Cheryl Cage, the Democrat seeking election to the Arizona Senate in District 26, believes the state needs “a retooling and rethinking of our entire economic base.”

The candidate calls for a focus on solar energy and high technology as ways to diversify the state’s economic and tax bases.

Arizona should “bring in those businesses doing the kind of work that is sustainable,” she said. “The whole world is going to need this technology.

“I want to, No. 1, have Southern Arizona be the leader in developing solar” energy, Cage said.  “The U of A can make a huge dent in that,” through partnerships with the private sector that can yield new industry and revenue streams.

“In five years,” Arizona can make the use of solar energy “very affordable. The problem is the delivery system is not there yet. We can solve that problem,” through tax credits for solar investment.

The Dove Mountain businesswoman and Republican nominee Al Melvin are running for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Charlene Pesquiera.

It is her first bid for office. Cage ran Lena Saradnik’s campaign in 2006, then was going to run the House District 26 campaign for Don Jorgensen before Pesquiera decided not to run.

“It was obvious to me it was my turn to step up to the plate and run for the state senate,” Cage said. “There should always be competition in political races. I could not let this race go without a candidate.”

Cage sees a polarized community and Legislature.

“Centralists are coming out, awakening from the slumber. We have to have some truly dramatic shifts in our thinking.”

The current Legislature wants to “talk about wedge issues, gay marriage, guns in schools.” Meanwhile, “we have some pressing problems. Our priorities are misplaced. We must get back to issues.”

She believes Melvin is “way too extreme for this district.

“He has very rigid ideas about issues. He doesn’t so much debate as he does pontificate on what is the problem, as he sees it. He’s not the kind of representative I think the people in this district want. Rigidity is not a trait I think serves an elected official well.”

She thinks Melvin “will vote with the leadership,” and aligns exactly with the Republican platform.

“A lot of times, as a senator, you will be asked to do what’s best for your district,” Cage said. “I will always make my decision based on what’s best for Southern Arizona and this district. Votes with leadership do not serve Southern Arizona well at all.”

Arizona’s budget struggle is “not going to get fixed in a six-month session,” Cage said. “We need a good, visionary plan” to move away from sales tax dependence. “There is a need to be smarter with the money that we have.

 “I’m a fiscal conservative. People get lazy when there’s a lot of money around.”

When it’s time to cut spending, Cage wants to be “honest and inclusive” with department managers. “You need to tell us where those cuts need to come from. They’re going to find some fat. A business can be run effectively without spending a ton of money.”

Education and the economy dominate Cage’s thoughts.

In schools, “no matter what you look at, we’re not doing well,” she said. “People are very concerned about that.”

Arizona is “far too dependent on sales tax and growth for our revenues,” Cage believes.

She wants Arizona to examine the relationship between growth and the availability of water.

“We have to start thinking like we live in the desert,” Cage said. “We really don’t do that now. We can be a leader in responsible growth in the desert environment.”

Cage operates an aviation industry consulting business. She began the work in Denver before moving to Dove Mountain in 1999

Cage considers herself “a very good fit for this community,” as a businesswoman who loves the desert. “I felt I could connect. I’m very much an optimist, and I’m also an entrepreneur. These two traits will serve this community very well.

 “I do believe, as an elected official, I would have a platform as a regular citizen I would not have,” Cage said. “I would make it a priority to be out in the community and talk about these issues.

“On almost every subject, there is a disconnect in Mr. Melvin’s thinking that worries me,” Cage said. “Once the voters get to know where we really stand, it’s going to be very clear I am the better candidate for this district.”

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