Sat, Dec. 14

State District 1 has 8 candidates in Tuesday primary

Arizona’s District 1 has eight state legislative candidates -- four vying for a pair of state House of Representatives seats and four others squaring off for a single state Senate post this fall.

Not all will need to worry about Tuesday’s primary, however, because a couple of candidates are running without opposition from within their own party.

Ken Bennett, a Prescott businessman and Republican incumbent in the state Senate, is facing no opponents from his party. He was first elected to the state Senate in 1998.

There are three Democrats wishing to face Bennett at the polls in the Nov. 5 general election. Democratic primary voters will choose between Dawn Knight, John O’Donnell, and Robert Donahue.

Knight is the only woman in the four-candidate race for the Senate seat. She has a master's degree in education and worked as a teacher in Arizona schools for some 21 years. She also has served as statewide representative for the Parent-Teacher Association, and was a Prescott Education Association president.

O'Donnell, a Democrat from Cottonwood, is a registered financial advisor and former educator. He has a bachelor's degree in education, as well as a master's in English. Voters also may remember him as a former Clarkdale council member.

Rounding out the list of Democrats is Donahue. This Cornville resident is a behind-the-scenes player in local politics, and advocates equal educational opportunity for all citizens.

District 1 encompasses the entire Verde Valley, plus portions of Prescott and some parts of Flagstaff. The district is roughly half comprised of Republican voters, the rest being split evenly between Democrats and those registered as some other party affiliation.

Four candidates have been campaigning for two House seats in District 1.

Henry Camarot is the only Democrat in that race, so he faces no competition in the Tuesday primary. He is a retiree who already represents the district. He has held office since January 2001 and is based in the Prescott area.

Tom O'Halleran, a Republican who currently represents District 2 out of the Village of Oak Creek, is facing two competitors from within his party. He promotes an enhanced community-college system throughout the state as a tenet of a better educational system.

O’Halleran was one of many representatives to sign a letter opposing education budget cuts this spring. He received the Freshman Legislator of the Year 2002 award from the Arizona School Boards Association.

Challenger Lucy Mason is a former Prescott city councilwoman. She lost the 2000 primary by a very slim margin. Two of her main issues are water and education.

Mason's concept is that the education system needs to be treated like a business, requiring capital investment along with restructuring, reorganization and reform.

How the state manages its faltering educational system is near the top of her list of issues. She promotes the idea that the root of the problem is over-regulation of public schools.

Mason’s big-name backers in the past have included Gov. Jane Dee Hull and Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis.

Fellow candidate Thom Strawn is a relative outsider to the state race. He stepped down from his political television show in late April to seek office. Voters may recognize him as the former host of the KUSK television program "On Target."

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