Voters in Buckeye and Goodyear will soon help decide on Arizona Legislative District 4 representatives. The huge district stretches from the West Valley to Yuma and Tucson.
District 4 candidates participated in an Oct. 1 online debate, sponsored by Arizona Clean Elections.
In the Arizona Senate race, incumbent Lisa Otondo, who lives in Yuma, and challenger Travis Angry, a Goodyear resident, participated.
In the Arizona House of Representatives race, incumbents Charlene Fernandez, a Yuma resident, and Geraldine Peten, who lives in Goodyear, and challenger Joel John, a Buckeye resident, answered questions submitted by voters.
Otondo, Fernandez and Peten began serving Jan. 9, 2017, and will end their current terms Jan. 10, 2021. On Nov. 3, West Valley voters will decide if the three will serve consecutive terms, or if one or more of the challengers will take office.
Among the topics debated, Republicans Angry and John and Democrats Fernandez, Otondo and Peten gave perspectives on mail-in voting and Proposition 208, which is on the November ballot.
As state funding for education came into question, the candidates were asked to comment on Proposition 208, the school funding measure that would request an increase on income tax for those making $250,000 or more a year and would allocate the revenue to teachers and academic programs.
“On Prop 208, I really wanted to support it. … Some of the funds that are collected before they’re distributed, they go to four different departments. … I want to make sure we get that money not in the departments but in the classrooms,” John said. “The other thing that I found objectionable about it was that the state Legislature can’t make changes to it, so if modifications need to be made, it would take a supermajority (vote).”
Speaking on state funding, Peten described what she called “The Matthew Effect.”
“Education has received a tremendous amount of money, but it has not been equitable or adequate for all citizens, children and parents throughout the state,” she said. “Right now, we’re doing a results-based funding, which ironically goes back to the Bible. It’s where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It’s ‘The Matthew Effect.’ We need to revise our school funding formula to make sure that it is in alignment with our state standards.”
Fernandez said Proposition 208 “is where we have to go. We can’t just put a Band-Aid on it. … When we fund public education and we have kids that are coming out of school better equipped to go to college and into the workforce, we build our economy.”
Otondo said she supported the measure, “But will Prop 208 be enough? It will bring approximately $900 million to the game. … I support 208 because the Arizona Legislature did not do its job in first place.”
Angry reflected on the economy in saying he is against the proposition.
“We have to make sure we are following the dollar to the classroom. Prop 208 would bankrupt our economy. Education takes up the majority of our budget. To bankrupt our economy right now would not be the right way to,” Angry said. “We need to go ahead and do something different than what these politicians have been doing, which is nothing.”
Voters questioned the candidate’s perspectives on the security and accessibility of mail-in voting for the 2020 election.
“I think the most solemnly duty we have as citizens is the honor to be able to vote, but this election season is different,” Angry said. “I hear a lot of voters are actually taking their ballots directly to their local precincts, which I think should be done. … We should be cautious with it, but I do believe we need to make sure that we do have a fair election.”
Fernandez gave her advice.
“Be a first-week voter,” she said. “As soon as that ballot gets to your mailbox, you fill it out and you get it back in. … Mailing your ballots is safe. There’s nothing wrong with our U.S. Postal (Service) except being extremely underfunded by our Congress.”
John suggested getting involved in the process.
“The thing that will help make our election most secure is to make sure we elect good people, especially at the county level and the county recorders’ offices, make sure they are following the law, the state statutes in regard to our voting. … Also, if we can, volunteer at our local precincts, ” John said.
Peten noted the positive aspects of technology.
“I think it is a very safe, convenient way to vote,” she said. “My heart goes out to those states that have in-person voting and the lines are incredibly long. That truly is a definite hardship on people, especially senior citizens or parents with young children. … Technology is in our favor.”
Otondo supported voting by mail.
“Right now, approximately 85% of the voters in Arizona are using mail-in ballots. It’s very secure here. … I strongly support vote by mail.
“I think that the fewer people that arrive at the polls is safer,” Otondo said.