Government and education reform will continue to be key in the District 19 legislative race for the Arizona House of Representatives.
Running for the two open seats in the largely Mesa district are two incumbents and a Democrat challenger. They all have an eye on revising education standards to focus away from high-stakes tests, and for, they say, giving voters more influence or at least voice in their government.
The two Arizona House incumbents are running for re-election based on a campaign featuring "big, bold changes."
Kirk Adams, 35, and Rich Crandall, 40, are running for re-election for the offices they've held since 2007.
Both are business owners. Adams, who led a successful effort last year to pass legislation preventing state Child Protective Services from sealing files of endangered or killed children, said he wants to continuing passing laws making government more transparent, including putting the state's checkbook online in a way residents could search for specific expenditures.
"Right now in state government there's a shroud of secrecy, and no one knows what's going on," Adams said. Residents should be able to easily access any cost to the state and investigate whether they're getting their money's worth, he said.
He said he would also like to ease the taxes on corporations to attract a more diversified industry to the state and prevent cyclical deficits.
Crandall is serving as president during his last year as a member of the Mesa Unified School District governing board, and wants to play a key role in education reform. He wants to continue efforts he aided during the last legislative session in revising education standards to focus on learning at younger ages rather than using a high-stakes test to enforce learning in the final years of school.
A key would be to retain kids who can't read by third grade, rather than letting them advance through high school and then stopping them when they can't pass a high-stakes graduation test like the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, test.
"For some reason we think we should retain a kid when they're a senior in high school, and it's a little too late," Crandall said. "If they can't read by third grade, we need to do heavy, heavy intervention, not just repeat third grade."
Kathy Romano, 62, is the only nonincumbent running for a House seat, and the only Democrat. She said she wants to make changes to education law that help kids better prepare for their future, rather than for high-stakes tests.
"We don't know what the jobs of the future are going to demand," Romano said. "But we need to teach our children how to think, and to regain that curiosity that is so important in learning. We need them to know how to think, and not just show up to the job and to do what they're told."
She said she'd also like the legislators to listen to residents rather than follow personal agendas.
She's retired from a career that began in chemistry and ended in technology management. She's also operated local businesses including Baskets That Care, a gift basket and floral business. She moved to Arizona to be close to her aging parents, and continues to be active in organizations including Kiwanis and her local church's food bank.
NO RACE IN SENATE
Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, meanwhile, is running uncontested for re-election in the state Senate. He said his goal is to continue efforts aimed at letting voters hold the government accountable, rather than vice versa.
A main objective of Gray, 50, is to require judges in every county to be elected rather than appointed, he said. Currently judges in Maricopa and Pima, the two largest counties in the state, don't have to run for office, meaning there are no checks and balances, he said. Ballots only ask voters whether judges should be retained, and only two have been removed since Maricopa County adopted the system in the 1970s, he said.
"There is no way to oppose a judge," he said, adding that only two judges lost their positions since the 1970s.
Gray was elected to the Arizona House in 2002, and in 2005 was appointed to the Senate following the death of Sen. Marilyn Jarrett, R-Mesa.
He runs an online business, Seatcovers.net.
"My plans are to try to make sure that government serves the people and not the reverse," he said.