While only one candidate in each race is a Clean Elections candidate, all of the candidates were invited. Most, but not all, took advantage of the opportunity to speak to the approximately 200 voters in attendance.
As pure theater, the senate debate was boring - only one candidate, State Representative David Schapira, showed up.
Anthony "Grandpa" Goshorn, the faux-Green write in candidate, was expected (the CCEC went so far as to print up a name tent for him) but he didn't appear at the forum. He was in the audience, however. (working on obtaining pics)
Republican candidate Wendy Rogers was a complete no-show, not even bothering to attend to watch the debate and meet with interested voters.
She put up a message on her Facebook page saying that "Voters OVERWHELMINGLY tell me they appreciate a candidate on their doorstep rather than having to take time to attend a forum to view a candidate from a distance."
I don't know what "distance" she is talking about - one could meet and greet any of the candidates present before and after the forum.
Of course, Rogers could have been pinned down and asked to explain her answer on this questionnaire from the Center for Arizona Policy.
When asked if she supported or opposed "Prohibiting abortion except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother," not only did she circle "Support," she expanded upon that answer by adding "Honestly, I do not support abortion even to prevent the unfortunate death of the mother."
Ummmm...yeah. That one doesn't even fit in with the mainstream of her own party, much less the mainstream of Tempe and south Scottsdale.
In any event, the candidate "debate" became a conversation between Schapira and Russ Knocke, the moderator of the event (See above pic)
Schapira used his time to lay out his political resume and past accomplishments and his vision for the future.
His trademark issue and political passion, both historically and in his future plans, is protecting and strengthening Arizona's education system.
Calling the Republican majority in the legislature "pennywise and pound foolish," a line that he borrowed from Republican John Kavanagh, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, he sharply criticized the way that the Rs have [not] handled the state's fiscal crisis, particularly in regards to education funding (Arizona has a "terrible model on how to run an education system") and health care (the lege has "raised the bar" on AHCCCS eligibility when ever-more people need its safety net).*
* - Don't fret R readers, Kavanagh is still drinking the Kool-Aid - within days of urging during a committee meeting that the state not to be "pennywise and pound foolish" he voted to cut education funding, close state parks that were a net revenue generator, and end KidsCare.
The House debate was far livelier. Six candidates - Democrats Ben Arredondo and Ed Ableser, Republicans Don Hawker and Steve May, Green Gregor Knauer, and Libertarian Damian Trabel - were there, though only Ableser has accepted Clean Elections funding.
While Knauer and Trabel laid out their respective positions well (or not-so-well, depending), the debate became focused on the differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Even at that, most of the open animosity was between Ableser and May.
Hawker spent most of his time piping up to blame all of AZ's (and the country's) ills on abortion and "unbridled liberalism" and Arredondo spent his time focusing on Arizona's devastated education system and "jobs, jobs, jobs."
I'll give Hawker credit for one thing - he may be a one-issue candidate, but he is focused enough on that one issue to turn any answer to any question into a diatribe against abortion.
And "diatribe" is the right word too - when CCEC puts up the video recording of the debate, watch it. He uses lines like "scissors removing the brains of babies" and does so with a straight face.
Ben Arredondo spent his time on one thing, too - talking about what he will do in office if elected. Like Schapira (and Ableser, too), the career teacher and public servant will be focused on education. He also pledged to work "across the aisle" for the benefit of the district, teaming up with Republicans on issues that they can agree on. That is something that Arredondo may be uniquely qualified to do, as the former school board and Tempe City Council member, and former Republican, has a long history of working for real world solutions for real world problems.
However focused those two were, the featured attraction in the House debate was Steve May constantly lobbing rhetorical bombs (and personal insults) at Ed Ableser.
Apparently, May must believe that Ableser is the one who uncovered his involvement with the burgeoning AZGOP/sham Green candidates scandal,
I don't really know who did figure out May's involvement, but since May wasn't exactly hiding his involvement with some of the suspect candidates, his involvement could have been uncovered by almost anyone.
Anyway, May started right in on Ableser, claiming that Ableser's biggest failing as a legislator is his unwillingness to work
Ummm - I can state unequivocally that the R caucus doesn't want any Democrats to work with them. During 2009's budget dust-up when the Rs couldn't get enough votes from their own caucus to pass a budget, attempting to "work with" Democrats meant that the Governor, President of the State Senate, and Speaker of the State House met in the Speaker's office and proceeded to call in each member of the D caucus to *tell* them to vote for their budget. It didn't work.
May kept taking his shots at Ableser, until he was not-so-subtly schooled by Ben Arredondo, who, to the approval of most of the audience members, pointed out that he was there to talk about his vision and candidacy, not to take swipes at the other candidates. After that. May cut back (but didn't cut out) the direct attacks.
According to May, the best reason to vote for him is that he is a Republican, and would be part of the majority party.
Seriously, that was the best he had to offer.
Ableser took his time to point out his record of accomplishment and advocacy for the district.
Among other things, he supports broadening the state's tax base (the sales-tax centered model currently used by Arizona is "very archaic"), using incentives to push entrepeneurship in Arizona, especially around "green" and solar technology, and, of course, buttressing the state's education system.
Finally, a curious thing occurred after the forum was over -
From the stage, May started barking at fellow blogger Randy, the author of Dry Heat Democrat. Not sure why. Randy barked back (a little) in response, but it didn't escalate beyond that. I'll leave it to him to tell the story on his blog. It should be up in a day or two.
Interested voters can go to the website of the Clean Elections Commission to view the debate online (once the CCEC posts the video record)
More pics from the forum -
Left: The House candidates (L to R): Ableser, Arredondo, Hawker, Knauer, May, and Trabel.