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Water, Jobs and Kids 

District 26 GOP House candidates debate what it means to be conservative

Each candidate in the Republican House primary for District 26 has a top priority--beyond the universal issues of education and illegal immigration. For Carol Somers, it's water issues; workforce development for Lisa Lovallo; Pete Hershberger lists programs for children; and for David Jorgenson, it's being "a Reagan conservative."

"I'm the only conservative in this race," Jorgenson declares. "I'm the only pro-life, pro-family candidate."

As an example of his conservative philosophy, Jorgenson comments on the adopted state budget: "Giving taxpayers back $500 million was a success, but it was a failure not to give back (the entire surplus) of $1.5 billion."

While suggesting lowering both commercial and residential property taxes would be appropriate next steps to take regarding the state budget, Jorgenson doesn't know where corresponding cuts should be made to offset the revenue loss.

Taking a poke at current office-holder Hershberger, Jorgenson, 49, says if elected, he would be a "team player."

"I'm not saying (to) be a doormat," Jorgenson explains, "but if you're not going to follow the (Republican majority), then step down."

That is an approach the six-year incumbent strongly challenges. "You can't let Maricopa County (legislators) tell you what to do," Hershberger says. "Boy, is Jorgenson naive."

While pointing with pride to his work for Southern Arizona in areas such as the UA budget and the extension of Rio Nuevo funding, Hershberger highlights his efforts on behalf of children. (The district's other representative, Steve Huffman, is running for Congress.)

The only candidate to support the ballot initiative which will raise the cigarette tax to pay for more children's programs, Hershberger, 57, says he is working to provide a safe and healthy environment for children while providing a quality education.

Agreeing the state needs to do more for public schools, Lovallo in part sees this effort as an economic-development issue. "Arizona is not achieving economic prosperity, so how can we grow wages?"

Believing Arizona's workforce-development funds must be used to keep the state competitive and must be spent more effectively, Lovallo, 40, says she will also strive to ensure those funds aren't cut. In addition, she will support the Department of Commerce and its efforts.

For her part, Somers, 60, points to the state's water supply as a focus of her interest. She wants to have a study prepared which would determine how much water is available, and where it is located.

Once that information is determined, Somers says: "Then we'd put population growth numbers to it, and know where we'll have shortages."

Believing the state needs to plan for a total population of between 12 and 15 million people within 30 years, Somers says on her Web page of Arizona's water situation: "Doing nothing is not a viable alternative."

That is certainly the opinion of all four candidates about border security. They all agree much more needs to be done, including putting additional pressure on the federal government to act.

"The goal is to make the feds more responsive," Lovallo states, "but we (as a state) can't continue to wait. The Legislature (also) shouldn't sit on its hands. Law enforcement doesn't have enough resources now. I'd push for more money to go out to people in the field."

Somers would like to see additional funds funneled to border communities which bear the brunt of the illegal immigration problem. She also wants to ensure those who may hire illegal immigrants aren't unfairly penalized, insisting that the federal government should provide them with the tools needed to check on employment eligibility.

Hershberger concurs with that opinion, and also calls for a comprehensive approach to the illegal immigration issue.

"We should work with the federal government for more boots on the ground," Hershberger says of the National Guard, "along with more use of technology."

Listing border security as his No. 1 priority, Jorgenson told those attending a recent debate: "It's time for action and to stop talking. It will start paying for itself right away by saving $1.5 to $2.5 billion a year" in costs associated with illegal immigration.

All four candidates support some strategically placed fencing along the Mexican border, but Jorgenson believes it will eventually stretch across the state. He is also the only candidate to support across-the-board school vouchers; the others range widely in their opinions.

Somers says she is open to the idea of vouchers in some cases. "One example," she offers, "is with a failing school. I think we owe it to the students."

Lovallo would also consider vouchers on a selective basis, but not across the board. "Arizona does a good job of providing educational choice now," she says, adding she would look at targeted vouchers, such as in the case of educating a child with autism.

On the flip side: "I oppose vouchers and tax credits (for private education)," Hershberger says succinctly.

As to why he should be re-elected, Hershberger concludes: "I'll continue to fight for the needs of Pima County and Southern Arizona."

Somers wants to return to the Legislature, where she previously served one term. "My record shows I can build bridges," she says of her time in Phoenix.

"We need to get new people to work on the issues, such as failing schools and illegal immigration," Lovallo explains as to why people should vote for her.

Quoting Ronald Reagan on his Web site, Jorgenson says of his stances: "If we move to the middle, Republicans lose ground."

The two winners of the primary will compete in November against Democrat Lena Saradnik to represent the northwest-side district.

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