Is There A Senator In The House?

Two District 10 Housemates Vie To Switch Legislative Bodies.

TO TAKE ON Libertarian Dale Gorney in November for the southside District 10 state Senate seat, two current members of the House are squaring off in the Democratic primary. According to Ramon Valadez, he and Sally Ann Gonzales agree on 95 percent of the issues. In his view, it's their approach to getting things done in the legislature that separates them.

"I know what the issues are, am willing to fight for them, and know how to fight for them. I will talk to the lion in his den," Valadez says of dealing with the Republican majority. "I grew up here, my family is here, and I have been working on these issues since I was a kid because I was taught to be a responsible member of my community."

While both legislators do support the Citizens Growth Management Initiative and increasing the sales tax for schools while vehemently opposing the proposed ban on bilingual education, Gonzales denies that the two candidates agree on most issues. She lists many differences, from experience and maturity to financial backing and position on local control over billboards.

"I'm an advocate for real people, the working people and those disenfranchised by the system," Gonzales says, "and not a career politician like my opponent. I have life experiences from being a mother, having been poor, and being a teacher, which he doesn't have. I'm a coalition builder, while some of our legislative colleagues say my opponent is not mature enough and only thinks that his ideas are worth considering."

While the candidates both list education and economic development as two of their top priorities, they differ on some of the other concerns facing the district and the state. Valadez regards affordable housing and environmental protection as important issues to be addressed.

"We need to preserve our pristine environment so more TCE-like clinics won't be needed in the future," he says. "We can't bring in businesses which kill people." To accomplish that, Valadez supports increasing funding for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and giving it some strong legal teeth. At the same time, he wants to implement a "one-stop-shop" approach for business compliance with environmental regulations.

Valadez also would like to see more small businesses located within District 10. He proposes providing property tax incentives to encourage "mom and pop" businesses to open in the area. Future jobs for district residents, he adds, must be gainful and safe.

Sally Ann Gonzales wants to insure that new companies relocating to Arizona because of government incentives pay back those freebies if they later decide to leave the state. And she believes Arizona should provide health care to everyone who can't afford to buy it.

Gonzales is straightforward in stressing her view of other differences between the two candidates. "Big money is behind my opponent because he votes that way," she says, pointing to the recent action by the legislature that reduced Tucson's ability to control billboards. "He was the only Pima County Democrat to support the bill and he did so because he gets bucks from the billboard industry. But he wants to play both sides on the issue. So when the vote wasn't recorded, he voted for it. But when it came time for a recorded vote, he was out sick, but then showed up later. He only did that because it is an election year."

Valadez responds that he initially voted for the bill, but then came back to Tucson and met with constituent groups who persuaded him to vote against it. He also says that he will oppose similar legislation on billboards in the future.

Gonzales is participating in the Clean Elections campaign financing program because she hates raising money and because "people in Arizona want to see elected officials get away from special-interest money and look at what the citizens want, not what the big interests want like my opponent does." Plus, she charges Valadez with talking "a bunch of B.S." in his explanation of why he isn't also taking part in the Clean Elections program.

For his part, Valadez insists he wanted to participate, but decisions about the program's legality came slowly this year. Thus, when facing a decision between rolling the dice on the program's viability or not participating, Valadez says he finally chose not to get involved.

But Gonzales admits that her participation with the Clean Elections program has been a disadvantage because of the delay in getting funds. While both candidates say they will spend about $15,000 on the race, Valadez has been able to have a more visible campaign because he has access to donated money. In the meantime, Gonzales recently was still waiting for her Clean Elections funds to arrive.

Ramon Valadez

Age: 32; a Tucson native

Family: Single; from a large local family

Education: Degree in electrical engineering from UA

Background: Worked in the offices of Congressman Ed Pastor and Pima County Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, and on numerous campaigns for Democratic candidates, including Eddie Basha's race for governor

Current occupation: State House representative, since 1996, for District 10.

Sally Ann Gonzales

Age: 43; a 13-year resident of Tucson

Family: married, five daughters

Education: B.A. in elementary education from ASU; M.A. in multi-cultural education from UA

Background: worked as a teacher in Tucson Unified School District for seven years; served on the Pascua Yaqui tribal council for four years.

Current occupation: State House representative, since 1996, for District 10