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Six people are running for three available seats on Maricopa City Council this year. The candidates have answered several questions from InMaricopa. Today, we share some background on each candidate and their answer to the primary question, “Why are you running for council?”

Linette Caroselli (submitted photo)

Linette Caroselli
Age: 46
Residence: Glennwilde
Years in Maricopa: 7
Employment: Educator for Maricopa Unified School District
From: Brooklyn, New York
Family: Widowed with 3 adult children
Political experience: This is second run for City Council
Community service: 25 years of service in various capacities such as human trafficking advocate, annual Youth Symposium, annual school supply drives and more
Memberships: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. Scottsdale (president) and Seven Pearls Foundation Inc. (secretary and representative)
Previous work: 22 years as an educator in New Jersey and Arizona

Why are you running for council? “I want to make a positive impact in our community and advocate for our youth.”

Julia Gusse (incumbent)

Julia Gusse (submitted photo)

Age: 50
Residence: Senita
Years in Maricopa: 15
Employment: Veterans Upward Bound, Arizona State University
From: Los Angeles, California
Family: Husband, three children, one grandchild
Political experience: Two terms on City Council 2010-2014 and 2016-2020
Community service: Veterans causes and organizations
Memberships: Maricopa American Legion, VetIT, Maricopa Ak-Chin STEAM Foundation
Previous work: U.S. Air Force veteran and previous city employee

Why are you running for council: “To continue to represent our community.”

Andre LaFond
Age: 35
Residence: Rancho El Dorado
Years in Maricopa: 6
Employment: Realtor – My Home Group
From: Aurora, Illinois

Andre LaFond (submitted photo)

Family: My beautiful wife Kaylie LaFond, my son Jack (expected in July), my husky Bruin, my basset Wrangler, and three cats Blizzard, Porgie, and Lucky (My house is a Zoo!)
Political experience: Previously ran for constable.
Community service: My wife and I were members of our amazing CERT team
Memberships: No current memberships, but I do try to offer support where I can. I’m a big fan of our local Blue Star Mothers.
Previous work: U.S. Army veteran, district security director for a large retail company

Why are you running for council? “We have an amazing community and I want to help continue its growth and prosperity. My career experience partnering with local, state and federal police agencies will be a great benefit to working with our emergency services. I am also looking to use my experience in management and real estate to promote smart economic growth opportunities for Maricopa.”

Amber Liermann

Amber Liermann (photo by Kyle Norby)

Age: 47
Residence: Alterra
From: Los Angeles, California
Years in Maricopa: 16
Employment: Maricopa Unified School District Exceptional Student Services counselor
Family: Children ages 18, 16, 14 and 12
Political experience: Citizen lobbying
Community Service: Vietnam Veterans of America Clothing Donation Program, Susan G. Komen fundraisers, Maricopa Police Department volunteer victim advocate, Maricopa Family Advocacy Center volunteer, Chandler Police Department victim advocate, Board Member of Be Awesome Youth Coalition, lead role in public service announcement for teen pregnancy prevention, Desert Cove Nursing Home Volunteer, Staples Senior Citizen volunteer, Maricopa High School Site Council member, Maricopa High School CopaCloset Club, Peer Advocacy Crew Club and Youth Alive Club sponsor, Maricopa High School Booster Club, Church of Celebration Financial Ministries Lead, Mending The Soul Facilitator, Hillsong Phoenix volunteer.
Memberships: Arizona Board of Behavioral Health, Maricopa Veteran Care Center Board Member, Member of Church of Celebration, Harley Owners Group Member
Previous work: My career has been focused on strengthening and preserving families, protecting youth by providing crisis services, direct counseling, connecting families with community agencies and promoting and encouraging strong education.

Why are you running for council? “Maricopa is in a critical stage in its development and I am excited to participate in the decisions that will shape our city moving forward. Economic Development is the engine that drives everything in Maricopa. If we want a hospital, solutions to [State Route] 347 and better infrastructure then we need to continue to focus on economic development. I believe the current council has put us on a good path, and we need to continue in the right direction. I am also passionate in helping to be a catalyst to providing both mobile and expanded services for our veterans. Social services for families in Maricopa need a boost so we can provide health and mental health support for families in need. We can do this by working to bring more of those services to our city. The work done so far with seniors is admirable as well as the arts, but I believe I can pick up the baton and work with groups like Copa Seniors, Community Services and the various arts groups to bring the senior center to life. I truly believe healthy families create a healthy community and I will do everything in my power to bring that belief to city hall.”

Bob Marsh

Bob Marsh (photo by Kiyle Norby)

Age: 76
Residence: Desert Cedars
Years in Maricopa: 10 years, as of this September
Employment: Retired from Microsoft
From: Vermont
Family: Wife, Cynthia, with grown children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren across the country
Political experience: Ran for Council in 2018 and almost won. I attend almost all council meetings and follow current mayor’s and councilmembers’ activities, actions and social media posts.
Community service: Served on the Maricopa Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Adjustments; served on the Maricopa Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and Subdivision Ordinance Rewrite Committee; Served on the Maricopa General Plan Update Committee and the 2040 Vision Team; currently serving on the Pinal County Board of Adjustments and Appeals; currently Board Member and treasurer for the Maricopa Senior Coalition; Currently board member and secretary for Desert Cedars Homeowners Association
Memberships: Past vice-president, Arizona Industrial Compensation Association; past board member, ITT Courier Federal Credit Union; member and past president, MIT Alumni Club of Phoenix; board member, International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, Phoenix Chapter; member of Microsoft Alumni Network
Previous work: Microsoft Corporation (Community Development, Worldwide Partner Programs, Legal and Government Affairs); Digital Communications Associates (Program Management, Software Development for Microsoft); Information Technologies/Scottsdale (Training and Software Development for the FBI); ITT Courier/Tempe (Software Development for McDonald’s; Human Resources & Compensation Management); GE and Honeywell Process Control Systems/Phoenix (Software Development, Project Management for the Alaska Pipeline and Several Power Generation Companies); Vermont Research Corporation (Computer Hardware and Software Development for NASA and U.S. Navy)

Why are you running for Council? “I want to bring my engineering and community development work experience to the Mayor’s City Council Team to support and enable our city manager and his staff in several priority areas, including:

  • Improve the city’s infrastructure – With my prior experience working with utility companies and government agencies, I’d like to be Council Liaison to work with staff and our major utility infrastructure providers to build toward a future that will attract major employers to locate here. I want to continue to work with our water and flood control and prevention providers, and I plan to work with our electric, internet, telecommunications, gas, waste, and transportation infrastructure providers (including ADOT) to leverage my background to ensure a brighter future for our city.
  • Support the city’s community services development efforts – I want to support the City Manager and the Community Services Staff to enable their vision for expanding the breadth and depth of services to all Maricopa residents and businesses, in support of the General Plan and the 2040 Vision.
  • Expand Maricopa’s health services – I want to work with the Mayor and City Manager in their continuing efforts to bring hospital-level services to Maricopa, supported by rapid transport to regional hospitals.
  • Ensure women’s rights – I’ve been a women’s rights proponent for many years and while working in corporate HR, successfully got a major Arizona company to pay women the same as men, not the 60%-70% they had been paying. I want to leverage my background in compensation management and work with the City Manager to review the city’s policies re: “Equal Pay for Equal Work.”
  • Enable senior and veterans’ services – As Board Member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition, I’ve worked for several years to get Maricopa a senior center, and now we have a City Manager who has figured out how to make that happen. I want to support the Community Services staff to make sure we maximize users’ and families’ satisfaction with the upcoming center for veterans, seniors, and the community, plus the new high-tech, multipurpose city library.”

