Voters will choose one of two women running for State Senate in Legislative District 2.
On the campaign trail, Green Valley Republican Shelley Kais carries a map of District 2 that’s labeled with little icons representing big industries: tourism and retirement lifestyles, trucking and logistics, mining and agriculture, aviation and defense.
“These are the engines that drive our economy and we need to get them jump-started,” said Kais, whose major focus is jobs.
She would support lean regulatory agencies, business incentives and a healthy relationship with the Air Force.
Incumbent Andrea Dalessandro, a Sahuarita Democrat, said she looks for common ground with other senators to get things done.
She’s proud to be part of a bipartisan coalition to stop flex loans and predatory lending, and she was nominated for an award for collaborating with U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Tucson City Council Member Richard Fimbres to stop the closure of a Tucson postal center.
Dalessandro won in 2012 on her third try for a State House seat, and then she was appointed to the Senate seat in 2014. She kept the job, winning 55 percent of the votes in 2014, and now she is running for a second full term as senator.
Kais ran for U.S. Congress in 2014 and received about 8 percent of the votes when she ran against McSally in the primary. She had previously backed McSally in the 2012 special election.
Both are former educators. Both have experience in business and accounting. Both candidates are participating in the clean elections system, which means they do not accept donations from special interest groups.
Heavily Democratic and mostly rural, District 2 includes parts of Pima County and Santa Cruz County. To win, Kais will need independents and conservative Democrats to vote for her. “I think independents are just looking for leadership and hope,” she said.
Dalessandro called Proposition 123 “disgraceful,” but she “held my nose and voted for it.” The school funding initiative, narrowly approved by voters in a special election earlier this year, ended a years-long legal dispute between school districts and the state after state budgets left out voter-mandated increases in education spending.
The next step needs to be a plan for gradually restoring funding cuts to schools, Dalessandro said.
Dalessandro said a top problem in the state is the “systemic defunding of public education on all levels.” She favors more regulations for charter schools, opposes expansion of vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to parochial schools, and advocates for more spending on community colleges.
Kais said voters should think of Prop. 123 as the beginning, not the end. It was a way to move forward and more ways need to be identified. She said she is confident education funding will be addressed in the next legislative session.
Kais supports funding technical and career education programs at the ninth-grade level, which the state cut in 2010. Dalessandro has introduced bills to try to improve JTED funding.
Both candidates want to change the negative narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border.
“People think my district is a war zone,” Dalessandro said. But it’s safe, and talk of building a wall only hurts businesses and real estate values, she said.
“I’m ticked off at politicians who come to the border for photo opportunities but they don’t try to understand the people,” Dalessandro said.
Kais said the border is a federal issue, but local police and sheriff are “the first line of defense for national security.” The state’s role is to support and enforce the federal rule of law and protect citizens, she said.
Kais said she feels very safe in Nogales and thinks more Arizonans should talk about the good things, like improving business conditions and safety. When she looks at the port she sees untapped opportunity for business.
She herself has changed her tone on the issues. In her 2014 run for Congress, Kais said a wave of migrants arriving at the border “was planned and is clearly an effort on the part of the president to dictate immigration policy by exploiting the humanitarian nature of Americans.”