Endorsements: State races - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Our View Endorsements: State races

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Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2010 7:00 am

We paused for about 16 seconds before making this endorsement, but...

OK, bad pun.

Gov. Jan Brewer has taken plenty of heat for her missteps — including her long moment of silence — in the one and only gubernatorial debate leading up to the election. And while Brewer will not win any awards for public speaking, she’s a lot more savvy than most people realize. As such, she has the Tribune’s endorsement for governor of Arizona.

In all seriousness, this race did give us much pause.

We haven’t agreed with many things Brewer has done. Calling her signing of SB 1070 a purely political maneuver is unfair, but she clearly won the Republican primary as a result of her endorsement of the controversial bill. If she was going to sign it, we think she should have at least waited until the amendments were made to help calm the immigration storm that followed. Her exaggerated comments (and failure to clarify them for some time) only made the situation worse and have severely damaged the state’s image. Brewer deflects much of that blame to the people, including Arizona politicians, calling for boycotts of the state. But this could have been handled much better at the top, and that falls on Brewer.

The governor’s refusal to participate in any more debates also spoke poorly of her.

And we think she was slow to react to the state’s economic crisis, waiting too long to take steps to address job growth and the budget.

But, in fairness, Brewer inherited a mess when Janet Napolitano left the governor’s office two years ago to accept a position in President Barack Obama’s administration. Brewer was greeted with a budget fiasco brought about by the slumping economy and how it was handled by Napolitano and the Arizona Legislature.

While she started out slow, Brewer has made good strides since.

The decision to reorganize the state Commerce Department into an economic-development agency will help with job growth.

And for those who think Brewer is simply a mouthpiece for the Republican party, look no further than Proposition 100. Brewer was a strong advocate for the state sales tax increase that voters passed in May. Raising taxes is not the Republican way, but Brewer recognized the desperate need to raise money for education amid recession, and she worked across party lines to make it happen.

That is the kind of leadership we want to see from our governor.

The next two years will be crucial as Arizona works itself out of a deep economic hole. With a Republican-controlled Legislature, we think Brewer’s ability to work with those lawmakers can lead to meaningful legislation that can make a difference in Arizona.

Democratic candidate Terry Goddard is bright, articulate and level-headed. But, given the Legislature’s off-center ways, we can’t afford a governor who will clash with lawmakers at this time.

SECRETARY OF STATE

As we’ve seen, this position is more than someone who oversees the state’s elections; the candidate is next in line to become our governor.

Given that, we like Ken Bennett in this race. With his background in business, the Prescott City Council, the Arizona Board of Education and the Arizona Legislature (he was Senate president), Bennett has the experience necessary to fill this role. In fact, if he was running for governor this year, he might have our endorsement for that role as well.

We like his Democratic challenger, Chris Deschene — a lot. At the age of 39, the member of the Navajo nation has already served as a leader in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years, and has earned both a law degree and a masters in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in renewable and alternative energy development. With two years in the state Legislature under his belt, he has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. We just don’t think he’s quite ready to be next in line for governor.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

This race features lifelong politician Tom Horne vs. Democratic newcomer Felecia Rotellini.

Horne has experience as an attorney and is a proponent of SB 1070, which will earn him votes. But there are also red flags (his lifetime ban by the Securities and Exchange Commission and track record as state superintendent of public instruction).

Rotellini, who served as an assistant attorney general for 14 years and knows the office well, has endorsements from several police and fire organizations and almost all of the state’s media — including the Tribune. In her meeting with our editorial board, Rotellini came across as articulate, knowledgeable, level-headed and tough on crime.

STATE TREASURER

Andrei Cherney has great ambitions for this position, and would turn it into one that helps set economic strategy for the state and also audits state government to find waste (which falls to the state auditor general’s office, a position appointed by the governor).

Republican Doug Ducey has a stronger business background as the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, which is why we’re endorsing him to manage the state’s $10 billion investment portfolio and attract new commerce to the state.

STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

Penny Kotterman and John Huppenthal come at this position from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Huppenthal has been a member of the Legislature for 17 years and has enormous passion for education. He lives for research and dives into study after study trying to determine the best course of action for Arizona’s schools. He’s also a big school choice proponent and has played a key role in expanding options for families — including open enrollment, charter schools and tuition tax credits.

Penny Kotterman is a former school teacher who has spent 33 years in education, including six years as the president of the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Arizona Education Association.

We like Kotterman for two reasons. First, she will be a stronger advocate for public schools, whose performance has declined sharply in the last decade. Beyond that, we think that — after 16 years of having politicians in the superintendent’s office — it’s time to turn that position over to a teacher who has been there and done that in Arizona’s school system.

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