David Bradley should have known better.

That's the thrust of Frank Antenori's argument why voters should choose him over Bradley in the race for state Senate in Legislative District 10.

Bradley, Antenori argues, was part of a head-in-the-sand legislative majority that approved state budgets in 2007 and 2008 that ended up plunging the state into a deficit that ultimately reached about $3 billion.

"The Legislature back in 2007, 2008, 2009 spent money it didn't have," Antenori said. "It resulted in a huge budget crisis that this state faced. Because of that, a lot of people were hurt."

Bradley and others scoff at what they consider 20/20 hindsight from a man who didn't join the Legislature until 2009, when the crisis was better understood.

"Every Legislature tries to deal with the cards that they're dealt, and that's what we did," Bradley said.

He noted the projections the House was receiving in 2007 and 2008 didn't come close to forecasting the shortfall that eventually materialized. He also argues the shortfall was not just the result of the decisions in those years but an accumulation of 20 years of tax cuts approved by Republican majorities.

The new Legislative District 10 covers most of the Tucson area's east side as well as a strip of midtown bordered by Campbell Avenue on the west.

Former state Sen. Tim Bee, a Tucson Republican who was Senate president at the time, helped forge a deal with Democrats, a handful of Republicans and then-Gov. Janet Napolitano to get the deal done.

"No one at that time was predicting the type of shortfall that actually occurred," Bee said Tuesday. "There was no indication that we were going to lose $3 billion of revenue."

But Antenori argues that the $10.6 billion budget approved in spring 2007 accepted the more optimistic projections of Napolitano's staff, not the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's scarier forecasts, despite dire signs in the economy. In January 2007, the committee's staff was already predicting a budget shortfall of $400 million to $500 million.

Then, in early 2008, the Legislature failed again to grapple with a reality that was becoming increasingly evident, Antenori said.

Dennis Hoffman has a different perspective on the perils of economic forecasting in those scary days. Hoffman, a professor of economics at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, has been an adviser to many Republican and Democratic governors.

"If I'd have walked into Napolitano's office with numbers that turned out to be right, they would have laughed me out of there because it was unthinkable this would happen," Hoffman said.

LD10 Senate candidates debate

• What: The candidates for state Senate in Legislative District 10, Democrat David Bradley and Republican Frank Antenori, debate

• When: 7 p.m. today

• Where: The Shanty, 401 E. Ninth St.

Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or tsteller@azstarnet.com