Four Vie For Two Seats In New District

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Two house seats are available in newly formed Legislative District Five. The new district was born via the state's independent redistricting commission. New legislative and congressional district lines were drawn following the 2000 U.S. Census.

Greenlee, Graham, Gila and parts of Navajo and Apache counties comprise District Five.

Jake Flake and Bill Konopnicki are the Republican candidates. The two Democrats in the running are Bill Jeffers and Claudia Maestas.

Jake Flake

Republican Jake Flake isn't just running for his fourth term as the state representative for District Five, he's also positioned to become the next Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.

Flake, a native of Snowflake, says if he is re-elected and becomes house speaker, he will be faced with "the worst budget in Arizona history."

The state faces a projected deficit of about $400 million, according to some experts. Flake says the Joint Budget Committee is projecting a deficit closer to $250 million.

The $112 million alternative fuel debacle that gave the state a political and economic concussion is a big factor in the equation, he said, adding that the state also faces lawsuits by several individuals claiming they were denied an opportunity to participate in the program.

Flake's top campaign platform issues are jobs, education, water, budget, taxes, rural health care and private property rights.

"The creation and promotion of sound economic development and job creation is crucial to a vibrant future for rural Arizona," Flake said.

Balancing the budget and reducing government without raising taxes is a priority of Flake's, who says that one reason he selected Bill Konopnicki as a running mate is Konopnicki's business acumen.

"One of the most important things is making a good budget. You need people who know how to make a good budget," Flake said.

Flake favors an increase in tobacco tax because "it is not a mandated tax because people choose to smoke. If people don't smoke, they don't have to pay the tax."

Strong communication between both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office are also critical in Flake's view. "If there's anything I can do as speaker, I can help the governor's office and the President of the Senate."

The last rural legislator to serve as Speaker of the House was Joe Lane of Wilcox. Lane was ousted in the mid-1980s by Republicans loyal to former governor Evan Mecham. Lane supported Mecham's successful impeachment.

"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," Flake said.

"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. I feel like I have represented my district well over the last six years."

Bill Jeffers

"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," says Democrat Bill Jeffers, one of two Democratic candidates running for state representative, District Five.

"State government should support the efforts of these volunteers and not be a stumbling block," he said.

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 master's 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.

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 NRC, he describes himself as a relentless supporter of the public school system, and he praises the dedicated efforts of our teachers and administrators.

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

Jeffers' platform on other issues:

Gaming initiatives "I do not think that the current gaming situation in Arizona should be changed. I disagree with the policy of legislatively granting any specific group monopoly control over gaming or of any other business activity. I do not feel that gaming needs to be expanded. If Arizona citizens want more gaming opportunities, then expanding the number of gaming providers would be appropriate."

Increased taxes "I would never consider unnecessarily raising taxes. The public expects a certain minimum level of services from government and those services have to be paid for. I would much prefer to cut waste and excess and look for expansions in the tax base. Unforeseen circumstances can arise and any absolute pledge not to raise taxes can only be based on a static situation. ... In reality, (any tax increases he sanctioned) would have to benefit society more than the negative effects of the increase. Yes, I do favor eliminating income tax credits and sales tax exemptions that are given to special interests and that do not benefit the public as a whole. Criteria would include the benefits society receives from the credits and exemptions; how eliminating them would affect the welfare of the economy; and the public value of those granted the special status."

Bill Konopnicki

As a rural-Arizona businessman for the past 25 years, Republican Bill Konopnicki who is hoping to become District Five's newest state representative says that Arizona cannot tax its way out of its current fiscal problem.

"The only way out of these fiscal problems is to grow our way out by developing new businesses and industries," Konopnicki says. "This development will require pursuing industries and business that will help the economy in Arizona grow. Arizona needs state policies that support creating a business climate that is competitive with others states and allows new business to want to move to Arizona."

Konopnicki thinks his varied experience can help bring about a plan for the recovery of Arizona's economy a plan that will require economic development, improved tourism, exporting of Arizona's products, goods and services, attracting new business and careful budgeting.

"The fiscal crisis can be fixed," he says. "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 ..."

Konopnicki grew up in Yuma and received his BA and MA degrees from Arizona State University. He also received his EdD from the University of Arizona.

For the past 25 years, he 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.

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

Konopnicki views on other issues:

"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 economy ..."

"Water is one of Arizona's greatest assets. Rural Arizona must keep its water. Rural Arizona is small in its number of people but very important to the future of Arizona. Rural Arizona provides the food, fiber and natural resources to the citizens of Arizona. It also provides a major part of the state's export goods."

"Arizona teachers and employees are a key 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 ..."

Claudia Maestas

"My biggest message to the residents of the Payson area is that I can get this job done," says Democrat Claudia Maestas.

"I'm not a career politician, and I don't want to be senator and then secretary of state and then governor. I just want to restore to all of us the quality of life that we once enjoyed. I can do that. I know I can do that. Because I know my abilities, and the word 'no' doesn't register with me."

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."

Maestas' mission, she says, is to provide accountability for all public servants and to help improve the economic climate of rural Arizona. She supports industry, growth and jobs for our future that pose no health problems to us and the generations to come.

Here are some of Maestas' views on a few of the critical issues facing Arizona voters:

Gaming initiatives: "Tribal gaming is under federal jurisdiction. The only part states have in this are the compacts they must enter into with the tribes. Arizona has taken an adversarial position in this matter since the inception of gaming in the state. It has proven to be a losing proposition, especially in terms of revenue. Arizona derives much of its income from tourism and winter visitors; many of these visitors are spending their dollars at casinos instead of gift shops or other tourist based businesses. The loss in sales tax has played a part in our current budget shortfall. Indian gaming is here to stay. It would be in our best interests to negotiate a deal that would bring additional revenues into our state's general fund. In my opinion, the only initiative that has merit is the 17-tribes initiative. The racing industry initiative is vague, and it will open the state up to lawsuits by other industries wanting to have gaming ..."

Health care: "We need a measure of control over insurance companies and HMOs. In rural Arizona, many insurance providers require people to travel extensively to obtain medical services. The paperwork that doctors are required to submit in order to receive payment is burdensome and, in most cases, payment is late and short. Many physicians choose not to accept certain insurances because of the cost of processing for payment. Medicare could play a larger role, especially in providing needed medication at reasonable cost, so that senior citizens would not have to choose between buying food or medication."

Increased taxes: "No candidate or elected official would willingly raise taxes, especially in these difficult economic times, but to make such a statement in the light of the current state budget shortfall is not something I am willing to do.

"I will research all other avenues such as tax loopholes and tribal gaming pacts. A tax increase would and should be a last resort after roll-over of construction costs that will be on this year's budget, wildfire expenses, alternate fuel litigation and the decline in current revenues."

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