Nancy Smith (incumbent)

Nancy Smith (photo by Victor Moreno)

Age: 61
Years in Maricopa: 17 years, prior to incorporation
Employment: Retired program manager at Motorola and General Dynamics
From: Illinois
Family: Husband, 2 children, 3 stepchildren, 10 grandchildren
Previous political experience: City Council Member 2014-Current
Previous community service:

  • Co-founder – F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank
  • American Cancer Society – Relay For Life
  • Be Awesome Board Member (for youth and families)
  • Senior Citizen Lunch & Learn Program
  • MHS DECA Advisory Member
  • Founder – Maricopa Middle Schools Rocket Challenge
  • CopaCares2020
  • Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy

Memberships in organizations:

  • Maricopa Economic Development Association (MEDA) Board Member
  • MAG (Maricopa Association of Governments) Economic Development Committee
  • Arizona-Mexico Commission Representative
  • Pinal Partnership Board of Directors
  • Pinal Partnership Economic Development Committee
  • Pinal Partnership Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
  • Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Government Committee
  • Maricopa Budget, Finance and Operations (BFO) Committee
  • Council Liaison Positions:
    • City Council Liaison Age Friendly Advisory
    • City Council Liaison Parks, Recreation & Library Committee
    • City Council Liaison Heritage District Advisory
    • City Council Liaison Cultural and Arts Committee

Previous work: I spent the majority of my career in military technology and project management for major government programs. While with Motorola I extended my work experience by specializing in finance and budgeting. The successes and skills acquired at Motorola and General Dynamics have proved to be valuable assets when applied to the duties and responsibilities of the Maricopa City Council.

Why are you running for council: “Simply put, I LOVE this city, the people, my family and I want to continue to make Maricopa the best place to live for all residents. I believe as a city council member I’ve been a leader in preparing Maricopa for exciting things to come in the areas of economic development, transportation, quality of life and responsible budgeting and finance. I want to serve a role in continuing to expand these opportunities for our community.”

Hear more from the candidates before the Primary Election at InMaricopa.com and in print in InMaricopa magazine.

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March 17 is the Presidential Preference Election. Only the Democratic Party is participating. As this is not a primary, only registered Democrats can vote.

The last day to mail in your early ballot is tomorrow. Polling places in Maricopa have been consolidated. If you want to vote in person but are uncertain of the location of your polling place, check HERE.

Also, here is Pinal County’s list of polling places for the PPE.

There are 18 candidates on the PPE ballot, 12 of whom have suspended their campaigns. Those remaining (in order of the official list) are Tulsi Gabbard, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Bernie Sanders, Michael Ellinger, Henry Hewes and Joseph Biden.

For all voters, the Primary Election is Aug. 4. Last day to register to vote in the primary is July 6.

Chris Taylor, a firefighter in Safford, was running for U.S. Congress D1 at the time of the nearly fatal heroin overdose.

Congressional candidate Chris Taylor has suspended his campaign for the District 1 seat after a near-fatal overdose.

Taylor was one of three running for the Republican nomination. He is an Army veteran and member of the Safford City Council. He has been open about his struggles with PTSD and past addiction to opioids, but apparently relapsed last week. According to the Gila Herald, he had a heroin overdose Feb. 19, and was found by his wife Sarah, who administered chest compressions before the arrival of paramedics. He was revived with a dose of Narcan.

“Today, I have suspended my campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives and am seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder,” Taylor announced in social media. “I will fully cooperate with local authorities on any matters arising from my recent relapse and overdose. Please respect the privacy of my wife and children as we deal with this situation.”

By his own account Taylor had been sober seven years after completing a treatment program for his addiction. While in the Army, he served the Special Operations Forces in psychological warfare.

“I’m not going to hide from this. I’m not ashamed of what happened,” he said in his statement. “I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me. I don’t know what went wrong. I recently relapsed after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong. Thankfully I have every resource available to me through the Veterans Affairs Administration and I have the strongest support system one could dream of. My family stands behind me 100% and I feel the love and prayers of our amazing Gila Valley Community. I haven’t been able to respond to each of you yet but I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have reached out to me in love and understanding.

“The only thing I can do is face this head on in complete humility and put one foot in front of the other so that I can get the help needed to be the father and husband that my family deserves. I’m human and I have never pretended to be anything but. I know that through the Grace of my loving savior Jesus Christ I will be restored to full health and bounce back from this and be stronger than ever.”

The Taylors have two young children.

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Marlene Pearce is District 4 administrator. Submitted photo

The race to replace Anthony Smith is widening. Three candidates have now announced an intention to run for Pinal County supervisor in District 4.

Marlene Pearce, who originally intended to run for Maricopa City Council, is now seeking the nomination for supervisor. She has been the district administrator eight years.

“I have worked with Supervisor Smith since taking office in 2013, and have been instrumental in the progress we have made in providing the best in services and resources for our constituents,” she said in a statement released Thursday.

District 4 extends from Maricopa in the northwest to Saddlebrooke in the southeast. She joins Jeffrey McClure and Dan Frank. Only McClure, a Republican, has a statement of organization on file.

Pearce has the endorsement of Smith.

“There is nobody better suited to be the next County Supervisor than Marlene Pearce,” he said in a statement. “Marlene is a natural problem solver with a vast knowledge of county government and will do what it takes to see that the county reaches the next level of opportunity. Marlene Pearce gets my endorsement and I hope she will get yours.”

Had Pearce continued her campaign for city council, a nonpartisan race, one of her fellow candidates would have been incumbent Nancy Smith, Anthony Smith’s wife.

Pearce is on the executive board of United Way of Pinal County. She previously served on the Legislative Committee for the Western Pinal Association of Realtors.

Her job as district administrator was previously titled assistant to the supervisor but was changed in 2018, allowing  higher pay. In that capacity, she said, she has worked with county and municipal staffs, Arizona Department of Transportation and Bureau of Land Management “for road acquisitions and improvements across the district.”

Pearce has lived in the county 15 years.

“A key attribute that has always been important was to be accessible,” she said in the statement. “I have consistently been part of our Town Hall and Sessions with the Supervisor events. I pride myself in being the main point of contact for all our constituents’ thoughts and concerns.  The mantra for the District has always been “working to improve the quality of life for our citizens”, and I am committed to continue on that path.”

At this time, the only other county race with announced election competition is in the assessor’s office, where Michael Cruz is challenging incumbent Douglas Wolf in the Republican primary.

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Dan Frank

The Republican primary for county supervisor in District 4 just became a contest.

With Anthony Smith saying he will not run for re-election, Jeffrey McClure of Oracle quickly put his name in. Last week, Maricopa’s Dan Frank confirmed he, too, will seek the GOP nomination for the seat.

Frank is a member of Maricopa’s Planning and Zoning Commission and is president of the Maricopa Flood Control District. He previously served on Maricopa City Council as an appointee.

McClure is president of the Oracle School District Governing Board.

Early vote counts show the Maricopa Unified School District bond election failing by a 16-point margin.

MUSD Bond Early Vote Count 
YES 2,487
NO 3,444

The bond, aimed at building a second high school to relieve overcrowding at Maricopa High School, trailed in 12 of 14 precincts. The Province precinct, which includes The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado, was particularly opposed, with 63% voting against in the unofficial tallies.

For Pinal County schools seeking bonds, overrides and budget increases, it has been a mixed night.

Voters in Eloy turned down an override and in Florence and Apache Junction said no to budget increases. Apache Junction voters also denied a bond. However, school districts in Oracle and Ray received strong support for overrides and a bond. Coolidge Unified School District’s bond election is also ahead in a close early count.

While other district opted for a mail-in ballot, MUSD went with poll voting, which ended up primarily being early voting.

“The traditional election format was chosen to accommodate both voters who prefer mail-in options through early ballots, as well as those who enjoy the civic experience of voting in person on election day,” MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said.

Only the Ak-Chin Community precinct showed support for the MUSD bond, overwhelmingly so, with 93% of its participating voters (fewer than 50) voting in favor. That was wiped out by the Thunderbird Farms precinct, where 77% of voters said no.

The closest result so far is in the Santa Rosa precinct, where the bond is losing 53% to 47%.

The MUSD bond is for capital project, like a new school, buses and HVAC and roofing. The district received $23 million from the state to start a second high school when data showed MHS 600 students over-capacity.


MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman takes questions during a town hall on the bond election. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Resident JoAnne Miller said it was still all about the money.

