The After Math: Crunching Numbers in Last Week’s Primary

GOP champ: Al Melvin

Questions and answers in the wake of last week’s primary election:

What was the big takeaway in the legislative races?

Conservatives ruled. In almost every local race in GOP districts, the most conservative candidates carried the day.

In the GOP primary for the Legislative District 26 Senate seat, Republican Al Melvin beat state Rep. Pete Hershberger by exposing his liberal leanings, just as Melvin beat incumbent Toni Hellon two years ago. Melvin captured 10,131 votes compared to Hershberger’s 8,857 in the district which runs from SaddleBrooke down through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills.

Now comes the big test for Melvin: Can he win a general election? Melvin has sanded down many of his rough edges, but he’s facing a savvy Democrat in Cheryl Cage, who managed a Democratic campaign that was able to overcome the GOP voter advantage in the 2006 District 26 House race. On top of that, the political mood still doesn’t favor Continue reading

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Hershberger Vs. Melvin: Televised Debate!

Rep. Pete Hershberger and Al Melvin, who represent the yin and yang of the Arizona Republican Party, had a fiery debate on KUAT-TV’s Arizona Illustrated tonight as part of their race for the Arizona Senate in Legislative District 26. Two years ago, Melvin tore up Toni Hellon, the incumbent senator, on the program; this year, Hershberger didn’t hesitate to hit back. You can watch it online here.

ScrambleWatch posted my story on the Hershberger/Melvin race earlier this week.

You can also watch us reporters talk about Rio Nuevo, the latest McCain-Obama poll and other news of the week online.

Hershberger Vs. Melvin: GOP Split Ends in LD26

Al MelvinNobody gave stalwart Republican Al Melvin much of a shot two years ago when he launched his campaign to knock out then-Sen. Toni Hellon.

A well-connected moderate Republican, Hellon had served the district, which sweeps from Saddlebrooke down through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills, for three terms.

Melvin, who moved to Saddlebrooke just six years ago after retiring from a career as a Merchant Marine, used more than $58,000 in public campaign funds to hammer Hellon on issues ranging from abortion to border security, calling her out of step with GOP principles. On Election Day, he crushed her by 13 percentage points.

Unfortunately for Melvin, 2006 was a Democratic year–and the Democrats successfully painted him as an extreme conservative, just as he’d painted Hellon as an extreme liberal. Even though Republicans hold a voter-registration edge, Melvin lost the general election to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera, a political rookie who won by just 455 votes.

Pete Hershberger

The race was close enough that Melvin is back for a second run against another well-known moderate: Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has reached his limit of four terms in the House of Representatives this year. Hershberger has deep roots in the district. He grew up on Tucson’s northwest side; both of his parents, Pete Sr. and Freddie, represented the area before him.

Hershberger, who has spent most of his career working in the area of counseling services for wayward youth, wants to focus on child-welfare issues in the Senate. He says Arizona is “not a child- and family-friendly state. … Children should be safe, healthy and have access to quality education.”

Melvin and Hershberger represent the yin and yang of the Arizona Republican Party. Melvin says Hershberger is too soft on gun rights; Hershberger says he favors restricting weapons in bars and schools. Melvin says Hershberger is too soft on the border; Hershberger says he doesn’t support every piece of border legislation sponsored by members of his caucus, but he did support the employer-sanctions bill passed last year.

Melvin says Hershberger is too soft on abortion restrictions; Hershberger says he believes that government has no business getting involved in the decisions of a Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Pete Hershberger on Taxes

Rep. Peter HershbergerRepublican Pete Hershberger is facing Al Melvin in the GOP primary for the Legislative District 26 Senate seat. ScrambleWatch asked him a few questions about state taxes. (You can compare his answers to Melvin’s here.)

Do you support the permanent repeal of the state property tax?

We suspended that back when our economy was good, saying we don’t know what the economy is going to be three years from now. Thankfully, we did that, because the economy is horrible now. I voted against (the permanent repeal this year) and I’m getting pounded. They say I’m supporting the largest tax increase in Arizona history. Well, it’s not a tax increase. It’s the end of the suspension. Both the House and Senate proposals this year borrowed more than $500 million for new school construction. Why would we borrow money to give a tax cut? That’s not fiscal responsibility. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Do you support borrowing for school construction?

Yes. We can’t get there from here without it. We couldn’t solve the budget crisis without borrowing. Both the House and the Senate versions included that. Arizona is the only state in the country that paid for new school construction out of the general fund. Every other state paid for it with a dedicated funding source—maybe a property tax or something like that. And when we were flush with cash, that’s OK. But we’re not flush with cash and we could not cut our way out of this problem. We could not have gotten the votes from the Democrats or the signature from the governor if we’d done all those cuts the way that leadership wanted us to.

Do you support the T.I.M.E. initiative, which would raise the sales tax by a penny per dollar to pay for highway, rail and local transportation projects?

