Republican Pete Hershberger, 53, hopes his loyalty to voters in Dist. 26, comprised largely of the former Dist. 12, which his parents served for so many years, will pay huge dividends against fellow incumbent Carol Somers in the coming election.
"I'm loyal to this district. I've lived in this district a long time. My family has represented this district. I know the issues in this district and residents know and trust me," he said.
The elder Peter served in the Legislature in the 1970s and 1980s and Freddy, his mother, served three terms in the House from 1992 to 1998.
"Carol said when she first started to run that I was the outsider, that she lived in the district and was drawn in the district," Hershberger said. "I think she planted that with a lot of people, then backed off because I grew up in this district. I let everybody know two years ago that I was going to move into the district. I see it as an issue of being loyal to the district and the district being loyal to me. I'm not the outsider. Carol is."
Hershberger moved two years ago to be in Dist. 12 for the 2000 elections. That area became Dist. 26 with the redistricting that is in effect for the 2002 elections.
Somers represented Dist. 13 in the 2000 elections. The majority of that district became Dist. 30 for the current elections and about 16 percent of the old Dist. 13 where Somers has lived for 23 years was drawn into what is now Dist. 26.
Hershberger realizes that loyalty alone doesn't cut it with voters, particularly at a time when the Legislature is struggling with a potential $500 million to $1 billion deficit this fiscal year, public trust in legislators continues to decline and inadequate funding for education and health care continues to strike against children and the state's ability to attract new industry.
"One of the reasons I ran for re-election is because I wanted to help restore some of the trust and respect that has been lost in the Legislature and the legislative process," Hershberger said.
"The alternative fuels controversy really hurt. And to a great extent legislators deserve the poor reputation they have because of their harsh partisanships," he said. "It happened in the 1990s at the state and national level. Both parties tried to get at each other and muscle each other rather than try to work on the real issues of the state.
"That's one of my themes," he said. "I'm willing to work on both sides of the aisle to solve our problems. I'm not willing to participate in all this harsh partisanship. I want to look at the real problems of the state."
A centrist core must be established to reach common goals, he said, adding that a great deal of potential exists for partnerships in such areas as water, the environment and business issues with importance outside Southern Arizona.
"Let's look at the issues rather than approach problems from the standpoint of regionalism," he said. With Maricopa County controlling the Legislature, coalitions are going to be critical if Southern Arizona is to get its fair share of state revenues, he said.
Voter-backed measures such as term limits, redistricting and steps to prevent initiative measures from being changed have all been expressions of public distrust, he said, adding however, that such measures alone aren't going to solve the problem by themselves.
Hershberger proposes opening up state government by airing House deliberations on TV. He notes that $400,000 was included in the budget during the last legislative session to do that, but it was cut. Instead the money went to new furniture and a parking lot.
He said he'll be pushing for the measure again in the next session.
"We need to be on television," he said. "If citizens are going to get reinvolved in the legislative process, they've got to see what's going on. They have to have a belief, a perception that things aren't happening in the back room as alternative fuels did. I want to have a teacher videotape a committee hearing and show it to students the next day. That's opening the process. Citizens are going to see that we're doing serious, deliberative work and they're going to be able to hold us accountable."
He also wants to ensure that a measure preventing one person in partisan fashion from killing a bill remains intact. The measure allows a simple majority of legislators to pull a bill out of the Rules Committee to keep it from dying there.
Among Hershberger's top priorities are a total revamping of the state's tax structure, eliminating the past piecemealings of laws, credits and loopholes that have led to a disjointed tax structure so heavily weighted against businesses and funding for kids' programs and education.
Any revamping, however, will require the involvement of not only the Legislature, but the executive branch, the business community and local community groups as well, he said.
The major tax inequities Hershberger seeks to address are the disparities between the 25 percent property tax businesses must pay vs. the 10 percent for residential property, and state income taxes for businesses that are prohibitively higher than those for individuals.
Hershberger predicts at least $500 million will be cut out of the budget next fiscal year and in that light strongly supports maintaining education as a priority to just preserve current funding levels. If cuts have to be made, he wants them to be less than those imposed elsewhere so as to maintain the state's progress in improving education and thereby attract businesses that now snub Arizona because of its poor schools reputation.
"Holding our own will be a success at this point" when legislators will be looking at agency cuts of 4 to 5 percent just to start, he said.