Suspicious of Maricopa Unified School District and against Prop 437, the bond to build a second high school, she stayed through most of Tuesday’s town hall at MUSD to hear the presentation on the district’s needs. She remained unconvinced.

She said her taxes were already going up $50 next year for the school district.

“That’s a lot of freaking money because everybody else wants their two cents also,” Miller said. “The water department does, the electric does, [etc.]. So, giving it to the schools when I don’t see good management of the schools, it makes it very hard to say yes.”

She was one of a handful of residents amid several teachers and MUSD staff and elected officials at the town hall session. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said she wished for a bigger turnout.

Lopeman explained the difference between an override and a bond election. In 2016 voters approved a seven-year override to lower class sizes and improve technology. The proposed bond for $68 million is primarily to construct a second high school, purchase land if needed and for capital projects like HVAC, buses and roofing.

Dan Cerkoney is a military veteran who moved to Maricopa in August. He said he is likely to vote no.

Cerkoney said he’s been catching up on the facts of the situation and the history of the district.

“We moved to Maricopa because it was a low-tax area,” he said. “I agree, I’ve looked at the schools and, yes, you need to do something. But I’ve also come from a district that they kept raising the tax. ‘We need it for better schools, better schools.’ And they went from $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 to $5,000 for my parents in their case.”

Cerkoney also warned the supporters against surrounding themselves with like-minded people to “feel good.”

“So, when you come across a guy like me, and I’m gonna ask you tough questions, you haven’t been prepared for it,” he said.

Ed Michael said he came from a school district in Wisconsin with the same issues of overcrowding that exist at Maricopa High School, which is 600 students overcapacity. A military veteran on a fixed income, he said he and his wife discussed the problem and the possible tax rates.

“I looked at her and I said, ‘Is Grace worth it?’” he said. “Grace is my granddaughter. She goes to school here in Maricopa. She’s worth it. Every one of my grandchildren is worth it.”

City Councilmember Rich Vitiello said it is also a matter of economic development. “We can’t bring businesses here if our school district isn’t at top-notch,” he said.

Lopeman said the $26 million the district received from SFB for the project is about a third of what is necessary for a “comprehensive” high school rather than a starter, “bare minimum” high school.

Cerkoney suggested the district reach out for more public-private relationships with major companies in the area like Nissan and Volkswagen.

Miller confronted Lopeman over the district’s past spending habits and future plans, including to improve the administration building. “When they built this, you didn’t consider maintenance, putting in new roofs down the road, insurance for that, whatever. That wasn’t considered?”

Lopeman said capital spending is limited by the School Facilities Board.

“We don’t have top-of-the-line HVAC units. We have what could be purchased with that SFB money,” Lopeman said.

Current enrollment in the district is around 7,200. It is projected to grow to at least 11,000 in eight years. When asked why the district didn’t recognize the population issue sooner and begun saving for bigger facility, Lopeman said the process of the state Legislature is to fund a year at a time and it would take 40 years to build up that kind of fund.

She said the high school would be able to manage for three years but the problem would only increase with time. If the bond does not pass this year, she said, a high school would still be built. “The scale in the first year will be impacted by whether this passes.”

See the full town hall

Maricopa High School is over capacity by 30%, something the students experience every day. The question is how to deal with growth in a way that is fair to students and taxpayers. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

By Joycelyn Cabrera

Proposition 437 introduces a $68 million bond on the November ballot for the main purpose of building a second high school in Maricopa Unified School District. The bond has sparked dialogue among Maricopa residents.

Residents within MUSD debate on social media about the proposition, the differences between bonds and overrides, and whether to vote on additional educational funding after just having approved an override.

Proposition 437 seeks $68 million bond

Nov. 5 is a special election for registered voters of MUSD 20 to vote on a general obligation bond, which will fund the construction of a second high school and general, long-term maintenance for school district property.

General maintenance will include improvement to roofing throughout the district and repairing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on the current high-school campus, as well as safety enhancements for schools and the purchase of buses for the district.

The Arizona School Facilities Board approved $23 million in early 2019 specifically for construction of a new high school and additional funds for the purchase of land.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said $23 million is not enough funding to build a high-functioning school with the same standards as the current Maricopa High School.

“This is for a starter high school. It is not meant to build an entire, comprehensive high school. It doesn’t cover football fields, gymnasiums, it doesn’t even pay for carpet,” Lopeman said. “It only pays for the beginnings of a high school, for the beginnings of a population as well. It’s not meant to cover the entire investment.”

The $68 million from the bond would be added to the $23 million already allocated.

“We envision a comprehensive high school that provides the amenities and the enriched, robust programing,” Lopeman said, “while not the same as at Maricopa High School, but the same quality, the same richness.”

Leftover funding after reaching the $70 million mark will be used for general maintenance, equaling out to potentially $13 million for district maintenance to repair older buildings, upgrading buses and maintaining HVAC systems.

Maricopa High School over-capacity

In that 10 years, the student population has essentially doubled, but our campus footprint has stayed the same.

MHS was originally built for 1,900 students maximum, according to Principal Brian Winter. The school is 600 students – more than 30 percent – over capacity. And the 2,500-student enrollment increases daily, and the school continues to enroll students on a daily basis, he said.

“I think that there is a host of benefits to the proposition passing,” Winter said. “A second high school in our community will create a positive rivalry with Maricopa High School and take the stress and burden of the continued growth that we’re experiencing off of this campus.”

Temporary portable classrooms have been implemented on campus to relieve large class sizes, which began ranging from 25 to 40 students last year.

Aiden Balt is an English teacher at Maricopa High School and a National Board-certified educator.

“I’ve been working for the district for 10 years, and in that 10 years the student population has essentially doubled, but our campus footprint has stayed the same,” Balt said. “Many people are aware that we have contracted for 16 portable classrooms that are currently on campus. That’s a temporary solution to our numbers.”

Students say their quality of education is affected by the school sitting at over-capacity.

Francis Trast is a junior and part of the Air Force JROTC program at the school as well as a member of the cross-country team.

“We do have some overcrowded classrooms. The German courses is one of the ones that’s particularly overcrowded, because everybody needs to get a foreign language,” Trast said. “I know my German classroom has, I would say, 35–40 kids in it, so it’s always kind of loud and boisterous.”

Freya Abraham is a senior, currently at the top of her class. Abraham said she personally cannot focus or efficiently learn in large classrooms.

“I’ve heard and known students whose quality of education has taken a hit because of overcrowding,” Abraham said. “When I talk to kids, even if they’re not ready for that level, I recommend honors and AP solely because of the class size. With 45 people in the classroom, I don’t know how you can be motivated in a class where you don’t even have chairs to sit in.”

Plan B?

Should Proposition 437 not get approval from voters, MUSD 20 still plans to begin working to relieve over-crowding at the high school by using the $23 million to explore different avenues.

This could potentially include a small start-up school with basic necessities, adding classrooms on the current campus, or purchasing land before waiting on another election to turn to voters once again.

“We don’t want to have overcrowded classrooms at Maricopa High School. That’s one of the intentions of the bond is to build a second high school so that we can provide safe environments for all of our kids and quality instruction,” Balt said.

Financing and tax-payer money

What you find is that property taxes increased so high over time that it forced people out of the community.

Many residents of MUSD 20 turned to social media to voice their concerns about the resulting tax increase should the proposition pass, particularly because of the tax increase from passing an MUSD 20 override in 2016.

Informational pamphlets on the proposed bond were sent to Maricopa residents amid early-voting season. Should the bond pass, property taxes for Maricopa homeowners will increase at an assessed 10% value of residential property, according to the pamphlet.

The law uses assessed value rather than market value for determining property taxes. For instance, a property that sold for $236,000 in October has an assessed full cash value of $134,995.

Residential property assessed at a $100,000 value would see a tax increase of about $10.15 a month, creating an annual estimated cost of $122 each year. The pamphlet specifies, “an owner-occupied residence valued by the County Assessor at $250,000 is estimated to be $311.91 per year” in additional taxes.

