With two Republicans who share many of the same positions running for the District 11 state Senate seat, GOP primary voters may base their choice on whether they prefer the experienced politician versus small-business founder.
State House Rep. Steve Smith, 37, is competing for votes against Scott Bartle, 42, owner of a media business and school board member for the Senate seat vacated by Al Melvin.
Border security is a top issue in the race. While Smith has offered his experience in both the state Senate and House as a major asset, Bartle has criticized Smith’s inability to produce tangible results with a border fence.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jo Holt, who is unopposed in the primary.
District 11 is a primarily Republican district with 45,000 registered Republican voters and almost 40,000 independents. It includes Oro Valley, Marana and Catalina and parts of Pinal County. Both candidates live in Maricopa, about 90 miles northwest of Tucson.
Here’s what you need to know.
Political experience: Two years in the State Senate, then two years in the State House after district lines were redrawn.
Smith was born and raised in Michigan and moved to Arizona in 2001. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Michigan State University, and is a director at a Phoenix talent agency, Young Agency.
Smith said his years in the Legislature have given him the chance to prove to voters he has done what he said he would do and his voting record shows his loyalty to his conservative Republican ideals.
Political experience: Four years on the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board; four years on the Maricopa Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee.
Bartle was born in Indiana. His family moved to the Scottsdale area in 1977. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Indiana University, and has lived in Maricopa since 2004.
Bartle has started several companies including Outside the Box Marketing and is the publisher of news site InMaricopa.com.
Bartle said he is not a career politician and does not want to be.
“We consistently hear on the campaign trail that business and jobs is a huge concern,” Bartle said. “Being a small business owner gives you entirely different perspective on these issues.”
THE MAJOR ISSUES
Smith said improving education in Arizona is more about how money is spent in the school systems than how much money is allocated to education.
“We’ve allocated a lot of money in the past couple of years,” Smith said. “Now lets spend it the right way.”
He is “adamantly opposed” to the federal Common Core standards being imposed in the state, saying the program takes away control from local districts, but he favors performance-based pay in school districts.
Bartle said local school districts need to “have the opportunity to control their needs” in terms of curriculum and teaching requirements.
At a debate last week Bartle said curriculum mandates should not come from the federal government, and those standards should remain in the hands of local districts. He also said schools should encourage more entrepreneurship programs for students to gain experience.
ECONOMY AND JOBS
Smith says Arizona is the No. 1 state for start up businesses and is the No. 1 state for job growth. He said the Legislature has passed a number of pro-economic growth bills that have led the state to economic improvement.
Bartle said the state needs to “take advantage of global resources in our community” and become more involved in the global market to become economically secure. Bartle said he thinks “our efforts in securing our border will have an impact on the unemployment rate in Arizona.”
During his first term in the Senate, Smith pushed through a bill allowing a state group to collect private funding to build a border fence. The committee raised only $250,000 by 2013 and no construction of any fence has begun.
Smith said he still believes in the importance of building the fence. He said a three-pronged approach — more fencing, more Border Patrol and more judicial support — would improve border security.
Bartle criticized Smith saying the border fence has “proven to be ineffective and unrealistic” and funding needs to be put towards a more realistic plan, but he was light on specifics. “There are a lot of stakeholders who need to be engaged in this process,” he said.