Border security has been a major issue in the Arizona Senate Republican primary race, despite the fact that Legislative District 8 is 100 miles from the border.

The three candidates agree the border needs to be secured before any attempt at immigration reform will be effective. They do not agree on what needs change after that.

“There’s nothing wrong with our immigration process at all,” Irene Littleton said. She helped spread the word about this week’s protest of the housing of Central American children at a shelter in Oracle.

In the mostly rural district, which covers parts of Pinal and Gila counties, job creation and improving the economy is another major issue.

Alan Pease and Harold Vangilder both said reopening mines, creating railroad jobs in Red Rock, and focusing on local agricultural resources will improve the district’s economy.

Over 23,000 voters are registered Republicans, and 29,000 are registered independents in the district, which has just over 83,000 registered voters total.

The winner of the Republican primary will face current State Senator Barbara McGuire, a Democrat, in the general election in November.

Early voting begins July 31. Here’s what you need to know.

Irene Littleton

Littleton, 68, was born in Massachusetts. She worked for Raytheon for 10 years in Massachusetts and Alabama, and moved to Arizona after retiring. She also worked as a contractor for Intel for 18 months in Chandler. Littleton has not held political office, but managed the Arizona Republican Party office in Casa Grande in 2010 and 2012. She is also active on several Republican committees in Pinal County.

Alan Pease

Pease, 74, was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Boston. He moved to the San Tan Valley area in 2003. Pease earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University in Boston and served for three years in the US Army Security Agency. He is a member of the Greater San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce and is a self-employed residential water treatment expert. He previously ran for State House in 1996.

Harold Vangilder

Vangilder, 72, was born in Missouri, grew up in Oklahoma, and moved to Arizona in 1976. He worked in the US Army Security Agency and worked in the Federal Civil Service at Fort Huachuca. Vangilder is the founding president of the Fort Huachuca 50 and the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation, and he is a former Sierra Vista City Council member. He lives in Casa Grande.


All three candidates said closing the “porous” border must happen before any type of immigration reform could be effective.

“Being right at the tip of the funnel of illegal drugs and trafficking of people, border security needs to be greatly attended to,” Pease said.

The state needs to spend money on border security improvements because the federal government is not providing funds, he said.

Littleton said “small business is the backbone of our country” and businesses would benefit from reforming regulations and taxes. She said in order to attract large companies the state has to actively pursue them.

Pease said in order for the job market to expand, the currently unincorporated areas of San Tan Valley should be incorporated.

Without incorporation, “we will not have commercial interests, and without commercial interests we will not have jobs,” Pease said.

Vangilder said reopening the mines in Superior, Arizona, would create thousands of jobs directly in the state. Relying on the agricultural production in the district and pushing for the creation of the Union Pacific railroad-switching yard in Red Rock would create a “nucleus of jobs here,” he said.

All three candidates supported the elimination of personal income taxes.

Littleton said eliminating the personal income tax would take planning and a long-term analysis of how the state would function fiscally without it.

Pease would expand economic development efforts. A growing economy would allow the state to lower taxes, which would “attract more businesses to the state,” he said.

Vangilder said he supports recent legislation to lower taxes.

Vangilder said individual school districts should create their own curriculum. Littleton did not specify who should create curriculum, only that it should be created by Arizonans.

“We need to teach our students so that they are capable to move from one grade to another,” Littleton said. “If we keep promoting students who have not filled the educational requirements for the grade they’re in, but we move them up to another grade, we’re doing them and our education system a disservice.”

Pease said the education funding can be increased through the expansion of business. Vangilder said using online and e-books would save schools money also.

Nicole Thill is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at