office appropriately certified the candidates.

Bennett lists the reduction of wait times for callers to the office who are greeted by an actual person and cutting in half the time it takes to process notary applications among his accomplishments in office. He says his position has given him a deeper appreciation of what counties do to ensure elections run smoothly.

“Generally I just want to look at our entire voting system to see if we can improve that and make it more secure, more convenient for voters,” he said.

Deschene advocates for a review of the office to find any gaps in the election code, cut costs and make elections more transparent. He also wants to engage voters in the election process through social media and ensure that election mandates from the federal government don’t go unfunded.

He said a vote for him would “help bring a measure of hardworking and honorable government back so that our voters can trust Arizona’s elected leadership and build toward the future.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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