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Nearly 40 candidates are lined up to participate in a Primary Election town hall Saturday in Maricopa.

InMaricopa.com Town Hall features federal, state and local races in three time-blocks at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. The candidates will take questions directly from the audience. The event will be shown on Facebook Live starting at 10 a.m. on Facebook.com/InMaricopa, where viewers can also ask questions that may be relayed to the candidates as time permits. Viewers can also follow on Twitter and Instragram @InMaricopa.

The Town Hall begins at 10 a.m. All are invited to watch, listen and participate.

Facilitators include Mayor Christian Price, state Sen. Frank Pratt, Judge Lyle Riggs, educator Rick Abel and government relations specialist Janeen Rohovit of SRP.

Those in attendance who wish to question candidates will be asked to line up at a stationary microphone.

The facilitators will hold candidates and audience members to the same rules: 1. Be polite. 2. Stay on topic. 3. Be concise (don’t repeat yourself). Because this is a primary debate, candidates are encouraged to engage conversationally with primary opponents on the issues but not with candidates from other parties who may also be on stage.

Students from high school organizations including Student Council, Air Force Junior ROTC, Junior State of America, National Honor Society and the MHS Marching Band will play important roles in running the event. Also participating are members of the Be Awesome Youth Coalition, which will be selling water and hot dogs in the lobby.

The lobby will also be the place to meet many of the candidates as several have prepared campaign tables to share their message.

Block 1 involves candidates running for Congress. All three Republicans on the ballot for U.S. House of Representatives – Wendy Rogers, Tiffany Shedd and Steve Smith – have indicated their participation. Kelli Ward, a Republican, is the only U.S. Senate candidate to sign up and will take questions on her own.

Block 2, scheduled to start no sooner than 11 a.m., features state races.

Six of eight candidates seeking two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission are scheduled to appear – Democrats Sandra Kennedy, Bill Mundell and Kiana Sears, and Republicans Justin Olson (an incumbent), Jim O’Connor and Eric Sloan.

They will be followed by all six candidates running for state representative in Legislative District 11 – Democrats Hollace Lyon, Barry McCain and Marcela Quiroz, and Republicans Mark Finchem (an incumbent), Howell Jones and Bret Roberts. Three of the candidates are Maricopa residents.

Though they have no primary competition, LD 11 Senate candidates Vince Leach, a Republican, and Ralph Atchue, a Democrat, will take audience questions.

Two governor candidates have agreed to appear – Republican Ken Bennett and Democrat Kelly Fryer. They will be followed by state treasurer candidate Jo Ann Sabbagh.

Five of seven candidates for state superintendent of public instruction are scheduled next. They are Republicans Bob Branch, Jonathan Gelbart and Frank Riggs, and Democrats Kathy Hoffman and David Shapira.

Block 3 includes county and city races and is expected to start after 2 p.m.

Republicans Scott McKee and Amanda Stanford (an incumbent) are the only candidates vying for the position of clerk of Pinal County Superior Court.

All three candidates for constable of the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court are expected to participate – Republicans Bill Griffin and Glenn Morrison and Democrat Andre LaFond.

To wind up the day of politics, seven city council candidates will take the stage – Linette Caroselli, Vincent Manfredi (an incumbent who is minority owner of InMaricopa), Bob Marsh, Cynthia Morgan, Paige Richie, Rich Vitiello and Henry Wade (an incumbent). They are running for three seats in a nonpartisan election.

The schedule is tentative. Learn about the Town Hall at MaricopaEvents.com.

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Republican Paul Babeu mocks rival Democrat Tom O'Halleran, who again did not participate in a debate for Congressional District 1 candidates at a forum in Maricopa Sept. 17.

Here are some highlights of Saturday’s debate among candidates for five races in the General Election. The debate was sponsored by InMaricopa, Maricopa Monitor and Maricopa Chamber of Commerce at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

The 2016 General Election Candidate Debate in Maricopa is set for Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.


Candidates have been invited from Congressional District 1, Pinal County Sheriff, Pinal County Assessor, Legislative District 11 and Maricopa City Council.
They will be asked questions by a moderator. Questions from the public can be submitted before and during debate for screening. Questions can be emailed to Raquel@InMaricopa.com and AGaub@TriValleyCentral.com by 5 p.m. Friday.
The event is sponsored by Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, InMaricopa, Maricopa Monitor and UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Cones Cafe will sell coffee, tea and breakfast items.
After the debate, there will be time for a meet-and-greet with the candidates upstairs at Luxe Lounge until about 10:30 a.m.

