August 4, 2004
Republicans candidates for Legislative District 18, a conservative stronghold, clashed Tuesday over issues of illegal immigration and the use of federal money for marriage counseling.
Most of the candidates used the Tribunesponsored debate to attack the Legislature and Gov. Janet Napolitano on the state budget.
District 18 covers west and south-central Mesa. The primary election is Sept. 7.
State Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, and Mary Jo Vecchiarelli are vying for a chance to run for a Senate seat. Johnson is leaving the House after eight years because of term limits. Vecchiarelli is a former high school principal seeking her first political office.
Six candidates are trying for a chance to run for two House seats. They are Sen. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa; Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa; Joe Brown; Cecilia Fleming; J.T. Ready; and Colby Bower.
Most candidates said they supported tax credits for parents who educate their children at home. The exceptions were Vecchiarelli and Fleming, who said they preferred school vouchers because tax credits are a drain on the state budget.
The candidates disagreed over what should be done about illegal immigration. Ready said children of illegal immigrants should be denied access to schools in Arizona and shipped back to Mexico. No other candidates supported that position.
Bower responded to Ready’s statements harshly, saying that the "rhetoric on this issue is out of control." He denounced any plan to arrest and deport illegal immigrants.
Pearce is a major sponsor of an initiative to require identification proving U.S. citizenship before people are allowed to vote. Most of the other candidates said they support that.
Pearce also said the military should be deployed to the border.
Fleming responded, "It’s unrealistic to think we can live in isolation."
Anderson said it was a complex issue and a solution would require thoughtful people willing to work hard.
All the candidates said they would vote for a law that would require parents to be notified before their underage daughter has an abortion. Only Anderson supported using federal money for faithbased organizations to offer marriage counseling.