Politicians worried about surviving the next election often make short-term decisions instead of devising long-term solutions, said Payson resident and Democratic state senate candidate Elaine Bohlmeyer.
For instance, Bohlmeyer says the state should invest more in education and work toward lowering the dropout rate while cutting the corrections budget.
Statistics show the majority of prisoners have low levels of education.
“I think there are better ways of monitoring non-violent offenders than putting them in jail,” said Bohlmeyer. “That’s a long-term solution.” And keeping kids in school could lower long-term incarceration rates, she added.
The Payson Democrat is the only one of her party running for state senate. In the November election, she’ll face incumbent Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen.
Current Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who is term-limited out of his seat, has said he will run for Senate. However, he has not filed with the Secretary of State.
Bohlmeyer worked as a registered nurse before earning a Ph.D. in educational psychology and working as a school psychologist for 19 years. She has volunteered with the local Habitat for Humanity, Payson Community Kids and the Time Out Shelter, as well as served as president for the Democratic Women of Rim Country.
Bohlmeyer said she never had political aspirations, and only recently considered running for office because of the dearth of Democratic, progressive candidates.
“I’m motivated and I’m passionate about change,” she said about her ability to push campaign promises even after election. “First of all, I’m a pretty strong person. Second of all, I have a lot of self-confidence,” she said.
Bohlmeyer’s agenda includes strengthening benefits for returning veterans, increasing opportunities for immigrants to enter this country legally, expanding renewable energy and moving industry into forests while maintaining their health.
She also supports Gila Community College’s effort to become an independent college.
Bohlmeyer’s most passionate reactions involved renewable energy and offering benefits like grants to purchase houses to returning veterans to ease their re-entry into civilian life.
About renewable energy, “We have wind and we have solar,” said Bohlmeyer. “We should be using these resources.” Those two industries, as well as the forest industry, offer good paying jobs, which could reinvigorate Arizona’s economy while keeping the state beautiful, said Bohlmeyer.
She also agrees with the recently passed federal health care legislation, although she acknowledges imperfections.
“I think we (Arizona) should accept the plan,” said Bohlmeyer. However, she wants to decrease costs, and said one method could involve expanding the role of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to care for common problems.
“These people have to be well-trained and well-supervised,” she said, and “there’s a point at which you need skilled diagnostics.”
She also called for finding ways to reduce the cost of prescription medications. She said offering health care to all makes economic sense because healthy people can work.
About the immigration bill, Bohlmeyer called it “an emotional reaction to people’s frustration.”
She said “real immigration reform” would incorporate enhanced opportunities for work permits and a shorter path toward citizenship. If immigrants could enter legally, she said the role of human smugglers and the associated crime would decrease.
“We’re making a lot of human smugglers very rich,” she said.
Bohlmeyer said she’s also passionate about helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. “If I had my way, we’d have fewer wars and fewer veterans,” she said. However, “we should be doing more for them to assure a better quality of life.”
She added, “We give them boot camp training to prepare them for military life,” however, nothing prepares soldiers for returning home.
“If they’re willing to give so much to the country, then the country should do more for them,” said Bohlmeyer.