Kids and education, keeping budget cuts out of the classroom, dealing with at-risk children either by increased funding or improvements in the juvenile justice system and better health care funding for children are issues that are a natural outgrowth of his former business, New Columbus, dealing with the county's juvenile justice department for 22 years to aid delinquent and abused children.
Currently, he is the director of Open Inn, an agency working with homeless children.
Hershberger, as vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee, is co-chair of an ad hoc committee on child support and co-chair of a committee on child protective services, has played a major role in passing bills making it easier for a spouse who has moved to receive child support and increasing the availability of state funds for those children.
He is also a strong advocate of establishing a source other than the state's general fund to finance the Students First school construction and deficiency correction program.
There has to be something that makes it the county's responsibility, perhaps financing it through property taxes and then having the state make up the difference with a dedicated funding source, he said.
Two years ago, voters approved using tobacco settlement money to expand Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System roles by increasing health care insurance eligibility for the working poor.
Arizona was one of 25 states to settle out of court with tobacco companies. The state's share is $3.2 billion and is being paid out over 25 years at between $90 million and $110 million a year.
Hershberger helped defeat a bill that would have limited the funding of health care insurance for the poor to the amount available from tobacco taxes.
Had general fund assistance been eliminated, Hershberger said, Arizona would have gone back to being the second worst state in the nation in terms of the number of children covered by health insurance rather than ninth. And there would have been even more problems with hospitals going out of business because they weren't funded properly, he said.
Among other issues on Hershberger's agenda are establishing a regional taxing district to finance the infrastructure needed to supply Central Arizona Project water to the Northwest. Discussions along these lines have already begun among Oro Valley, Marana and the Metro Water District.
"Oro Valley is going to have to play a big part in that because they're the end user and they're going to get most of the water," he said.
He expects the Legislature within two years will also be addressing a regional taxing authority for water districts in the Phoenix area as costs continue to rise to the point where they're too high for one entity to pay.
Money is also running out for Family Builders, a service that investigates less serious incidents of child abuse, and Healthy Families, a prenatal care and disabled and abused child help program, Hershberger said.
HUFFMAN COULD BECOME SENIOR SO. AZ LEGISLATOR
by Bob Svejcara
For Steve Huffman, Dist. 26 Republican candidate for the House of Representatives, the key to solving Arizona's education and economic development problems boils down to a total revamping of the state's tax code.
With two-thirds of the state's total budget exempt from cuts because of federal mandates, initiatives and other requirements, further cuts can only lead to devastating, crippling cuts in some agencies, Huffman said. "I think we need to take a step back and ask ourselves does this make sense. We need to seriously look at eliminating the personal property tax on business.
"We tax every filing cabinet, every computer, everything a business has in there. And that seems ridiculous to me that we would have a tax in place that actually discourages people from expanding their facilities and expanding their capital investment in the state of Arizona when everybody else is looking to make sure that companies are spending money in their state and investing in capital expansion."
Huffman, running on a team ticket with Sen. Toni Hellon and Rep. Peter Hershberger, offered as an example the case of a Cochise County fertilizer company whose owner was looking at expanding and creating new jobs.
"When they did the numbers, they said the increased tax liability from the property tax would be greater than all the revenues they could generate from the expansion of the business," he said. "So they chose not to expand, not to create the new jobs because of the tax liability. That's just unacceptable."
As another example of the impact the 25 percent property tax on businesses compared to the 10 percent on homeowners is having, Huffman pointed to how Phoenix had to create a free trade zone to mitigate tax liability to land Intel.
"That's ridiculous, that we have to create these special zones for businesses to come out here" he said. "We should be looking at doing that for everybody so that we're not paying for special breaks for a company to move here. We ought to be looking at expanding the level of business activity in our economy."
Huffman said he's not against tax incentives for businesses, he just doesn't think that's the best approach to take. The state has had to use them in the past and would be worse off if it hadn't used such incentives to get companies such as Intel, he acknowledged. But he wants to do away with them in the future.
"I think everybody would argue it's not fair some businesses should be paying more taxes than others," he said. "We've got to address the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is we have a tax code that discourages savings and investment in our state.
