Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain Hotel

Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain Hotel

Ahwatukee voters will get an early chance to see the some of the legislative candidates vying for their vote when the Clean Elections Commission on Friday holds a debate for the LD18 hopefuls.

A commission spokeswoman on Wednesday said incumbent Rep Jill Norgaard has declined the invitation while Republican Senate candidate Frank Schmuck and Greg Patterson, the House candidate, "have not confirmed either way at this time." The debate is 6 p.m. Sept. 7 debate at Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain Hotel, 10831 S. 51st St., Ahwatukee.

The stage was set Aug. 28 for the debate and the November election in the legislative district covering Ahwatukee after both incumbent representatives won a chance to vie for another two years in the state House while a newcomer to electoral politics won the other Democratic nomination and a onetime Republican legislator won a shot at returning.

Unofficial results showed incumbent Republican Norgaard of Ahwatukee and incumbent Democrat Denise “Mitzi” Epstein of Tempe both winning. Tempe attorney Patterson, who was a member of the state House in the 1990s, won the second slot on the Republican side while Jennifer Jermaine of Chandler, a management consultant to nonprofits, won the other Democratic nomination.

Their contest will be joined by a repeat of the 2016 battle for the state Senate seat between incumbent Democrat Sean Bowie, seeking his second term, and Tempe commercial airlines pilot Schmuck.

Unofficial returns showed Norgaard with 44.2 percent of the vote in the four-way race for two spots while Patterson garnered 25 percent, beating Chandler businesswoman Farhana Shifa (19 percent) and retired Tempe programmer Don Hawker (12 percent).

On the Democratic side, LaDawn Stuben of Chandler drew the short straw in the three-way race by garnering 19 percent of the vote to Epstein’s 43.8 percent and Jermaine’s 37 percent.

Both Schmuck and Bowie were unopposed – and both enter the fall campaign with war chests that dwarf those of their counterparts in the House races.

Arizona Secretary of State records show Schmuck has amassed close to $224,000 while Bowie has garnered $185,000.

Among House hopefuls, Norgaard leads the money race with just under $100,000, followed by Epstein with $74,000; Jermaine with $35,000 and Patterson with $20,000.

Shifa virtually tied with Jermaine for the third spot in the race for campaign cash among the LD18 House candidates prior to the election. She had been campaign since late last year with a strong conservative message.

Both Stuben and Hawker were Clean Elections candidates, although Hawker had not raised enough small contributions – $5 from 200 supporters – to qualify for the nearly $17,000 in public funding that Clean Elections candidates receive.

Stuben and Hawker appeared to represent the far left and far right of their respective parties.

Stuben, an executive pastry chef at the renowned Liberty Market in Gilbert, called for increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy wage earners to give public education more money. Hawker said that Planned Parenthood had influenced a sex education program in Tempe Union High School District to increase abortions performed at its family planning clinics.

Norgaard’s primary election victory gives her the chance to seek a third term in office while Epstein will be seeking her second.

Among the City of Phoenix’s six referendum questions, voters appeared to overwhelmingly approve shifting city council elections from the fall of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years with runoffs the following March.

They also approved by a 4-1 margin a proposition giving City Council the right to remove elected city officials for violating the city’s non-discrimination and anti-harassment ordinance.

Voters also appeared to have approved a measure that changes the terms of the Citizens Commission on Salaries for elected officials to also be in even-number years. The proposition also requires the panel to meet every four years instead of two.

Voters also appeared to OK a proposed Southwest Gas Corporation franchise agreement and the elimination of a City Charter requirement to have the full text of propositions printed on the ballot without unanimous approval by the City Council.

Patterson in his campaign said that during his two terms in the House – from 1991 to 1995 – “I have worked to protect consumers, increase access to healthcare and support higher education.”

During the only debate featuring all seven candidates – sponsored by the Clean Elections Commission in Ahwatukee last month – education spending and taxes dominated the discussion and it’s likely that those two issues will dominate the fall campaign as well.

Both Patterson and Jermaine found common ground by saying any tax increase for more public education spending is an issue that the voters and not the Legislature should decide.

All seven candidates’ stand on the expanded voucher system for private schools fell along party lines. The four Republicans saying they supported greater parental choice in where their children attend school and the Democrats urging audience members to vote no when in November, when the voucher expansion is on the ballot.

Norgaard has framed her campaign around her work in the Legislature the last four sessions.

She notes on her website that her major work has focused on “protecting business from state regulatory overreach, the reduction of financial red tape for education at the K-12 level, tax reform, upgrade and enhance cities’ bond ratings, and the restoration of Joint Technical Education District funding.”

Epstein has made education spending a cornerstone of her campaign, stating on her website: “We must educate the whole child. Neither a child nor a school should ever be reduced to one test score.  Our schools need arts, PE, technology, school counselors, as well as rigorous courses in English, math, science and social studies.”

Jermaine likewise states, “I am running because the children of Arizona deserve fully funded public schools, our disability community deserves to have access to public spaces, and our residents deserve to be free of harassment and racism as they lead their daily lives.”

Patterson takes a somewhat different approach, stating “I have extensive high-level experience in education, healthcare, energy policy, taxation and law. I would like to put this experience to work for you.”

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