Republican candidates for Legislative District 18 come from varied backgrounds and experiences but have similar views on Common Core, Medicaid and the economy.

All four Republican candidates, John King, Jill Norgaard, Bob Robson and David Pheanis sat down with the Ahwatukee Foothills News on July 16 to answer questions about these topics. Two of the four will go on to face Democrat Mitzi Epstein in the Nov. 4 general election for the state House of Representatives.

King is a Kyrene School District Governing Board member and small-business owner. He said he’s running for office because he realized while on the school board how much control the state Legislature had over education. When a seat opened up, he decided now was the time to run for the office.

Norgaard is an engineer in the aerospace and defense industry. She has spent time in several companies over the years managing large and small teams and working with other companies on various projects. She said she decided to run for office because she wants to help keep high-tech jobs in Arizona and build the economy.

Pheanis is an engineer, small-business owner and retired Arizona State University professor. He said he decided to run because he’s concerned about the economy and education and has solid ideas to help.

Robson has been a state representative for several years. Before his time in the Legislature, he served on the Chandler City Council during a time of great growth for the city. He said he’s running again because he enjoys being a part of solving the complex issues the state faces.

When asked about job growth, all the candidates seemed to agree the state should target bringing high-tech jobs to Arizona and should do that by reaching out to large companies, cutting down on regulations and improving education in the state.

Pheanis said the state should cut back regulations to improve job growth. He said he has concrete ideas on how to do that and help small-business owners.

Norgaard said jobs are the biggest concern she has heard from people to whom she has talked. Her experience and management skills are necessary to entice competitive high-tech companies to Arizona, she said.

King has held several positions in companies large and small and said he understands how business decisions are made. He said the state needs to attract technology and aerospace industry by bolstering transportation and taking advantage of Arizona’s geographical position.

Robson mentioned his experience in office bringing big business to the area. He was able to reach out to large companies while on the Chandler City Council and was part of the group that helped bring a bioscience facility to the state’s universities.

“You have to reach out and go out and find these types of things,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of that through the commerce authority. We’ve done a lot over the past year. I think we’re in a good place to get our economy up and moving.”

Standards are needed in education, all the candidates agreed.

“As parents, everyone realizes and recognizes their kids are all different,” Norgaard said. “I like the opportunities and school choices being the parents are the No. 1 educator for their children. Should we have standards? Yes. But I also believe additional choices in some home schools, charter schools and flex schools according to specific needs is key as well.”

Pheanis said he’d like to see more standards, not for textbooks or curriculum but for outcomes so that students in Arizona don’t fall behind the rest of the world, but those should be set by students, teachers and parents.

Robson said standards are needed to make sure students are ready for the kind of jobs Arizona wants and needs. He’d like to see the communities come together to form their own standards that show graduating students are employable.

King said Arizona’s school system is too fixated on curriculum that teaches to the level of an assessment versus an objective. He’d like to see more kids graduating with more critical thinking skills. He said it’s unknown yet if the College and Career Ready Standards the state implemented as a guideline is the best for the state but says it should have been looked at a little better.

Opinions differed slightly when asked about Brewer’s decision to fund Medicaid expansion. Robson said it was the only decision the Legislature could have made because it was dictated by voters. Pheanis called it the only rational decision for the Legislature. Norgaard said she would have liked to see another proposal put forward. King said the Legislature should have communicated its decision better.

“There is really no winner in that decision,” King said. “Someone was going to be affected no matter what the decision was going to be. It’s unfortunate that it had to be arrived at in the method that it was … In this case, there’s a lot that I don’t know. I think we probably could have looked at other alternatives and the communication to the state could have been a heck of a lot better.”

Robson clarified that this decision by the Legislature is separate from the Affordable Care Act, which he does not support.

The candidates were also asked about pay raises for the Legislature. Voters will be asked in the general election whether legislators deserve an $11,000 pay raise.

Norgaard and King said it’s unlikely voters would approve the proposal and it’s unclear from where the funds would come. Robson said for him, the pay raise isn’t necessary. He understands some legislators need the extra pay but said this isn’t the time to ask for it.

Pheanis said he usually supports proposals like this when they come up.

“I don’t think we’re trying to get rich,” he said. “I think we need better salaries for teachers to get better teachers and better salaries for legislators to get better legislators. I could never afford to run for this office in the past. I can do it now because I retired from teaching. I do think we need better teachers, better legislators, and better pay certainly helps out.”

To view video of the candidates’ answers in full, visit

For more information on King, visit

For more information on Norgaard, visit

For more information on Pheanis, visit

For more information on Robson, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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