"If we're going to get out of this trap of offering sweetheart deals to get people to come here, we've got to take a look at our overall tax code and we've got to start eliminating and reducing barriers to investment in our state. That's become necessary because we have a tax code that doesn't make sense. You can't afford to unilaterally disarm yourself when you're competing against cities all over the West, all over the world. You can't afford to say "I'm not going to get in the game," but the problem is we shouldn't stack the deck against ourselves.
"Some people would rather just see a cut of 50 cents in the individual income tax and say that's going to spur our economy. I'm not against tax cuts by any means and I've voted for them in the past, but I've always argued that the Legislature spends far too much time focusing on the political tax cuts that are going to help people get re-elected instead of real tax policy that's going to expand and grow our economy."
Demographics indicate in 20 years half of Arizona's population is either going to consist of people over 55 or young families that are going to want schools and other amenities, Huffman said.
And if that's the case, the state isn't going to be able to maintain its prisons, build roads and provide basic services such as the infrastructure for water.
These programs as a result will be coming under heavy pressure if the level of economic activity isn't expanded, he said.
"We can't survive as a state if we just have young families and retirees," he said. "We need jobs."
Huffman noted that most of the people he graduated from Canyon del Oro High School with in 1987 have had to move out of the state to get good paying jobs. "You shouldn't have to choose between supporting your family and staying in a state you love to live in," he said.
He also wants the state to look harder at tapping into the emerging market in Mexico. "We're geographically located to take advantage of that if we can structure our tax code to attract export-oriented businesses," he said.
Huffman said he isn't in favor of a statewide property tax right now, but suggested it could be part of an equalization formula when legislators start re-examining Students First, the school construction program.
As part of his economic development package, Huffman won passage of a measure known as a single-weighted sales factor in determining corporate income taxes. The measure would have based taxes entirely on sales rather than percentages of a company's payroll and property as well. The strategy passed as part of the 2003 budget, but was never implemented because of the collapse in revenues at the state level.
Addressing Students First and the issue of school construction financing, Huffman said there's been a huge shift in the way things have been done. Previously, school construction was paid for out of local property taxes and that maintained an element of local involvement, he said. That isn't there anymore with the shift to the state. "We created this state agency that says we have these standards in place and you're allowed to have so much square footage per student and you have to have X number of parking spaces and X number of basketball courts and this and that. It didn't work in the Soviet Union and it's not going to work here.
"The courts told us that the system we had for building schools was unconstitutional and unfair and that was true. There was a huge discrepancy between the wealthier school districts and the poorer school districts. That's the issue we had to deal with.
"The state said it was going to pay for all new school construction directly out of the general fund. When you shifted from the property tax, which tends to be a little more stable, to the general fund, you created a situation where the need for schools isn't going to come down appreciably for years to come.
"More people are coming here all the time," he said. "It's just like the roads. So when you have a funding stream that can go up and down with business cycles and you've got a nonstop need to build new schools, pretty soon that construction funding can eat up most of what's available in the budget.
"We need to re-examine the standards to make sure they're really meaningful, that they positively impact childrens' education," Huffman said. "We need to re-examine funding school construction out of a local tax base. But there has to be some system of equalization for the poorer school districts. It's what we should have done in the first place. We just can't afford to finance all this out of the general fund."
Huffman said the Legislature has to take another look at where the low-income schools are, what their needs are, and come up with some statewide taxing system to provide those funds schools are lacking.
"Baby steps" are being made in improving funding for education that have seen the state improve from 49th to 47th, depending on who you talk to, in the area of school financing, and improvements are being made in teacher pay, Huffman said.
"We've done more than throw money at the problem" since passage of a tax increase with Prop. 301, Huffman said. There also have been structural changes, including a bill related to money coming in to education from the sale of state trust land.
Instead of the general fund contribution being reduced by whatever funds came from state trust land sales, those land revenues are supplementing the general fund, he said.
An inflation factor also was added, he said. "These were things I was proud to work on because we didn't just say OK we're going to take in more money in sales tax and throw that at education. We also went back and looked at other existing sources of money and made sure they went right into the classroom. And we gave local school districts some discretion as to how we would spend that money so there would be an element of local control.
"Those are the key things - making sure the money gets into the classroom and giving people some local control."
In terms of the infrastructure that will be needed to attract high-tech industry, Huffman said it's people - skilled, trained, highly-educated people, incorporating world class research institutions such as the University of Arizona and Arizona State University as a magnet.
