LD13 candidates debated immigration, water crisis - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

LD13 candidates debated immigration, water crisis

July 9th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
LD13 candidates debated immigration, water crisis

By Cecilia Chan
Staff Writer

Editor’s note. This is the second part of a report on the Legislative District 13 candidates’ virtual forum held May 24 by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The first part ran 19 and can be read at santansun.com.

Four of nine candidates running for the state Senate and House seats in District 13 participated in a virtual debate held May 24 by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Three candidates are running for the Senate seat – Republican J.D. Mesnard, who is unopposed, and Democrats Cynthia Hans and Michael Morris.

Candidates running for the two House seats are Democrats Jennifer Pawlik, unopposed in her primary, and Republicans Josh Askey, Ron Hardin, Liz Harris, Julie Willoughby and Don Maes.
Mesnard, Pawlik, Harris, Willoughby and Maes did not participate in the debate.

Water Crisis

Candidates discussed water policy and water conservation.

“I’m a big advocate for desalinization, the Sea of Cortez and getting that water to Arizona,” Morris said. “We have two plants already. Let’s get them functional.”

He also suggested giving tax incentives to people who help save water for things such as putting in artificial turf or doing xeriscape instead of planting grass.

Hans said tribal lands needed to be included in the conversation about water conservation.
Askey agreed with “incentivizing the population to cut back on water” but said agriculture also should be looked at.

“We need to look at crops that are water-intensive,” he said. “And maybe incentivize those farmers to change those crops to something that is more desert friendly.”

He also would want to see the impacts to the state’s water supply before home developments and big companies are built.

Morris said he would favor helping Arizona farmers implement a drip system on their lands and also look at capturing more runoff water from the mountains. However, he said, he is against forcing people to conserve water.

Hardin said the state has been in a drought for about 22 years and wondered what legislators have been doing all those years to address it.

He suggested using the state’s surplus of $5.3 billion to invest in technologies and companies that are willing to come up with solutions for the water crisis.

Inflation and housing

Another hot topic for the candidates included asking how they would help people dealing with inflation and lack of affordable housing.

Hardin suggested some sort of tax relief.

“Let’s give tax breaks, let’s help folks with the food banks, let’s make sure that those are taken care of,” Hardin said. “Folks are going to have to depend on their churches, their faith and whatnot for this and I think that’s the time that we want to take that $5 billion and give it back.”

Askey blamed inflation on federal monetary policy and disagreed with President Biden’s tactic to lower inflation by asking businesses to lower their costs.

“That doesn’t reduce inflation,” Askey said. “Inflation is a mechanism of the currency, meaning that inflation can only really occur at the monetary policies of the federal government.”

He said the true cause of inflation can’t be dealt with at the state level.

As for the rising home prices, Askey said he would want to cut the red tape that developers go through.

“If you want to develop in Texas do you know what the time frame of buying that property (and) getting approval through the permit process in Texas?” Askey said. “It’s like 90 days. You know what that same process is here in Arizona? It’s one year to 18 months.”

He said the Legislature can encourage “cities to figure out how to reduce that timeframe so that it does lower cost to a developer because that developer is going to pass that increased cost onto the homeowner.”

Morris suggested eliminating the state gas tax.

“When inflation goes rampant like this it typically affects the low-income families a lot and so those are two big steps that I would take to try to combat inflation – get rid of the gas tax and work on getting that minimum wage up,” Morris said.

Hans questioned how much the state can do about inflation, and said she would want to explore tax breaks and credits.

“For instance, we don’t tax food and that benefits every human in the state,” she said. “But are there other tax breaks that are only benefiting a few thousand people instead of a few million people or a few hundred people?”

“The state could kick in some more if we got rid of some of those tax breaks,” she said. “So that’s one of the things that I would like to dig deep into, is where we have some fluff in our budget already and use that money to give people some relief.”


One voter asked the candidates for their policies regarding immigration and the border wall.

“I’m not a supporter of the border wall,” Hans said. “I think it’s performative, it is not helpful.”
However, she said, she was in favor of a secured border, which she reminded is a federal issue.

“We have a lot of laws in place about immigration,” she said. “We probably need to invest some more funding to support border security but we also need to support the structures that allow us to process immigrants quickly and fairly.”

Askey said he would like to see the wall completed in Arizona but that the state is limited to what it can do because a chunk of land bordering Mexico belongs to the Tohono O’odham Nation, a federally recognized tribe.

He also disagreed with “the other side” that a border wall doesn’t work.

“If borders didn’t work, (if) fences didn’t work, then why do the wealthy of us have borders around our property?” he said.

Hardin said he, too, would like to see the wall finished although it will be impossible because there are federal and Indian lands involved.

To build a wall when there is reservation land in the way is “just a waste of money,” Morris said. “They’re just going to go to the other part of the wall and sneak in that way.

“So why are you throwing good money away on that instead of taking that money and streamlining the system for the good people that want to get through, that are not, you know, drug runners or whatever? Give them a route, make it easy, make it simple so they can get in this country legally and start their new lives with their families.”

Hardin responded by saying there already was a process in place for immigrants to come into the United States legally. And he didn’t disagree that the process should be streamlined for those doing it legally but the question at hand is illegal immigration, he said.

“No one and specifically no one in the Republican Party would ever say that we don’t want immigrants to come in,” Hardin said. “Of course, that’s how our country was built.”

The goal is to secure the border against illegal drugs and human trafficking, he said.

“I used to be a state trooper in Arizona so I know all about human smuggling through the Casa Grade route,” Morris responded.

“I think that you should walk a step in a Mexican citizen’s shoes and trying to get yourself citizenship here is an absolutely hellacious process,” Morris said. “It’s insane and it’s causing people to go run out into the desert with bottled water and try to make it through because they can’t deal with the ridiculous amount of administration and stuff that they have to go through.”


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