August 12, 2004
Experienced lawmakers from Mesa rarely face opposition for re-election, and almost never from within their own party.
But two sitting lawmakers running for the state House in District 18 are being challenged by four other candidates in the Sept. 7 Republican primary. This crowded field resulted from aspirations created by term limits and a handshake agreement between the incumbents.
District 18 covers about one-third of western Mesa, and religious conservative Republicans make up its largest voting bloc. So the political philosophies of the five candidates who participated in Tribune interviews are similar. They range from resisting the efforts of Gov. Janet Napolitano to increasing spending on education and some welfare programs, to opposing any statewide ban on smoking.
Several longtime GOP activists showed interest in seeking a House seat being vacated by Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, who has served the maximum eight years allowed by state law.
But Johnson persuaded Sen. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, to give up his seat after only one term and run again for the House where he previously had served for eight years. Anderson said the switch would protect the district’s political influence as both lawmakers likely would continue to head committees in the next Legislature.
"Your seniority down here does have an effect on your ability to effectuate good policy for the district," Anderson said. "If you don’t know the ropes and don’t know how to do things, then you’re not really going to be as effective."
The deal between Johnson and Anderson also included incumbent Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who is seeking his third term.
"We’re running as team because now is not the time for new kids when we have got the budget problems and the other issues we have down there," Pearce said.
But other candidates said Pearce and Anderson aren’t reflecting the values of district voters.
"Our sitting legislators have been there while the budget has escalated," said candidate Cecilia Fleming, a registered nurse and Republican precinct committeewoman.
Candidate Joe Brown, also a local GOP leader, said voters should be discouraged by these tactics to stay in the Legislature.
"I don’t think the voters had musical chairs in mind when they voted for term limits," Brown said. "It smacks of cronyism and obviously it’s a good-old-boy network."
Anderson and Pearce also must share in any shortcomings of the three-person team, the challengers said. Candidate Colby Bower, who promotes international trade, said Pearce showed he can’t lead effectively by proposing this year to suspend or to revoke government licenses for any company punished for hiring illegal immigrants.
"That’s absolutely shortsighted and quite frankly, ignorant of the issue," Bower said. "I think by equalizing Arizona’s business economy with that of Mexico’s is not the solution."
But Pearce said he’s proud of his record of demanding that state officials take some responsibility for illegal immigration, which he said adds to taxpayer costs for health care, education and criminal punishment.
The sixth Republican candidate, J.T. Ready of Mesa, didn’t respond to repeated requests for information.
The two winners of the Sept. 7 primary will face Democrat Kevin Jackson of Mesa in the Nov. 2 general election.
Mark Anderson Age: 49 Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Marketing Political experience: Senate since 2003; state House of Representatives, 1995-2002 Financing campaign: Private Contact: (480) 649-0451 or
Colby Bower Age: 28 Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Policy coordinator, The Border Trade Alliance Political experience: None Financing campaign: Clean Elections Contact: (602) 295-3807,
Russell Pearce Age: 57 Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Legislator Political experience: Served in House since 2000; Justice of the Peace, 1991-92 Financing campaign: Private Contact: (480) 834-6465,
J.T. Ready Age: Not available Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Not available Political experience: None listed Financing campaign: Clean Elections Contact: (480) 733-6333,
Cecilia E. Fleming Age: 61 Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Registered nurse Political experience: None Financing campaign: Clean Elections Contact: (480) 833-2895,
Joe Brown Age: 51 Party: Republican Residence: Mesa Occupation: Electronic church organs, small-business man Political experience: None Financing campaign: Clean Elections Contact: (480) 733-4054,