LD1 candidates respond to questions on the issues

LD1 House candidates (from left) Selina Bliss, Republican; Judy Burges, Republican; Cathy Ransom, Democrat; Neil Sinclair, Democrat.

LD1 House candidates (from left) Selina Bliss, Republican; Judy Burges, Republican; Cathy Ransom, Democrat; Neil Sinclair, Democrat.

The Verde Independent and its readers presented a series of questions to candidates running for the new Legislative District 1 House and Senate seats this year. Responses to introductory questions were published June 29. Early voting begins July 6.

The Verde Independent and its readers presented a series of questions to candidates running for the new Legislative District 1 House and Senate seats this year. Responses to introductory questions were published June 29. Early voting begins July 6.

Information about new Legislative District 1

Total Population: 237,896

Total Voting Age Population: 200,724

Citizen Voting Age Population: 186,039 (Hispanic: 10%; Non-Hispanic Native American: 2.01%)

Competitive Data Analysis

Vote Spread: 27.78%

Leaning: Republican

Competitiveness: Outside of Competitive Range

(A "Highly Competitive" district is seen as having a 4% spread or less. A "Competitive" district is seen as having a range between 4% and 7%.)

Votes for Dem. Candidates: 36.11%

Votes for Rep. Candidates: 63.89%

The new LD1 is primarily comprised of Yavapai County.

Participating in this round of questions were House candidates Selina Bliss (R), Rep. Judy Burges (R), Cathy Ransom (D) and Neil Sinclair (D), and Senate candidate Mike Fogel (D).

Other House candidates are Rep. Quang Nguyen (R), and Ryan Cadigan (R). Other Senate candidates are Republicans Ken Bennett and Steve Zipperman.

LD1 HOUSE

1. How can water laws in Arizona be improved? What problem-solving practices should the Legislature employ to address short-term and long-term water-supply issues?

Bliss: When it comes to growth and water management, water laws can be improved by policies that support a sustainable future. Short-term practices include preservation and conservation while looking for new water sources. Short-term conservation includes stormwater diversion and storage, recharging the water tables, low-water landscaping, the installation of water conserving devices in our homes, and treated effluent known as “toilet to tap”. Long-term practices include expanding desalination plants and piping water in from out of state. As a member of the Citizen’s Water Advisory Group (CWAG), I support the Friends of the Verde River and their “River Friendly Living Program” which encourages households through certification to take efforts to protect the Verde River. This is an excellent example of a non-governmental approach instead of using government regulation.

Burges: Arizona’s water laws are amongst the most complicated laws in state statute. This session a special committee was formed to look at the current water laws and how those statutes should be changed to provide assistance during our drought. There was HB2873 passed on the last day of session. This was a comprehensive bill drafted through a special committee and contained language to re-establishes the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority as a separate state agency with a governing board and several committees to assist in reviewing applications for fund monies. Authorizes WIFA to engage in public-private partnerships for water supply development projects. Establishes the Long-Term Water Augmentation Fund to primarily fund projects to import water into Arizona.

Ransom: Regional planning, by stakeholder committees involving broad community representation, need to develop regional water policy and be empowered by the state legislature to fund solutions. Our water experts have already provided us with critical data. We need to let our stakeholders use this information to guide us, working together to determine a list of priorities and mechanisms for keeping water, and life, flowing in Yavapai County and all of Arizona. Conservation measure proposals and watershed health bills like Senate Bill 1480 should receive strong consideration and be prioritized.

Sinclair: Water laws can be improved by updating our policy from 1980 and promoting water conservation measures and encouraging water neutral development. Examples given: Xeriscape using drought tolerant plants; Capture stormwater through drainage infrastructure; recharge aquifers using A+ quality effluent. These three methods should be incentivized into any new development.

2. In per-pupil spending and in educational outcomes, Arizona annually seems to come up short compared to most other states. What outcomes would prove to you that the state educational system is setting up students to succeed?

