Salomon Baldenegro Jr., left, is challenging Olivia Cajero Bedford for a state Senate seat in Legislative District 3.

Courtesy candidates

The Democratic primary election in Legislative District 3 likely will determine who will serve in the Senate for the next two years, as there is no Republican challenger running.

About half of the 81,000 registered voters in Legislative District 3 are Democrats, and three-fourths of the remaining voters are registered independents.

Political newcomer Salomon Baldenegro Jr. is running against current state Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford. The two will debate in Tucson on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know about the race.

Olivia Cajero Bedford

Age: 75

Political experience: State House 2003-2010, state Senate 2011-current

In the past legislative session she was the primary sponsor on bills supporting K-3 reading programs and expanding mental health-care training, among others. She also sponsored two bills that established Navajo Code Talkers Day and Child Abuse Prevention Month that were signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Bedford was born and raised on Tucson’s south side. She owned her own hair salon business, O’Hair International, in Tucson before serving in the Legislature. Bedford has some college education, attending Pima Community College and the University of Arizona.

Salomon Baldenegro Jr.

Age: 37

Political experience: Community activist

Baldenegro works at Desert View High School as a media center technician and boys soccer coach.

Baldenegro organized a fundraising campaign to provide supplies and sports equipment to local schools in central Tucson last year after Shaun McClusky, a former candidate for Tucson mayor, began a program aimed at providing guns to individuals in lower-income neighborhoods. Baldenegro also organized efforts to stop the closure of several TUSD schools in 2012.

Baldenegro is a Tucsonan, born and raised on the west side. He earned a degree in media arts from the University of Arizona.



Both candidates stand on a platform of supporting public education.

Bedford was opposed to a bill that gives “empowerment scholarships” that would provide funding to students in low-income areas to pay for school expenses at any school, including private or charter schools. She criticized the bill saying it takes away money that families otherwise would put into the public school system.

“I think it’s just an ideology of many Republicans that our public schools just aren’t good enough. I think they are,” Bedford said. “But, why should we be giving taxpayers’ money to private schools to be making a profit?”

Baldenegro also believes more funding should be directed to the public school system. He said many middle class families can’t afford private school costs. He said there must be a priority “to end the corporate tax handouts we’re seeing,” in order to adequately fund schools.

In terms of higher education, Bedford said she would put bills for funding on the budget earlier in the session. Baldenegro said he would support legislation that supports locked-in tuition models that would make school more affordable for students.

Local economy

Bedford said small businesses should be excluded from some legislation aimed at taxing firms with large numbers of employees. She pushed for a Return to Work program that would allow unemployed workers to train in new career fields while still collecting unemployment benefits.

“Education is the pathway to good jobs,” Bedford said. She plans to support a bill for this program again.

Baldenegro said more legislation for solar energy should be pushed in the senate.

“If we were to do that we would gain thousands of jobs in Arizona. We would get millions, if not billions, in revenue from these initiatives,” Baldenegro said. “Third, we would have a clean-burning energy economy that would protect our environment. I see that as a win-win on multiple levels.”

Health care

Bedford said changes need to be made in terms of access to mental health-care, especially admitting people over age 18.

“If someone is over 18, a family can do little,” Bedford said. “It’s very important that the law change. I would work to see that it could get support in the legislature.”

Baldenegro said “at a state level we need to do everything we can to enable the Affordable Health Care Act.” He said he would also push to expand Medicaid coverage, including access to mental healthcare.

Political background

With 12 years of political experience Bedford said she “wants to be part of the fight.”

“I have good rapport with my constituents,” Bedford said. “My experience at the legislature is extremely important, especially being on the appropriations (committee) and dealing with the $9.2 billion budget.”

Baldenegro, son of longtime political activist Sal Baldenegro, has never been elected to office, but he said he has been an active part of the community.

“I want to be part of building a safer, stronger community,” he said. “I’ve been on the front lines to stand up for this community.”