Chester Szoltysik, a 15-year Maricopa resident and director of Information Systems at AmeriFirst Financial, previously worked in the Chicago Police Department and Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. Szoltysik said he is concerned the growth of the community will slow down or come to a halt with tax increases.

“What you find is that property taxes increased so high over time that it forced people out of the community,” Szoltysik said. “For example, in the state of Illinois, it’s one of the few states that’s actually seeing a population decrease. They’re seeing people leave the state to go to places with lower property taxes.”

Szoltysik has no children in the district and said his stance on the proposition may change if he felt a stronger obligation toward supporting additional educational funding.

Many Maricopa residents voiced their concerns on social media for tax increases in cases of fixed incomes or no personal connection with the school district.

Torri Anderson, a member of the Arizona School Boards Association and MUSD 20 Governing Board, said the state Legislature creates issues in tax increases for local districts.

“The state needs to be accountable to the taxpayers and put the money into public schools, which is taxpayer accountability,” Anderson said. “It’s really time for the taxpayers to start demanding that they know where their money goes.”

Bonds and overrides

Bonds are capital projects, things like construction of buildings, new roofs, new HVAC systems, buses.

Money approved for an override can only be allocated for a specific purpose, just as money approved for bonds can only be utilized for specific projects.

According to the Arizona School Board Association, overrides can have money allocated for maintenance and operations expenses as temporary solutions (or with a short-term expectancy) or in supporting specific programs that may have to be renewed (such as funding salaries for additional staff).

Bonds are used to fund capital equipment that has a life-span of more than five years without getting renewed in any way, according to the ASBA. This would include funding the construction of buildings, long-lasting repairs and maintenance, and updated safety and transportation systems.

Maricopa Unified School District #20 has had six bond approvals in its long history. Here are the previous three:

  • 2006 bond election for $55,700,000 was issued over 5 series, the latest maturity is July 1, 2029.  ($6,220,000 authorization went unissued as it expired in November 2012).
  • 1996 bond election for $3,885,000 was issued in 3 series, the latest maturity was 2013.
  • 1987 bond election for $3,000,000 was issued in 4 series, the latest maturity was 2002.

Both bonds and overrides require voter approval from residents in the district. MUSD bonds elections for capital improvements have fared better than override elections over the past 15 years.

In 2005, an override passed with 67% approval, followed by a successful bond election in 2006, passing with 78% of the vote.

However, since 2009, five overrides were brought to voters and failed, with disapproval ranging from 55% to 68% up until 2016, when the first override in 10 years passed by 56% of voters to pay for more teachers and additional technology.

“The override was a maintenance and ops override that is permission from the voters to exceed the budgeted amount that is allocated to the schools by 10%. It’s maintenance and operations money that’s meant to be spent in one year,” Lopeman said. “Bonds are capital projects, things like construction of buildings, new roofs, new HVAC systems, buses… it’s things that have a lifespan of more than one year.”

Money approved for overrides, whether capital or special, cannot be re-allocated to fund bonds or anything outside of what falls under each category, according to state law. Likewise, money approved for bonds cannot be utilized for projects that would fall under an override.

The 2006 bond was the most recent long-term, capital-projects funding passed by Maricopa voters, according to county records. That bond built several schools in the district, Butterfield, Santa Cruz, Saddleback and Pima Butte elementary schools and Desert Wind Middle School.

Statewide trend

It’s a math equation; more students need more resources, and the state hasn’t done it, so therefore we have to ask our neighbors.

MUSD 20 is not the only district to turn to voters during the 2019 election season. School districts in all but five counties are asking voters for approval on bonds and overrides on their November ballots, according to Save Our Schools Arizona, an organization that works with the Legislature to improve Arizona public schools.

Dawn Penich-Thacker is the co-founder and communications director for Save Our Schools Arizona. Penich-Thacker weighed in on the statewide context of Proposition 437.

“Arizona politicians have cut the funding, but our needs are higher because people move here,” Penich-Thacker said. “It’s a math equation; more students need more resources, and the state hasn’t done it, so therefore we have to ask our neighbors.”

Many counties are proposing overrides and bonds for multiple school districts per county, with only a few counties voting on one district. Pinal County will see four bonds and four overrides go to voters.

“Over the last 10 years, MUSD has incurred $19.1 million in cuts to capital funding,” Balt said. “Our projected budget for 2020 only funds about 70% of our allotted capital items, and that is a direct effect of the cuts that have been made at the state level.”

Over 40 Arizona public school districts will be voting on bonds and overrides this Nov. 5.

“Public education serves every single child in the state. Public education services everybody, and we are a diverse, equitable education,” Anderson said. “It’s not pick and choose. We educate every child.”

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It’s not all about the President.

The 2020 election, besides having national, state and county races and issues at stake, also includes three seats on Maricopa City Council as well as the mayor’s office. The council seats up for election are currently occupied by Marvin Brown, Julia Gusse and Nancy Smith.

Beginning today, prospective candidates can pick up nomination papers from the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Nomination paperwork must be turned in between March 9 and April 6 to be on the ballot.

Tuesday, the city council passed a resolution officially setting the city election dates for next year.

The Primary Election is Aug. 4, 2020. Voters must be registered by July 6. Any candidates receiving a majority of all the votes cast at the Primary Election will be declared elected without running at the General Election.

The General Election is Nov. 3, 2020. Voters must be registered by Oct. 5.


A political action committee for a school bond to fund a second high school in Maricopa Unified School District has a short time to educate voters.

Many of the PAC members, acting as private individuals, are also on the governing board or are employed by the district. In its first meeting Aug. 1, the PAC laid out a plan as the Nov. 5 election approaches. That includes creating social media accounts under the name “Yes for Maricopa Schools.”

The board is asking voters for a $68 million bond. With Maricopa High School more than 500 students over capacity, MUSD is seeking funds for an additional high school and for capital projects for aging buildings, like replacing heating/cooling units and roofs.

As the board debated the amount to ask in a bond, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said a second high school alone will cost around $67-$75 million. The district received $26 million for construction plus funding for land from the state’s School Facilities Board. Under questioning from board member Patti Coutré, she said a $68 million high school would be a small but comprehensive school that might serve 2,600 students but without some of the programs of the current high school.

The PAC was created to campaign for the bond. “We are up. We are ready to accept checks,” said Paul Ulin of Primary Consultants, hired to manage the process.

“Outside of this room and about three other people, no one else knows there’s an election going on,” Ulin told the PAC. “It’s really after Labor Day that the campaign kicks off.”

Pro and con statements for the voter pamphlet had to be submitted in August. Ballots go out to military and overseas registered voters Sept. 21.

With a tight timeline to get the word out, Ulin explained what board members and employees are and are not allowed to do regarding letters of support and campaigning.

Jim Irving, volunteer coordinator at MUSD, said every election the district has covered the dos and don’ts of campaigning with PTOs and site councils. Mishell Terry, MUSD communications coordinator, said the same information had been given to all employees.

That included whether teachers can campaign for the bond election at community events or even school sports events like a football game.

“We’re not there in our official capacity; we’re there to watch a football game,” Maricopa High School Vice Principal Heidi Vratil said.

“At community events, and football games are great example, if you are a teacher and your school or another school are there, and you’re not there in the capacity of being a teacher, you’re there to watch the kids play, your kid play, and support the school; you are allowed to electioneer. And it should be outside that fence. In that case we don’t need to rent space,” Ulin said.

At events on school grounds not classified as “community events,” the PAC can get insurance and rent space to electioneer.

“What you can do is hand out information,” Irving said. “What we’ve always done, not using teachers, is just remind people of when the election is.”

He said the challenge in an off-year election is getting people to come out and vote.

Early ballots are mailed Oct. 9.

If this year’s bond passes but there is still not enough money for major capital expenditures like rooftops, HVAC and safety measures, the district may ask for a capital override or another bond. Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she could see the day in the next five to six years when the district will need another middle school or another elementary school.


Dikta Reid The long overdue override was for staff and teachers. Bonds are for buildings, books and buses. Educating voters is the key, too many uninformed citizens go to the polls!

