The Republican candidates running for the state’s top seat had few differences on major issues. The GOP candidates attended a forum at the Desert View Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke May 14.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, State Treasurer Doug Ducey, Christine Jones, Sen. Al Melvin, District 11 – Oro Valley, Frank Riggs and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith attended the forum. The auditorium was primarily filled with SaddleBrooke residents as the candidates gave opening statements, answered questions on issues and finished out the forum with their closing statements.
When asked what the candidates would want to change if they were elected, the responses primarily centered around putting limits on Medicaid, getting rid of Common Core Standards, increasing jobs, and Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. Ducey, who currently leads the race according to a Magellan Strategies poll, pointed out that Arizona has already made great strides in improving the state economy.
“There wasn’t a dollar in our savings account and we had the largest structural deficit in any state in the nation in terms of our budget,” Ducey said when referring to the 2009 recession. “Today we have over $2 billion in cash in that checking account. We have $454 million in a reserve account earning interest.”
Other candidates pointed out the crucial role that the state of the economy and high standards of education play in regards to increasing jobs. One of the candidates in particular, Smith, said if he were elected as governor of Arizona he would make jobs his top priority.
Regarding Common Core, all candidates were in agreement on not wanting the federal government to be so heavily involved. First-time runner, Jones, emphasized how important it is to have high standards and state involvement.
“Instead of taking time to teach and impart knowledge, they (federal government) are spending a ridiculous amount of time strapped to the requirements. That is not the way to educate kids in this state. Not to mention the fact that some bureaucrat sitting 2,500 miles in Washington D.C. should not be making standards for kids in Arizona,” said Jones.
Echoing Jones’ thoughts were Bennett and Ducey who highlighted how crucial it is to make sure high standards are being implemented in the schools, which in turn will help students be more prepared and productive in the state workforce.
Medicaid was also among the items discussed. Sen. Melvin, who’s served since 2008, mentioned his support of a lawsuit that 36 other conservative republicans in the house and senate have brought against Medicaid. Sen. Melvin along with Bennett, Ducey and Riggs all believe that Medicaid needs to be repealed. Mayor Smith and Jones, on the other hand, do not support the expansion of Medicaid, but focused more of their attention on the issue of money and the problem that Arizona could encounter if Medicaid was repealed.
“I would totally be for repealing and rolling back Medicaid restoration if there was an alternative that didn’t completely clean out our reserve and our funds in the coming years,” said Smith. “Right now the state of Arizona is not covering the number of people that are mandated by law.”
The last issue that was brought up was SB 1070, which all of the candidates supported - most of which touched on the importance of border security, enforcing Arizona state laws and allowing local officers to do their jobs.
Early ballot voting begins July 31. The Primary Election is Aug. 26.
The winner of the Primary will move to face the Democratic opponent in the Nov. 4 General Election.