Flagstaff residents got a chance recently to hear from candidates running for the 3 legislative seats in the newly drawn 6th district.
The district now includes parts of what used to be the 1st, 2nd, and 5th districts.
And three of the candidates are incumbents.
The panelists met at North Country Health Care in Flagstaff
Only five of the six candidates attended.
Republican Representative Chester Crandell, currently representing District 5, did not show.
He’s running against Democratic Representative Tom Chabin for the District 6 Senate Seat.
In his opening statement, Chabin asked a question that set part of the tone for the evening.
“What kind of legislature are we going to have?" Chabin asked. "Are we going to continue with a legislature with an extremely conservative agenda? Or through your vote, could we have a Senate that is moved to moderation and bipartisanship?”
Currently in both houses of the state legislature, Republicans hold a 2/3 majority.
While the panel first faced questions about the economy, jobs and the state budget, the discussion turned to health care.
And Democrat Doug Ballard told the crowd, the state’s economic health is tied to health care costs.
Ballard wants to represent District 6 as a State Representative.
He said Arizona has one of the highest percentages of uninsured people in the nation.
And when those uninsured people go to the hospital and can’t pay their bills, the effects ripple across the economy.
“That affects our business owners who are providing health care insurance, that affects our private citizens who have their own health care insurance," Ballard said. " They’re bearing the cost of that uncompensated care.”
So Ballard says he supports the idea of the insurance mandate, requiring everyone to have insurance.
And he pointed out that until it became connected to the Obama administration, many prominent republicans supported an insurance mandate too.
Not Bob Thorpe.
He’s also running for a seat as a state rep.
The republican describes himself as a business creator who promotes Constitutional liberties.
“When you read the constitution, you’re talking about enumerated powers," Thorpe said. "Give me a copy of the constitution and show me where in that document it says we’re supposed to be providing health care to people.”
Current District 5 Republican Representative Brenda Barton says she’s not sure whether she’d support the mandate.
She says she worries it will allow health insurance prices to rise too much.
“So we have to be careful," Barton said. "I’m not saying it’s off the table. I’m just saying we have to be observant on how we go about doing this.”
But these candidates won’t be deciding whether to support mandated health insurance coverage.
That’s already part of the federal law.
But they will get to vote on whether the state designs its own health insurance exchange.
The exchanges will be those sets of health insurance plans that Arizonans will be able to choose from once the system is up and running in 2014.
If the state doesn’t come up with its own exchange, it will be required to take the one designed by the federal government.
Representative Barton said she’s not in favor of taking either one.
Democrat Angela Lefevre, running for State Rep. said the state should design its own exchange.
“I believe we should go ahead. I believe we can’t afford not to go ahead," she said
Democrat Ballard shared that opinion.
And so did State Senate candidate, current Democrat RepresentativeTom Chabin.
Although he had a caveat.
“Whatever is best for the consumers, and the best coverage for consumers, and private health care packages is the one I will choose," he told the crowd.
But he added, if the state plan doesn’t meet that standard, he’ll opt for the federal plan until the state can come up with something better.