Bob Westerman, a Republican, is running for the Arizona State Senate from District 27, likely facing a long-term Democratic incumbent in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-1.
“I’m the only Republican crazy enough to run in 27,” Westerman jokes.
His campaign is not a joke. Westerman, a longtime Raytheon employee and a senior manager, believes he offers a favorable alternative to Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, who’s been in either the House or Senate for eight years.
“There’s a reason why there hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunity in District 27,” Westerman said. “There hasn’t been a Republican (elected) in District 27 for 30 years. People have not been given a choice, including the Democrats.”
Education “certainly is my focus,” Westerman said.
At age 58, he “was really looking at becoming a teacher,” and in fact earned credits toward teaching certification.
“I began to realize there are a lot of problems in the education system,” Westerman said. “I thought it may be better to look at education at the state level, rather than as a teacher.”
Arizona is ranked 49th in per-pupil spending on public schools, and Arizona’s financial commitment to education concerns Westerman. But that’s not all.
“We are near the bottom also, in things like dropout rates, and math and science scores,”
Westerman said. Native Americans and Hispanics, constituencies within District 27, are 1-2 in high school dropout rates in Arizona.
“We need to change the education system, attract more and better teachers, and build a stronger foundation for our youth,” Westerman said. “Our future depends on it.”
It’s more than about money, he believes. “It’s deeper, it’s how policy is written. More money into the schools is not going to be your solution.”
Westerman supports local school control, and believes every district should be able to “raise and spend their own revenue.” In general, the candidate favors a “regimented review of budgets. My approach may be a little different, coming from an industry position. Look at these budgets and challenge this stuff.”
Charter schools are “a good idea, but we’ve got to be careful.
We can’t leave the public school system completely out of the picture.
“I’m a Republican, pushing for a public school system,” Westerman said. “I just don’t like what the alternative looks like. It hasn’t been given a chance to run the way it should. It can be done, and (government) should make it happen.”
Garcia “really, truly supports education,” Westerman said. But, he adds, “in his 10 years, you can’t say we changed anything in the schools. In four years as a senator, six years as a representative, what has he done to improve the situation of education in Arizona? I’m trying to find ways to improve public education.”
He’s going door to door, collecting his $5 at a time for clean elections funding. “We are getting good responses. Easily, 95 percent have listened to what I have to say.
“I can appeal to all the voters in 27. My platform translates very well” to native people in the district. “And I want to reach across the Hispanic demographics. There is a translation of my initial statement in Spanish” available on the Westerman web site. “That’s unusual for a Republican. It is a recognition of the Hispanic constituency.”
“I want to be the new voice for District 27.”
Challenger wants ‘secure’ borders
Bob Westerman, candidate for the Arizona Senate in District 27, believes there is “a big distinction” between himself and Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia on issues surrounding immigration.
Westerman wants to “secure the borders.
“We have an uncontrolled population coming into Arizona,” the Republican said. “Then, a guest worker program is called for. But securing the borders is important.”
Illegal immigration “is essentially unplanned growth that Arizona cannot continue to absorb without further straining our ability to meet the basic needs and services of our citizens,” Westerman said.
He calls for federal reimbursement of state and local expenditures related to illegal immigration, including clean-up; state support for equipment and training of local law enforcement in dealing with illegal entrants; support for the Arizona National Guard at the border; and a migrant worker program to meet Arizona’s employment needs.
Garcia, born in Mexico to an American citizen, “doesn’t understand the impacts” of less secure border enforcement, Westerman believes. “His voting record clearly shows, he’s voted against every immigration bill that’s come out of Phoenix. He needs to address the problem, and it’s not easy to do.”