GOP Quartet

Four Republicans battle in Legislative District 30

The four Republicans who are seeking the two open House seats in Legislative District 30 have one bit of experience in common: They all know what it's like to lose on Election Day.

Sharon Collins has lost races for the state Legislature, mayor of Tucson and Arizona Secretary of State. Frank Antenori lost his first political bid when he ran for Congress two years ago. Doug Sposito lost a shot at a District 30 House seat in 2004. And David Gowan has twice lost bids for the House seat, in 2004 and 2006.

But this year, two of them are sure to win the Sept. 2 GOP primary, and at least one of them appears destined for victory in the Nov. 4 general election, since Democrats have put up only one candidate--Andrea Dalessandro--in the heavily Republican district. District 30, which includes Tucson's eastside, Green Valley, Sonoita and Sierra Vista, is now represented by Republicans Marian McClure, who is seeking a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Jonathan Paton, who is seeking the LD30 Senate seat being vacated by Republican Tim Bee, who is looking to move up to the U.S. Congress. Paton isn't endorsing any of the Republicans, but McClure says she's backing Sposito.

"He's a very intelligent young man," McClure says. "He learns very rapidly, and I think he's as honest as the day is long."

A fourth-generation Arizonan, Sposito lives on a family ranch in the Sonoita area. The custom homebuilder puts support for education and small businesses at the top of his agenda. He says schools need to be more responsive to individual students.

"Only about 25 percent of our kids are college-bound," Sposito says. "We need to expand how we deal with education to include more of the technical education within the breadth of the traditional education."

He argues that the state can solve its budget problems by helping small businesses bounce back from the slow economy. "I'm the big pro-business guy, and if we improve the business climate in this state and increase job opportunities for our young people, there will be more money to do all of the things we need to do," Sposito says. Sposito says he's against the proposed Rosemont mine that would extract copper and other minerals from the Santa Rita Mountains. The Canadian firm that wants to mine in the mountains is now negotiating with the federal government.

The only other candidate in the race to oppose the mine is Sharon Collins. Collins made her first bid for office when she ran for mayor of Tucson in 1995. She says that she was concerned about water then, and she's concerned about water now.

Collins fears that the proposed mine, which isn't far from District 30's Green Valley and Sahuarita, may threaten the aquifer of nearby residents.

"You can't guarantee that there won't be a leakage of some sort," Collins says.

Collins' background stretches beyond water. As a high-ranking assistant to state schools chief Tom Horne, Collins has expertise in education policy. She wants to redistribute educational funds to include more funding for technological gear in classrooms. Collins also wants to use the AIMS test to ensure that children at lower grade levels are learning what they need to learn before they advance.

"The federal government says we have to have this test," Collins says, "so we need to focus on the lower grades."

Collins supports the idea of a two-tier diploma system, with special honors for kids who pass the AIMS test and a degree for those who can't pass AIMS but do supplemental schoolwork.

Frank Antenori, a former Army Special Forces member who now works as a project manager for Raytheon, also supports the two-tier diploma system.

A big believer in small government and the free market, Antenori supports a state voucher program that would allow parents to receive the funding that the state spends on each child annually to use toward their school of choice, whether private, public or charter, as long as the school meets state standards.

Antenori also says schools need to teach more basic life skills.

"K-12 is meant to prepare kids to enter the world," Antenori said. "We need to spend less time teaching how to put condoms on cucumbers and more time on balancing a checkbook."

Antenori has been known for his blunt language since he made his political debut two years ago in a five-way GOP primary to replace retiring congressman Jim Kolbe's seat. (Former state lawmaker Randy Graf won and was beaten in the general election by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.) While he only got about 4 percent of the vote, Antenori developed some name ID and an understanding of the local political landscape. He takes pride in his colorful rhetoric.

"I am still the same unabashed, uninhibited Frank Antenori," he says.

He's also an ambitious thinker. For example, he envisions encouraging private industry to build a nuclear power plant that would provide power to desalinization plants in California in exchange for rights to California's Colorado River allotment.

The final candidate, David Gowan, has become well-known to District 30 voters with his unsuccessful campaigns in 2004 and 2006. A magazine distributor and martial-arts teacher in Sierra Vista, Gowan hopes that the third time will be the charm.

Gowan says parents should be able to send their kids to the school of their choice to "bring things down to the local level."

Like Antenori, Gowan believes in deep cuts to government spending, although he doesn't offer too many specifics. "If we can get it back to the free enterprise," he says, "we are better off, because the government chokes things."

Gowan frequently falls back to what he sees as the root of many of the district's problems: Arizona's ongoing border struggles.

"My problem is that the federal government is failing to secure this border, and it's costing our state $1.4 billion per year," Gowan said. "That's in education, in ... hospitals and incarceration."

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