State Sen. Arzberger fights to keep District 25 seat - The Explorer: Import

State Sen. Arzberger fights to keep District 25 seat

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Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

October 25, 2006 - During a candidate's forum earlier this month, District 25 Democratic state Sen. Marsha Arzberger rose to her feet to address members of the public.

While four other District 25 house and senate candidates fielded questions while seated, the Willcox resident struggled to unwind a microphone cord so she could stand.

"Just not used to sitting," she said in her quivering voice.

Someone needs to stand up for rural Arizona, all of the District 25 candidates have stressed throughout their campaigns.

"The district has 20 small communities, mostly rural," Arzberger said. "Rural people have different needs and different problems than urban cities."

Arzberger has lived the rural life. She grew up on a farm in Missouri. She and her husband, a former Arizona state senator, ran a family-owned cattle ranch and farm for several years. The Arzbergers had 2,500 acres of irrigated farmland, where they grew vegetables and grain. Arzberger drove grain trucks and rode combines.

Arzberger will fight for "small business owners, farmers, ranchers," she said. "I pick up the phone and call constituents myself. The most important part of my job is … taking care of people. I like helping people."

It would surprise many if voters did not elect Arzberger again, given her experience and what the Democratic Party sees as her opponent's - Republican Mary Ann Black - lack thereof.

Arzberger, 67, joined the state senate in 2000, representing District 8, which used to cover most of Cochise County. She has represented District 25 since 2004, where she serves on the appropriations, health and natural resources and rural affairs committees. Between Arzberger and her husband Gus, the Arzberger family has served in the state Legislature for 20 years, managing each other's campaigns for office.

Arzberger worked as a special projects coordinator for the Arizona Board of Regents for seven years. She also taught business and worked as dean for a business college in Kansas City.

A pilot who has flown more than 5,000 miles, Arzberger had to give up the family's private plane about five years ago because it became too expensive to maintain. At she serves on the appropriations, health and natural resources and rural affairs committees. Between Arzberger and her husband Gus, the Arzberger family has served in the state Legislature for 20 years, managing each other's campaigns for office.

Arzberger worked as a special projects coordinator for the Arizona Board of Regents for seven years. She also taught business and worked as dean for a business college in Kansas City.

A pilot who has flown more than 5,000 miles, Arzberger had to give up the family's private plane about five years ago because it became too expensive to maintain. At one time, she and her husband flew everywhere, even from their home in Willcox to the dentist's office in Tucson.

Arzberger has written several articles and even a historical romance novel, published in 1982. It took her two years to complete the 550-page novel, which takes place around the world, including in places such as South Africa and Tahiti. The state senator traveled to most of the locations to do research and conducted several interviews while researching for her book.

Arzberger once had thoughts of becoming a full-time novelist, but the reality of the publishing world hit her head on. Her publishing company went "intentionally" bankrupt and Arzberger saw no money for her book, she recalled.

Arzberger carries an A-rating from the Arizona Cattleman's Association and the National Rifle Association and a history of poor ratings from the Sierra Club and Arizona League of Conservation Voters.

Arzberger has the support of Marana Town Councilman Herb Kai. The two ranching and farming families have maintained a close relationship for more than 30 years.

Kai last month gave $296 to Arzberger's campaign, citing her track record.

"Marsha's done a great job so far," Kai said. "We should return the incumbent to office to get the job done and keep the continuity there."

In Marana, of which about half falls in District 25, land issues reign, Kai said. Like Arzberger, Kai favors the reduction of state land powers, leaving zoning issues to local municipalities.

The town of Marana has had its own problems with the State Land Department, waiting for an appraisal on a swath of land surrounding the town's regional airport. The town wants to buy the land and has extensive plans for its zoning and development.

"That's always been a problem," Arzberger said of delays dealing with the State Land Department. "The Legislature doesn't give them enough money for staffing."

Arzberger, along with the Republican and Democrat representatives in the Legislature, "are known quantities and have been good supporters of the town," said Michael Racy, who lobbies state lawmakers on behalf of Marana.

Republicans think Arzberger has been around too long and want to kick her out of the Legislature before term-limits do.

The Democrat, though, seems to revel in subtly one-upping her Republican counterparts. At a recent debate, after District 25 Republican Rep. Jennifer Burns answered a question, Arzberger would repeat the question, emphasizing the part she thought Burns ignored. Burns is running for re-election to the house.

"Thank you," Arzberger said, taking the microphone. "The question was what do we expect to see in the STATE Legislature next year."

Arzberger inferred that Burns focused entirely too much on issues that federal lawmakers should handle.

Arzberger has raised more than $20,000 for her campaign, according to the latest filings with the Secretary of State. Her biggest contributions come from the real estate and health sectors, including $1,000 from the Arizona Association of Realtors and almost as much from physicians.

Arzberger believes in second chances, she said. Through legislation, she helped an ex-convict get a job as a bail bondsman. Rene Anthony Guerrero testified in front of legislative committees and specifically approached Arzberger. The state senator took the lead in clearing up a confusing state law that now allows non-violent criminals to obtain bail bonds licenses, Guerrero said.

The state Legislature should do more to rehabilitate criminals, Arzberger said. She supports work release programs and reducing mandatory sentences for first-time, nonviolent criminals. In addition, she pledges to fully fund Detox programs for methamphetamine addicts behind bars and wants more vocational programs in jails and prisons.

"It's far less expensive to the taxpayer to have these people out there working," Arzberger said. "People arrested for small things like marijuana possession - if you put the person in prison with hardened criminals they learn to be more of a criminal. Put them on probation and monitor them with GPS tracking."

Arzberger will make education and economic development a priority. A quality education and top-notch universities will bring big business to District 25's rural and suburban areas, she said.

Business and university leaders seem to think the area has a bioscience niche, but that's only a start, Arzberger said.

"We don't have any factories here, except for a few little, tiny ones," the senator said. "We have 15,000 workers who work for call centers. That's a big industry, but it's limited."

Southern Arizona needs a senator with experience and a balanced view of all state issues, Arzberger said, adding that her opponent lacks those qualifications.

"That's what the sate needs. It doesn't need one-issue candidates," she said.

In addition, the senator calls herself fiscally conservative, able to balance a budget without having tax breaks and other perks come back to haunt the Legislature in future years.

"Believe me," Arzberger said. "Farmers and ranchers have to be."

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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