Huffman said some progress has been made in terms of reducing the number of people without health insurance with passage of Prop. 204 raising eligibility up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, but he doesn't expect anything significant to be done in this area for the next two years because of the state's budget problems.
He made note of the passage of Kids Care to notify people through the schools they may be eligible for programs they weren't eligible for before. Arizona's entire health care system needs critical care, Huffman said. He said there are some incredible community health centers around, such as the one in Marana, and proposed maximizing resources available to these centers to avoid the higher costs of emergency room care.
Huffman is chairman of the House Environment Committee, serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which addresses tax reform, and also serves on the Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
As a freshman legislator in 1998, he helped to get additional funding for kindergarten through 12th grade that helped the Marana Unified School District reduce class size, proposed an exchange of Highway User Revenue Funds that has saved Oro Valley more than $200,000 to date, and worked on another bill to get the town's Save A Plant Program started. Last year that program was expanded statewide.
Huffman is hoping that a bill can be crafted in the next couple of years that will create a statewide trauma center system. Tucson's two centers are funded through the end of the year.
As the senior Republican in the House from Southern Arizona, Huffman said he believes seniority and the time spent discussing issues with colleagues has helped him get passed some pretty important legislation for the community and wants that experience to continue benefiting the area.
"You can't have a bunch of new people coming in all the time," he said.
SOMERS PRIDES HERSELF AS CONSENSUS BUILDER
by Bob Svejcara
Carol Somers said she's earned a return to the state House of Representatives to represent Dist. 26 because she's kept her promises to be fiscally responsible and help people keep their jobs.
She takes pride in the reputation she said she's established as a go-to person who can be relied on to get things done.
Only by voting for people who have a can-do attitude will residents' confidence in the Legislature be increased, Somers said, "and I have a can do attitude.
"That's one of the biggest differences between me and my opponents," Somers said. "I have a positive outlook. I look for reasons to do things, not for reasons not to."
The former high school French teacher and owner of Norrell Staffing Services, a franchise of Norrell Services Inc., has a tougher challenge ahead of her than when she ran the first time two years ago. Then, there were four people running who had never served and voters were looking closer at the candidates' background, trying to size up potential.
Now she's up against two incumbents, Steve Huffman and Peter Hershberger, and newcomer Stuart Watkins, and the fur is flying.
Hershberger, as an example, recently described Somers as being more connected with Maricopa County than Pima County as reflected in her votes, the support she's getting from Maricopa County leadership and others helping to run her campaign out of Phoenix and her decision to have her printing done by a Phoenix firm.
Hershberger pointed to a bill in the Legislature last session to do away with fees abused spouses had to pay to obtain protection orders from the court. The bill would have erased barriers to abused women and preserved $6.5 million in federal funding.
Somers voted for it, he said, but when Maricopa County leaders spoke against the bill, she voted against it. Then when Maricopa County leaders changed their minds and voted for the bill, she also voted for it.
Hershberger offered that as an example of why he believes Somers waffles on issues.
Somers said she changed her vote in that instance because of the confusion as to what the bill called for. Votes were switched once the situation was clarified, she said.
"I got additional information and it made a difference in my vote," Somers said. "But we cast thousands of votes. That's really nitpicking. The record shows he supports Democrats' bills more often than even the Democrats," she said of Hershberger.
"I have a very, very successful record of achievement," Somers said. "If you look at my achievements compared with Mr. Hershberger, you'll see that he has very little to show for his second year" though he did do a bit more in his freshman year.
Somers points to the 14 bills she sponsored in her first term which were either signed into law or adopted in the state budget.
"Let me tell you why," she said. "I don't go around casting aspersions on people in my caucus. We are the minority. If we don't work with other people from around the state, then who do we work with? Everything I've learned in life about getting along with people I learned in kindergarten. But getting along doesn't mean I violate my ethics or my Republican principles.
"I try to find ways to work with people and if I don't agree with them I don't cast aspersions or turn my back on them and try to chop their legs off as some of my opponents do," Somers said. "I think Peter is just very distraught that I'm now contending for a seat where I have a much more productive record."
By the end of this fiscal year, Arizona could be looking at a budget deficit of between $600 million and $1 billion, said Somers, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, vice chairman of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and member of the County and Municipality Committee and education and natural resources subcommittee of the Appropria-tions Committee.
