Three Republican Party candidates for two House District 26 nominations made their pitches at a recent Clean Elections Commission debate.

On the Sept. 2 primary election ballot, Trent Humphries, Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull are running for two positions. The winners face Democratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright and Pete Jorgensen on the November ballot.

 “What are we going to do to change Southern Arizona?” Humphries asked the Nanini Library audience. “Our window of opportunity to make change is closing fast.”

Humphries believes the region is “becoming an afterthought in Arizona politics. We pay more taxes, and get less funding. We can do better. We’ve steadily been marginalized on the state level. We can do something about that. We can restore those expectations we once had.

“I will keep in touch with all my constituents,” Humphries said. “I will be a legislator you can be proud of.”

“We have some repair work we have to do in the Republican Party,” Williams said. “No wonder people have run from our party. We need to be the party that protects people from large government. Over and over again, I keep hearing about how our party has gone astray. We need to balance our budget, and we need to do it in a fiscally responsible manner. And we need to enforce quality immigration laws.”

In her 16 years living in Arizona, “I have noticed we’ve had real problems. Zerull said. “We need to make changes. I feel I can do that. Our problems are solvable. We need to keep taxes small, curb government spending. Smaller government, tax relief, quality education, border security, support small business, Second Amendment, private property rights and personal responsibility. Let’s hold true to our fiscal conservative issues.”

Among the candidates’ responses at the debate:

The one thing they’d want to accomplish in office, and how they’d make it happen:

“One thing I would want … is that we have quality education for all our children in Arizona,” Williams said. It’d be his goal that Arizona become a magnet for teachers, with above-average pay and a respectful environment for educators.

“I’d want to be a friend of the taxpayer, be a taxpayer advocate,” Zerull said. “Keep taxes low, and at the same time reduce government spending. We really need to get a handle on government spending.”

“If I can’t be transformative, I’d be sorely disappointed,” Humphries said. “Health care in southern Arizona is in a crisis. I want to make sure health care is available, affordable, and it’s quality health care. We’re hanging by a thread, and that needs to be changed.”

What they’d do to curb Arizona’s school dropout rate, and improve student achievement:

“Our students aren’t learning at an earlier (K-3) level,” Zerull said. “We really need an English immersion program” for Spanish-speaking students, and the state must make “sure these students are keeping up with their classes.”

“We need to be measuring the right metrics,” said Humphries, who is “not a big fan” of the AIMS test. A different testing plan would “track every six months where students are at. Let’s reward teachers who are bringing those students over the hump.” And he wants more opportunities for students who may not be college-bound.

“Early education is the main emphasis and focus,” Williams said. “The first two to four years is where we need to capture our children.” Smaller class sizes and quality teachers “who spark the imaginations of our children” are vital, he said.

On a baseball vote:

“We tend to want … to tax ourselves, rather than focus on quality economic development in Arizona,” Williams said.

“I also don’t believe we should be spending taxpayer money for baseball,” Zerull said. “I don’t think we need to spend more money and build additional facilities to possibly attract a team.”

 “I have no problem putting a tax on the ballot,” Humphries said. “Voters should decide. It’s a big issue in Southern Arizona. Personally, I would probably vote against it. I think that discussion needs to be had.”

On a November ballot question regarding regulation of the payday loan industry:

Zerull is opposed to payday loans. “It really preys on people’s immediacy in getting money, and it hurts them in the long run,” she said.

“In general, I don’t like the statewide initiative process,” Humphries said. “That’s why we have legislators, to make those laws on statewide issues.”

“We should handle these things through our state legislature,” Williams said. “There should be some type of reform on these payday loans so that it’s not predatory.” He would back legislation to limit payday lender interest and fees.

On funding for education:

“When we were sold the lottery, the money was to go to education,” Humphries said. He’s disappointed with the current allocation of that revenue. “Now a majority of the funds don’t go to education. I’d like to see us roll back.”

“Funding for education should be more universally and equally paid by all citizens,” Williams said. “If we had better economic development, a long-term game plan, we’d have a larger base of taxes to draw from.”

“Our state treasurer has done a great job investing dollars” that create interest to be “funneled directly into the classroom,” Zerull said.

On health care costs:

“The United States has the best health care in the world,” Williams said. “The major issue is access to health coverage. I don’t know I’d look to government to reduce the cost. It would be better, in many ways, to get government out of health care.”

“One of the reasons health care is so expensive is high malpractice insurance,” Zerull said. “It causes the price of health care to go up significantly. We definitely need tort reform, a cap on punitive damages. We need to make it a lot easier for doctors to practice, to come to this state.”

“Part of the problem is we only look at the cost,” Humphries said. “Quality is important, far more important. We need more doctors, better doctors, a greater number of specialists. Part of it is taking away frivolous lawsuits, especially in the emergency room.” He said emergency room doctors, working in extreme conditions with patients they do not know, face a burden of proof for malpractice just as high as other doctors.

“That’s a shame,” Humphries said. “We need to protect our doctors.”

“Your family care, I guarantee, is not as good as it was 30 years ago,” Humphries said. “I want to take us back to the days of Dr. Welby.”

On property taxes:

“I think property tax in this state is too high,” Zerull said. “We need reform in that area, too. I am a firm advocate of the Arizona Tax Revolt. We need to decrease property taxes, and keep them from going up each year severely.”

“This year’s budget solution is a joke,” Humphries said.“This is a spending problem the Legislature and the governor created.”

“Property taxes are too high,” Williams said. “The best way to fund education is through economic prosperity. A better environment for small business is the key. We are re-taxing ourselves over and over. We need property tax reform that’s more comprehensive.”

On legislation requiring hands-free cell phone use by motorists:

“Should we follow California and require hands-free cell phones when driving?” asked Humphries, repeating the question. “I’m reluctant to follow California in anything.

“Once we get health care and the budget crisis solved, we can move on to that. We have bigger fish to fry.”

“I don’t support that legislation,” Williams said. “Government’s too intrusive. We have too many laws, we keep trying to push too many laws. Let’s get back to being less intrusive as a party. Government needs to play a smaller role in our lives.”

“People have to take personal responsibility in their lives,” Zerull said. “To legislate that, I think, is ridiculous. People can decide for themselves.”

On a constitutional amendment defining marriage:

“I truly believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” Williams said. “I would do whatever I need to to protect that.”

“It’s a shame this year the Legislature wasn’t able to come to a decision on this,” Zerull said. “It’s imperative we protect the institution of marriage as being between a man and a woman. That’s the best way to raise children.”

“I’m not a big fan of ballot initiatives,” Humphries said. “We have to get it in the Constitution so it can’t be overturned by judges. Marriage can be redefined again and again and again until it has no meaning.”

On Southern Arizona’s standing in the Legislature:

Southern Arizona needs “more representation” in the Legislature, Zerull said. “Pima County has unique and different situations. We need to make sure issues that confront us are dealt with.”

When Humphries visited the Legislature, “there were big donkeys and big elephants on the desks. I would have a monument to Southern Arizona on my desk. I would say ‘these are our issues in southern Arizona, what can we do, together, to take care of them?’ We need a southern Arizona coalition of representatives,” from both parties. “We need to band together and vote as a block on those issues. I’d be happy to lead in that regard.”

“We’re trying to get our Republican message back,” Williams said. “We need to act like Republicans again. We need to be fiscally responsible. It’s paramount that all of us, rural counties, southern Arizona, have to band together and work together. We can get what we need, for highways, medical centers, the U of A. It’s essential we work with Democrats and have a game plan.”

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