Gary Miller An overcrowded HS will indeed effect learning. If having strong schools and an overall strong district can have a positive effect on home prices, then I’m for the bond. My mind is on my money and money is on my mind after paying 378k for a home that dropped 70% in value. To be a destination city, we must have strong schools that are sustainable over time, are innovative and will improve the learning process.

Merry Grace What happens if there is no approval for a new high school? This district serves the majority of our student population including Ak Chin, special ed, ELL, homeless, gifted, etc. Neighborhoods are growing with still more new homes being built which means more students. You cannot grow your community without growing your schools.

Kassie Walsh Something needs to be decided, and quickly. The school is overcrowded and it’s only getting worse as more and more houses go up. And with the prospect of an apartment complex, a solution is needed sooner rather than later. It’s not safe to crowd that many people into a small school and argue over a $10 million difference. Besides, I’m sure a school closer to the other side of town might alleviate the bus problem that occurs every single school year

Joshua Babb I have been in budget committee meetings and all they want to do is to find ways to spend more not how to spend smarter. This is one voter who is going to vote no to any bond this time around. They also are not taking into account the additional charter schools coming into the area for the high school kids that will take stress off the high school. Additionally, the state has given MUSD land and 20 something million to start the project. Before I consider any additional money I want a detailed outline of dollar by dollar where they intend on spending it.

Duane Vick I’ve advocated against overrides in the past because they didn’t yield any concrete data as to their purpose. I supported the last one because it was very specific about how the funds will be used. We need a second high school. Overcrowding leads to kids getting less education. The back row moves even further back. A second high school will move them toward the front of the class instead.

Dan J. Borman Come on Maricopa. For once don’t vote yourself another tax increase.


Should Maricopa Unified School District seek a bond to help fund a second high school?
Yes         46%
No          44%
Maybe 10%
Source: InMaricopa.com Total votes: 261


How would you rate the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board?
Poor                      41%
Fair                         30%
Good                     20%
Excellent              9%
Source: InMaricopa.com Total votes: 218

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD Board Members Patti Coutre and Ben Owens disagreed with Board President AnnaMarie Knorr and Torri Anderson about the size of a proposed bond.


With governing board members divided on the issue, Maricopa Unified School District is taking a tortuous route toward a bond election this fall.

Estimated costs of a second high school combined with capital costs for aging buildings total $140 million.

As the high school is over-capacity by more than 200 students, all board members agree a bond is needed. However, the four attending Wednesday’s meeting split down the middle on the amount for which they should ask voters. Joshua Judd was out of state, but Board President AnnaMarie Knorr attended via phone.

Over the past months, the district has looked at capital-improvement bonds of $50 million, $65 million and $75 million.

“I would rather be conservative and go for the sure thing,” Board Member Torri Anderson said.

She initially supported the $50 million proposal but moved to the $65 million bond. She said she had talked to community members who told her they would not vote for anything that added more than $100 per year to their tax bill.

“I want to be respectful of those community members that are here now,” she said.

But Board Member Patti Coutré said asking for $75 million was not being disrespectful. She said asking for the top amount was respecting future generations of students.

Coutré and Board Vice President Ben Owens pushed for $75 million while Anderson and Knorr voted for $65 million.

Knorr said it was important for the board to be in unanimous agreement on an amount. The board requested a special meeting be arranged July 3 for another vote on the issue after they are all able to gather more community information. The deadline is July 8.

If the board seeks a bond election, it will be held Nov. 5 this year.

A second high school is only part of the capital-improvements challenge.

Estimated costs of a second high school combined with capital costs for aging buildings such as new roofs and HVAC total $140 million. The district will receive about $26 million from the state’s School Facilities Board.

The district conservatively is expected to grow 5 percent over the next few years, a number that is forecast to be closer to 8 percent to spread the tax burden to more properties.

Previous meetings, including a stakeholders’ forum Thursday, showed various scenarios of funding the first phase of a new school plus top-priority capital improvements.

Scenario 1
High school Phase 1          $57,500,000
Top priorities                     $40,700,000
Minus SFB funds               $72,000,000 total

Scenario 2
High school Phase 1          $57,500,000
Top priorities                     $32,200,000 (deleting solar with battery storage)
Minus SFB funds               $63,500,000 total

Scenario 3
High school Phase 1          $57,500,000
Top priorities                     $24,700,000 (deleting energy- and water-saving initiatives)
Minus SFB funds               $56,000,000 total

“It’s a good idea to have energy projects at the front of the line, but you have such a capacity issue right now at the high school, that it’s probably going to push those kinds of things aside,” said Mark Rafferty, a partner at Facility Management Group, who made a presentation Thursday on the district’s lifecycle forecast.

He said all MUSD school are 12 to 16 years old, a time when most building systems “begin to go out of service.” That includes heating/cooling, roofing and interior finishes.

“At 12 years, they begin to go out of service. They begin to be a maintenance issue,” he said. “By 16 years, they are all out of service. All of your schools except the high school are between 12 and 16 years old.”

At last week’s forum, financial advisor Mike LaVallee, a managing director of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, reiterated the discrepancy between what is legislatively mandated to go in the voter pamphlet and what is the economic reality. Numbers presented to voters, he said, must include the 10-year average growth, a time period that included the great recession.

For MUSD, that would be a growth rate of 0.82 percent. Some districts, he said, had negative growth for the decade. During the past three years, however, the growth rate at MUSD has been at a 5-percent clip.

Tax value is usually 82-85 percent of the market value of a home. The average assessed value of homes in the borders of MUSD is $117,000.

But Anderson said there are several homes in Maricopa with assessed values of $240,000, “and those are our voters.”

LaVallee said there is a $12 difference for every addition $100,000 of assessed value.

Owens said the math indicates a $65 million bond would be $7 per month for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000. On a bond of $75 million, that moves to $7.5 or $8 per month.

“That’ not how people think,” Anderson said. “They think about the tax bill at the end of the year that says $240 or $260.”

Knorr said asking for a $65 million bond would pick up those voters who are on the fence about the full $75 million.

At the same time, she said, a “starter” high school is not workable because it would inherently involve inequality of opportunity between the two high schools. A starter school, for instance, would not have sports or arts programs.

Owens said $75 million would give the district “the capability to do what is right and what we need to do.”

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said if the district successfully has a bond approved that provides less money than the necessary capital improvements demand, MUSD may have to seek a capital-improvement budget override.

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Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Kelly dropped in on a meeting of the Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa on Wednesday. Vero Sanchez, president of the nonpartisan group, said the campaign reached out to ask if they could say a few words as he was coming through the area. Kelly, a 25-year Navy veteran and retired astronaut, is the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. If nominated, he could face incumbent Martha McSally, a Republican who was appointed to the seat after the death of Sen. John McCain. Kelly told the group his mother was a Blue Star Mother twice over when he and his twin brother Scott were in the Navy. He said he decided to run for office because he was tired of the divisiveness and nothing being done in Washington.

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Kyrsten Sinema (left) and Martha McSally

Pinal County Elections Department estimates it has 20,000 early ballots and 6,800 provisional ballots left to count.

Statewide there are an estimated 400,000 outstanding ballots. As the U.S. Senate race is thisclose, the methodical count and inconsistent policies on “curing” mail-in ballots have political party leadership on edge. The Republican Party in four counties sued Wednesday night and took particular aim at the recorders in Maricopa and Pima counties for allegedly not following a uniform standard by allowing voters extra days to fix or “cure” the ballots when signatures did not seem to match registration records.

Friday, they reached a settlement that allows rural counties to “cure” their early ballots in the same way until Nov. 14.

At issue is the battle for Jeff Flake’s senate seat between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally. McSally had been slightly ahead of Sinema since early counts began to be announced Tuesday night until late Thursday afternoon. As of 3:45 p.m. Friday, Sinema had a 9,097-vote lead.

The only other race that flipped in such a manner was for superintendent of public instruction. Democrat Kathy Hoffman had trailed Republican Frank Riggs in the early count but overtook him Thursday and now leads by more than 20,000 votes.

