Voters In District Five Can Choose From Variety Of House Candidates

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The Republican incumbents representing District Five in the Arizona House, Debra Brimhall and Jake Flake, have both served for eight years. They are being challenged by Bill Jeffers and Claudia Maestas, Democrats, along with Republican Bill Konopnicki. The incumbent State Senator, Jack Brown, a Democrat, has no challengers.

DISTRICT 5 - HOUSE

Debra Brimhall

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: not available

Years in Arizona: not available

Residence: Snowflake

Brimhall, Arizona State Representative, R-Snowflake, and an incumbent in this race, did not submit biographical information for this candidate profile.

Brimhall is best known across the state, perhaps, for the since-defeated bill she introduced in the Arizona Legislature last year that would have placed term limits on firefighters, police officers, teachers, park rangers, newspaper writers and others. Her purpose was to protest the fact that she can only serve in the legislature for eight years under the term limits approved by 74 percent of the voters in 1992.

Brimhall also backed a bill to keep unmarried couples from receiving health benefits from city and county governments, using the issue to express her views about homosexuality going "against the Divine."

Brimhall was one of the first legislators to take advantage of what became the alternative fuel fiasco.

Brimhall's contributions to Payson include support for the new library fund-raising effort, lobbying for the then-new EAC-Payson campus, assisting with airport land acquisition, and getting ADEQ in gear on the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund superfund site cleanup.

"The most important issue of any campaign, ever," Brimhall said Monday, "should be the fact that we are supposed to have a people's form of government, and we keep electing people who think it's supposed to be a tea party ... The truth is, it's not supposed to be this 'Kumbaya' choir. It's supposed to be a system of checks and balances. We're supposed to have people who have the ability to keep at arm's length from becoming best friends with the executive, administrative and judicial branches of government so that they can truly represent the people. If you become best of buddies with the system, then it makes it very difficult to ask the hard questions, to truly investigate something ... (and to) remember your responsibilities and do the difficult things you have to do. Otherwise, it just chips away at the individual rights and freedoms of the people. That's why we're where we're at. We got here little by little, piece by piece, handshake upon handshake, pat-on-the-back by pat-on-the-back ... That has been to the detriment of the freedoms and the liberties of the people."

Asked why Northern Gila County voters should cast their ballots in her direction, Brimhall said, "That's kind of a bizarre question ... The way that we have twisted campaigning has made campaigning a fraud ... I don't even listen to campaign ads anymore, because it's always 'I'm going to save education' or 'I'm going to this,' and I'm like, 'Oh, whatever. That's what your opponent said, too.' It doesn't tell anybody anything. It doesn't reveal the passion in the heart and soul of someone; the positive versus the negative, the reality and truth of who someone is and what they believe in. I guess the difference would be because of the commitment that I have to the freedoms and liberties of the people, and the strength that I possess in my belief system, in our Constitution, and in a people's form of government ... I remember my responsibility to a people, not to a system. I don't play the system, I am not a part of it. I am a voice for the people, and I stand for an individual; against a machine every day of the week."

Jake Flake

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 67

Years in Arizona: 67

Residence: Snowflake

"I have grown into a strong voice for rural Arizona, and I think I have more influence than anyone else in the state to help rural Arizona," said incumbent State Representative Jake Flake, who is running for his fourth term while also serving as Speaker Pro Tempore of the House.

"I think I have been fair and conservative. I have held down taxes and still maintained the services that were important to have and that we needed to have," Flake said. "I feel like I have represented my district well over the last six years."

Born and raised in Snowflake, Flake has been a cattle rancher all his life.He continues to reside in Snowflake, with his wife, Mary Louise, and their 13 children.

Having taken the lead in addressing issues affecting the state for the last six years at the legislature, Flake says he is eager to find solutions to the problems facing rural Arizona.

His priorities for the next two years include:

"Number one is budget. We've got to balance the toughest budget in the history of the state of Arizona."

"Water will be a very important issue. There's going to be some water legislation, and it's going to be tough to figure out how to do that while helping towns like Payson, Miami and Prescott without having the water robbed and sent to Phoenix. How to do that without losing more than we're gaining is going to be very difficult."

"Education and health care are always strong issues. Even though we gave teachers a pretty good raise, they're still underpaid. Another issue, of course, is health care, and every time we give teachers a pretty good raise, a big share of that raise goes into their health care. We need to take care of health care in this state, and especially rural health care."

"Rural economic development. Even jump-starting the economy of the state to where we don't have to keep cutting the budget. That's something we need to continually keep working on."

If re-elected, Flake says, he will have a good chance at being elected the next Speaker of the House of Representatives by his colleagues, which he believes would dramatically enhance rural Arizona's position and influence in state politics.

Bill Jeffers

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 50

Years in Arizona: 50

Residence: Holbrook

A lifelong resident of the Holbrook area, Bill Jeffers grew up on a cattle ranch and continues to ranch today with his sister, Ann.

He earned a Bachelor's Degree in agricultural economics and a masters degree in economics from the University of Arizona.

Jeffers currently serves as chairman of the Navajo County Community College District Board, Northland Pioneer College, and is in his fourth year on the Arizona Transportation Board.

A strong advocate for rural Arizona, Jeffers emphasizes the importance and need for community volunteerism.