Burges: Our education system inputs do not generally equal outputs. Arizona has approximately 1.2 million students; although, that number is steadily declining as parents withdraw their children from public education. Common Core was a detriment to our education system with fragments of that disastrous philosophy still taught. Critical Race Theory and other programs to refocus student’s attention from the historical basics in education – reading, writing, math and critical problem solving, have severely weakened two generations of students, and we see those results with the protestors and political activists across our TV screens, as well as failure to find reliable employees.

Ransom: Outcomes to measure the success of our state education system should be grounded in per-pupil funding, teacher salaries, and class sizes. We can’t keep expecting overworked and underpaid teachers to do more with less and think that will make us competitive and successful. Retaining qualified teachers will require competitive salaries.

Sinclair: The key parameters for Arizona’s education are:

Per pupil funding;

Teacher retention;

Class size;

When these three factors are sufficiently established, then education in Arizona will rise in national academic performance ranking and be competitive with the rest of the U.S.

Bliss: To be clear, per-pupil spending doesn’t necessarily improve educational outcomes. Measurable outcomes that demonstrate the state educational system is setting up our students to succeed include retention and graduation rates in our K-12 system. Post-graduation outcomes include employment rates, income level, and quality of life indicators. Students don’t need to go into debt to succeed through the use of career pathways which include short courses, certificates, and associate degree programs that get people to work. While employed, the state educational system can set up students to succeed by partnering with businesses to encourage employees to seek advanced education that applies to their work, thereby recruiting and retaining their employees.

3. On what one issue do you believe you are most qualified to lead discussions in the Legislature?

Ransom: I’m running to shift the tone and focus of the legislature. In my experience as a legal advocate for victims of domestic violence, I found that listening was critical to leading discussions. This skill is currently lacking in the leadership at the state legislature. It’s apparent to me that our economy is not working for moms and if our economy worked for moms, it would work for everyone. I would advocate for good jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing for families and seniors, and a great education for our children.

Sinclair: Energy and transportation. I have designed solar electric systems and overseen the manufacture of electric vehicles. I am the board chairman for CyberTran International which is working to make our transportation grid more efficient and carbon neutral through solar powered mass transit. Improving our transportation systems can reduce our reliance on gas, stimulate our economy and help us stabilize the climate through carbon reduction.

Bliss: As a nurse for 38 years, of which I taught nursing at Yavapai College for the past 26 years, I am well-versed in healthcare policy. Of the 90 legislators at the Capitol, only two are healthcare providers. As a Republican, I will be a conservative voice for healthcare and hope to serve as Vice-Chair for the Health & Human Services Committee in my first year as a legislator.

Burges: My background covers several areas.

4. The Arizona State Retirement System went from being overfunded 20 years ago to being billions in debt today. What should the Legislature do?

Sinclair: Over the last 20 years Arizona’s fiscal policies have been driven by a cut and deplete mentality and shell game tactics at the state legislature. The City of Prescott has seen success in reducing its PSPRS liability through a tax that will be sunsetted within ten years or sooner if the liability is reduced to a manageable level. Perhaps this model can be adapted for the state.

Bliss: To put this in perspective, ASRS was one billion overfunded in 2002 and is now over 16 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Poor investment decisions, low returns, high management fees, and mathematical inaccuracies and assumptions have brought us to the situation we are in now. This mismanagement is not fair to the taxpayers and those in the workforce when it comes to retirement security. There are no easy answers for what the legislature should do other than reducing management fees, investing in more conservative funds, and paying off the unfunded liabilities asap. I would like to see the State Treasurer’s Office look into assuming some of the responsibility for managing ASRS. I understand this would take a majority vote in the legislature which isn’t easy, but it needs to be addressed.

