Two Democrats and one Independent kept the discussion civil during a Clean Elections debate Tuesday night, though all three brought up issues with their Republican opponents’ policies.

In two hours the candidates covered Prop 204, education, jobs, immigration, health care, election issues and private prisons. Republicans Jeff Dial and Bob Robson declined invitations to attend the debate.

Independent Brent Fine seemed to agree with many of the points made by Democrats Darin Fisher and Corey Harris, who said they would vote for more funding for education and would not support increased funding for private prisons, though he had some unique ideas of his own, including using the budget surplus for ethics reform in the Legislature.

Fine said he is running as an independent not because he decided to leave the major parties but because the major parties left him.

“Once the candidates are elected they turn to their financial supporters to get their marching orders,” Fine said. “I’m running for office for two basic reasons; to offer a moderate, fiscally responsible candidate who’s neither tied to a party or an ideology and is willing to work with both sides to come up with sensible and pragmatic solutions. No. 2, to bring attention to our broken political system that has allowed special interests and lobbyists to control more than ever our policy decisions.”

Harris and Fisher used the debate to point out some of the more ridiculous bills that have made their way through the Legislature with current representatives Dial and Robson representing the district.

“We have a group of people in the Legislature more focused on ideology than actually helping their local population,” Harris said. “We have bills that run the gamut from guns in schools to making sure we have no human-animal hybrids in Arizona. I don’t think that’s what our legislators should be spending time on. They should spend every waking minute in the Legislature making sure our children are taken care of and that we are rebuilding our economy.”

The debate was hosted by Arizona State University in partnership with Clean Elections. Fine is the only Clean Elections candidate running for state representative for Legislative District 18.

This is the second debate in recent weeks that Dial and Robson have declined invitations to. A debate sponsored by the Children’s Action Alliance was canceled after the Republicans dropped out.

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