Arizona’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates faced off Tuesday at Sinagua Middle School in a debate sponsored by the Coconino County Democratic Party.
In Aug. 28's primary, Arizona's registered Democrats will chose one of three candidates -- Arizona Sen. Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia -- to go up against Governor Doug Ducey in the Nov. 6 election.
Before the debate began, Coconino County Democratic Party Chair Nathan Jones told an audience of about 300 people that he couldn’t overstate the importance of November’s governor race.
“Whoever wins the primary, we’re all going to stand behind them,” Jones said of the three Democratic candidates sitting on the stage. “We have three great candidates here who all support our values.”
Farley, who is both a politician and a small business owner, has been a state senator for six years, and before that, he served as a state representative for six years.
Fryer has 29 years of senior leadership as an executive director and CEO, and she is a pastor. She currently serves as the CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona.
Garcia teaches research and policy at Arizona State University. He served as a research analyst for the Arizona State Senate and also was the Arizona Department of Education Associate Superintendent.
While all three candidates largely agreed on the issues discussed, each had slightly different views of how to accomplish certain goals.
In their opening statements and throughout their debate answers, education was at the forefront of the candidates' minds. All three are passionate about funding Arizona public learning institutions, including K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and vocational/technical schools.
The candidates shared their utmost support for the Invest in Ed proposition to be voted on by Arizona residents this fall. If passed, the proposition would raise $690 million, which would be deposited into the Classroom Site Fund, with 60 percent of the dedicated revenue directed to teacher salary increases and employment related expenses, and 40 percent to maintenance and operations of public schools.
But they all agreed the initiative wasn’t enough.
Farley said Arizona has cut its school funding by $1.1 billion since 2009. He said he would stop giving away the $13.7 billion a year in corporate sales tax loopholes that are occurring under Ducey’s administration. If done, Arizona could increase its education budget by $2 billion a year.
Fryer said she would find additional funding for education by decreasing tax cuts for large corporations, create new tax brackets for the richest Arizonians and reverse the capital gains tax cut. She’d also look at creating a state property tax.
Garcia said he would close tax breaks starting with private school vouchers, which would allow public money to stay in public schools. He would also close corporate tax loopholes.
With the Arizona unemployment rate higher than the national average, the candidates were asked how they would increase economic opportunities for Arizona residents and bring jobs to the state.
Fryer said she would stop investing money in big companies coming from out of state that are not paying their employees a living wage and invest in locally owned businesses that pay minimum wage. She also wants to work with the development committees and chambers throughout the state to help small towns diversify their economies.
Garcia said he thinks the highway to jobs and economic opportunities is to invest in education, adding that the future is focusing on Arizona’s human capital and training and educating students to develop tomorrow’s technology to solve tomorrow’s problems.
Farley also touched on ending corporate tax cuts for out-of-state corporations and funding education, but he also said he would invest in Arizona’s transportation structure. Every $1 billion spent on transportation creates 19 new jobs, he said.
The candidates agreed on the following:
- Creating more solar energy in an effort to support the growing population without destroying the environment
- The separation of families at the border and the inhumane treatment of detainees is a human rights issue and it must be stopped
- Health care is a right for all United States citizens