Meanwhile Democrat Sandra Kennedy quietly has edged closer to Republican Rodney Glassman in the election for Corporation Commissioner. There are two seats available. Though Republican Justin Olson is the top vote-getter so far, the top three candidates are separated by less than a percentage point. Kennedy is behind Glassman by 6,733 votes.

U.S. Senate
Kyrsten Sinema 943,099 votes 49.8%
Martha McSally 934,002 votes 48.6%

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With just 15 percent of precincts reporting statewide, state Rep. Vince Leach has a sizeable lead in his first attempt at the state Senate in District 11. He leads Democrat Ralph Atchue by more than 5,000 votes.

District 11 is in parts of Pinal and Pima counties. Only 11 percent of Pinal precincts have reported and only early ballots have been counted for Pima.

That being said, Republicans have opened a gap over Democrats in the District 11 House race. Incumbent Mark Finchem and Constable Bret Roberts both have more than 27,000 votes while Democrats Hollace Lyon and Marcela Quiroz trail with 22,500 and 21,300, respectively.

Also in early results, the District 4 constable race is leaning heavily Republican in the bid to replace Roberts, with Glenn Morrison outpacing Democrat Andre LaFond 58 percent to 42 percent.

Other local and county races were noncompetitive. Republican Lyle Riggs remains justice of the peace with no competition. Republican Amanda Stanford also had a walkover for re-election as clerk of the Superior Court for Pinal County.


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What does a constable do and why is it an elected office? Republican Glenn Morrison and Democrat Andre LaFond, candidates for constable in the Maricopa/Stanfield (soon to be Western Pinal) Justice Court, explain during the InMaricopa.com General Election Town Hall.

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Congressman Tom O'Hallern (right) talks with Scott Bartle during the Town Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Congressman Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat running to keep his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, answered questions on health care, gun safety, border security, infrastructure and more during the InMaricopa General Election Town Hall Oct. 6 at Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. His Republican opponent, Wendy Rogers, was not available.

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How do you like your judges?

At the end of the General Election ballot, voters are asked whether to retain some current Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges. The Judicial Performance Commission, getting feedback from attorneys, jurors, litigants and witnesses through surveys, found the four Pinal County Superior Court judges on the ballot meet the standards.

Judges Delia Neal, Daniel Washburn and Kevin White each received 27 votes of “meets judicial standards” and none against.

Judge Steven Fuller received 19 votes of “meets judicial standards” and four votes of “does not meet judicial standards.” Six members of the commission did not vote on Fuller. He was the only judge up for affirmation in the state to receive more than one vote of “does not meet judicial standards.” However, his overall average score was still a high 97.75 percent.

Fuller and Neal received their lowest marks among attorneys in “judicial temperament,” with Neal scoring 91 percent and Fuller scoring 85 percent. On the other hand, Washburn scored 100 percent in judicial temperament, and White 99 percent.

Washburn’s lowest marks came from attorneys rating his communications skills at 92 percent. White’s lowest score came from litigants/witnesses rating his integrity at 93 percent. His lowest mark among attorneys was also in integrity (96 percent).

Washburn and Neal scored 100 percent across all categories with litigants and witnesses.

Average survey ratings
Fuller – 97.75%
Neal – 98.3%
Washburn 98.1%
White – 98%

Arizona Supreme Court judges Clint Bolick and John Pelander III are also on the ballot for retention, and both received 27 votes of “meets the standards” and no votes of “does not meet standards.” Bolick had an average score of 94 percent. His lowest score was in judicial temperament at 83 percent. Pelander’s average score was 99.6. His lowest score was a 98 in communication skills.

In Divisions I and II Court of Appeals, four judges are up for retention. All were found to meet the standards, and none received a ruling of “does not meet judicial standards.”

In Division I, Judge Peter Swann had an average score of 96.1. His lowest mark came in “legal ability” with 91 percent. In Division II, Peter Eckerstrom averaged 97.25 percent. His lowest mark was in “legal ability” at 84 percent. Philip Espinosa’s average was 92.7 percent. His lowest mark, too, was in “legal ability” at 82 percent. Christopher Staring scored 98.86 percent, with the lowest mark of 96 percent coming in “legal ability” and “administrative performance.”

This information appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Facilitator AnnaMarie Knorr (left) chats with State House candidates Hollace Lyon and Bret Roberts. Photo by Jeff Kronenfeld.

Two of the four candidates running for the two Arizona House of Representatives seats for Legislative District 11 squared off at the InMaricopa.com General Election Town Hall on Saturday. Present at the event were Col. Hollace Lyon (ret.), a Democrat, and Constable Bret Roberts, a Republican.

Not present were incumbent Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, and candidate Marcela Quiroz, a Democrat.

Several of the questions asked in the debate related to energy policy and Proposition 127, which would require private Arizona power utilities to produce 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

It was a hot-button issue throughout the day, and Lyon acknowledged it was a tough one for her. Though she supports the proposition, she expressed some concerns about the inflexibility of the measure. She said that Arizona Public Service Electric Company (APS), makes roughly $400 million in profits annually and the CEO has an annual salary of $15 million. She advocated for the Arizona Corporate Commission to ensure that some of the increased costs of compliance will come out of the company’s profits, rather than passed entirely to ratepayers.

Roberts opposes Proposition 127, stating he believed it would increase individual ratepayers costs by $1,000 a year. He said other countries, such as Canada, China and Japan, were divesting from renewable energy.

“The solar industry is kind of becoming a fossil,” Roberts said.

Lyon expressed doubt over these claims. If what Roberts said about the shift in energy policy in other countries is accurate, she saw it as an opportunity to fill the void.

The candidates sparred over a number of issues, such as whether Arizona should take over more federal lands within the state. Roberts was for this and Lyon opposed. Roberts said that only 16 to 17 percent of lands within the state were taxable, while states such as New Jersey are able to tax 97 percent of their land.

“We’re at a deficit before we even start,” Roberts said.

Lyon strongly disagreed, sarcastically asking what could go wrong if the state did take over federal lands, noting the Wallow Fire in 2011 cost the federal government $109 million, while the entire budget for firefighting and suppression in Arizona was only between $5 million and $10 million annually.

“One good fire and we would just wipe out the Arizona budget,” Lyon said.

The two candidates also disagreed over tax policy. Lyon attacked what she described as $13.7 billion in tax loopholes, which she believed should be reexamined to see if they generate a sufficient return on investment to offset the loss in revenue. She also said that 74 percent of corporations in Arizona paid $50 or less annually in taxes to the state. Roberts disagreed with both points.

“This tax loophole thing is just a fallacy,” he said.

Roberts preferred the term tax policy to tax loopholes. He also argued that corporations paying such low taxes generated revenue for the state by bringing new jobs and increased economic activity.

Both candidates agreed they had strong differences in opinion and approaches.

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Ralph Atchue (center) and Vince Leach debated the issues in a Town Hall session facilitated by AnnaMarie Knorr. Photo by Jeff Kronenfeld

Democrat Ralph Atchue came out swinging against Republican Rep. Vince Leach in the first debate of the day for the InMaricopa.com General Election Town Hall on Saturday.

The two candidates for the state Senate seat for Legislative District 11 offered strongly contrasting views on important issues for Maricopa residents such as education, taxes, prisons, water policy and new development in desert areas.

Atchue went on the offensive in his opening remarks, stating that Arizona was facing “tough problems” and his opponent was not only “part of the problem” but was the “main obstacle standing in the way of coming up with common sense solutions.”

In contrast, Leach avoided personal remarks, offering a more optimistic view of the state’s current condition, though he did dispute Atchue’s claims a number of times. The positions of each candidate generally corresponded to that of their party.

Education funding levels were front and center throughout the debate. Leach argued only slight increases in state revenue would be needed to fully fund Gov. Doug Ducey’s planned 20 percent increase to Arizona public school teachers’ salaries by 2020.

“We’ve put $2.7 billion back in the school system since I came in 2015,” Leach said.

