Border tops Legislative District 11 campaign agenda

2014-08-02T22:15:00Z 2014-08-05T11:41:47Z Border tops Legislative District 11 campaign agendaBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

One way or another, there will be new faces representing Legislative District 11 in the state House of Representatives this January.

The political ambitions of the two Republicans currently representing the district have led to two empty seats with three relative political newcomers vying to win in the GOP primary later this month.

Realtor Mark Finchem and small-business owner Vince Leach are running as a team for the House seats, partnering with current Rep. Steve Smith, who is running for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Al Melvin.

Former legislative coordinator for the Arizona legislature, Jo Grant, is not part of the “LD11 team.”

While LD11 residents live at least an hour from the international border, it hasn’t stopped from being an issue at forums and as candidates go door-to-door.

Finchem said he has lost all confidence that Washington has the resolve to secure the border in Southern Arizona.

He looks with approval to Texas Governor Rick Perry and his decision to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the international border.

He said he is concerned the constant influx of undocumented immigrants will eventually ruin the state’s health-care system.

Finchem added that he thinks the state can play a role in securing the border, but that immigration reform is still a federal responsibility.

Leach said the issue of securing the border is not simply a problem in the Southwest, but that the entire nation is hurt by the policies currently in place.

Like many politicians running for office, Leach sees the Yuma model as a potential partial solution.

He said the improvements to the Yuma Sector have cut the number of illegal immigrants crossing in Western Arizona.

Leach concedes it has not stopped crossings in the area, but that numbers are down significantly.

The state spends too much on illegal immigrants, he said, adding that its limited budget should be go other programs, including finishing a border fence.

Grant said securing the border is a major issue on the campaign trail, and that he would push the entire Arizona congressional delegation to find a solution on the federal level to secure the border and reform immigration laws.

She said there need to be resources farther from the border, noting drug smuggling and other illegal activities related to it are affecting communities in LD11.

Grant said local law enforcement also needs more resources to help protect area residents.

A former state employee for three decades working at the Legislature, Grant has focused her campaign primarily on education and the economy.

Grant, a member of the Amphitheater Public Schools Governing Board, said the state’s three universities need more financial support.

“The University of Arizona didn’t get its fair share versus ASU and NAU,” she said.

Grant said she would work closely to develop strategies to allow more of the intellectual property into the private marketplace and look to eliminate unfunded mandates in the entire state educational system.

Leach is concerned with classroom funding, saying he continues to see overall spending increases in the state budget that are not trickling down into his local school districts.

Finchem agrees with his runningmate, Leach, saying he sees too much money going to the U.S. Department of Education.

He also wants to see a program that rewards good instruction, saying a key to student success is finding, then keeping, top teachers in the classroom.

The two with the most votes will face off against retired Air Force Col. Holly Lyon, a Democrat, in the general election this November.

The sprawling legislative district includes the northern part of Pima County and portions of Pinal County, including the town of SaddleBrooke and communities along Interstate 10.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4346. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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