The candidates who want to represent Tucson's east side in the Arizona House may differ most on how they see the performance of the last Legislature.

Democrats Bruce Wheeler and Stefanie Mach pan the last Legislature's performance, whereas Republicans Ted Vogt and Todd Clodfelter want to continue what they view as the body's good, hard work.

Their debate takes place in one of the most evenly divided districts in the state. Of the 111,366 registered voters in the district, 37 percent are Democrats, 34 percent Republicans and 29 percent independents.

Wheeler and Vogt are incumbents, although they served in different districts under the previous legislative maps. The new LD10 includes most of Tucson's east side as well as midtown between Campbell Avenue, Craycroft Road, East 22nd Street and East Speedway.

All the candidates say improving education is key to the state's economic future.

But perhaps no issue crystallizes their differences more than Proposition 204, the ballot measure that would extend a 1-cent sales tax increase set to expire in May. The proposition would make the tax permanent and sets a complex distribution plan for spending the revenue on education and infrastructure projects.

The Republicans, Vogt and Clodfelter, view the proposition as an ill-advised imposition on the Legislature's already-limited power over spending. Due to voter-approved ballot initiatives and other requirements, the Legislature controls only about a third of the budget, Clodfelter noted. The proposition would reduce that more.

"It mandates that money be spent that there is no control over," he said.

Vogt said the last Legislature showed it's a responsible financial steward.

"We've got a balanced budget without the 1-cent sales tax," he said.

But the Democrats call the proposition measure a necessary fix of the Legislature's education cuts, even if a sales tax affects the poor more than others.

"It's the tool we have to use right now," Mach said. "In the long term, we can be more stable about how we provide something as vital as education."

The Legislature's GOP majority has asked for this kind of mandate, Wheeler said.

"They're not doing their job, so the people of Arizona are stepping up to the plate and doing it for them," he said."