Atchue rebutted this with a scathing criticism of Leach and Gov. Ducey’s education policy, stating the Republicans initially offered teachers only a 1 percent increase in pay, relenting to the greater increase only after tens of thousands of teachers walked out of schools in April.

AnnaMarie Knorr, president of the Maricopa Unified School District governing board, served as the moderator and opened the debate by asking whether current taxes in the state were too high, too low or just about right. Atchue said taxes were “out of balance.” He proposed an audit of the state’s current tax scheme, attacking what he described as tax loopholes and tax credits, which he claimed offered little return on investment.

“Because the state has abdicated it’s responsibility for funding things like public education, infrastructure, juvenile detention, many things, the tax burden has been pushed onto counties and cities who have no recourse but to raise sales taxes and property taxes,” Atchue said.

Leach acknowledged the state had experienced “tough times” in the past, mentioning a one-time budget shortfall of $3 billion, but said Arizona was now experiencing increasing revenue.

“Our overall tax system is very, very good in the state of Arizona,” Leach said. “In fact, we’re a tax haven.”

Leach cited lowering taxes and other pro-business policies as responsible for attracting new residents and businesses to the state. Atchue disputed this last claim, arguing the state’s climate was more responsible for attracting new residents than its tax policy.

The two candidates also differed on infrastructure issues, though both agreed on the need to improve dangerous intersections and to expand road capacity.

A question about the use of private prisons demonstrated a strong difference of opinion between the candidates. Leach supports the use of private prisons when cost-effective and claimed prison populations in the state were declining. Atchue disputed that prison populations are decreasing and did not support increasing the use of private prisons.

As both candidates’ forceful closing remarks made clear, residents of Maricopa have two very different options available in the senate race for Legislative District 11 this November.

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The General Election is Nov. 6. The following are candidates for office that affect Maricopa. In purple are candidates you will see at Saturday’s Town Hall in Maricopa. Learn more at MaricopaEvents.com.

Ready to vote?
Last day to register to vote: Oct. 9
Early ballots mailed: Oct. 10
Early in-person voting at three Recorder’s Office locations begins: Oct. 10

U.S. Senate
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema
Green Angela Green
Republican Martha McSally
Write-ins: Sheila Bilyeu (Democrat), Michael DeCarlo (independent), Robert Kay (Republican), Jonathan Ringham (other), Benjamin Wirtz (Republican)

Kyrsten Sinema (left) and Martha McSally

U.S. Congressional District 1
Democrat Tom O’Halleran*
Republican Wendy Rogers
Write-in: David Shock (independent)

Tom O’Halleran (left) and Wendy Rogers

Democrat David Garcia
Green Angel Torres
Republican Doug Ducey*
Write-ins: Arthur Ray Arvizu (other), James “Marvelman” Gibson II (other), Christian Komor (independent), Patrick Masoya (independent)

David Garcia (left) and Doug Ducey

Secretary of State
Democrat Katie Hobbs
Republican Steve Gaynor

Katie Hobbs (left) and Steve Gaynor

Attorney General
Democrat January Contreras
Republican Mark Brnovich*

January Contreras (left) and Mark Brnovich

State Treasurer
Democrat Mark Manoil
Republican Kimberly Yee

Mark Manoil (left) and Kimberly Yee

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Democrat Kathy Hobbs
Republican Frank Riggs
Write-in: Matthew Harris (Democrat)

Kathy Hobbs (left) and Frank Riggs

Mine Inspector
Democrat William “Bill” Pierce
Republican Joe Hart*

Bill Pierce (left) and Joe Hart

Corporation Commission (vote for 2)
Democrat Sandra Kennedy
Democrat Kiana Maria Sears
Republican Rodney Glassman
Republican Justin Olson*
Write-in: Neil DeSanti (Republican)

Sandra Kennedy (from left), Kiana Sears, Rodney Glassman and Justin Olson

State Senate District 11
Democrat Ralph Atchue
Green Mohammad Arif
Republican Venden “Vince” Leach

Ralph Atchue (left) and Vince Leach

State House District 11 (vote for 2)
Democrat Hollace Lyon
Democrat Marcela Quiroz
Republican Mark Finchem*
Republican Bret Roberts

Hollace Lyon (from left), Marcela Quiroz, Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts

Clerk of Pinal County Superior Court
Republican Amanda Stanford*

Maricopa/Stanfield Justice of the Peace
Republican Lyle Riggs*

Maricopa/Stanfield Constable
Democrat Andre LaFond
Republican Glenn Morrison

Andre LaFond (left) and Glenn Morrison


This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa. Photos of Attorney General candidates have been corrected from the printed version. We apologize for the error.

State Rep. Vince Leach (left) and Democrat opponent Ralph Atchue at a feisty debate in August, are scheduled to appear in an Oct. 6 InMaricopa.com Town Hall for the General Election. Photo by Angelica Ramis.


The InMaricopa.com General Election Town Hall is set for Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maricopa High School’s Performing Arts Center.

State and local candidates will discuss the issues with their opponents and take questions from the public ahead of the Nov. 6 election. The event is free to attend. RSVP at MaricopaEvents.com.

In a survey of attendees after the Primary Election Town Hall, more than 90 percent said the event affected the way they would vote.

“The opportunity for political candidates to engage with prospective voters about issues the voters care about is a priceless element of our democracy,” InMaricopa Editor Raquel Hendrickson said. “So, we encourage voters and candidates to bring thoughtful discussion points to help highlight the differences between the campaigns.”

The morning block starting at 10 a.m. will have candidates for state house and senate for Legislative District 11. The afternoon block starting at noon will have candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission, constable and more offices.

The rules for candidates and audience alike are simple: Be respectful, be succinct and stay on topic.

The town hall is in partnership with Maricopa High School and Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

Doors open at 9:45 a.m. A LEGO pool supervised by Be Awesome Youth Coalition volunteers will be available for children whose parents wish to attend.

Raquel@InMaricopa.com, MaricopaEvents.com.

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Sen. Jon Kyl

Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl was chosen by Gov. Doug Ducey to return to Washington, D.C., to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term through 2020.

Kyl, 76, represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate from 1995 through Jan. 3, 2013, before he retired from politics and Jeff Flake was elected. He was previously in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1987-1995. An attorney, Kyl most recently worked for Covington & Burling.

“There is no one in Arizona more prepared to represent our state in the U.S. Senate than Jon Kyl,” Ducey said. “He understands how the Senate functions, and will make an immediate and positive impact benefiting all Arizonans.”

While in the senate previously, Kyl served as Senate Minority Whip, the second-highest ranking position in the Republican conference.

“We are all saddened by the circumstances that required this appointment and appreciate there was only one John McCain,” Kyl said. “John and I served the people of Arizona for nearly two decades, and in that spirit, along with Senator Flake, I will do my best to ensure Arizonans are well represented in the Senate. There is much-unfinished business, including confirmation of President Trump’s nominees for judicial and executive branch positions, and I look forward to getting to work on behalf of my fellow Arizonans.”

Though Kyl was high on the list, he was not the top choice among Maricopans who took a survey last week at InMaricopa.com. Asked to name anyone they thought Ducey should select to replace McCain, 26 nominated Cindy McCain, the late senator’s widow.

Finishing far behind in second place was ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who just finished last in the Republican Primary for a senate seat. Arpaio was named eight times, while Maricopa Mayor Christian Price and Rep. Martha McSally were both named seven times.

Kyl was fifth in the survey, with six people naming him their choice.

The 25 others named ranged from state Sen. Steve Smith to non-Arizona entertainer Kanye West.

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With all ballots counted, three candidates for Maricopa City Council have been elected in the Primary Election, negating the need for a General Election.

Newcomer Rich Vitiello and incumbents Henry Wade and Vincent Manfredi all received enough votes to be elected outright, according to the state formula. There were seven city council candidates on the ballot and one write-in.

Rich Vitiello 3,435
Henry Wade 2,902
Vincent Manfredi 2,731
Bob Marsh 2,091
Cynthia Morgan 1,661
Linette Caroselli 1,654
Paige Richie 1,107
Write-in 139

The local results of the Aug. 28 election are set to become official this week on the agendas of the city council Tuesday and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors Wednesday.