It was standing-room-only in council chambers at City Hall for a primary election debate among seven candidates, including Joshua Babb (pictured). Photo by Tyler Loveall

Traffic on State Route 347, economic development, utility rates, the override at Maricopa Unified School District, the library and the flood plain were all topics of discussion at Monday’s debate forum among seven candidates for three seats on the Maricopa City Council.

Most of the candidates brought up SR 347 as a major issue to tackle.

The terms of Vice Mayor Marvin Brown and councilmembers Bridger Kimball and Nancy Smith are coming to an end this year, and all are running for re-election. Challengers are former councilmembers Dan Frank, Julia Gusse and Leon Potter and newcomer Joshua Babb.

Smith did not attend the debate but was allowed to participate by phone.

The forum was moderated by Sara Troyer, executive director of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

When asked what change or conflict they would like to be involved in resolving:

Potter: Economic development on the east side of Maricopa

Brown: The change is already happening

Frank: SR 347

Babb: SR 347

Kimball: 1-percent tax cap

Gusse: Veterans services

Smith: SR 347 and 1-percent tax cap

Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall
Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall

With several mentions of the looming impact of the state’s 1-percent tax cap, Mayor Christian Price gave a “Reader’s Digest” overview of the issue at the end of the debate. Price is running unopposed for re-election. He said no state legislators understand the issue or how a government entity like the city of Maricopa is penalized for the actions of other jurisdictions.

The candidates mulled ways to tackle utility rates from Global Water. The idea of using bonds to purchase the water/sewer utility was floated by Potter. Gusse said the council must put forth a unified front in dealing with Global Water. Brown, reminding the audience of a committee formed to negotiate with the company, said buying a utility would be “very costly.”

Frank, who was chairman of the 2040 Vision committee that collected information for future planning, said “we heard over and over how the utility rates are negatively impacting” residents. But, he added, it might not be the right time for a feasibility study on purchasing the water utility.

Kimball said buying the utility is no guarantee the rates will go down.

When asked if they are supporting the MUSD override: See related editorial

Potter: Yes – “Class sizes were the reason I put my kids in a charter.”

Brown: Yes – “I was in favor of all the previous overrides.”

Frank: Did not answer – “Everyone has to vote their own conscience.”

Babb: Undecided – “Education is important to me … but you can’t throw money at a problem to fix it.”

Kimball: Yes – “I absolutely support the override.”

Gusse: Yes – “Our teachers are overworked, underpaid and not appreciated.”

Smith: Undecided – “The use of funds is clearly stated… All my criteria have been met… It’s the best organized override campaign… I have not made up my mind.”

Maricopa Public Library is a relatively new building but is considered too small for the community. While all candidates spoke highly of the library and noted its importance, there was reluctance to allocating money for a new library anytime soon.

Kimball said the reins were tight on all city departments in the current budget, and the library received about half of the money it needed. Frank said, with the city’s tight budget, it is not a good time to be taking on more debt.

Babb suggested creating a mobile library to further reach the community. Smith and Gusse used examples from other communities of libraries sharing space with schools or other government buildings.

Fielding personal questions about their candidacy after their previous controversial terms on council, Potter said he stands by his reasons for resigning, and Gusse there is a double-standard for women who speak their mind. Potter resigned from council to run for mayor after trying to recall Kimball. Gusse received an official warning from council after a violation of an ethics code she helped write.

“What made me run again was my love for Maricopa,” Potter said. “Trust is something that has to be earned.”

Gusse said she has been standing by her convictions and inferred she would have been treated differently had she been a man in the same circumstances.

Frank also previously served on council as an appointed member to fill out a term. He is now chairman of the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. He said serving on the board and the city council would not be a conflict of interest. Frank said he is concerned about the high insurance rates paid by homeowners in the floodplain, calling it “unacceptable.”

Candidates who survive the Aug. 30 primary and are not elected outright will be asked to participate in a general election debate in the fall.

Candidates for Pinal County sheriff (from left) Mark Lamb, Steve Henry, Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor participated in a debate Saturday at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Photo by William Lange

By Ethan McSweeney

Candidates for Pinal County Sheriff and Pinal County Attorney took part in a debate at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Saturday morning to address county issues and the current officeholders for those positions ahead of the August primary election.

