Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Valley Interfaith Project candidate forum, LD18 and 26

This afternoon, a couple hundred people gathered at Dayspring United Methodist Church in Tempe for a Valley Interfaith Project sponsored Candidate Accountability Forum with candidates for the LD18 Senate seat and the four House seats from LD18 and 26.

The event was extremely well organized and the time was managed impeccably. This, of course, limited the scope of what could be accomplished with candidates generally given only one minute to provide answers to questions they were given ahead of time. Moderators focused the heart of the inquiry on education and Medicaid restoration.

The two incumbent Democratic Representatives from LD26, Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood were accompanied by Republican James Roy. All three, by the way, are participating (but not yet funded) in the campaign with Clean Elections funding.

Three candidates for the LD18 Senate seat, Democrat Janie Hydrick along with Republican state Rep. Jeff Dial and his primary challenger, former AZ GOP chair Tom Morrissey, showed up and answered the questions. Four candidates for the two LD18 House seats participated, Democrat Mitzi Epstein, incumbent Republican Bob Robson along with fellow GOP candidates David Pheanis and John King. Tea Party candidate Jill Norgaard did not bother to attend.

Because the answers had to be concise (one minute), the discussion of issues (by the candidates) was entirely superficial. But not without value. Perhaps the most important revelations were that Tom Morrissey and James Roy would NOT advocate for bringing Arizona's per student K-12 education funding up to the national average. We are currently very close to the bottom in that category. Morrissey and Roy ALSO indicated they would NOT support continued funding of the Medicaid restoration passed in 2013.

Pheanis and King, though each has some involvement with education and were interested in helping to maintain and increase funding, were otherwise quite unimpressive, to me at least.

Politicians are naturally prone to rambling but sometimes it's necessary in order to understand various nuances in the complex issues. Because there was ZERO audience participation, it was impossible to broach the subject of Jeff Dial being at the top when it comes to perks received from lobbyists.

Robson and Dial, the incumbent LD18 Represenatives, both voted in favor of the Medicaid restoration last year, so it would not necessarily be reasonable to challenge their sincerity on support for continued funding.

After the forum ended, I chatted with Robson. We gave each other a little lighthearted grief. I told him I still remembered the property tax giveaway he engineered for the largely commercial airport operated by a homeowners' association (everything on the east side of the runway is commercial) at Stellar Airpark.

I bring that up concerning Robson because the theme today was accountability and it was important to let him know that wasn't forgotten. However, since there's only one Democrat running in LD18 for one of the two House seats, of the Republican candidates currently in the race, he may be the best available. Robson is not a go along to get along guy in the House Republican caucus and he DID vote for Medicaid restoration.

So, from my perspective, there's no question that Janie Hydrick would be the best choice for LD18 Senate and Mitzi Epstein the best choice for LD18 House. For LD26, I have full confidence that Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood will continue representing me (and the rest of the voters in our district) very well.  We will revisit the issue of the LD26 Senate seat and all three seats (one Senate, two House) for LD18 after the primary election.

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A friend told me that VIP would be holding a similar forum for LD23 and 28 candidates this week:
LD 23 and LD 28 candidates: August 14 from 7:00pm -- 8:30pm at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, 4455 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley.

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