Arizona voters will choose a new governor from a field of four declared candidates and a college student who is waging a write-in campaign.
Representing the two major parties are Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republican Matt Salmon.
Napolitano, Arizona's attorney general, has held a slight lead over Salmon in most polls and is considered by many political insiders as the candidate to beat.
Among Napolitano's top priorities as attorney general has been protecting children. Since her election in 1998, she has targeted and reduced a backlog of child dependency cases by 77 percent, providing safe homes for thousands of Arizona kids.
She also prosecuted drug traffickers who manufactured drugs in homes where children are present and implemented the Attorney General's School Hotline for kids when trouble arises at school. And this year she is launching a major effort to keep the Internet safe from predators who might try to take advantage of children while they are on-line.
Napolitano has also been an advocate for senior citizens, advising them on how to find affordable prescription drugs, making services more available to the state's seniors by re-opening a satellite office in Sun City, and prosecuting scam artists who prey on senior citizens.
Before being elected Attorney General, Napolitano served for more than five years as Arizona's U.S. Attorney. In that post she helped land $65 million in federal funds to put more police on Arizona's streets, helped the state respond to the Amtrak derailment near Phoenix, and helped manage the portion of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation that focused on Tim McVeigh's activities in Kingman.
She came to Arizona in 1983 as a law clerk to U.S. Appeals Court Judge Mary Shroeder, and in 1989 became a partner at the Phoenix law firm of Lewis and Roca. She was named U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona by President Clinton in 1993, and was elected Arizona Attorney General in 1998.
Republican Salmon was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, vowing to serve only three terms. Now he says he "wants to continue to fight for us" by serving as governor.
Prior to his election to the house, Salmon served four years in the Arizona State Senate, and 13 years as a telecommunications executive with US West.
Salmon supporters point out that during his tenure in Washington he voted to save taxpayers more than $53 billion, and supported the first balanced budget in over 26 years. He also fought to keep child predators behind bars by working with a bipartisan group of victims and crime fighters to pass Aimee's Law.
Other Salmon accomplishments include providing all Arizona residents with cancer access to state-of-the-art clinical trials and voting to increase funding for medical research on breast cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease. For his efforts, he was named Congressman of the Year by the American Cancer Society.
As governor, Salmon promises to lead the way in restoring fiscal stability and responsibility to Arizona.
The third candidate registering on the pollster's radar screens is Independent Richard Mahoney. A fourth-generation Arizonan, Mahoney served four years as secretary of state.
As secretary of state, Mahoney made significant changes in Arizona's elections laws including simplifying voter registration and enabling independents to vote in primary elections. He also successfully pushed for tougher lobbyist reporting and stringent safeguards on charitable telemarketing. At the end of the fiscal year 1992 he returned 15% of his budget to the state in the form of a check.
Mahoney believes the quality of life in Arizona is declining and that mediocre, self-dealing political leadership is doing nothing to reverse that decline.
As governor, Mahoney promises to chart a course independent of corporate welfare and inside trading.
A fourth candidate for governor is Libertarian Barry Hess. A graduate of Fordham University, Hess claims his experiences in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and New York prior to moving to Arizona 21 years ago give him a unique perspective on the "pulse" of the people, as well as respect for their thoughts and ideas. His international travels and business experiences, he adds, have made him an expert in efficiency and effectiveness.
Hess says the Democrats and Republicans have "nearly brought our state to its knees," and have "allowed our educational system to become a national embarrassment, our economy to tank, our health care system and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution to be trampled.... It took the Republicans and the Democrats to get us here, and it's gonna take a Libertarian to bring us 'home,'" Hess said.
Rounding out the candidates for governor is Carlton Rahmani, a 27-year-old University of Arizona student. He would be the youngest governor in Arizona history.
While he admits he has a slim chance of winning, Rahmani said he was compelled to enter the race because he is fed up with politics as usual.
"I'm running because I'm thoroughly disillusioned with politics as it is in the state of Arizona...," he said. "As long as Arizonans continue to elect the same kind of candidate, we're going to keep getting the same kind of government."
Among his proposals is what he calls "A-Beer-or-a-Brain" tax to raise money for education. He would also call upon an "extensive culinary background" to hold bake sales at the state capital with the proceeds going to a general fund for education.