The East Valley Partnership recently held a forum for the candidates from both parties for Arizona’s Governorship in 2022.

Of those aspiring to the Republican nomination, Matt Salmon, Steve Gaynor, Kimberly Yee, and Karrin Taylor Robson were in attendance. Kari Lake claimed a scheduling conflict and did not appear. Unfortunate, as I was keen to see her fatuously call for Hobbs’ arrest to her face.

All of the announced candidates for the Democratic nomination were present, including Katie Hobbs, Aaron Lieberman, and Marco Lopez, Jr.

I have to admit that there were very few surprises in the presentations and answers given by the candidates and little in the way of new ideas or specific proposals. The best in that regard was Rep. Aaron Lieberman who laid out some specific investments he would make in the educational system and admitted he was unlikely to be able to secure new revenues.

The Democrats tended to address the need to better fund and resource public education from K through college, while the Republicans also praised education as a driver of economic development while waxing rhapsodic about “school choice” being a panacea for AZ’s poor relative educational performance: as if a whole generation of Republican leaders haven’t tried that hustle to defund public schools, with no improvement in performance, and a disastrous effect on funding and teacher recruitment and retention.

Blog for Arizona

This article first appeared on the Blog for Arizona.

Both sides talked about partnering with small businesses and major corporate “job creators” (a term I detest: please stop using it Democrats!) to foster economic growth, while also deriding government “red tape” as an impediment. Of course, the Republicans just want government “out of the way”, despite the track record of corruption, market failure, monopoly, and environmental harm when it actually has. Whereas the Democrats tended to decry only those regulations deemed “excessive” or “unnecessary”. I think it is a mistake for Democrats to so-lazily embrace the right-wing view of government as an impediment to economic growth. Democrats should be instead championing the many ways that good governance improves economic outcomes and avoids societal harm.

GOP’s poor performance

The Republicans, having a terrible track record over the past generation dominating state politics, tended to bash California as the place we don’t want to become. As if. They seem to believe that CA is a hellscape of Democrats’ making, rather than a very successful and wealthy state with a lot of serious challenges that Republicans have given up even trying to understand or solve. Given the GOP’s poor performance over the past 30 years of economic performance in Arizona driven almost exclusively by population growth, I don’t think that Republicans have anything to brag about and certainly are pandering only to their base by continually bashing CA as a boogeyman.

The Democrats tended to see global climate change as a challenge that could benefit AZ’s economy if we work to adapt and prevent harm. But the Republicans didn’t even acknowledge climate change as a challenge or opportunity for Arizona.

Mostly, the forum is worth watching to get a feel for the competence, poise, and preparedness of this interesting field of candidates. I was struck by what a great field of candidates the Democrats have on offer. All three are well-experienced, well-qualified, and very sensible people. I would be relieved and delighted to have any of them as Arizona’s Governor.

A sloganeering know-nothing

I was least impressed by Steve Gaynor, who struck me as a sloganeering know-nothing with zero government experience who failed as a candidate for Secretary of State and seems to have concluded that loss is all the qualification he needs to be Governor. A parrot that watched Fox News for a few weeks would be more impressive. Serious entitled white-guy energy from that one.

I was more favorably impressed by the GOP candidate I was least familiar with, Karrin Taylor Robson. She may be in a good position to capitalize if Lake gets too crazy for the majority of the GOP primary electorate – although it is hard to imagine what that level of crazy even looks like right now. Certainly, any Republicans more interested in economic development than insurrection and culture wars should be looking seriously at Taylor Robson. Even Karrin has given in to some of her party’s current insanity around elections, but at least she’s not publically accusing Hobbs of stealing the election and calling for her immediate arrest. Small steps.

Finally, I was struck by the casual and obvious contempt for working folks displayed by the Republicans’ treatment of the subject of unemployment payments near the beginning of the forum. They were all praising Governor Ducey’s harmful and short-sighted rejection of over a billion dollars in federal funds for extended unemployment benefits, which has slowed economic recovery in AZ. The GOP candidates contemptuously bid working people to “get off the couch” and get the hell back to work and bemoaned the poor employers who can’t find employees to work for poverty wages. It was a disgusting display of just how the leaders of the Republican party feel about the working people of this country: lazy leeches who just want to lay about collecting government benefits. Any person who works for a living should realize that these people really couldn’t care less if you live or die. Well, on second thought, they think might be better all-around if you peons sacrificed your health, family, elders, and your own life to feed the wealth accumulation of the owner class.