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Salmon and Sinema Provide

Sneak-Peek At 2014 Election

Image by DonkeyHotey and used under a Creative Commons license.

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Amongst The Members Of The East Valley Partnership In Mesa Earlier This Week, U.S. Reps. Matt Salmon and Kyrsten Sinema Discussed The Issues That Will Likely Dominate The Arizona Political Landscape in 2014



Congressional leadership has little to do with education spending in Arizona, but the topic nevertheless came up Monday and will likely be a bigger issue as the state races heat up. Both Sinema and Salmon decried how the state legislature raided the budgets of the three state universities in 2009 and never gave the funding back.

Salmon claimed state spending on the state universities is down to “1963 levels,” and reminded everyone that the Arizona Constitution requires tuition to be “as free as possible.” Sinema agreed that it was an important issue. With in-state tuition to the three state universities approximately $5,000 a semester, families across the state are sensitive to this issue.

And Salmon indicated it likely will become a factor in the election.

“We have a provision in the state constitution where it says it (in-state-tuition) should be as close to free as possible,” Salmon said. “I hope the (gubernatorial) candidates focus on that.”

Speaking of the governor’s race, the dynamics of that contest was clearly on display Monday amongst the members of the East Valley Partnership. There are seven candidates expected to make the Aug. 26 primary. Six of them are republicans: Secretary of State Ken Bennett, State Treasurer Doug Ducey, former U.S. Rep. from California Frank Driggs, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, Arizona Sen. Al Melvin, and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Democrats are putting all of their eggs in the basket of Fred DuVal, a longtime democratic advocate and high ranking advisor to several governors including Bruce Babbitt and Janet Napolitano. DuVal also spent several years in Washington, D.C.

Only one of them was identified at the East Valley Partnership gathering: Smith.

He arrived late, after all of the other elected officials in attendance had been introduced and everyone else had taken their seats. But emcee Roc Arnett made sure to take a special trip back to the dais after Smith made his fashionably late entrance and meandered from table to table as his people paid personal homage.

That’s not a big stretch. He was instrumental in the leadership of the group for several years. But it was the discussion at the table where I was sitting that was especially insightful. People who are part of the East Valley Partnership genuinely like Scott Smith as a politician. They think he is a good leader and politician.

One even discussed with his friends how Smith had made big strides since moving over from the private sector with an executive’s mentality: my way or the highway. They said he now knows how to, “play the game,” of public life.

Smith will definitely be a formidable candidate and with less that 16 weeks before the primary that will set up a general-election battle between DuVal and whomever wins the republican primary, Smith is looking good.

He’s got the name recognition, grassroots support and, frankly, he’s Mormon. His religion will serve him well in places like Page and St. Johns. Any blowback his religion might raise in the Phoenix metro will likely be neutralized by his mainstream credentials.

But whomever is running for Congress, the legislature or the governor’s chair will need to answer voter concerns over policy regulating immigration and protecting the U.S. border with Mexico. Its the longest-lasting issue in Arizona politics and likely one that will continue to never go away as long as Arizona remains a border state.

Thankfully, much of the debate will likely be more productive in 2014 compared to 2010. There are no divisive bills emanating from the legislature this time around — SB 1070 — and the fact that the U.S. Congress is even talking about eventually tackling an immigration bill makes the issue less vitriolic.

Sinema confirmed that it is virtually unthinkable that Congress will address the issue before November. And, Salmon raised the foremost obstacles: securing the border and what to do with the millions here illegally.

“I think we can come up with an answer,” Salmon said. “I don’t think it has to be citizenship.”

Regardless of where one stands on the immigration issue, Salmon’s statement is a place to start.

Thankfully, the potential congressional action frames the debate properly by allowing each side to talk about possible remedies rather than engaging in hyperbole and enacting laws later judged to be largely unconstitutional. Who wins in 2014 and how they talked about immigration will go a long way in the immigration legislation that will likely be developed between 2014 and 2016.

Maybe immigration is the issue that won’t go away but public dialogue regarding education spending at the Sinema and Salmon appearance at the East Valley Partnership gathering this week is a positive step that there will at least be some needed debate on a vital issue.

The 2014 election season is definitely heating up.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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