On the issues: Candidates share views during forum in Anthem
ANTHEM – Nineteen candidates running for a variety of Arizona offices answered questions and offered information on their backgrounds and views at a Sept. 14 candidate forum that was sponsored by the Anthem Community Council and the New River/Desert Hills Community Association.
Candidates at the forum included:
- Five Arizona Corporation Commission candidates, including Tom Chabin (D), Bob Burns (R), Andy Tobin (R), Boyd Dunn (R), and Bill Mundell (D).
- Mikel Weisser (D), candidate for the U.S. House, representing the 4th Congressional District.
- Karen Fann (R), candidate for Senator for Legislative District 1; Fann is running unopposed.
- Three out of the four candidates running for the two House of Representatives District 1 seats, including Peter Pierson (D), Noel Campbell (R), and Haryaksha Gregor Knauer (G).
- Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Paul Penzone (D).
- Maricopa County Attorney candidates Diego Rodriguez (D) and Bill Montgomery (R).
- Maricopa County Treasurer candidate Joe Downs (D).
- Maricopa County Board of Supervisors candidate Bill Gates (R), who is running unopposed.
- Maricopa County School Superintendent candidates Michelle Robertson (D) and Steve Watson (R).
- Desert Ridge Justice of the Peace candidate Cathy Riggs (R).
- Maricopa County Recorder candidate Adrian Fontes (D).
Each candidate made an opening statement, then participated in a Q&A session for the office they’re seeking.
Congressional District 4 candidate Mikel Weisser spoke first and said in his opening statement that the future needs to be “more culturally diverse” and “politically progressive”. Congressional District 4 encompasses the Black Canyon City area and stretches out to Tortilla Flat to the east and past Wickenburg to the west.
Arizona Corporation Commission made opening statements next. This Corporation Commission race is considered one to watch this year, as the commission will be voting on some major cases, including for APS, in coming months. ‘Dark money’ donations have been at the forefront of discussion about this race, as the FBI has probed contributions in the 2014 Corporation Commission election. APS has filed litigation against current Commissioner Bob Burns, as a response after Burns filed subpoenas to order APS to turn over campaign contribution documentation.
ACC candidate Tom Chabin recounted his school board, Board of Supervisors, and legislative experience for his candidacy, then brought up the dark money concerns.
“This is a critical race,” he said, referencing “dark money” donors, which he said have campaigned to “elect the commission they want and they got it. They got it!”
During Q&A, Chabin was asked his position on APS participating in an election that sets their rates, and he replied, “Maybe the government-created monopolies should stay out of elections of the agency that regulates them.”
ACC candidate Bob Burns is an incumbent. He noted that he’s worked for both GE and Honeywell and has owned his own business. He has legislative, Senate, and Central Arizona Project Board experience.
Andy Tobin, also an ACC incumbent, noted that he also has legislative experience and that he got into politics because he “felt the need to get down to the legislature and make some changes in things that were very important to me.”
ACC candidate Bill Mundell noted that he had served in four branches of Arizona government. He referenced dark money, too, saying that APS spent at $3 million in the last election to get two commissioners elected.
“Debates like this are important to our state and our democracy,” Mundell said.
ACC candidate Boyd Dunn was the last of the Commission candidates to speak. He cited his judicial and mayoral experience.
“I think it’s important to have the experience of a judge on the Corporation Commission,” Dunn said.
Karen Fann (R), who is running unopposed for Senator for Legislative District 1, said her focus is “economic development” and that she is “fortunate and blessed this year” to be running unopposed.
Two House of Representatives District 1 seats are being sought in this election; four candidates are running, including Peter Pierson (D), incumbent Noel Campbell (R), David Stringer (R), who was absent from the candidate forum, and Haryakshsa Gregor Knauer (G).
Pierson noted that he became involved in government through the successful 2015 Prescott Unified School District Bond-Override campaign. He works full-time in watershed restoration and holds a reserve role as a firefighter/paramedic.
