Gail Griffin, seeking a fourth term in the state Senate, faces political newcomer Jaime Alvarez in the District 14 race.
Griffin, a real estate broker, got involved in politics 20 years ago because she wanted to help protect private property rights and water rights. “I have seen the erosion of these rights over the years,” she said in an email.
Alvarez, a retired Army auditor who loves digging into budget details, decided to run because “my blood is boiling” over the state of education funding in Arizona.
Griffin has raised about $41,000 for her campaign, including major donations from the political action committees of Pinnacle West, Freeport-McMoRan, Realtors of AZ and Cox Arizona.
Alvarez is participating in the clean elections system, which means he doesn’t accept donations from special interests. He supports campaign finance reform, saying he is against outside spending in state elections.
Griffin supported Proposition 123, which was meant to increase teacher pay and end a longstanding legal battle between the state and school districts. “It was a way to solve some issues and get $3.5 billion into education without raising taxes,” she said in an email.
She supports creating more revenue for education by transferring control of federal lands to the state, to increase the state tax base.
Alvarez said that strategy ignores the fact that 68 percent of Arizonans voted against Proposition 120 in 2012, which would have given the state authority over federal lands.
“My opponent and I were at a Tea Party debate in Safford and her comment was, ‘The road to prosperity is cutting taxes,’” but tax cuts are why Arizona doesn’t have enough money to spend on education, Alvarez said.
Alvarez opposed Prop. 123, saying the state should have used the money it has, including this year’s budget surplus, instead of “completely blowing off the people” by failing to adjust school funding for inflation according to a 2000 voter-approved mandate.
As a result, school districts are asking taxpayers for more bonds to take care of deteriorating buildings and buses, Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the state could cut tax credits that benefit private schools to help raise revenue for public education.
Griffin said “getting people back to work” is a priority. “It’s about jobs, and creating an environment for businesses to be able to succeed, thrive and grow,” she said in an email.
Alvarez supports strengthening community colleges and joint technological education districts. The state also should “quit taking Highway User Revenue Fund dollars that are supposed to go to counties and cities,” he said.
Alvarez also criticized Griffin for voting against KidsCare, an expansion of Arizona’s Medicaid program for low-income children, and for signing on to a lawsuit over the Medicaid expansion. “That ideology is really detrimental to our district and our state,” he said.