Voters in Legislative District 26 should cast their ballots for Cheryl Cage, a thoughtful Democrat who is challenging incumbent state Sen. Al Melvin for the seat.

We also urge LD 26 voters to return Democratic incumbent Nancy Young Wright to the state House; the district's second House seat, we believe, should go to Republican incumbent Vic Williams.

All those chosen to serve should work for the best interest of the state and their districts, not in service to party doctrine.

On myriad issues, Cage's economic development and education priorities and values reflect those of the district, which covers the Foothills, Oro Valley and parts of Marana and SaddleBrooke.

Cage has said her No. 1 job in the Legislature would be fighting to restore reasonable funding to Arizona's public education system, which has been decimated by budget cuts that Republican Melvin not only supported but continues to defend.

Case in point: Cage deplores the loss of funding for statewide all-day kindergarten in the cuts; Melvin regards it as free day care.

Cage argues correctly that attracting jobs to Arizona and building the state's economic base can't be done without a new commitment to education.

"It's important to elect someone who understands the difference between an investment and an expense," she said. We agree.

We believe Cage, who owns a consulting company focusing on career and training for professional pilots, would be a voice for moderation instead of extremism in the Legislature.

In the House race, Young Wright has served in public office for more than a decade, beginning in 1997 as a member of the Amphitheater school board and since 2008 as a state representative.

Her consistent voice in support of public education is vital to the district and to Arizona's future.

We also support her re-election because - despite the Legislature's deep partisan divide - she has worked ably with members of the Legislature's Republican majority to advance needed bills. Among such successes that she cites on her website are animal-protection legislation, a charter-school accountability bill and a measure requiring Child Protective Services to make every effort to keep siblings together in foster care or a group home.

Williams, a small-business man elected in 2008, has too often voted with the Legislature's right-wing Republican leadership - which he defends as unavoidable. "There is a lot of legislation I would not have pushed forward on, but ultimately I can't oppose everything I disagree with and remain effective," he told us.

Perhaps not, but having the courage to stand up for what you believe is one characteristic voters expect in their representatives.

Thus Williams voted wrongly, in our view, for state budgets that cut Science Foundation Arizona funding altogether and eviscerated education funding; he also voted for the state's new anti-immigration measure, SB 1070 (which he did, in fact, support).

On the other hand, Williams bucked his party's leadership to support Proposition 100, a temporary increase to the sales tax that was aimed at avoiding even more draconian cuts to education and social services.

Further, Williams has demonstrated a willingness to listen to people who disagree with his positions, a trait sadly lacking among many of his party's legislative leaders.

The third House candidate running in LD 26 is Republican Terri Proud. Cage and Melvin face no other candidates in the Senate race.

We urge LD 26 votes to cast their ballots for Cage, Young Wright and Williams.

Arizona Daily Star

On StarNet: For more election coverage, go to election