Burges: The damaging recession of 2007, 2008 and 2009 were very difficult times to be in the legislature, and pension debt was kicked down the road. In 2021, DPS and the Correction Officers underfunded pension plans were reduced by half. In 2022 money to pay down the PSPRS underfunding will result in an ongoing savings of nearly $120 million a year. Solution: Keep paying the current liability for the pension program while continue paying down underfunded liability. Do NOT use this pension program for anything else other than duly awarded pensions!

Ransom: If our pension plan was over-funded 20 years ago and it’s now in debt, the failure lies with the cut and deplete fiscal policies of the Republican-led Legislatures of the last two decades. The pension plan should be brought back into balance with a 10-year plan which ensures our pensioners receive the benefits they’ve worked their whole adult lives to earn.

5. Agriculture in AZ uses 70% of the water, yet its economic impact is less than 2% of the state's GNP. Why aren't the agricultural water uses being cut back?

Bliss: When crafting policy, I look to the experts and those affected by the laws written. In this case, let’s hear from our ranchers and farmers on the realities of water usage and crop production as they are the experts on what is possible. Possible options to reduce usage include the reconsideration of the type of crops grown and using drip instead of flood irrigation.

Burges: Surface waters in Arizona are subject to the doctrine of prior appropriation, which means that the first person to divert a quantity of water from a water source for a "beneficial use" has the right to continue to use that water for that purpose. With certain exceptions, when that person stops using that water for five years, their right ceases and the water reverts to the public. This deals with CAP water.

Ransom: State water law does not allow for any enforceable cutback in agricultural water supply. Do we know that agriculture has shrunk or have other sectors simply grown? We should maintain food production in the state as a hedge against natural disaster and economic downturns. Farmers and ranchers who provide us with food need to be supported.

Sinclair: Water conservative crops need to be encouraged and water intensive crops need to be reduced. When we allow foreign entities from Saudi Arabia to mine our ground water to grow and export alfalfa, we are needlessly exporting our water. Without monitoring and protecting our aquifers our groundwater is being sold to the highest bidder in the name of agriculture with no thought to the future. We need to protect our food growers and ranchers from this type of predatory behavior.

6. The Legislature has been divided on so many issues along party lines that large groups of voters feel their wants are not being addressed. How would you respond to those who have a different political bent than you, or is this simply “majority rules”?

Burges: We have a duty to address the state’s needs as we were elected to make the tough choices and place “Arizona First,” NOT political grandstanding or political moving on up, first. Everyone needs to know that their voice has been heard and in resolving issues needs to give a little to reach a real solution.

Ransom: Traditional campaigns have always been beholden to special interests. This makes real dialogue within the legislature difficult. As Clean Elections candidates, the Clean Slate for Democracy does not owe any allegiance to PACs, unions, corporations or the bosses of political parties. We are able to make decisions based on the greatest good for all and lead discussions across the political spectrum.

Sinclair: As we debate actions and choices in creating legislation we need to focus on basic needs and common interests. The pursuit of ideological goals is not a practical necessity for most Arizonans and distracts the legislature from taking care of our state which is why I am running as part of CleanSlateAZLD1.com The legislators need to stick to issues like infrastructure, education, and water policy. The ideological zealots hijacking our democratic republic need to be defeated.

Bliss: My response to those who have a different political view than mine is to attempt to seek to understand and recognize what is important to others. While some issues are non-negotiable, we may find where we agree on other issues. Regarding voters who feel their wants are not being addressed, it is important to seek out bipartisan legislation that benefits the needs of our voters. Bipartisan examples of issues a majority of Arizona voters are concerned about, regardless of age or political party, include addressing inflation and long-term economic growth, supporting the state’s long-term growth and the future of our water supply, creating jobs, quality education and expanding career skills training, and reducing homelessness. My goal is to leave this office better than I found it and getting the work of the people done is how I am going to do it!

