Three Democrats are vying for two House of Representative seats in Arizona’s Legislative District 11 in the upcoming Aug. 28 primary, with the two Democrats who come out ahead set to face the winners of a GOP primary.
District 11, which includes Oro Valley and Marana as well as Pinal County communities and the town of Maricopa, is a tough slog for Democrats because they are outnumbered by Republicans. Roughly 39 percent of LD11 voters are Republicans, while 27 percent are Democrats and 34 percent don’t belong to either party.
Despite the long odds, Democrat Hollace Lyon has launched a vigorous campaign, raising more than $53,000 as of June 30, the last filing period.
Lyon comes from a military family and spent 26 years in the US Air Force. She has experience in leadership roles, as a teacher, a member of the Air Force Planning and Budget Committee and a programs manager with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Lyon and her wife, Linda, moved to Arizona in 2006 to care for Lyon’s mother. Linda is Lyon’s campaign manager, a retired Air force colonel, and the president of Arizona School Boards Association. After their move, they became increasingly frustrated with Arizona’s budget, inspiring them to get more involved in Arizona politics.
“I’ve voted three times to raise my own taxes, and each time I do it, the money doesn’t seem to go to education or to the roads,” Lyon says.
Lyon’s involvement in Arizona politics began in 2010, when she became chairperson of the Democratic SaddleBrook Club. In 2011, she managed a campaign for state Senate candidate Jo Holt in LD11.
Lyon first ran for the LD 11 House seat in 2014. She had no primary opponents, but lost the general to the current Representatives, Republicans Mark Finchem and Vince Leach.
She compares tax loopholes in Arizona to holes in the bottom of a bucket and argues that Arizona has been negligent of ensuring that existing tax breaks still benefit Arizonans. She argues that most of Arizona’s economic problems are a result of an improperly balanced budget, such as Arizona’s lack of funding for education, highways and infrastructure maintenance.
Lyon would like to increase the budget of the Department of Revenue so that more auditors can be hired to ensure that corporations are paying their fair share of taxes.
After Gov. Doug Ducey took office, the Arizona Legislature cut the Department of Revenue budget by $7 million and fired 40 percent of its auditors and collectors, who ensure people and corporations pay what they owe in taxes. According to Elliott Hibs, the former director of the Arizona Department of Revenue, Arizona could be losing as much as $1.5 billion annually in unpaid tax revenue. The 2018 budget included hiring back 25 auditors.
Lyon argues that Arizona’s budget problems are more complicated than something that can be solved by hiring more auditors. She believes that an additional bipartisan panel or commission should be created to review existing tax breaks, as some are up to 25 years old, and phase out those that are outdated and not benefiting the economy.
She supports a sunset clause on tax breaks, meaning that they would eventually expire unless they were extended by lawmakers.
“If it turns out that it’s an important [tax break] to keep, and incentivizes corporate competition, then we can renew it when we get there,” she says.
Lyon wants to increase state funding for education but has reserves about the Invest in Ed Initiative. She’s worried about how reliable a source it would be and that tax increases on wealthy Arizonans could push those individuals to move out of the state. She falls back on her argument for balancing the budget and increasing state auditors to generate additional revenue.
Lyon isn’t opposed to the current empowerment scholarship program, which gives private-school scholarships to children with disabilities and those who attend failing schools, but she doesn’t agree with any expansion of it, adding it’s been increased too much already.
Lyon also supports universal background checks on gun sales. She also argues that increased access to resources for the mentally ill is a crucial factor in preventing mass shootings in Arizona.
“I’m a gun owner, and I respect Second Amendment rights,” she says, “But I do think that there’s more that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of bad people.”
Marcela Quiroz moved to Arizona from California in 2006 and has become increasingly disheartened by Arizona government, particularly in regards to education funding. She is a teacher in the City of Maricopa, in Pinal County, and experiences daily the effects of schools being underfunded, which inspired her to run for a District 11 House seat.
“The funding issue with education in Arizona goes beyond teacher’s salaries,” Quiroz says. “We do lose a lot of teachers because eventually it becomes a hardship to pay their living expenses, but we also have textbooks that are 11 years old.”
She argues that more funding needs to be allocated for school support staff, like janitors and bus drivers, who play crucial roles in public schools.
Although Quiroz wants to see an increase in funding for education, she is not quick to support any type of additional state tax. She reluctantly supports the reauthorization of a .6 cent sales tax for education but believes it was a misguided effort and is only a Band-Aid for the overarching problem of Arizona’s budget.
To generate more education funding, Quiroz believes that Arizona needs to hire more state auditors.
“Each auditor can bring in $1 million to $2 million per year,” Quiroz says. “We need to reallocate and reinvest Arizona’s revenue…and make sure that corporations are paying their fair shares.”
But Quiroz’s support for education does not stop with just public schools. She believes that the state ought to allocate more funding to community colleges and universities so that Arizona can be more competitive on a national level.
She does not support an increase in the Arizona’s current Empowerment Scholarship program, which voters will decide in November, but doesn’t oppose the program as is.
Quiroz is also supportive of state subsidies for daycare and preschool, saying that the state needs to ensure families are able to participate in the workforce without the tremendous burden of the current cost of childcare holding them back.
Quiroz supports universal background checks. She also believes Arizonans should be required to register their firearms just as they are required to register their motor vehicles.
Unlike Lyon, who is a traditional candidate, Quiroz is a Clean Elections candidate. Clean Elections legislative candidates need to receive 200 $5 donations from registered voters in their district to receive $16,995 from the state for their primary campaign. As of the last campaign financial filing on June 30, Quiroz still needed 40 $5 contributions to receive the Clean Elections funds.
Having served in the U.S. Navy, Barry McCain says his military values are what motivated him to become involved in Arizona government.
He says in order to prevent school shootings Arizona culture needs to change. Although he questions why an 18-year-old can purchase an AR-14 when he wasn’t able to use one in Vietnam, McCain says the state already has enough gun control.
“There’s nothing wrong with [guns],” he says. “There’s something wrong with us not talking with each other. When we stop talking, we start shooting. We can’t shoot and talk at the same time.”
He said he doesn’t actively advocate for universal background checks but that he wouldn’t mind having them.
McCain says that what he does advocate for is communication, exercise and education. He argues that increased physical education for children in grade school would help to decrease the likelihood of school shootings.
“If we had legislation so that kids exercised more, then there’d be less stress,” he says. “They’d be better fit, and there’d be less shootings. People shoot because they’re frustrated.”
McCain said Ducey’s budget increase for education following the #RedforEd movement doesn’t do enough to fund schools’ infrastructure and transportation costs. He also thinks it’s unlikely the governor’s plan to increase teacher wages 20 percent by 2020 will ever happen.
McCain says education funding would be more adequate if the state simply stopped misappropriating funds. He says the state misappropriating funds is one of his biggest concerns, including the state sweeping Highway Revenue User Funds, which are supposed to be used for roads.
Access to affordable medical care is also important to McCain, especially for fellow veterans.
“I have to be there for my vets,” he says. “I’m a disabled veteran. They paid their service to their country, and now they should be compensated for that.”
McCain has previously been a write-in candidate for the state House and Senate, but this is his first time officially on the ballot. He says that he usually spends three days a week at the capitol ensuring that he’s up to date with current legislation. He says another goal is to encourage Democrats and Republicans to start communicating.
McCain is a Clean Elections candidate but hadn’t filed any qualifying donations. He hasn’t received any contributions but gave just over $300 to his campaign.