Coping with the problems such a budget presents will be virtually impossible without a revamping of a state tax code that is among the worst in the nation, Somers said.
"Companies are saying we're not even on their short list, they're not even going to look at Arizona because we're not competitive and they can do better elsewhere.
"I think we have to go back, take a good look and ask ourselves whether the budget policies that are being implemented are still appropriate for the economy we have today," Somers said. "If they're not, then we have to look at what we need to do to change that.
"We have to equalize the corporate property tax rate of 25 percent and the residential property tax rate of 10 percent on a go-forward basis so that people understand when they vote for something what it's really costing," Somers said. "Then homeowners will have a better way of deciding do we really need this particular item or not.
"I'm not saying there has to be a tax increase, but some program that is revenue neutral. We have to lay the groundwork for a tax system that is fairer and broader," she said. "It may even lead to taxes that are lower."
For Somers, fiscal responsibility begins with controlling spending and paring back on unnecessary programs.
She wants less administration and more consolidation of a government she sees as fraught with duplication.
Somers would be serving on an ad hoc committee on tax review, sharing in the work that needs to be done to change the system.
"Our tax code was written for an economy of years ago," Somers said. "Now we're more of a high-tech economy, a service economy. We need to attract industries that rely on scientific instrumentation and other sources of high-tech equipment."
Putting that idea into play, Somers helped pass a bill providing funding for Arizona's effort to become an international center of genomics and related biomedical research. This led to an announcement in June by the International Genomics Consortium that it was moving its headquarters to Phoenix.
Local governments have been hit with a double whammy because their share of state revenues has been drastically reduced by the slowdown in the economy and they've been hit with cuts on top of that.
Somers said she doesn't think this is an area for cutting because of the potential impact those cuts would have on public safety efforts.
"We're just going to have to look at our agency budgets and programs that aren't really needed and prioritize," Somers said. "And you know what? Some really good programs may have to feel it."
In her campaigning Somers stresses fiscal responsibility and tax fairness, an educational system all can be proud of, a healthy economic environment that will provide high paying jobs and access to affordable health care for all.
What Somers said she is proudest of are the programs she helped save.
Protecting insurance coverage for an estimated 12,000 people working for small businesses who would otherwise be without or forced to pay premiums they couldn't afford, putting them in danger of joining the state's Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System Medicaid plan.
Providing funding for school classroom needs.
"People are tired of education cuts," Somers said. "They're tired of being ranked below other parts of the nation. It's unfortunate that all the good things we've done for education takes time before they show up. We've spent close to $3 billion and that doesn't show up in standings. It's my hope that now that we're able to turn the maintenance functions back to the school districts it will free up money for other education needs."
Financing in-home non-medical care for seniors, keeping seniors in their homes longer by providing meals, bathing assistance and helping with medications so they don't have to be placed under long-term care at a higher price.
Keeping day care subsidies for the working poor at 1998 levels rather than cutting them back to 1996 levels.
"We need to keep people working and that's a common theme in all of my legislation," Somers said. "Healthcare is something I care deeply about. I would like to see the idea of risk pools expanded so that people can buy insurance and keep their jobs.
"We also need to look at supporting our community health centers better and we need to figure out how we go from an acute care system to dealing with chronic conditions such as heart problems and diabetes," she said, adding that programs aimed at disease management control could go a long way toward addressing the problem.
Somers is confident that taxpayers this year will approve a referendum to increase tobacco taxes so that Medicaid coverage can be expanded.
Many people were unaware that the state would be tapping into its general fund to cover costs if previous tobacco settlement funds weren't enough to do so, Somers said. As a result, over the past two years more than $150 million has been spent out of the general fund to cover those expenses, she said.
"That is an enormous amount and it's not capped," Somers said. "It's like a runaway train and it's putting at risk other parts of our healthcare safety net, such as trauma centers and graduate medical doctor training."
Responding to the recent attacks on her by Hershberger, Somers said his comments about outside district assistance were "an insult to the hundreds and hundreds of people who are helping me in this community and who have been helping me since last November to get elected."
As far as contracting with an out- of -town firm for some of her printing, Somers said she chose to do so to cut costs by leveraging with eight other campaigns. Materials were printed in Maricopa County and shipped here. All other printing work for campaign materials, handbills, campaign shirts, all of her signs also was done here.