I haven’t totally decided. We have the need, definitely. But one of the problems with the T.I.M.E. initiative is that it takes all our capacity. We then don’t have any capacity solving future needs of Arizona. Look at the tax burden it’s gonna put on Pima County. I wish it had been part-way there, not the whole way there.

You mean in terms of being a full cent per dollar?

Yeah. It just eats up all of our (taxing) capacity. It eliminates the possibility for going for anything else. And we can’t anticipate what we’re going to need years from now.

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Al Melvin on Taxes

Republican Al Melvin is facing Rep. Pete Hershberger in the GOP primary for the Legislative District 26 Senate seat. ScrambleWatch asked him a few questions about state taxes.

Do you support the repeal of the state’s property tax?

I absolutely do.

Since it will cost the state $250 million, what should the state cut to make up for the lost revenue?

Well, I believe we need more tax cuts. I believe that Kennedy and Reagan and the current president have proven that lower taxes generate more economic activity. As we lower taxes, we need to cut wasteful spending. There’s a lot of waste out there.

When you say there’s a lot of wasteful spending, are there any specific areas where the state needs to dramatically cut back on spending?

I don’t understand why the Arizona Department of Transportation and other state departments should have paid lobbyists. I don’t think we should be spending so they can lobby the Legislature. But I think there’s something that can be said for lean and mean. … There should be a hiring freeze. … I think we should be looking at a 10 percent, 15 percent reduction in budgets (outside of K-12 education, prisons and the Department of Public Safety) and leave it to the department heads to figure out how to work it out.

Do you support a plan to borrow for school construction?

From what I’m hearing in the House and Senate versions of the budget, it’s inevitable. It’s a fait accompli.

Do you support the T.I.M.E. initiative that would raise the sales tax by a penny per dollar to pay for highway, rail and local transportation projects?

I’d like to see private toll roads. At this point, I’m not supporting that.

Hershberger Vs. Melvin: A Slightly Delayed Liveblog

As we’ve mentioned before, Legislative District 26, where Republicans Pete Hershberger and Al Melvin are fighting for a Senate seat in the Sept. 2 primary, is in the ScrambleWatch spotlight. The two candidates squared off in a Clean Elections debate last night.

Although the district leans Republican, Democrat Charlene Pesquiera won LD26 in 2006 by fewer than 500 votes over Melvin. Melvin had ousted Sen. Toni Hellon in the GOP primary two month earlier with a campaign that accused her of being too liberal; he hopes to give Hershberger the same treatment this year.

Hershberger counters that he’s in step with the voters of the district, which stretches from Saddlebrooke through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills. Hershberger has represented LD26 in the House of Representatives for eight years. He argues that Melvin can’t win a general election in the district.

Here’s a slightly delayed liveblog of key debate moments:

7:05 p.m.: Moderator David Bartlett skips the standard introductory question that lets candidates talk about who they are and jumps right into the issue of illegal immigration by asking whether the candidates support Arizona’s employer sanctions law.

Melvin says securing the border is the first step in his five-point plan to improve Arizona. “We need to enforce all of our existing laws and when we do that, we will get control of the illegal immigrant situation and and we’ll start to save the $2 billion a year that it’s costing Arizona taxpayers.”

Hershberger says he supports “the toughest employer sanctions bill in the country” and calls for more border security and some kind of guest-worker program. “We will continue to work on this issue,” he promises.

7:09 p.m.: Hershberger cites this year’s budget as an example of legislative success because it bridged a shortfall of more than $2 billion. “We did in a bipartisan way,” Hershberger says. “We did a combination of things to pass a budget that’s still going to maintain a vision for Arizona.”

He laments that the Legislature still deals with too many “contentious issues that distract us from the business at hand and I wish that we could get beyond that.”

7:10 p.m.: Melvin takes his first direct shot at Hershberger. “I have to disagree with my opponent,” he salvoes. “In the eight years that he’s been in the House, we’ve had bloated budgets and not enough tax cuts.”

Melvin points out that only four Republicans in the House and four Republicans in the Senate voted for this year’s budget. “They passed a Democratic budget and it’s a crying shame and it’s not the first time it’s happened.”

Melvin also zings Hershberger for opposing the permanent repeal of the state’s property tax, which raises $250 million a year. “When I get to Phoenix, I will not raise taxes. I’ll cut them and I promise that I will,” he vows.

7:13 p.m.: Melvin lays out his five-point program for Arizona: securing Continue reading

Debate Throwdown: Hershberger Vs. Melvin

Rep. Peter HershbergerGet a look at the two wings of the GOP fighting for the future when social conservative Al Melvin debates Country-Club Republican Pete Hershberger at tomorrow night’s Clean Elections Legislative District 26 forum. Hershberger, who is now representing LD26 in the House, wants to move to the upper chamber; Melvin, who knocked out incumbent Sen. Toni Hellon in the 2006 GOP primary, wants to represent the pure GOP platform in Phoenix.

The fun starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, at the Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road.

House candidates Trent Humphries, Marilyn Zerull and Vic Williams are also invited to join the forum.