Republicans Mark Lamb and Steve Henry took the stage alongside Democrats Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor at the debate that was sponsored by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, the Maricopa Monitor, InMaricopa and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The Saturday morning debates also featured candidates for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and Pinal County Board of Supervisors District 4.

For the County Attorney’s race, defense attorney Kent Volkmer was the only candidate to take part in the debate, with incumbent Attorney Lando Voyles not attending Saturday.

Pinal County Sheriff

In the Sheriff’s race, candidates discussed staffing issues and body cameras within the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. They also voiced some criticism for Paul Babeu, the county’s current Sheriff.

Babeu is not seeking re-election for the post, instead running for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

Lamb, a deputy in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, said he believes the politics that exist in the Sheriff’s Office now have affected the morale of deputies.

“I want to restore that back to just focusing on law enforcement, protecting you as the people, doing what we can to foster a good environment for businesses and people to move in to the county,” Lamb said.

“I’m going to do everything I can do to remove that political side [of the Sheriff’s position],” he added.

When asked, Lamb later said in the debate he believed Pinal County is safer since Babeu took office, but that “we still have work to do.”

Henry, who serves as chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Office and is backed by Babeu, said he wasn’t concerned by the Pinal County Deputies Association not endorsing him. The association endorsed Lamb and Dickson for the primary race.

“We have mutual issues that we talk about and other issues that we disagree on,” Henry said. “It’s just a matter of the course of everyday business, and that doesn’t go away. It doesn’t matter if the endorsement is there or not.”

Henry said more staffing is the most significant need the Sheriff’s Office has right now. About half of the county’s population, located outside municipalities that have their own police departments, is policed by PCSO.

“We need people,” Henry said. “Right now in San Tan Valley, there are 95,000 people there and we police that with 40 cops.”

Dickson, who previously worked in PCSO for decades and as the director of Pinal County Animal Care and Control, said that as Sheriff she would cooperate with a staffing study from the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to see how to effectively use officers around the county. Babeu has not cooperated with supervisors over the staffing study.

“It’s not always just about putting officers where it’s the most populated areas,” she said.

Taylor, who runs a private detective agency, said there are too many deputies focused on Saddlebrooke and San Tan Valley, which he said don’t need as much attention as they currently have.

On the use of body cameras in PCSO, Henry said he supported the use of them in theory, but practically they cost too much to maintain.

“What people don’t understand … is that the cost is so prohibitive that with the current financial status we are in this county, we can’t do it,” he said.

Dickson suggested RICO funds, which law enforcement agencies generate as a result of asset forfeiture, could be used to fund body cameras.

“Those cameras create transparency and trust in government,” she said.

Taylor, who previously ran for sheriff in 2012, said the fact that, unlike the other candidates for the office, he doesn’t have a position in the Sheriff’s Office puts him at an advantage.

“I’m coming new with new ideas, with fresh ideas and right now I owe nobody in Pinal County any favors,” he said.

Dickson also said she would support working with the state’s Border Strike Force, which Gov. Doug Ducey created last year. Some border county sheriffs have come out in opposition to the new force.

“I believe that if the governor wants to step up to the plate and help protect our state, that that’s a good thing,” Dickson said. “We should take advantage of that.”

Pinal County Attorney

With incumbent Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles not in attendance, his Republican primary challenger Volkmer took his time on stage to criticize him on issues ranging from accountability to conviction rates.

Volkmer called into question the office’s accountability with Voyles campaigning together with Henry for county attorney and sheriff, respectively.

“If an officer is accused of committing a crime and you’re the victim,” Volkmer said, “are you going to believe that the county attorney who campaigned with the sheriff is going to give you a fair shake?”

The conviction rate from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office under Voyles is “abysmal,” Volkmer said. He argued that the office is only convicting 30 percent of cases that go to trial “for the most serious offenses.”

Volkmer said he supports pursing the death penalty in certain cases, but argued the rate at which Voyles is pursuing capital punishment is “too high,” which again costs county taxpayers.

“As a county attorney, you have to uphold the law, but you also have to be a steward of the county’s resources,” Volkmer said.

Volkmer also took aim at the length of time it takes for the Attorney’s Office to prosecute cases and turnover under Voyles.

No Democrats are running for the attorney position. The primary elections will be Aug. 30.