KNAU and Arizona News
9:44 am
Thu September 23, 2010

Secretary of State Candidates Debate

Phoenix, AZ – At the center of that is what Democrat Chris Deschene called the
Green Party scandal. That involved some Republicans who went out
and recruited people to run for office -- but as candidates for
the Green Party. Some of that evidence came to light as early as
July. Deschene said incumbent Republican Ken Bennett should have
done something about it.

(The secretary of state's sole responsibility, I believe, is to
administer fair elections for the Arizona voters. The Green Party
scandal highlighted, to me, a failed leadership on the secretary
of state's part. Here we had a fraud and a mockery of our
elections systems.)

Deschene said the problems were borne out when a judge ruled
earlier this month that several of these Green Party candidates
were -- quote -- recruited in bad faith with a purpose to confuse
the voting public. He said it shouldn't have gotten that far and
Bennett should have taken steps to bar these candidates from
running. But Bennett said that decision belongs to a judge, not
to an elected, partisan secretary of state.

(I think my opponent unfortunately has a misunderstanding about
the role of the office. We should not be applying some arbitrary
or capricious test to decide who gets to be on the ballot. The
voters should decide who's going to represent them. And it should
not be decided by a politician who's trying to keep somebody on
or off the ballot.)

Bennett also noted that Deschene was citing only part of that
court ruling. The judge concluded that, with one exception, the
candidates themselves were sincere in their desire to get
elected. That judge said the motives of those who recruited them
are legally irrelevant, and that they are entitled to run.

Another key difference between the candidates is their political
experience. Bennett served on the state Board of Education and in
the Legislature, eventually being chosen Senate president. He was
appointed secretary of state early last year after Janet
Napolitano quit to take a job in the Obama administration,
elevating then secretary of state Jan Brewer to the top spot.
That pointed up the fact that this succession happens relatively
frequently in Arizona where a governor has died, quit or been
removed from office five times since 1977. And that, in turn, has
resulted in more focus on qualifications. Deschene acknowledged
that, at least as far as public office, he has been a legislator
for less than two years. But he cited his experience as a Marine,
an attorney and an engineer, saying his lack of elective
experience should not be seen as a negative.

(Are we better off because career politicians have failed to
address the needs of Arizona? Are we better off because we have
a failure to work on both sides of the aisle and bring a little
balance to our government? I don't think you need to be a career
politician with the experience to recognize that. We need strong
leaders who are willing to get the job done, have the independent
thinking as well as the qualifications to work on it.

But Bennett said there's another factor that voters need to
consider about Deschene when he wants to become the second
highest elected official in the state.

(During the last year as a representative in the House of
Representatives he missed over 34 percent of his votes, the worst
voting attendance record in the Legislature. The voters of his
district entrusted him with their voice to come down and
represent them at the Legislature. And he did not show up over
one third of the time.)

Deschene did not dispute the numbers. But he said some of that
was due to maneuvers by Republican leadership suspending rules
that require certain notice before meetings, something Deschene
said creates particular problems for someone who has to drive in
from Window Rock. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard
Fischer