The Star endorses Todd Camenisch for state Senate in Legislative District 30. He offers an impressive command of public education issues from his service on the Governing Board of the Catalina Foothills School District.
He has clearly studied the severe problems confounding Arizona. He doesn't offer rhetoric or sound bites, but actual ideas.
Camenisch was registered as an independent until deciding to run as a Democrat for state Senate, he told the Star's editorial board. The Republican Party had its candidate in incumbent Frank Antenori.
Camenisch said his candidacy was propelled by what he saw in the Legislature to be a "lack of common sense and (lack of) desire to do what's needed." We find Camenisch's candor and independence refreshing and sorely needed.
Camenisch, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, presented a range of ideas for plugging the state deficit, saying Arizona needs an "overall restructuring of the business model of the state."
He talked not only about closing tax loopholes, which is a common refrain during this election season, but he also wants to examine each and retain only those that support jobs and job creation.
He suggested supporting small business through, perhaps, an income-tax holiday that could be prorated to make it fair. These are broad outlines to be sure, but Camenisch offered far more specifics than many candidates we have interviewed.
Camenisch's experience on the Governing Board gives him insight to school financing and what really happens in school districts, which his competitor lacks. He is broad in his support for education, saying Arizona doesn't need just a strong K-12, community college system or universities, but a way for students to learn a skilled trade.
Camenisch's independence from the entrenched party structure is appealing. We appreciate how Camenisch summed it up: "Politicians forget it's about people and it's about relationships."
On the House side, three candidates are vying for two slots: Andrea Dalessandro, a Democrat, and Republican incumbents David Gowan and Ted Vogt.
We are endorsing no specific candidate in this race.
Two years ago, we endorsed Dalessandro for this office. She lost narrowly, and the defeat unfortunately appears to have shaped her candidacy this time around. While two years ago we found Dalessandro to be knowledgeable on the issues and a keen observer of the Legislature, during a recent interview with the Star's editorial board, Dalessandro seemed hesitant to offer specifics unless pressed. Dalessandro did offer an intriguing idea to defer taxes for startup companies for a period of time as a way to spur job development.
She also has a clear view of how the Legislature has dumped the state's budget problems onto counties and cities. "It makes local government look like the bad guys while the Legislature pats itself on the back," she said.
She did advocate broadening the sales-tax base but lowering the rate, a suggestion from Democratic lawmakers in the last legislative session that got no traction with Republicans. We believe it had merit.
Where Dalessandro in 2008 offered insight after watching the Legislature closely, this time she retreated into generalities, saying her way to improve public education would "look at what doesn't work, fix it or get rid of it."
She also cited her accounting background when advocating combing through the state budget and doing a "strict cost-benefit analysis" to discern what works and what doesn't.
Again, obvious campaign lingo that sounds good but doesn't get into the details.
Arizona needs ideas as well as follow-through. Pledges to examine things and see what's there are political speak for "I don't have an idea of my own."
Gowan has focused on gun rights, advocating that adults over 21 be able to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Southern Arizona needs lawmakers to focus on creating jobs, strengthening public education's role in our communities, and expanding the economy.
Over the past months, Gowan, like Antenori, declined to respond to the Star editorial board's questions about their budget priorities and other matters. We found the decision disappointing.
Elected officials have a responsibility to increase access to their perspectives and experiences in government, and to answer tough questions about their policy positions and opinions.
Vogt, came to office recently, after Antenori vacated the seat for the state Senate. Vogt claims that the Legislature "protected education" in the last session during budget cuts, and downplays the connection between education and economic growth.
Vogt advocates tax cuts as the best way to help the economy and put people back to work.