LD 30 candidates don’t set themselves apart in Clean Elections debate

Dems agree on every issue June 11 at Glendale Civic Center
By: 
CARY HINES, Assistant editor

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission sponsored a debate June 11 at the Glendale Civic Center for Legislative District 30, but it was anything but as all four Democrat candidates essentially agreed on every issue.
All four candidates on the ballot — Bill Brotherton, Alejandro Larios, Robert Meza and Raquel Teran — were in attendance.
They were each given two minutes for an introduction statement.
“I am a product of LD 30, been living here 44 years,” Brotherton said, adding he has two children who were born and raised in District 30.
He has previously served District 30 in the House and Senate, and was appointed by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano as a state Superior Court judge and served on the bench for 10 and a half years.
“I’m very familiar with the need for progressive, experienced leadership in representing our community,” he said.
He comes from a family of seven children, went to Cortez High School and Glendale Community College and graduated from Grand Canyon College.
He said he wants to ensure quality public education for everyone in the district.
Larios started his introduction in Spanish and switched to English, stating he grew up in District 30. His parents bought their first house in District 30 when he was 4 years old.
“We’re dealing with the same exact issues — lack of resources, lack of education,” he said.
He said he wonders what current legislators are doing to increase voter turnout and empower the community.
“We don’t need saviors, we need community engagement, we need empowerment, we need folks to really inspire the community,” he said.
He’s focused on education, strong wages, safe streets and a better opportunity for young people.
Meza is a third-generation Phoenician, born and raised in District 30 where he’s lived for 33 years.
He attended Montebello and Alhambra school districts, Bourgade Catholic High School and went to University of Notre Dame on a scholarship.
He has experience in the banking industry and nonprofit arena. Having worked in both fields, he’s been able to build alliances and bring collective knowledge, wisdom and intuition down to the legislative body, he said.
“I know how to interface with both nonprofit constituents, corporate arena and the political arena,” he said.
He said he’s focused on higher increased wages for teachers and a better healthcare system in Arizona.
Teran said she got civically engaged in 2006 when she began to see anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation in Arizona.
“At the end of the day, the same people that attack immigrant communities are gutting our education system, are attacking working families and are chipping away at healthcare and women’s reproductive rights,” she said.
She said she has been at the forefront fighting against attacks, from recalling Senate Bill 1070 author Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and most recently, fighting for healthcare.
After their introduction statements, moderator Natalie Sayer asked them all the same four questions.
When asked about their top priorities and the first bill they would want passed in the Legislature, they all focused on education.
“It’s not just because it’s a hot topic, but because I lived through it, as well,” Larios said. “In my studies, we found that for every dollar we spend on education, we save $13 as a state collectively.”
When the standard of living is higher, the crime rate lowers, the inmate population decreases, emergency room visits decline and bankruptcies go down, he said.
Meza said the current education system is “piecemeal” and has no long-term sustainability. He said he told the governor three years ago that he better tackle the education issue or teachers will rise up against him and that has happened.
“And more power to the teachers and the children and parents of the system,” he said.
As the mother of a 2-year-old, Teran said one of her biggest dilemmas is figuring out where she will send her son to school.
“We need to tackle education,” she said. “We need to make sure that we have the resources necessary in our classrooms so that our children in Legislative District 30 can thrive. From K-12, we need to ensure our kids are ready for college, we need to ensure that in order for our district to start thriving, we have better jobs and we need to bring it back to education.”
Brotherton said public education needs to be fully funded.
“For me, it’s very important that every child has access to good public education,” he said, adding that public schools have to take every student who walks through the door, whereas private and charter schools don’t.
When asked how they would achieve their legislative goals if the Democrats are unable to gain a majority in the House, they all centered on relationship building and reaching across the aisle.
When asked about legalizing recreational marijuana, they all said they are in favor of it.
Teran said a lot of District 30 residents can’t register to vote and can’t engage in the civic process because of a felony associated with marijuana.
Brotherton said too much time is spent in court on marijuana cases.
Larios said legalization would reduce crime and increase tax revenue to fund schools and increase Medicare and Medicaid.
Meza said marijuana has been demonized but it actually has medicinal purposes and needs to be regulated like alcohol.
When asked what the state can do other than providing tax incentives to attract more jobs and new industries, they all came back to better education and a job-ready workforce.
Questions from the audience were also asked of specific candidates.
When Brotherton was asked how he would propose increasing the public school funding in District 30, he said by supporting the Invest in Education Act and bringing back corporate income tax.
When asked what changes he would recommend to ensure safety in schools and other public places, Larios said it should be more difficult to get a weapon than it is to get a driver’s license.
When asked about the state’s water supply, Meza said conservation efforts need to be enacted in homes, lawns and golf courses.
When asked how she feels about single-payer healthcare, Teran said she supports it 100 percent.
To view the debate in its entirety, go to https://www.azcleanelections.gov/en/past-debates.

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