Voters in Legislative District 14 have two experienced legislators to choose between to represent them in the state Senate. The best choice, we believe, is Pat Fleming.

Fleming has served in the state House and her experience there, combined with her community roots, knowledge and work as a budget and manpower allocations analyst for the Army, provide her a firm foundation.

Fleming, a Democrat, is facing Republican state Sen. Gail Griffin. District 14 begins east of Tucson, stretches south to the U.S.-Mexico border and north into the Apache National Forest. It includes parts of four counties, the military-centered city of Sierra Vista and the mining communities of Morenci and Safford.

Education is a priority for Fleming. Instead of generic platitudes, when Fleming met with us she shared examples of smart ideas that could be replicated, including how high school students in the Vail Unified School District get to choose which school they attend. She also criticized the Legislature for reducing school funding.

"Cutting education is not a hard choice," she said. "The hard choice is to find a solution. They decided to cut instead."

Fleming advocates expanding the tax base and reducing the rate. She is a Democrat but has made a point of introducing herself and listening to voters across District 14. We appreciate her understanding that sometimes political philosophy takes a back seat to everyday issues like road repairs. "They don't have to identify with the issues; they trust me when they get to know me," she told us.

The Star endorses Pat Fleming for state Senate in District 14.

Creative ideas for House

The spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship carries over to our endorsements of Robert Leach and Mark Stonebraker in the District 14 House race. We are impressed with their comprehensive local knowledge, their dedication to making state government accessible, and their innovative ideas on immigration.

Leach retired from the Army, where he was an intelligence analyst, in 2009 and has a master's degree in administration from the University of Phoenix. His experience within the military system is augmented by his volunteer work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the state child welfare system. He sees up close what the budget cuts to the Department of Economic Security have done to the most vulnerable Arizonans, and it is part of what spurred him to run for office.

"These cuts are hurting these children ... who don't have families to rely on," Leach told us. The Legislature "needs someone who understands the need to reach across the aisle. This is more right versus wrong. I'm here to make sure the people who don't have a voice will have a voice. I don't care what party they're in."

Leach identified improving roads and infrastructure to connect the port of entry in Douglas to the interstate as one of his top district priorities. This kind of thinking demonstrates vision for the future and the kind of leadership missing in the Legislature.

Leach's proposal for immigration is intriguing. He suggests granting citizenship to people who are here without permission but who have not committed a felony, and in return they will pay an extra 1 percent on their federal income tax for five years. The money would go to the state's general fund. The idea demonstrates Leach's creativity and fresh perspective.

Stonebraker has a background in technology and has run a software and consulting business. The Legislature has "done a lot for large corporations," he told us, but his focus is on small business. He also believes that cutting government hurts the economy because jobs are lost. "I think the government is our servant and needs to be improved rather than diminished."

He identified health care as an issue that is important to District 14 and the state. The Legislature cut the budget for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS - our Medicaid plan - and low-income people lost health coverage. "Those are false economies. All of us will end up paying for that," he said.

Both Stonebraker and Leach are running as Democrats, but it's clear that they are independent thinkers rather than party loyalists. They each cited citizen education as a priority, and we appreciate their commitment to community engagement.

"The best thing you can do is inform people," Stonebraker said.

The Arizona Daily Star endorses Robert Leach and Mark Stonebraker for the House in District 14.

Arizona Daily Star