For state Sen. Al Melvin, the most basic reason to vote for him and against opponent Jo Holt is simple: She's a Democrat, and he's a Republican.

"I think the Democratic Party has evolved into a secular socialist organization," he said. "I believe any vote for any Democrat at any level, including my level or the town races, is an endorsement of Obama and his policies."

And that, Holt says, is why voters should choose her - because Melvin, she says, is open only to a narrow slice of Republican ideology, and closed to anyone who thinks otherwise.

"He limits himself to that group," Holt said. "As soon as you cross him in any way, he will no longer interact with you in any meaningful fashion."

The election for state Senate in Legislative District 11 pits Melvin, 67, an incumbent in a newly drawn district, against Holt, 60, a novice Democratic candidate. The new district stretches from the northwest side of the Tucson area northwest into Pinal County and includes Casa Grande.

Republicans account for 40 percent of registered voters in the district to 27 percent Democrats and 32 percent independents.

While Holt and Melvin differ significantly, both are relative newcomers to Arizona. Melvin moved to SaddleBrooke in 2002, and Holt returned to the area in November 2007, though she had lived here from 1983 to 1992.

Holt took early retirement to care for her husband, who had early-onset Alzheimer's and died last year, she said.

For both Holt and Melvin, jobs are a top issue.

But Holt, a retired research scientist in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, says the jobs issue starts with education.

"The jobs that we should be creating at the upper end of the economic scale are not going to happen until we fix our education system," she said.

Melvin has a different starting point for addressing the jobs issue: "Make the tax code as business-friendly as we can. Get rid of onerous regulation."

He argues the last Legislature already took strong steps in that direction by reducing the business personal property tax.

Holt views the last Legislature as embarrassing but argued at a Sept. 24 debate that can change.

"I believe it's totally possible in the state of Arizona to have a Legislature we're proud of."