Cheryl Cage, the Dove Mountain Democrat who lost to Republican Al Melvin by 1,966 votes in November, has formalized her plan to seek election in 2010 to the District 26 Senate seat now held by Melvin.
In a candidacy announcement last week, Cage said she runs with "a great deal of optimism, and a profound sense of urgency.
"Optimism, because of the powerful community interest in saving public education and services to our most vulnerable; urgency, because Arizona cannot thrive with the type of 'my-way-or-the-highway' approach to governing radiating from the current majority in Phoenix," she said.
"The current conservative majority, including Mr. Melvin, doesn't listen," Cage said Tuesday morning. "His whole approach is dismissive. I think we deserve a lot better than that."
"An elected official should advocate for — not dictate to — the citizens he or she represents," Cage said in her formal announcement. "The voters of LD-26 deserve a state senator that listens, respectfully, to all ideas and whose only agenda is doing what is best for Southern Arizona. We must return to the inclusive, moderate leadership provided by Lena Saradnik, Pete Hershberger and Toni Hellon."
Saradnik, a Democrat, is a former House member who resigned her position last year for health reasons. Saradnik is serving as Cage’s campaign chairwoman. Hershberger, a Republican, is a former District 26 House member who was defeated by Melvin in the 2008 Republican primary for the Senate seat. Hellon, a Republican, is a former District 26 Senate member who was defeated by Melvin in the 2006 Republican primary for the Senate seat.
Don Jorgensen, a local businessman who ran a District 26 House seat as a Democrat, is serving as Cage’s campaign manager. In March, Cage joined Jorgensen’s company, Jorgensen / Brooks Group, to provide workplace training services and management consultation.
"I am honored that such all-star community leaders are supporting me in such a visible manner," Cage said.
Cage "really stepped back" after the 2008 campaign, hoping the conservative majority in Phoenix would not be "as bad as I thought it would be." In the new year, Cage believes it is "far worse than I ever thought it could be.
"I love this state dearly, and I fear for it," she said. "I thought it was important from a community standpoint to come out and announce and let people know I am still here fighting for them."
Cage is "not minimizing" the budgetary challenges Arizona faces.
But, she says, "nobody’s all right and nobody's all wrong.
"The process of our Republic is that we have inclusive debate about what is best in order to strengthen our union, and when people have closed-door meetings, when they have a very rigid ideology, then our democracy's not working, and I think that's a very slippery slope," Cage said. "I believe in an inclusive, community problem-solving process, and when I'm elected, I'm going to be listening first, and I'm going to be an independent thinker."
"I don’t think you can balance the budget, No. 1, on the backs of our children," Cage said. "A budget to me is a moral document, it says as a community what we believe in and what we care for. To cut education as dramatically as they are, to cut services to the most vulnerable of us, to me is a travesty."
Melvin defeated Cage by 51 to 49 percent, 48,191-46,225, in the District 26 race to succeed Democratic Sen. Charlene Pesquiera.
If Melvin runs again, defeating him is "not going to be a cakewalk," Cage said.
That’s part of the reason she's decided to run as a traditionally funded candidate, rather than accept Clean Elections campaign funding, "which means I have to raise my own money. The economy is hurting everyone. I need to start early, in order to get my message out clearly."
Cage was "one of the biggest proponents and supporters of Clean Elections, but it did not work for me," she said. "A lot of the money I received came too late. Early voting is really going to be a consideration this time. Early voting was 40 percent of the vote last time. You can’t wait and get your bulk of money in the last two weeks of the campaign."
She believes early voting may constitute half the ballots cast on 2010.
"You have to plan out further out, you need to know what money's going to be there, you need to be careful with it, and run smarter," she said.