Concerns over immigration policy dominated a public forum presented by Republican gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil who was in Payson Saturday. Munsil was invited to speak to a gathering of about 20 people at Paul Rasmussen's Antique Car Garage in the Payson Air Park.
Munsil entered the race to unseat Gov. Janet Napolitano in January, joining a slate of Republican candidates that includes Don Goldwater, nephew of Barry Goldwater, and 25-year-old Scottsdale resident Teresa Ottesen.
While Munsil's visit to Payson was not well publicized, the small gathering allowed for intimate discussion of key issues ranging from immigration to forest health.
Audience members were allowed to ask direct questions, many of which were related to illegal immigrants crossing the Arizona border from Mexico.
Munsil expressed concern over current Governor Janet Napolitano's record on this issue.
"On her watch there have been more than 5 million illegal (immigrant) crossings from Mexico into Arizona," Munsil said. "The fundamental role of government is to protect its citizens. ... Two thousand Iraqis have been detained trying to cross our border."
Munsil explained that a firm policy does not need to imply disrespect or disregard for human dignity.
"I come at everything from the standpoint of principal. What's the principal here? I think we can be strong on border security -- strong on immigration -- without denigrating people."
Munsil compared the immigration issue to a basement flooded with water.
"You've got to stop the flow first," he said. "Think about it this way, you can't fix a flooded basement until you stop the leaky pipe."
"And no amnesty," he added. "You should never gain advantage for breaking the law."
Munsil said he has talked to many community leaders and legislators about the immigration issue.
"I've heard people say, ‘Don't even talk to me until we've secured the border.' That would be my priority."
Other topics of discussion included crime, transportation, forest health, water, education and the sanctity of marriage and human life.
Munsil was critical of Gov. Napolitano's record on several of these topics.
On crime, he said, "During Gov. Napolitano's term we went from 16th in the nation (for worst crime rate) to first in the nation."
On health care, he said, "Arizona has some of the highest wait times in emergency rooms in the United States.
"Physicians are leaving our state in droves."
And on education, Munsil pointed the finger again at Napolitano. "She said she was going to be the education governor ... issue after issue, we're in worse shape now."
Munsil expressed the importance of the family unit and family values.
"We have eight children -- five are teenagers, so you can image what that's like," Munsil said. "But we love family and we are blessed. I've been an advocate of the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of human life."
Len Munsil, 42, is an Arizona native, graduating from Scottsdale High School and Arizona State University. At ASU, he served as editor of the university's daily newspaper and was named Outstanding Journalism Graduate of the Walter Cronkite School. He also worked as a professional sportswriter.
Munsil has been a licensed attorney for 17 years and considers himself a conservative organizational entrepreneur. He helped found the public policy organization, The Center for Arizona Policy.
He and his wife, Tracy, have eight children ranging in age from 10 to 19.
For more information, visit www.lenmunsil.com.