The county also basically re-elected Amanda Stanford as clerk of the Superior Court. She defeated fellow Republican Scott McKee, 57 percent to 43 percent. No other party put forth a candidate in the primary. Judge Lye Riggs was re-elected as Justice of the Peace of the Maricopa/Stanfied Justice Court (soon to be renamed Western Pinal Justice Court). He ran unopposed in the Primary and also has no competition in the General Election.

The constable race is set for the General Election. Glenn Morrison came out ahead in the Republican primary and will face Democrat Andre LaFond, who ran unopposed, in the General Election.

Glenn Morrison 51.9%
William “Bill” Griffin 47.8%

Three Republicans and three Democrats ran for two available seats in Legislative District 11, which includes Maricopa. The top two in each race go on to the General Election.

GOP incumbent Mark Finchem was the top vote-getter in his primary, with Maricopa’s Bret Roberts in second. They were trailed by Maricopan Howell Jones. On the Democrat size, Hollace Lyon and Maricopan Marcela Quiroz were the top picks, with Barry McCain being eliminated.

Hollace Lyon 42.56%
Marcela Quiroz 42.24%
Barry McCain 15.2%

Mark Finchem 43.87%
Bret Roberts 37.56%
Howell Jones 18.57%

At the state level, ballots are still being counted, but the outcome in most races is set.

Doug Ducey’s bid to be re-elected governor continues as he easily defeated former Secretary of State Ken Bennett in the Republican Primary. Democrat David Garcia was also easily clear of two competitors and will face Ducey in the General Election

Doug Ducey 70,7%
Ken Bennett 29.3%

David Garcia 50.5%
Steve Farley 32.5%
Kelly Fryer 17.1%

Michele Reagan’s bid to be re-elected secretary of state, however, ended in the Primary as she was overwhelmed by Republican Steve Gaynor. He will face Democrat Katie Hobbs in the General Election.

Steve Gaynor 66.8%
Michele Reagan 33.2%

In the state treasurer‘s race, which had no incumbent, state Sen. Kimberly Yee defeated Tucson accountant Jo Ann Sabbagh in the Republican primary. Yee will face Democrat Mark Manoil, who ran unopposed.

Kimberly Yee 59.3%
Jo Ann Sabbagh 40.7%

Superintendent of Public Instruction turned out to the tightest contest for both major parties. Democrat Kathy Hoffman edged David Schapira by nearly 22,000 votes. For the Republicans, it remains too close to call, as Frank Riggs leads Bob Branch by just 223 votes. Just behind in third is incumbent Diane Douglas.

Frank Riggs 21.83%
Bob Branch 21.79%
Diane Douglas 21.23%
Tracy Livingston 20.2%
Jonathan Gelbart 14.9%

Kathy Hoffman 52.3%
David Schapira 47.7%

In the contest for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, one Republican incumbent failed to survive the Primary. A set of Democrats running as a team was broken up by a third. The top two Republicans and top two Democrats advance to the General Election.

Justin Olson 25.2%
Rodney Gassman 22.8%
James O’Connor 21.6%
Tom Forese 15.9%
Eric Sloan 14.5%

Sandra Kennedy 45.%
Kiana Sears 28%
Bill Mundell 26.9%

Attorney general and mine inspector had no primary competition. In the General Election, incumbent AG Mark Brnovich will face Democrat January Contreras, and incumbent Joe Hart will face Democrat Bill Pierce.

At the federal level, General Election contests are also set. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will face Republican Martha McSally for the U.S. Senate seat. Incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran goes for re-election against Republican Wendy Rogers.

Statewide voter turnout was 32 percent.

Vincent Manfredi is minority owner of InMaricopa.

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Wendy Rogers is the Republican front-runner in the early counting for CD1.

Competing for a chance to face off with Democrat Tom O’Halleran in the fall, Maricopan Steve Smith trails Wendy Rogers by more than 2,000 votes.

Tiffany Shedd is a distant third in the Republican Primary for U.S. Congress District 1.

“It’s been a long, hard road so far,” Smith said while awaiting results. “A huge district, 59,000 square miles. My poor car is chugging right along still. But it’s been a great time.”

Smith is currently the senator from Legislative District 11.

Still waiting for seven counties to fully report, Rogers had 20, 564 votes to Smith’s 17,879.

Meanwhile, O’Halleran, the incumbent, was unopposed in the Democrat primary.

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submitted photos

While Justice of the Peace Lyle Riggs had no competition in the Primary Election (nor in the upcoming General Election), there has been a battle for the constable of the Maricopa/Stanfield JP Court.

With only seven of 16 precincts reporting Tuesday, Glenn Morrison has a lead over fellow Republican Bill Griffin – 53 percent to 46 percent. They are vying to replace Bret Roberts, who is on track to reach the General Election in the race for House of Representatives for Legislative District 11.

The eventual winner of the Republican Primary will meet Democrat Andre LaFond in the General Election.

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Scott McKee is the challenger to incumbent Amanda Stanford in the Republican Primary for clerk of the Pinal County Superior Court.


The Pinal County Clerk of the Superior Court may have stamped out her GOP competitor late Tuesday.

Early voting indicated Republican incumbent Amanda Stanford holds a healthy lead (56.56 percent) ahead of primary opponent Scott McKee (43.23 percent).

Currently, 33 percent of precincts are reporting.

The Republican winner was expected to have no competition in the upcoming general election.

More than 1,600 votes have been cast for Democratic write-ins. Votes were also tabulated for a Republican write-in, with a slim tally of 34 votes.

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After Tuesday’s Primary Election, the General Election for State House of Representatives (LD11) is shaping up. Three Republicans and three Democrats are running for the two seats.

Incumbent Mark Finchem (43 percent) and Bret Roberts (37 percent) currently lead the Republican race to the state house, according to early counts from the Secretary of State’s Office. Howell Jones, a self-branded outsider, trails the pack with more than 5,000 votes being reported (18.87 percent).

Finchem said he’s not surprised by the early vote count – both in his primary and others.

“What is not surprising as I look at results across the board, it looks like people are enjoying the fact that our economy is doing much better with the change of federal administration, and now with our tax policies kicking in here at the state level over the last four years, life is much better for a lot of people. So, I think the early voting is telling me that’s a vote of confidence,” Finchem said.

With fewer than 30,000 votes tabulated in the Republican primary so far, Roberts, who is current constable of Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court, was hesitant to call the count a primary win just yet.

“There’s still a lot to be reported, but at this point I’m very happy looking at all the numbers in the primary, not only on the Republican side but on the Democrat side,” Roberts said.

Candidates Hollace Lyon (44.48 percent) and Marcela Quiroz (41.57 percent) appear to have easily come ahead of fellow Democrat Barry McCain (13.94 percent).

Quiroz chose caution over celebration after a read of the early votes, while Lyon said she’s ready to campaign in the general election.

“I think it’s interesting that Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts are so close in their numbers, so that tells me that I think I can beat one of the two of them and win a seat in the Legislature,” Lyon said.

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Rich Vitiello. (Submitted photo)

With early ballots counted and eight precincts reporting out of 11, Rich Vitiello and incumbents Henry Wade and Vincent Manfredi lead the eight-person field of Maricopa City Council candidates.

In the Primary Election, Vitiello received the highest number of votes among the early ballots with 1,495 and overall has 21.18 percent of the votes. Wade totaled is at 18.61 percent and Manfredi 17.11.

Votes cast at the polls and provisional ballots are still being counted by Pinal County. Maricopans are electing three councilmembers.

Currently just behind Manfredi, Bob Marsh has 13.98 percent. Cynthia Morgan has 10.87 percent, Linette Caroselli 10.19 percent and Paige Richie 7.2 percent. There were 69 write-in votes cast in the early ballots. The registered write-in candidate is Leon Potter.

One or more candidates could be elected outright in the primary results. Others could continue on to the General Election in November.

Manfredi is minority owner of InMaricopa.