Arizona gubernatorial candidates, minus Gov. Jan Brewer, talked about education funding and other issues in a candidate forum at ASU’s Tempe campus Wednesday night.
The forum, sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government and the Graduate and Professional Student Association, included Democrat Terry Goddard, Libertarian Barry Hess and Green Party candidate Larry Gist.
A USG press release said Brewer did not attend because of a prior engagement, and the governor has made public statements after her Sept. 1 debate on Channel 8 that she will not be participating in any further debates.
Some attendees dressed up in chicken costumes and held signs asking why the governor wouldn’t debate. One man held a large sign shaped like a milk carton with Brewer’s picture — an allusion to missing persons advertisements.
In an interview before the debate, Goddard criticized Brewer for signing an alternative budget that would have gone into effect if voters had not passed Proposition 100, which increased Arizona’s sales tax partly to help fund the state’s education system.
“The governor signed it, and it would have taken $107 million out of university funding,” Goddard said. “I would be very worried if I were a student and Jan Brewer got elected.”
Candidates were asked questions written by both the event sponsors and audience members, and they had one minute in which to respond.
The first topic they discussed, after both Hess and Goddard took shots at Brewer’s absence, dealt with the possibility of future cuts to education despite the passage of Proposition 100.
Goddard said Arizona is “dead last” in the nation for funding public education, which needs to change.
“Governor Brewer has slashed our K-12 system by $1.1 billion,” Goddard said. “And she wants to continue doing that.”
Gist said he would work hard to ensure that the federal budget is not cut more than it already has been, while Hess said Proposition 100 was nothing more than a paycheck extension for teachers so politicians could gain political favor.
“It didn’t enhance education,” Hess said.
Before the debate, Hess said the only program the state is constitutionally mandated to provide is education, and cutting other non-mandated programs would save the state money.
“I have no problem cutting government back to its constitutional limits,” he said. “Libertarians are the reset button.”
Gist has said in the past that he wants to “let the people decide” controversial issues, and a question directed toward him during the forum focused on how far that statement would go.
Gist said letting the people decide would be something used for controversial issues that “we all know are going to affect our state from top to bottom,” and not the day-to-day running of the state.
“Senate Bill 1070 says it all,” Gist said. “I think we all would have liked to have taken a vote on that one.”
The candidates also discussed Proposition 111, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot and would change the Secretary of State’s title to Lieutenant Governor.
The Secretary of State takes office in the event that the governor’s seat needs to be filled. Brewer became governor in 2008 after former Gov. Janet Napolitano was appointed Secretary of Homeland Security.
The proposition also states that candidates of the same party for governor and lieutenant governor will run on a joint ticket in the general election.
Hess said he is against Proposition 111 and called it “another nonsense proposition.”
“It was intended to stop third party candidates from being able to put up candidates,” Hess said.
Gist agreed that it would eliminate options for voters.
“It sets up a system [where] it’s very easy to just move those two seats around,” Gist said.
Goddard said while he is against the proposition because it disenfranchises third-party candidates, its purpose was to prevent an “unelected revolution,” which is what he called Brewer taking over for Napolitano.
“The idea was we would never have the kind of 180-degree change that we just had,” Goddard said. “[Napolitano] had been elected by 64 percent of the voters in Arizona. Suddenly someone was the governor who had diametrically opposed views on everything.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Jacob Goulding said even though Brewer did not attend, the event was still held to educate all students.
“We think it’s important that students know the candidates for governor and are informed of all the issues,” he said.
Brian Grandelli, a history and political science senior, is a Goddard supporter who has already voted for this election.
He said the purpose of these events was to allow people to come out and hear what the candidates had to say.
“I hope it energizes students and lets them know where every candidate stands,” Grandelli said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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