Primary primer: The Republican race for governor (editorial)

2014-08-03T00:00:00Z 2014-10-13T15:34:08Z Primary primer: The Republican race for governor (editorial) Arizona Daily Star
August 03, 2014 12:00 am

The Arizona Daily Star’s practice has been to not endorse candidates in primaries. We have believed it is the business of political parties to select their standard-bearers for the general election.

It is impossible, however, to ignore the importance of primaries — especially in a state where registered independent voters now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats.

So few people cast ballots in primaries that, practically speaking, a fraction of Arizonans pick the candidates who face off in November. Too often those are politicians who cater to the ideological wings of their parties, to the detriment of common-sense governing.

So we’re taking a different approach to the Aug. 26 Republican primary for governor, a race that includes six candidates. (Democrat Fred DuVal has no opponent). We are evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the six, who broadly agree on many topics but whose specific plans and philosophy differ in significant ways. Those distinctions may be especially important to independent voters, who can vote in the Arizona primary by choosing one party’s ballot.

We researched candidates’ positions, watched debates and read coverage. We also invited the candidates to speak with us at the Star. All but Andrew Thomas accepted.

CHRISTINE JONES:

Former chief legal officer for GoDaddy.com

Strengths:

* Business and leadership experience in the technology sector

* Strong knowledge of public education, partly through husband’s job as a teacher.

* Policy experience through her position at GoDaddy.com

* Would be a knowledgeable advocate for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

Concerns:

* Heavy focus on illegal immigration, with an unrealistic plan to build border fence, deploy the National Guard and send the bill to the White House. Her plan ignores tactics that have been tried before in Arizona and fails to acknowledge state’s limited ability to act in immigration matters.

* Full embrace of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau and their anti-immigrant views. Asked about a federal court finding that Arpaio racially profiled Latinos, she said in a public forum, “If you can’t find something positive to say about someone, don’t say something at all.”

* Never held any public office.

* Would repeal Medicaid and limit the an time able-bodied person can receive AHCCCS.

FRANK RIGGS

former CEO of group that helps charter schools finance and build facilities

Strengths:

* Broad work and life experience as Army veteran, law-enforcement officer and three-term California congressman.

* Regarding K-12 schools, says “the big focus has to be on the achievement gap” for low-income students, those with learning disabilities and special needs or with limited English proficiency. “Make sure those kids get the intensive remedial hep and assistance that they need."

* Advocates elimination of all special-interest tax loopholes. “One business’s tax credit is another industry’s corporate welfare.”

* Served in Congress during first round of military base closings, so understands what needs to be done to protect Davis-Monthan.

Concerns:

* Opposes state oversight of child welfare, saying it is a local issue.

* Wants to repeal Medicaid expansion and Common Core education standards.

* Appeared in Oracle last month at the protest against a busload of children from Central America who supposedly arriving that day. It was a publicity stunt with no constructive purpose.

* Proud to be endorsed by former state Sen. Russell Pearce, architect of Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law. 

SCOTT SMITH: 

Former mayor of Mesa

Strengths:

* As mayor, brought $2 billion Apple investment and several college campuses to Mesa.

* Private sector experience as an accountant.

* Educational experience through father’s career as superintendent of Flowing Wells Unified School District; Says Arizona should find an alternative first if it wants to dump Common Core.

* In-depth understanding of government budgets and the state’s structural deficits.

* Does not support an income tax repeal or flat tax.

* Will push for immigration solution “with funding that balances practicality, compassion and solid business sense."

* Supported Medicaid expansion

* Advocates for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base by placing it in the context of the Goldwater Range.

Concerns

* Anti-reproductive choice

* Wants to assess effectiveness of all tax credits and incentives but has already proposed a new one for hiring interns and apprentices in technical and skilled positions.

DOUG DUCEY

State Treasurer

Strengths:

• Deep understanding of Arizona’s budget and finances.

* Entrepreneur; former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery.

* Knows where there is duplication in state government.

Concerns:

*Wants to eliminate personal and corporate income tax but offers no further details. 

* Pledges that “I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” No responsible elected official should make such a pledge.

* Would seek a waiver on Medicaid expansion

* Brags about ending the 1-cent education sales tax

* Regarding education, says "We need to make real reforms and get better results from the money we already spend, rather than simply throwing money into a system that's under-performing."

* Vague on specifics about how to save Davis-Monthan. Told the Star, "I think that our military has had the right direction in terms of when we have new technology. When we do have new technology, we should embrace it. What I want is that new technology to be put at Davis-Monthan, whatever that is."

* Describes the Tucson Sector of U.S.-Mexico border as “wide open and unsecured,” which isn’t factual. Says President Obama has failed America on the border and unrealistically says Arizonans will fix the border problems.

* Endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Arizona state Sen. Al Melvin, Cathi Herrod of Center for Arizona Policy (which wrote SB 1062, gay marriage ban and anti-choice legislation).

KEN BENNETT

Strengths:

* Secretary of State, eight years as state senator; elected to Prescott City Council and State Board of Education

* Private sector experience with family’s oil business

* First-hand knowledge of legislative process and insight on governor’s role from position as senate president.

* Education focus targets lower-performing schools for the biggest results.

* Build a "much better working relationship with the federal government" and things such as helping local law enforcement defray border-related costs.

* Also talks about the Goldwater Range as a key asset in keeping the A-10 for another mission at D-M.

Concerns:

* Wants to eliminate personal and corporate income tax and replace it with broad consumption tax, put provides no specifics, making it impossible to judge how this will affect individuals or businesses.

* Opposed Medicaid expansion. His plan is to create enough “high-paying jobs” to get 5 percent of AHCCCS enrollees into private insurance; put 5 percent into a health savings account pilot program and reduce another 5 percent by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and drug-testing recipients. The plan to do this year after year is unrealistic.

ANDREW THOMAS

Disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney

Strengths: None

Concerns: Used his position to go after political enemies is unfit to hold office.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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