"Other candidates do that too, because sometimes you have to go out of the area to get the best printing costs you can get," she said.
As far as having her votes dictated by Maricopa County leadership, Somers said:
"I've voted differently from the leadership up there many times. For example, doing away with the rainy day fund. I voted against that. He (Hershberger) brings up the issue of reducing soft capital, money for books and other classroom expenses. I'm on record against doing that and bringing it to the attention of the Appropriations Committee chairman that $16 million had already been spent and we needed to correct that. I have a letter from the state superintendent of education thanking me for raising the issue and saving soft capital.
"So I think Peter is really stretching it to try and smear me," Somers said. "The same thing with domestic violence. The reason domestic violence got more money is my bill in my freshman year.
"Obviously Peter is very distressed that I'm in the district. I can't help it if the house I've lived in for 23 years is in this district. For me to have planned any of this I would have had to do so two redistrictings ago."
Somers once represented Dist. 13, the majority of which became Dist. 30 in a redistricting for the 2002 elections. About 16 percent of the old Dist. 13 where Somers lived was drawn into what is now Dist. 26. As a result, Somers is in a new district in which 84 percent of its registered Republican voters had no opportunity to vote for her in the last election.
"If lines had changed differently, I would have considered moving," Somers said. "But they didn't, so it's a moot point. I think it's very petty and immature to dwell on that because the lines are what they are and none of us had any control over that. He just seems obsessed with this."
WATKINS ODD-MAN OUT IN INCUMBENT-LADEN RACE
by Bob Svejcara
Stuart Watkins, the 62-year-old longshot Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives, doesn't flinch at raising taxes to get the state out of its current budget shortfall.
"If needed absolutely, I'm not afraid of raising taxes," Watkins said. "I would, however, want a sunset law placed on it. The tax should apply to all users, too, and not just on homeowners or cigarette smokers."
Unless someone comes up with a clever alternative, Watkins said, there's no way around raising taxes if the Legislature is going to be able to cope with a projected $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.
"If we need to raise taxes to fund schools and provide other services," then that's what we should do," he said.
At the same time, Watkins wants taxes reduced in Pinal County, which he said has the highest tax rate in Arizona. Coincidentally, SaddleBrooke, where Watkins lives, is in Pinal County. "SaddleBrooke residents pay more than their fair share," he said.
He's also pushing for better health care, especially for senior citizens, and an emphasis on greater HMO accessibility in Pima and Pinal counties.
The former Realtor from Anchorage, Alaska, and teacher at both the elementary and secondary school level seldom refers to his opponents, incumbents Reps. Peter Hershberger, Steve Huffman and Carol Somers, by name. But when he speaks of the actions of "other legislators" there is no mistaking who he's talking about.
Watkins' top priority issues are education, economic development and health care.
"I can't be proud of the support legislators have given public schools in the past," Watkins said. "Legislators in the past have underfunded education for years. They appear to have given it their lowest priority and they've done so for the past seven, eight years. If it had been just for one year I wouldn't even be in the race."
But legislators aren't the only ones at fault, said Watkins, who blames school boards for apportioning as much as 37 percent of the funds they receive from the state to bolster their administrative staffs rather than setting aside more money for teacher pay and classrooms.
Arizona has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation, is near the bottom in funding for public education and ranks among the lowest in terms of teacher pay, Watkins said. "That has got to change."
In addition to addressing the high dropout rate, Watkins would like to see more money devoted to vocational training.
"We need to rethink the whole Students First plan" to finance school construction and deficiency correction, Watkins said. "It has cost us $2.7 billion over the last seven years and it's left us with precious few dollars for anything else. The School Facilities Board needs to have better oversight and we need to identify a better funding source, although I don't know what that is yet."
Watkins is a supporter of school vouchers, but he doesn't want vouchers to take anything away from the issue of full funding for public schools. He's also a supporter of having counties and school districts band together to contract for services in certain areas.
Arizona was sold a bill of goods and has wasted more than $30 million in trying to implement an Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards Test that doesn't work and no one can pass, when other reliable standardized tests can be used, he said.
"I don't have the answer" to how funds should be reallocated, Watkins said. "I just see a problem that needs to be fixed. We need to pull ourselves out of the depths of despair Arizona seems to be in."
