First-term District 26 Sen. Al Melvin has filed the paperwork to seek re-election in 2010.

The SaddleBrooke Republican faces the repeat challenge of Dove Mountain Democrat Cheryl Cage, who announced her plans to run for the seat last week.

"We have got plenty of work to do here at the Capitol and I'll make sure that it gets done, but it makes little sense to allow local Democrats any sort of head start in the 2010 campaign," Melvin said.

Melvin defeated Cage by 51 to 49 percent, 48,191-46,225, in the 2008 District 26 race to succeed Democratic Sen. Charlene Pesquiera.

Melvin is running on a pro-business platform, with reduced state spending and a reluctance to increase taxes. He said Arizona Democrats, "including Cage, ran in 2008 on a platform of higher taxes and more spending, and they did so in the face of dire economic times.

"Today, those times are even more difficult than we anticipated, yet the Democrats in the State Legislature have proposed a budget that increases spending in the face of declining revenues, then proposes making up the difference with dramatically higher taxes on Arizona’s working families and retirees," Melvin said.

Melvin said he'll give Cage and the Democrats "points for honesty. They campaigned on higher taxes, lost here in Arizona, have proposed higher taxes in the Legislature, and are already back on the campaign trail campaigning for higher taxes again," Melvin said. "But they are simply wrong on this issue, and one needs only to read each day's e-mails or attend any of the town hall meetings I have had to hear from folks who are at their breaking point. … Working families who are already facing uncertain and difficult economic times cannot add another $300, $500, or $800 in taxes to their budget without taking off essential items."

Cage believes the Republican-dominated Legislature is making harsh cuts in K-12 funding.

"I don’t think you can balance the budget, No.1, on the backs of our children," Cage said last week. "A budget to me is a moral document, it says as a community what we believe in and what we care for. To cut education as dramatically as they are, to cut services to the most vulnerable of us, to me is a travesty."

Melvin said Cage and her "her liberal allies will demagogue on issues like education." He counters that 2009 spending cuts for K-12 education amounted to 1.3 percent. "No one likes to reduce education funding, but with our state facing massive shortfalls and education spending representing more than 40 percent of our total spending, it is obvious that we went to great lengths to spare education funding from the brunt of cuts," Melvin said.

Last week, Cage said she plans to run as a traditionally funded candidate, rather than as a Clean Elections hopeful. Both Cage and Melvin ran as Clean Elections candidates last year. Melvin said he would fund his 2010 campaign through traditional means. Arizona's Clean Elections system is under legal review, and "there may be changes to Clean Elections funding," Melvin said Friday. "In the worst case, it would be almost impossible to conduct a viable campaign."

"I've been at this four years," Melvin said. "I have enough name recognition, I'm able to raise enough money to conduct a winning campaign."

Melvin said Cage "promises to work harder, raise and spend more money, and campaign longer this time. Those of us who care about the long-term health of Southern Arizona are therefore called to match that effort and carry our message to every home in the district. Properly done, these debates are healthy for the process and the product. I look forward to it and I look forward to knocking on each and every one of your doors very soon."

He wants a campaign that is "thoughtful and focused on the issues."

"But it is easy to be skeptical when Ms. Cage follows me from town hall to town hall, watching as I speak with hundreds of LD26 residents, then kicks off her campaign by claiming that I don’t listen to people," Melvin said. "The 2008 campaign was filled with similar falsehoods and the voters saw through them."

Melvin said he is "honored to serve this great district," and remains "humbled by my election in 2008."

"I do not forget that I campaigned on the importance of government living within its means, and easing the burdens on Southern Arizonans," he said. "I have kept my word and will continue to do so."

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