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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dem candidates upbeat at local meet and greet

By Alan R. Hudson
Gazette/Connection Correspondent

Several Democratic candidates attended the post-rodeo Democratic picnic/meet-and-greet at the Payson Senior Center on Saturday. Among them were Ann Kirkpatrick, Bill Shumway, Elaine Bohlmeyer, Renz Jennings, Jason Williams and Andre Cherny. The Gazette/Connection managed to obtain a brief one-on-one with a few of them.

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick is excited about a new initiative that could bring work to Arizonans:

“It’s about jobs—job creation. I’m working on a very exciting project: The Four Forest Restoration Initiative. It includes the Tonto, Coconino, Kaibab and Apache-Sitgreaves Forests. What we did is partner with the conservation groups, timber industry, Forest Service and business leaders.

“It’s going to create 600 jobs. It takes product from forest thinning, which the timber industry then buys and makes something from —that’s where the job creation is. It’s a win-win all the way around. Secretary (of Agriculture) Vilsack was here in Payson, taking a look at the forest – he’s behind it, so we have moved now beyond the vision process.”

The Connection asked Andrei Cherny, who is running for state treasurer, why he is running and what we need to do to repair our state budget woes:

“I got into the Treasurer’s race because of what’s happening to the state economy – especially when it comes to jobs.”

He said that basically, the state’s investment dollars are being shipped to Wall Street:

“We’ve lost millions of dollars, and what we should be doing is thinking about how we can invest more here in Arizona and help businesses create jobs. At the same time, our education dollars need to be kept safe, and that’s the big choice we have to face.”

Williams, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, was animated and eager to engage. He said that our biggest challenge regarding education is our mindset and culture.

“We’ve got to get folks, especially leaders at the capital, to look at education as an investment—not as an expense. They’ve got to start connecting the dots, you know — what does it mean to invest in a child’s education today? In the long term — the strength of our economy, the tech jobs, the companies we can attract to Arizona, the quality of life that we want for our children and grandchildren — it all links back to the quality of education that we give to our children.

“I think that as state superintendent, the primary responsibility is to be the chief cheerleader/advocate for the public schools and that means you can’t just be in your office in downtown Phoenix. You’ve got to be traveling around the state having that conversation with the constituents of all these legislators and elected officials that talk a good game about education but when it comes time to vote, their votes don’t seem to match up with their rhetoric.”

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