A race between two Republicans for a Senate nomination in District 26 has been identified as potentially pivotal for the Arizona Legislature.
Rep. Pete Hershberger, 59, a four-term House member, and Al Melvin, 63, a SaddleBrooke resident, have engaged in an animated primary election campaign.
The winner faces presumptive Democratic nominee Cheryl Cage, a Marana businesswoman, on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
Both Hershberger’s parents served in the Arizona Legislature, and he has been elected four times as a self-described “maverick” and “statesman” from the district where he grew up.
Melvin defeated incumbent Sen. Toni Hellon in the Republican primary two years ago, then lost by 455 votes to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera. Pesquiera has served one term and decided not to seek re-election.
Melvin is a retired U.S. Naval Reserve captain who had a parallel career in shipping. He is currently an adjunct lecturer and a teacher. Hershberger is a professional counselor.
Hershberger and Melvin have identified their positions, and their differences, in a number of forums.
Melvin describes himself as a Reagan Republican. On his Web site he carries this Reagan quotation: “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs, which must not be compromised for political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers. … And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these conservative principles, then let them go their way.”
Hershberger calls himself a Goldwater Republican. “I still seek to model myself after the Senator’s maverick Arizona spirit and common-sense principled leadership,” Hershberger writes.
Some of their positions
On illegal immigration:
“With the failure of the federal government to act on illegal immigration the State of Arizona has felt the full weight of the cost and burdens of illegal immigration. I am frustrated with the inaction of the federal government and believe it will take federal action to fully address this problem.
“I believe in a comprehensive approach to illegal immigration including border enforcement, employer sanctions, verifiable documentation and a guest worker program. I voted for the toughest employer sanctions bill in the country which is now law in Arizona and the fencing along the border is proceeding. We have seen some progress in that some illegals are leaving the state and the flow of illegals into the state is decreasing. Yet we still have a huge problem, which won’t be solved until there is a comprehensive approach.”
“Whether your primary concern is national security, eliminating wasteful spending, improving education, relieving overcrowding in our jails and hospitals, or fighting crime, the most important thing that we can do is to secure our borders. The cost of illegal immigration to our state is nearly $2 Billion every year and you, the taxpayer, are paying the bill. We must eliminate sanctuary city policies that encourage illegal aliens to come to Arizona and we must ensure that only those in the country legally are receiving government benefits.”
On the Second Amendment:
“We must always protect the Constitutional rights of our citizens. I am an unabashed supporter of our right to keep and bear arms …”
“There is nothing ambiguous about our rights under the U.S. Constitution to keep and bear arms. While government has an obligation to encourage the responsible exercise of this fundamental right, there is nothing in state or federal law that prohibits the ownership of guns.”
“The economic future of our state and our country in the global economy of today and tomorrow depends on a quality educated workforce. That workforce depends directly on a quality public education system. Our students must be prepared after their public education to pursue higher education, specific training or to enter the workforce with hope for advancement in the future.
“The foundation of our future is a quality public education system. It is our responsibility as citizens of Arizona and as state legislators to make this public education system as good as it can be. This includes funding and accountability.
“We have good public schools in District 26. As a legislator, I have supported, and will continue to support, our public education system. As I talk with the voters of this district, I hear that the citizens want small class sizes for their children and grandchildren.”
“The greatest indicator of someone’s future success is the quality of education they have received. As such, we have an obligation to give our children the very best education that we can.
“Unfortunately, our public school system is failing to do its job and it is failing our children. Whether because of a lack of competition or because of waste in a system that spends less than 60 percent of every dollar in the classroom, our schools are not getting the job done.
“It is not the fault of teachers, but rather politicians and their bureaucratic allies who put unions and administrators ahead of students. Unless we fix this broken system, we will not be able to compete in the world and improve our standard of living and quality of life. We need to better educate our students and give merit pay and other incentives to our better teachers.”
About Pima and Maricopa counties:
“For too long, Maricopa County has gotten more than its share of transportation and infrastructure dollars. I will fight to ensure that Southern Arizona will get its fair share of these precious dollars. We pay our fair share of the taxes and we deserve equal treatment when it comes to providing for our citizens.”
“Much has been said about how Pima County and Southern Arizona don’t get their fair share from The “State of Maricopa”. Well, yes it’s true, we do get the short end of the stick repeatedly. And it’s only going to get worse. With the continuing population growth in Phoenix, Maricopa County continues to gain more representation in the legislature. That makes the representation we have in Southern Arizona all the more important.”
About each other:
“My opponent is an extreme ideologue who pledged his unqualified support for Maricopa County leadership – even though their agenda frequently hurts the interests of Southern Arizona. His extreme partisanship harms our political process at both the state and national level. I strive to be a statesman who will be guided by Republican principles when I address the real problems facing our great state.”
- Pete Hershberger
“I watch in disbelief as my opponent ignores his liberal eight-year record and suddenly campaigns as a conservative. Outside groups and Democrats spend heavily to help him and mostly-Phoenix lobbyists provide him with the majority of his campaign funding. To top it off, he travels the district accusing me of being “extreme” and “dishonest”. It is shameless, deceitful, and the kind of campaign that turns people off to politics.”
- Al Melvin