Sarah Tyree, Wendy Garcia and Mary Kathleen Honne and incumbent Ben Toma

Challengers Sarah Tyree, Wendy Garcia and Mary Kathleen Honne and incumbent Ben Toma participated in a Legislative District 22 online debate moderated by Gary Grado.

Four of the six candidates for three Legislative District 22 positions participated in an Oct. 5 online debate.

Democrats Sarah Tyree, Wendy Garcia and Mary Kathleen Honne joined Republican incumbent Ben Toma in a Zoom debate sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.  Arizona Capitol Times reporter Gary Grado was the moderator.

On Nov. 3, Republican Sen. David Livingston faces Democratic candidate Tyree for his District 22 Senate seat. Livingston did not attend the event.

Republican incumbents Frank Carroll and Toma are both on the Nov. 3 ballot for the District 22 House of Representatives seats along with Garcia and Honne. Carroll did not attend the debate. 

Arizona Legislative District 22 includes parts of Peoria, Sun City West and Surprise.

The candidates were asked why they should represent the district.

“I’m more of a policy guy at the Legislature. I think I’m known as that, and I do try to be as available as possible to anyone that has issues or concerns,” Toma said.

“I learned from those that were there and there’s a process to everything, and well, sometimes the process can be frustrating. It’s also there to safeguard against certain abuses of power.” 

Honne said, “In the past three years, I’ve observed firsthand that our Legislature doesn’t seem to share the same spirit of community service and values of integrity, equity and accountability that I do.”

“What really stuck out to me was that legislators on both sides of the fence were voting against their morals, because the party told them to,” Tyree said. “I believe that policy belongs to people.”

Garcia said, “I will serve by and for the people of Arizona. My priorities are to cut the sales tax, improve public schools, expand health care coverage, increase good paying jobs by growing the economy and to restore democracy to Arizona’s Legislature.” 

The candidates were then asked how they would handle policy decisions when the Legislature returns to session.

“We know that we have people throughout the state who have been impacted, either because they’re small business owners, or because they’ve been impacted for financial reasons because of perhaps being laid off work or because they have been impacted because their parents have children, or they have family and nursing facilities. These are all things that immediately we need to address,” Honne said.

Toma discussed the state’s response to COVID-19.

“I think there’s a number of issues that have come up that perhaps were not foreseen during the pandemic,” Toma said. 

“I will say that the original fears, some of them have turned out to be not the case, both in terms of health and also in terms of finances for the state.”

Tyree said potentially devastating impacts of a looming housing crisis should be addressed as soon as possible.

“I think it’s important for us to know that we are going to be facing a housing crisis as soon as a moratorium (on evictions) lifts,” Tyree said. “... I think that needs to take priority.”

The moderator asked candidates to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications.

“In 2019, my opponent was co-sponsor of HB 2358, and basically that is a landlord’s rights bill,” Tyree said. 

“And what that says is, if you have a renter who falls on hard times, and they get rental assistance, and they pay their landlords that rental assistance, their landlord can still legally evict them.” Tyree said. 

Toma interjected.

“That was actually my bill, not your opponent’s bill,” Toma said. “He co-sponsored it, but it was actually my bill. I was the prime sponsor of that. And it was brought by one of the largest landlord tenant assistance group community groups in Arizona. We had long debates about this both in the House and in the Senate. 

“And the reality of it is we adopted language to make sure everybody was comfortable with this. In the end, if there wouldn’t be a situation where if you accept the partial payment, and that’s the only issue, then you can then go ahead and evict that person,” Toma continued. 

In 2018, Toma received 65,310 votes, with Carroll getting 64,729 as the Republicans took both Arizona House of Representatives seats.

Honne said she is concerned “domestic violence survivors actually can be evicted because they create a nuisance. They are the survivors,” she said.

Garcia pointed out the need for immediate financial assistance, to combat the financial strain of the pandemic. She disagreed with Toma’s analysis regarding recent evictions in the district.

“People need help. They need money. They need it right now due to COVID-19,” Garcia said. “How can we do that? Should we be borrowing it maybe from the rainy-day fund?”

Toma responded, “We actually set aside $50 million immediately to do that.” 

Garcia strongly disagreed with Toma regarding evictions in the district.

“The moratorium hasn’t really functioned well, let’s be honest,” Garcia said. “People are getting evicted every day.”

Honne said the speed at which federal CARES Act funding has been distributed has been “woefully” inept.

“State agencies like the Department of Economic Security ... is probably not functioning very well because they’re working on technology that has not been updated since the 1990s. 

“And when people who were unemployed tried to contact them to say, ‘Where’s my unemployment going?’ And they reached a phone line, the phone line was connecting them to Pennsylvania,” Honne said.