7. How confident are you in Arizona’s infrastructure for the next decade?

Ransom: Our infrastructure needs to be upgraded for coming economic and environmental challenges. Electric power charging stations for vehicles need to be easily accessible and affordable. Our hospitals and schools need to be staffed with competent and qualified professionals, which will require investment. The physical facilities of our rural schools need upgrading. Our water infrastructure needs to prioritize conservation. If we start electing legislators who recognize these challenges and genuinely serve “We the People,” I am confident that our frontier spirit and desert nature will find solutions that benefit all of us.

Sinclair: If the legislature prioritizes the real problems in Arizona I am confident we can solve our current challenges.

• Adapt our water infrastructure to the coming era of conservation.

• Upgrade our transportation and energy infrastructure.

• Prepare for solar-powered electric transportation.

Anticipating, developing, and encouraging upcoming technologies will be a great growth industry for out state and can orient our infrastructure to an effective cost/benefit ratio.

Bliss: At this point I am somewhat confident as a sizable amount of funding from the recently passed budget was allocated for infrastructure projects. However, work remains to be done on high-speed internet connectivity for rural areas of Yavapai County and delivery of the ‘last mile technology’. The I-17 widening project deserves close oversight by the legislature as well. My main concern is our water infrastructure and what our short and long-term plans are for sustaining our water future in Arizona.

Burges: Arizona has a growing population and infrastructure improvements will always be necessary. The budget included millions for transportation, water, schools, and forestry restoration.

8. Arizona’s laws concerning abortion have seemed unclear after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. What more would you like to see the Legislature do on this issue?

Sinclair: AG Brnovich reverting to a law before Arizona was a state is absurd and not in alignment with the majority of Arizonans, who want individual control of their reproductive freedom. The Legislature could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot allowing the voters to resolve this issue.

Bliss: The law seems clear to me. In 1901, the Arizona Territorial Legislative Assembly had the foresight to put a law on the books giving two to five years in prison for providers performing an abortion, unless it is necessary to save a mother’s life. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Arizona can now practice our 10th Amendment State rights by sending abortion law back to elected officials chosen by the voters. As a pro-life candidate, I would like to see the Legislature clarify some of the parameters and language used in pro-life legislation that will further protect mothers and their unborn children from the harmful effects of abortion.

Burges: I am pro-life. Arizona’s Attorney General announced Wednesday that a pre-statehood law that bans all abortion is enforceable, and he will now file for the removal of an injunction that has blocked it for nearly 50 years. Let me be clear…I, along with many of my colleagues in the legislature, are pro-life and I think we need to share our views and beliefs with the citizens of Arizona unhesitantly. Equally, we need to hear from the citizens of our Great State as to what they would like the state to do with regards to making abortion legal – or not.

Ransom: Our individual rights to reproductive freedom have been taken away by extremist judges on the Supreme Court. This is wrong. In response, we need to enshrine our individual rights to reproductive freedom in law. Abortion is healthcare. Healthcare is private. The Arizona Constitution states “No person shall be disturbed in his (sic) private affairs…”(Article II, Section 8) This federal overreach from the executive branch can be corrected by action at the state legislature.

9. What is currently the biggest problem Arizona has with immigration, and how would you fix it?

Bliss: The problem is a porous border and federal policy that encourages illegal immigration. As a state legislator, I will advocate for a secure border and sponsor legislation that requires legal entry into our country. This is a humanitarian issue in which secure borders and strong border control policies discourage human, sex, and drug trafficking.

Burges: In 2020, Arizona had three and a half million people cross our border - two and a half million crossed illegally. This is an invasion! According to Article IV Section 4 of The United States Constitution, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government and shall protect each of them against invasion.” States are sovereign in their own spheres, and by self-evident logic, have the right to pass laws deemed necessary to protect their citizens against any form of crime or economic loss. There is no law or provision that prevents the states from enforcing border security, arresting illegal aliens, or deporting illegal aliens. In addition, there are no limitations on this power in the Constitution, and Amendments 9 and 10 confirm this.” (American Post-Gazette 2021) Solution: Finish the wall and free up our law enforcement and let them do their job.