Other candidates speak of "revamping" the state tax system, but they don't spell out what that means, what impact it will have, he said, adding that he believes residents would be willing to pay higher taxes as long as they're equally applied and used to do the job.
In terms of inequities, Watkins noted on his Web site www.Watkins4az. com how the assessed valuation of his home was increased by $12,000 even though there was no increase in the tax base.
"This constant increase of SaddleBrooke resident valuations has caused some residents to move out because they can't afford the increase in payments," he said.
In the past the Legislature has spent every penny it has gotten its hands on and that approach, combined with the alternative fuels fiasco in which "some people have really ripped off the system," has gotten us into the fix we're in, he said.
Watkins said he realizes his opponents aren't even considering him a serious candidate and is convinced they may be in for a surprise.
"I expect to get a lot of votes from people who they think are in the bag," especially from the 2,500 registered Republican voters in SaddleBrooke, Watkins said. He added that it might not even take a lot considering that only 8,000 of the district's 48,000 registered Republicans voted in the 2000 election.
Watkins is the only candidate to have filed under the state's Clean Elections program which gives money to candidates who qualify by collecting at least 200 $5 contributions from within their districts. He has received more than $37,000 thus far through that program.
A VOT FOR HERSELF SENDS HELLON BACK TO SENATE
by Bob Svejcara
Republican incumbent Sen. Toni Hellon, running on a team with Reps. Steve Huffman and Peter Hershberger, is unopposed in the Dist. 26 Senate race.
Hellon, in her second term in the Senate, serves on the Senate's Education, Health, Appropriations and Family Service committees and has been the only Southern Arizona senator on the Education Committee for the past two years. In that role she has fought against cuts in K-12 classroom supply funds and teacher pay.
She describes herself as a fiscal conservative who has led the fight to keep Tucson's trauma centers open and continues to work with health care specialists toward a long-term solution to rising prescription costs and better access to preventative medical and dental care, as well as to affordable health insurance.
Hellon has a background in corporate public relations, freelance writing and political consulting and was co-chair of the Southern Arizona caucus that brought legislators of both parties together to focus on issues of special interest to her area.
With Hershberger and Huffman, Hellon has helped passed legislation to attract better paying jobs to the district through tax reform, to protect valuable school programs without resulting runaway property tax increases and to protect the state's clean water programs from budget cuts.
KOLBE SEEKS 10TH HOUSE TERM
Rep. Jim Kolbe is running for re-election to Congress for the 10th time this year, representing most of the Northwest, central and east Tucson and Southeastern Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is facing Sierra Vista resident Jim Behnke in the Sept. 10 primary election. The winner of that election will face Democrat Mary Judge Ryan and Libertarian Joe Duarte in the general election Nov. 5. They are running for the Dist. 8 seat.
The following is a brief overview of each candidate.
Jim Kolbe, Republican
Jim Kolbe, 60, was first elected to the Congress in 1984. He is a chairman and member of several House subcommittees, including chairman of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs appropriations subcommittee, one of 13 powerful appropriations subcommittees in the House.
He is endorsed by most of Arizona's federal and state Republican leadership including Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, as well as local Republican leaders like Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and Pima County District 1 Supervisor Ann Day. Among his political endorsements are the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Rifle Association and the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.
Kolbe was born in Illinois but has lived in Arizona since he was five, excluding the years he was in college at Northwestern, where he received a bachelor's degree in political science, and Stanford, where he received a master's degree in business economics.
He served in the Arizona Senate for six years before running for his first term in Congress in 1984.
Jim Behnke, Republican
Every two years since 1984 a Republican has challenged Jim Kolbe in the Republican primary election, all losing to Kolbe. This election's challenger Jim Behnke, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Lutheran minister, is hoping for a different outcome.
Behnke's main campaign themes are using the U.S. military to secure the border against illegal immigration and using any budget surplus to increase social security payments.
Behnke joined the Army in 1957 as an enlisted man but later received an officer's commission.
He is endorsed by the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association, and the Arizona State Fraternal Order of Police.
Also on the Sept. 10 primary ballot are Democrat Mary Judge Ryan and Libertarian Joe Duarte. They will automatically advance to the Nov. 5 general election to face the Kolbe, Behnke primary winner. More information on their campaigns can be found at www.maryjudgeryan.com and www.duarte2002.com.