Two by Four

Current House members battle challengers in the LD 30 GOP primary

State Rep. Ted Vogt has had a complicated year.

Sen. Jonathan Paton stepped down to run for Congress; then-state Rep. Frank Antenori stepped up to fill Paton's Senate seat, and in March, Vogt was appointed to Antenori's seat in the Arizona House of Representatives.

He was in his last year at the UA College of Law at the time, and was invited to give a speech to his graduating class. During that speech, some of his classmates walked out to oppose his vote for SB 1070.

Recently, the Tucson Weekly called him out for collecting more campaign cash from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and friends than Arizonans; this led to Vogt getting a formal endorsement from Rumsfeld, his former boss.

Meanwhile, Vogt is fighting to keep the House seat to which he was appointed. He's running as a team with the Republican incumbents in Legislative District 30, which stretches from the east Catalina foothills down to Green Valley and Sierra Vista.

Rep. David Gowan, who did not return our calls, was elected to the other House seat in 2008.

Despite Gowan and Vogt's reliably Republican votes, they are facing four opponents who want to take them out.

Kurt Knurr, a systems analyst who is running his first campaign for office, says he got into the race because the incumbents aren't paying attention to voters.

"There are four other people who have been able to get on the ballot," he says. "That tells you that there are a lot of people in the district who are dissatisfied with (the current representatives)."

While Knurr has been vocal in his criticism of the current representatives, he also gives them credit for their yes votes on SB 1070, which Gowan co-sponsored. Still, Knurr claims they aren't that conservative: They had a chance to balance the budget and pay down the debt, but ended up selling the Capitol building, raising the sales tax and balancing the budget with gimmicks.

He says being an Arizona legislator is a citizen's job, and he doesn't like the fact that Gowan has sponsored resolutions to repeal term limits. He says a legislator's loyalty lies to those who fund their campaign, and doesn't like Vogt's contributions from out-of-staters like Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Knurr claims he would be an even more conservative vote for Southern Arizona. He says Arizona's new law allowing university professors to carry concealed guns on campus doesn't go far enough, because students still aren't allowed to carry weapons. He also says abortions should be illegal even in cases of rape, incest or health concerns regarding the mother, because those exceptions can be abused.

Parralee Schneider, a former third vice chair of the Arizona Republican Party who made a bid for the Legislature back in 2000, says the district needs someone who has been there for a while—in other words, not Vogt, who moved to Arizona four years ago.

She agrees with Knurr that the incumbents' biggest sin is not staying in touch with voters.

"Toward the end of the session—actually, after the session ended, during the campaign season—the representatives decided it was time to reach out to the voters," she says. "I think you need to let the voters know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and why you have to make these tough choices. A walk in the shop is not a bad management style."

She calls herself the "conservative grassroots champion" and says she's willing to make hard choices and answer tough questions, because she's not worrying about the next election: She's "someone who's not planning on being one of the good old boys, someone who's not planning on making this election a stepping stone to further political ambitions," she says.

Doug Sposito, the owner of a small construction business who ran for the seat in 2004 and again in 2008, says he's had his share of disagreements with the current representatives—but he doesn't like to dwell on those beefs.

The main difference between him and the incumbents: They lack his business experience, Sposito says. He's spent many weekends filling out government forms, he says, and he knows the problems small-business owners face.

"When I say I am a limited-government, less-regulation, less-tax, pro-small-business Republican, I am one of those people," he says.

Brian Abbott, a special-education teacher with the Tucson Unified School District and a telecommunications consultant, says a lot of Republicans—including the incumbents and a few of the other LD 30 contenders—are downright crazy.

"I think these guys are unhinged," he says. "I don't think they have any sense of reality. I don't think they have any understanding of what it's going to take in order to get the state back on track."

He says he understands the issues facing the district better than any of the other candidates, "hands-down"—even though he hasn't yet been able to collect enough $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding. He says that's happened because the dialogue has been hijacked by SB 1070, which he doesn't support and doesn't believe is an answer to the border problem.

He says Gowan is a nice enough guy, but that Gowan doesn't understand the issues beyond talking points and selectively picked statistics. He's less kind to Vogt.

"I think Ted—because of his extremely limited time in the state, as well as the fact that he just doesn't know anything, and he's a resume-builder—is damaging to the community," he says.

Abbott points to philosophical differences between him and the two current seat-holders.

"They perceive government as this big, bad, evil thing that everyone throws their money at, and I take the approach of, 'Let's see how we can make government more efficient,'" he says.

Vogt says he's a solid conservative with a diverse background in business, military and the law, which helps him make informed votes. He's not bothered by the criticism from his opponents, and says the fact that so many people are running against him is a testament to the strength of the Republican Party.

"I was up at the Legislature passing laws, helping reduce spending, and passing SB 1070, while others weren't doing that."

The two winners of the Republican primary will face Democrat Andrea Dalessandro, who unsuccessfully ran for a House seat in 2008.

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