Republicans face tough questions from Ahwatukee residents in unique forum

By Allison Hurtado, Ahwatukee Foothills News

Republican candidates had a chance to sit down and talk in small groups with Ahwatukee Foothills residents Thursday night and were faced with questions about Common Core, immigration, their greatest trial and their proudest accomplishment.

“I have done so many forums and meetings,” said Michele Reagan, who is running for Secretary of State. “This was really cool. I spent an hour and a half of my time and instead of coming into a room where nobody really talks, you got to intimately talk to so many people. It was like speed dating or speed vote-begging, I guess.”

The forum, hosted by the Arizona Legislative District 18 Republicans, divided those present into nine tables and rotated the candidates through each table, giving them 8 minutes to speak with attendees. Candidates got a chance to explain what they are running for and why and attendees got a chance to ask questions to candidates running for a variety of positions.

Frank Schmuck said his biggest concern when talking to candidates for the Arizona Legislature is who is going to do the best job of making Arizona attractive for businesses.

“I think he gets it because of his business background,” Schmuck said after listing to John King. “Will he be able to pull it off? He’s one person, but I think Jill Norgaard, him, Tom Morrissey seem to see that vision. Hopefully that vision will coalesce and take us in a more brilliant direction.”

Malinda Preston said she’s looking for a fighter to send to the House of Representatives. When she met the Republican congressional candidates, she was looking for which one had the best plan for when they get to Washington.

“They certainly have a different aura around the two of them,” Preston said. “I’m not sure one of the other is better than the other, but honestly and truthfully I don’t want anyone to be too nice when they get to Congress and I think there’s a possibility Andrew (Walter) won’t be able to walk the walk. I personally want someone in there who will never back down and isn’t going to be nice.”

David Pheanis, a candidate for the House of Representatives in LD 18, said he spent a good amount of time answering questions about Common Core and immigration. He’s in favor of Common Core, which was a different stance than most of the audience and the other candidates, and said immigration isn’t something the state can do a lot about since it’s a federal issue.

“ ‘Why are you running?’ and ‘what do you aim to accomplish?’ were some of the best questions,” Pheanis said. “Those are the people really interested in what you are about and who the candidates are. I got a lot of those.”

Wendy Rogers said she spent most of her time listening to the concerns of those at the tables. Her favorite conversation of the night was with a young man thinking about his future.

“I asked him some tough questions about whether or not he’d be able to get a job and whether or not his course of study would be productive,” Rogers said. “I have two children. The way we raised them was to make sure they studied something they could get a job with. I’m known for imparting wisdom that way in an unflinching manor to people in their early 20s.”

Diane Douglas, running for superintendent of Public Instruction; Reagan (Secretary of State); Darryl Jacobson-Barnes (justice of the peace); Tom Morrissey (state Senate in Legislative District 18); Rogers and Walter (House of Representatives in District 9); and Pheanis, King and Norgaard (House of Representatives in Legislative District 18) were all present at the forum.

Local Republicans plan to host another forum at 7 p.m. July 23. This one will take place at Arizona Community Church, 9325 S. Rural Road in Tempe. Ken Bennett, Doug Ducey, Mark Brnovich, Jeff DeWit, Hugh Hallman, Randy Pullen, Justin Pierce, Doug Little, Tom Forese, Douglas, Walter, Morrissey, Norgaard and King are all scheduled to attend.