Three to Get Ready

A trio of rookie Republicans battle for two House seats in Legislative District 26

Republican Trent Humphries was flushed and dripping sweat as he rang a doorbell in the Del Webb neighborhood in northeast Tucson in mid-July. The man who answered wasn't interested.

"I'm watching the All-Star Game," the resident complained. "What do you want?"

It wasn't the warmest greeting that Humphries experienced as he walked door-to-door in an effort to promote his campaign for a House seat in Legislative District 26, which stretches from Saddlebrooke through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills.

But canvassing precincts is one of the old-fashioned ways that Humphries and his fellow LD26 Republicans--Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull--have been introducing themselves to voters.

All three are political rookies with little name ID coming into the campaign. Humphries, who owns a computer-repair company, was better known as "Framer," his nom de guerre on a local blog he began penning during the 2006 election season. Williams retired to Tucson after selling off a successful warehouse-supply business and took up politics as a hobby, helping out with various party functions and organizing a GOP cigar club. Zerull has been a party activist for many years, as well as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America.

Even though Republicans have a registration advantage in LD 26, there are no GOP incumbents in the race. One of the House members, Republican Pete Hershberger, is running in the district's GOP Senate primary against Al Melvin. The other House member is a Democrat, Nancy Young Wright, who is seeking election to the seat after finishing up the term of Lena Saradnik, who stepped down after suffering a stroke.

The split representation makes Legislative District 26 one of Arizona's rare swing districts. That means Democrats hope to hang on to the seat they have and win the second seat in November as part of their effort to flip at least four seats statewide and gain a majority in the 60-member House of Representatives.

The three Republicans in the upcoming primary, on the other hand, want to see the GOP reclaim dominance in the district.

Humphries, who has been funded by $12,921 in Clean Elections funds, has embraced some innovative campaign strategies in the race. He's hosted forums on key issues in the district, including health care and law enforcement. His emphasis on keeping the state out of the health-care business has earned him the endorsement of the Arizona Medical Association and the Arizona Nurses Association.

"I'm a person who is serious about the issues," said Humphries. "We're in a bad way with health care, so we need to get past party issues."

Humphries opposes tackling the budget crisis by borrowing money to build schools and other accounting gimmicks that the Legislature used this year. He suggests freezing parts of the state budget. "We need to put the emphasis on making wise spending choices," he says.

He supports the proposition on the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Marilyn Zerull, who has also qualified for $12,921 in Clean Elections funding, doesn't dig as deeply into the issues as Humphries does. She calls herself a "traditional Reagan Republican" who believes in cutting state spending on social services such as day care. She also opposes borrowing for school construction and says she would always be in favor of cutting property taxes. She also supports the proposed amendment that would put the state's ban on gay marriage in the constitution.

A party activist who has been a homemaker and worked as a secretary at a carpet-cleaning company, Zerull complains that illegal immigration costs the state too much money. She wants to do more to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. "We need more equipment and more security personnel at the border," Zerull says.

She also has little use for prisons providing inmates with vocational education.

"Prison is not a rehabilitation place; it's a punishment place," Zerull says. "It's up to them to rehabilitate themselves. The only exception I would have is for those who are illiterate."

The third candidate in the race, Vic Williams, hails from the business end of the GOP. Williams, who is not participating in Clean Elections, made enough money to retire after selling a warehouse-supply business he launched at age 28. He promises to bring his business experience to the Legislature.

Williams, who comes across as a moderate Republican compared to his two opponents, says he wants to cut wasteful spending, fund education and freeze property values for taxing purposes.

But it's not always easy to discern Williams' position on many of the issues, because he has a tendency to avoid direct answers to questions. When asked about putting a ban on gay marriage into the state Constitution, for example, Williams said he would "do anything to protect" the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman, but then said, "I don't necessarily think it needs to be in our state Constitution."

The top two finishers in the Sept. 2 primary will face Democrats Wright and Don Jorgensen in the general election.

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