GOP hopefuls debate threat of terrorists crossing border

2014-07-09T00:00:00Z 2014-10-16T10:23:31Z GOP hopefuls debate threat of terrorists crossing borderBy Nicole Thill For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Without more border enforcement the United States will see more terrorist attacks, a state House candidate said in a primary debate Monday.

Border security — including more fencing and the need for more Border Patrol agents — was a major point of discussion among Republican candidates hoping to represent Arizona’s Legislative District 11 in the state Senate and House.

“We have people coming here with very specific intent, and it is certainly not to experience the American dream,” said House candidate Mark Finchem. “If we do not recognize that there is a threat coming across our border we will see another 9/11, but it will be much smaller and in multiple locations.”

District 11 is not along the border, but the candidates all took bold stances on the need to stop illegal immigration there.

State Rep. Steve Smith, who is running for state Senate, said he has one of the strongest records on border security, citing his involvement in a 2011 bill that allowed the collection of private funds to build a border fence.

He said the border needs not only a fence but also law enforcement and judicial support. However, his opponent Scott Bartle said his efforts with the creation of the bill have been ineffective and the fence will never be built.

“He’s had four years to do so,” Bartle said. “However well-intended, it hasn’t happened.”

The committee for the border fence fund collected only $265,000 by November 2013, which has not been enough to fund any construction. Smith still stands behind the project, saying border fences like the one in Yuma help to reduce illegal immigration.

House candidate Vince Leach, who is on a campaign team with Smith and Finchem, also stated his support for more border fencing. “There’s a reason they build fences,” he said. “They work.”

Bartle and House candidate Jo Grant both emphasized the need to work more closely with the Border Patrol and the National Guard to help enforce security. Grant said more should be done at the border to track what goods come in, but also to do more enforcement work within local communities.

Common Core

The need to restrict federal mandates and control over school curriculum through Common Core was another primary topic of the debate. Smith, Leach, Finchem and Bartle spoke in opposition and Grant took a middle-ground position.

“Every few years in education here’s what we hear: Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, then it’s this program — and they all seem to be on the same road to mediocrity,” Smith said.

Bartle, who has served for four years on the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board in the city of Maricopa, said the focus of improving the education system should be on solutions and results in the classroom. Curriculum should be controlled by individual school districts, he said.

“We’ve never had a situation where federal mandates have come down to the districts for decisions about curriculum,” Bartle said. “Curriculum is at the school district, at the local level, and that is where it should remain.”

Leach and Finchem both said the program was another version of teaching to the test. Grant was less critical, saying the focus of education should be getting students to master math and language arts within the educational requirements already in place. The winner in the District 11 state Senate Republican primary election will face Democrat Jo Holt in the general election in November.

The top two vote getters in the House primary will face Democrat Holly Lyon. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is July 28. Early voting begins July 31 and the primary election is Aug. 26.

Nicole Thill is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com

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

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