Ransom: Our nation’s character is defined by the Statue of Liberty welcoming, “...your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” It is not in the teachings of Christ, or the better spirit of our nation, to demonize those seeking asylum who come to our country to improve their condition and contribute to our society. I agree with Prescott author and former border patrol agent Francisco Cantu who wrote The Line Becomes a River, “We need to strengthen our immigration court process for those seeking asylum and legal migration so they are not driven into criminal hands through unnecessary delay or systematic rejection.”

Sinclair: Immigration needs to be turned to Arizona’s advantage. Work visas can be issued to fully vetted immigrants can help fill some of our current worker shortages. DACA recipients who keep fulfilling their obligations should be taken off the bureaucracy treadmill and fully integrated into the society and the economy. By investing in our legal system’s ability to process immigrants we can reduce criminality and suffering at our border.

10. Who do you think won the 2020 Presidential election?

Burges: The 2020 Presidential election has been widely debated. Evidence presented by the Senate Audit along with the release of 2000 Mules appears that fraud did take place in many forms. Furthermore, the Arizona Attorney General wrote a finding of fact report stating evidence was presented to substantiate the claims of voter fraud and loss of election integrity. Based on the facts presented, Trump won the Presidential election.

Ransom: Fox News Editor Chris Stirewalt believes that Joseph Robinette Biden won. Republican Maricopa County Republican Recorder Stephen Richer determined the election results were accurate. Ken Bennett’s participation in Karen Fann’s audit found 129 more votes for Joe Biden. Biden won, it’s that simple. It’s time for the loser of the election to stop throwing tantrums. I find it deeply concerning that our current LD1 Representatives supported fake electors when the only appropriate action was to follow the expressed will of the people for a peaceful transition of power. Arizona needs a Clean Slate of leaders who understand and support American democracy.

Sinclair: Every formal study by agencies and courts has concluded that President Biden won the election, including the Arizona state Senate audit overseen by Ken Bennett and Karen Fann. To state the opposite is nothing but sour grapes and lies by supporters of the loser, whose efforts to overturn the election and disrupt the peaceful transition of power are criminal. At this point to argue that Biden lost the election is unpatriotic and should be roundly condemned.

Bliss: Who do you think?!

photo

Mike Fogel, Democrat

LD1 SENATE

1. How can water laws in Arizona be improved? What problem-solving practices should the Legislature employ to address short-term and long-term water-supply issues?

Fogel: Water laws can be improved by giving the ADWR the authority and resources to 1) measure groundwater pumping of high-usage wells outside of AMAs, 2) evaluate and report on the health of the state’s watersheds every three years. Problem-solving practices would include creating regional planning groups that include all major stakeholders equipped with the best science and data to make rational decisions; and incentivizing conservation measures.

2. In per-pupil spending and in educational outcomes, Arizona annually seems to come up short compared to most other states. What outcomes would prove to you that the state educational system is setting up students to succeed?

Fogel: Outcome #1 – Per-pupil funding to reach levels minus covid relief monies comparable to the national average within 5 years.

Outcome #2 – Average teacher salary increased by 25% within five years

Outcome #3 – K-3 class sizes limited to 18 in every school in Arizona.

Outcome #4 – An additional $900 million over three years to go toward children attending low-income schools.

3. On what one issue do you believe you are most qualified to lead discussions in the Legislature?

Fogel: Education Funding and best learning practices. As a Chino Valley educator, administrator, basketball coach and currently school board member I have seen first-hand the impact of fiscal policy on rural education in our state. Our state legislature can make policies that help or harm our schools, teachers, and students. I know the difference and I know how to make education flourish in our state.

4. The Arizona State Retirement System went from being overfunded 20 years ago to being billions in debt today. What should the Legislature do?