"The lifeblood of most of our rural communities is the dedicated, unselfish people who freely volunteer their time and money to enhance the quality of life for those around them," said Jeffers. "State government should support the efforts of these volunteers and not be a stumbling block."

On conservation issues, Jeffers supports the wise, managed use of Arizona's natural resources. He promises to lead the way in protecting private property rights, and in bringing sound science and practicality to decisions involving natural resources. He believes that his service on the Natural Resource Conservation District board, as the State Association's president, and as a director for the National Association of Conservation Districts lend a strong foundation for competent decisions regarding the environment.

Bringing Arizona's educational rankings out of the cellar will be one of Jeffers' priorities. As a former school board member, and as a current board member of NPC, he describes himself as a relentless supporter of the public school system, and he praises the dedicated efforts of our teachers and administrators.

Jeffers says that health issues are also at the forefront of his political efforts. A former president of the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority and director for community counseling centers, Jeffers says that he understands the need for quality, affordable health care services in rural Arizona.

Additionally, Jeffers has served on the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments and is a member of the National Cattlemen's Association, People for the U.S.A., the Petrified Forest Museum Association board, the national Masonic Foundation for Children board, the Flagstaff Medical Center board, and Wells Fargo Bank community advisor.

Jeffers' wife, Lois, is an elementary school teacher for the Holbrook Unified School District. Their daughter, Tiffany, is a junior at Holbrook High School.

Bill Konopnicki

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: not available

Years in Arizona: not available

Residence: Safford

Bill Konopnicki has lived in rural Arizona most of his life. He grew up in Yuma and received his BA and MA degrees from Arizona State University.

For the past 25 years, Konopnicki successfully owned and operated businesses in several rural Arizona communities.

His prior experiences include being a professional educator at the secondary and post secondary level.

Konopnicki served on his local school board for 12 years and is currently the president of Mount Graham Regional Medical Center Operating Board.

He has worked with the Boy Scouts of America, The Boys and Girls Club and the Ronald McDonald Houses.

He is actively involved in his community.

Konopnicki says he will aggressively represent the interests of the citizens of District 5. He believes in strong family values and is committed to improve the economy in rural Arizona. His background, he says, gives him a unique prospective on District 5 and its issues.

Konopnicki's platform:

"A balanced state budget without increasing taxes is the most important issue facing Arizona. Arizona needs a business-like approach to its budget. Revenues are down because the economy has slowed, retail sales, tourism in Arizona, the price of copper, cattle and cotton are all down, and as a result, state revenue is down, thus causing some of the most serious state budget problems Arizona has faced in recent history. The fiscal crisis can be fixed ...

"No society has taxed its way into prosperity. Fixing the budget problem will require fiscal discipline, planning and understating how to make the economy recover ..."

"Quality education and better schools are the keys to our future. Education must work to deliver quality and do it in a way that keeps cost in line. Teachers need to have competitive pay and the tools to do their job ..."

"Rural Arizona needs economic development. As the economy of rural Arizona changes, rural Arizona needs more opportunities, jobs and training. This can only be accomplished if the state has a plan to encourage rural economic development.

"Tourism, high paying jobs, training and development of our natural resources are a few of the ways to develop rural Arizona's economy ..."

"Arizona teachers and employees are keys to our future. Attracting and keeping quality teachers has been a problem in Arizona. Competitive pay is what will attract and keep great teachers and employees ..."

"Cost of health care is on the rise. Arizona must re-think the way it is currently providing health care for the citizens of Arizona. The cost of health care is growing faster than any other part of our economy. Controlling cost is the beginning of affordable health care ..."

Claudia Maestas

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 51

Years in Arizona: 51

Residence: Holbrook

"The reason I am running for State Representative, District 5," said Claudia Maestas, "is the same reason I ran for the other offices: the quality of our lives in rural Arizona, which is always having to fight to get its fair share."

The economics, education and heath care in rural Arizona "always get the short end of the stick," she maintained. "I will change this if I am elected. We pay the same taxes as other parts of the state, yet we are continually getting short-changed."

Maestas said that the state has experienced "the best of economic times over the past decade, yet we find ourselves $1 billion in debt."

A "huge part" of that deficit, she said, was "the alternative fuel giveaway ... Both of our current representatives bought cars and voted for the legislation. There is at the present time $1 billion (in) litigation pending against the state from car dealers, alternate fuel installers and the public who were blocked from purchasing alt fuel cars."

A native of Flagstaff and a Holbrook resident for 46 years, Maestas' resume includes two years as Holbrook's mayor and five years as vice-mayor; three years as president of the Holbrook School Board; two years as president of Holbrook Economic Development; one year as president of Holbrook Senior Citizens; and seven years on the Holbrook Main Street board, including one as president.

Married for 34 years to her husband, Leo, Maestas has three children and seven grandchildren.

If elected, Maestas said, additional issues she will confront are:

That Arizona schools are ranked 47th in the nation for funding;

That rural health care is in "a crisis situation";

That state leadership balances Arizona's budget "on the backs of counties and the communities by cutting their state shared revenues. This has a devastating effect on rural Arizona. We have no way to make up the loss in revenue."

"There is an old saying: 'If you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you always got.'" Maestas said. "Our current representatives have been in office for eight years. They have had a chance to make changes. It is time for new leadership."

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