Pierson is campaigning as committed to putting community issues above political ideology. He’s also campaigning against dark money in campaigns, saying that the representative primary election was “flooded with dark money.”
Green party candidate Haryakshsa Gregor Knauer cited renewable energy as a major issue, as well as budget and education issues, calling Prop 123 that was passed this year a “fraud perpetrated on the voters.”
Incumbent Noel Campbell noted that he grew up in Phoenix; he has served in the military. He noted that he has voted against dark money.
“I run clean elections. I wish our system was more transparent,” he said.
Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Paul Penzone (D) spoke next. He discussed his background experience; he served with Phoenix Police for 21 years, including in patrol, undercover, and narcotics cases, as well as in administration and running the Silent Witness program. He said law enforcement should be “efficient, effective, and principled,” putting “safety and the needs of the community first.”
During his Q&A time, Penzone was questioned on how he felt the results of the presidential election could impact the sheriff’s office on immigration issues. Penzone replied that the “job itself is complex – the ability to abide by the law should not be. Politics should not have any impact on how we do our job when it comes to policing.”
Penzone said that immigration laws would be enforced effectively, noting that bringing human traffickers and drug traffickers to justice would be a priority.
Diego Rodriguez (D), candidate for Maricopa County Attorney, shared his background experience, noting his undergraduate degree in finance and that he has been an Arizona resident since 1992. He has worked as a prosecutor in Pima County, saying he had “worked my way up from dog bite cases to first degree homicides.”
Rodriguez said he decided to run for county attorney “because we need to start looking at the future.” He referenced Arizona’s incarceration rate, one of the highest in the country, as compared to its education ranking, one of the lowest in the country, noting that some of the funding spent on incarceration could be improving education instead.
Incumbent county attorney Bill Montgomery said that Maricopa County has been chosen as a high-performing prosecution agency. He said the county has been divided up so that prosecution teams work in consistent areas so that they can work with the same people and that “tablet computers” have been provided for prosecutors.
Maricopa County Treasurer candidate Joe Downs (D) is a CPA; he said the current investments of the county tax revenue aren’t showing adequate growth. He said better investment if these funds could “generate an extra $100 million-plus per year without raising taxes.”
Running as a Democrat, Downs noted his awareness that voters may see him as representing ‘tax and spend liberals’ or ‘big government’.
“The county treasurer cannot raise or lower taxes,” he emphasized. He called this election “one of those bizarre years’, saying he’s “the private sector guy.”
“Every once in a while, it’s the conservative choice to vote for a Democrat,” he said.
Maricopa County Supervisor candidate Bill Gates (R) is running unopposed for the seat vacated by Andy Kunasek’s retirement. Gates discussed his experience for this position, including time on the Phoenix City Council and said he is “most proud of the fact that I led the efficiency effort at the city of Phoenix during my time on the council.”
Both candidates for Maricopa County School Superintendent attended the forum.
Michelle Robertson (D) is a current Cartwright School District teacher. She said the duties of the office need to be a non-partisan effort, calling it “an issue that every one of us have to be invested in.”
Robertson noted that state economics are connected to education, saying that improving Arizona schools will help bring new businesses to the state and keep families living here.
Steve Watson (R) is also a teacher; he teaches at Boulder Creek High School.
“You guys have some terrific school opportunities here,” he said at the forum. He noted that he is for school choice and that he wants to make sure that children have the best opportunities for schools.
Desert Ridge Justice of the Peace candidate Cathy Riggs (R) said she is a former law enforcement officer and has been running on a platform of ‘Raise the Bar.’
Maricopa County Recorder candidate Adrian Fontes (D) cited his past experience, noting he is a member of the Marine Corps. He referenced the Presidential Preference Election last March, noting the difficulties encountered by voters during that election, as well as other election issues, such as unsecured ballots and identity theft concerns.
Fontes stated that declared his candidacy right after the PPE “fiasco” and that he plans to make the recorder’s office party-neutral.
“I don’t think party preferences should have anything to do with our elections,” he emphasized.