Final Candidates Give Their Goals For Congressional District One

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The field of congressional hopefuls is packed with 15 men and women who want to represent central and eastern Arizona in Congressional District 1 the newly formed district that is the largest single congressional district in the nation, that is not a separate state.

Whether those candidates succeed will be decided by the voters during the Sept. 10 primary election, with the final choice made at the Nov. 5 general election.

Each Friday, the Roundup has profiled some of the candidates with the exception of Libertarian candidate Edwin Porr, who failed to return the Roundup's calls.

Here are the final two candidates.

Andy Fernandez

Party affiliation: Libertarian

Age: 36

Years in Arizona: 36

Residence: Flagstaff

Andy Fernandez brings a challenge for change to the Congressional District 1 race.

In fact, when asked why he is running, he said it is because a lot of changes need to made.

Topping his lists of concerns is the economy, and an assortment of problems he sees stemming from it: affordable housing; education and health care costs. He also wants to see common sense brought back into transportation planning and a change made in the political system.

Fernandez would like to readdress the country's system of taxation.

"We can't eliminate it, but too many wealthy people are taking advantage of it and the taxes are used in a ludicrous fashion. Eighty percent of the population pays most of the tax and steps need to be taken to give some of that back to the people, many who are living paycheck-to-paycheck," he said.

Fernandez said housing is becoming unaffordable for many people because of the dramatic increase in costs in the last several years.

Public education is suffering, from the university level all the way down. He said about 200 positions in Arizona schools have been eliminated, while administrators and others in high levels are getting tremendously high salaries.

As for health care, he sees the dramatic increase in its costs as the responsibility of the insurance companies. He believes the cost of health care could be reduced by at least 52 percent by eliminating insurance completely and creating a more socialist approach, giving everyone equal access to the care they need.

"Right now, too many people have their hands in the pot to line their own pockets," Fernandez said.

He would also like to see a rule that prohibits someone from running for office if they have changed their party affiliation within eight years. He also does not think it is right that people who are not from an area can buy property there just for the purpose of running for an election. Fernandez pointed out several examples. He said Sydney Hay is from Phoenix, but is claiming a residence in Munds Park in order to run for Congress; George Cordova bought a house in Payson for the same reason, according to Fernandez. Then there is Rick Renzi, who is from Virginia, but says he is a Flagstaff resident because he has a business there.

"So what, Wal-Mart has a business here. They may be paying wages to residents of the area, and taxes, but most of the money is going home someplace else," he said.

"Government has become too big and those in power are there for their own benefit. It needs to be brought back to the people," Fernandez said.

Fernandez was born and raised in Flagstaff. He owns a landscaping, excavating and hauling business there, FDZ & Gold Nugget Enterprises. He has run for office twice before, once for mayor of Flagstaff and also for the Flagstaff city council.

"I consider myself an activist and a humanitarian. I am just an average Joe off the street, a hardworking, blue collar individual," he said. "I look up to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, she is my role model."

Derrick Watchman

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 39

Years in Arizona: 39

Residence: Window Rock

Derrick Watchman's bid for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 1 is being hailed by some as a rare opportunity for the Navajo people and Native Americans.

A victory could not only shift the balance of power in the House of Representatives, but it could also bring a much needed voice for Native Americans to Capitol Hill.

"It is not negative if the seat goes to a non-Native," Watchman, 39, said, "but a democracy should be comprised of all people, including Indian people."

Many believe the Navajo vote is the single most important block in the new district. About 35 percent of the 85,332 registered Native American voters are Navajo, and insiders are saying the primary could be won with as few as 20,000 votes.

Watchman, who was raised on the Navajo reservation, is a former Navajo Nation executive branch chief of staff. He also served as the director of Indian Affairs under Bill Richardson at the U.S. Department of Energy, and was recently appointed to the National Environmental Policy Commission.

"We have to educate Congressmen and their staffs what Navajo and Indian country are all about," Watchman said. "I can hit the road running on schools, jobs, roads, water, and economic development. What is needed is a true government-to-government relationship, not what we have now."

The issues he believes are critical include:

Economic Development "Aggressive economic development is critical to the survival of our traditional economies, values and cultures. Economic development in rural Arizona will require developing low-impact industries, developing a high-speed telecommunications network, building and repairing roads, and devising strategies ... to help entrepreneurs the backbone of our economy run successful small businesses."

Health "Every citizen in our District deserves high-quality health care. To achieve this we must make health insurance affordable; find new ways of attracting doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners to work in rural areas; pass a federal patients bill of rights; fully fund Indian Health Services; and provide a Medicare prescription drug benefit for our seniors."

Education "Educating our children today for tomorrow's world must be one of our top priorities. We must raise teacher's pay, reduce classroom size, fund special education at the federal level, make preschool and early intervention programs available to every parent who wants them, provide access to higher education for both children and adults, and fund school construction."

Water "We in rural Arizona know better than most that we must conserve our precious water. We need a comprehensive water conservation program and federal tax credits to help people pay for water-conserving appliances and plumbing."

Watchman is married to Cheron, and they have two children. For more information, he can be reached at (928) 871-5467 or at www.watchman2002.com.

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