Fogel: We need to look at how this happened and what caused a robust fund to have debt liability. Our Constitution is one of seven state Constitutions that currently protect public pensions. We should be cautious and thoughtful about any changes that could impact already earned benefits while we seek long-term solvency of the system. It would be wise to evaluate the ratio between defined benefit plans and defined contributions.

5. Agriculture in AZ uses 70% of the water, yet its economic impact is less than 2% of the state's GNP. Why aren't the agricultural water uses being cut back?

Fogel: Agriculture is an essential service and farms need water so there is hesitation to cut back. However, there will be a mandated cut back when Colorado River water levels recede past a defined level. We have not prepared adequate conservation measures throughout the state and none of our AMA’s are recharging their aquifers to recommended levels. Growth is driving water consumption more than agriculture. Still we need to incentivize water conservation for agriculture as much as for new developments.

6. The Legislature has been divided on so many issues along party lines that large groups of voters feel their wants are not being addressed. How would you respond to those who have a different political bent than you, or is this simply “majority rules”?

Fogel: I would bring to my job as legislator the conservative spirit of compromise. As a clean election candidate with CleanSlateAZLD1.com I will not be beholden to special interests. My Clean Slate colleagues and I are in a better position to address the needs of ‘We the people’ including those often neglected by elite Maricopa business interests. I would respect the will of the voters when it’s made clear through referendum and initiative. The legislative and judicial branch must stop undermining the will of the people.

7. How confident are you in Arizona’s infrastructure for the next decade?

Fogel: For me to be confident of Arizona’s crumbling public school infrastructure for the next decade I need to see the pursuit of adequate and defined funding. Too many schools cannot recruit and retain teachers and support staff to effectively educate all students to their highest potential. Our schools’ facilities are billions of dollars short to adequately maintain existing buildings.

8. Arizona’s laws concerning abortion have seemed unclear after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. What more would you like to see the Legislature do on this issue?

Fogel: The legislature could and should put a constitutional amendment before the people to assure full body autonomy and privacy to make health care decisions regarding abortion. This would be in accord with the Arizona constitution and would be a viable pathway to enshrine our individual rights and freedom to choose.

9. What is currently the biggest problem Arizona has with immigration, and how would you fix it?

Fogel: The loss of our collective moral compass when it comes to immigrants at the border has clouded our ability to act clearly. Jesus reminds us that “whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me”. To stop criminal exploitation of our border we need to increase investment in the processing of migrants and asylum seekers so that legal pathways to entry and productive participation in society dismantle the criminal enterprises of smuggling and trafficking.

10. Who do you think won the 2020 Presidential election?

Fogel: Joe Biden. American voters spoke clearly and legally, each state certified the electors, and congress finalized the election results with the constitution-based ceremonial counting of those electors by the President of the Senate – Mike Pence – on January 6, 2021. The Constitutionally based transfer of power was completed. Unfortunately, the transfer of power was not peaceful. Unfortunately, a coup was attempted by the losing former president Trump. Unfortunately, many Americans today, including LD 1 house and senate candidates, are election deniers. They have been duped into the former President Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen due to voter fraud. NO evidence of the conspiracy theory of rampant voter fraud exists anywhere. We must root out those deniers running for office whose intent is to perpetuate the voter fraud hoax so that we prevent the further deterioration of our democratic republic.

As Americans watch the televised January 6 House hearings, we bear witness to the criminality of those who planned and executed the failed coup. Thankfully, many Patriots who did not need a pardon, like Representative Rusty Bowers (R) of Arizona’s LD 25 and many others, acted true to their OATH to the Constitution and did not succumb to the coup attempt. At this point, an election denier is not true to their oath to the Constitution. The premise of the original question is doubtful, probably criminal, and all Americans would be wise to adhere to these words of the Honorable Liz Cheney (R), “Our nation is preserved by those who abide by their oaths to our Constitution. Our nation is preserved by those who know the fundamental difference between right and wrong” (June 28, 2022). God Bless America.

Donate Report a Typo Contact
Event Calendar
Event Calendar link
Submit Event