Freshman Republicans Brenda Barton and Chester Crandell swept to an easy win in state House District 5, running up especially lopsided margins in Payson, Pine, Strawberry and Star Valley.
Districtwide, the two Republicans drew 66 percent of the vote to just 33 percent for Democrats Bill Shumway and Prescott Winslow.
In Payson, the Republicans got between 66 and 76 percent of the vote, depending on the precinct. In Star Valley, the two Republicans got 79 percent of the vote and in the two Whispering Pines precincts they amassed about 76 percent of the vote.
The precinct-by-precinct analysis held only Rim Country disaster for the House Democrats. They fared best in Payson Precinct 4 — a downtown precinct that includes the town’s relative handful of apartment complexes. Even there, the Republicans got two-thirds of the vote.
Neither Barton nor Crandell returned calls seeking comment on their run-away victories, even in Rim Country where they made only a handful of campaign appearances. The four candidates had one debate in Payson and made several other appearances before the Citizens Awareness Committee.
Barton is an accountant from Safford, who has worked in the past with groups fighting to shift control of federal lands from Washington to the states. Crandell is an educator specializing in vocational education from Heber.
Crandell and Barton ran on a pledge to slash state spending, although they offered few specifics on how they would close this year’s deficit, which gaped open to a projected $1.3 billion when voters rejected propositions that would have allowed the legislature to sweep money from the state lands fund and early childhood education.
Shumway and Winslow ran on a platform that called for a bipartisan effort to overhaul the state tax code and close the deficit without additional deep cuts in education — which accounts for the lion’s share of state spending.
Crandell and Barton, on the other hand, stressed spending cuts as the best way to close the deficit.
They ran as a team and focused frequently on battling the state government on an array of issues, including immigration, management of federal lands and health care reform.
For instance, Crandell and Barton both strongly supported lawsuits filed by the state to overturn federal health care reforms and defend SB 1070, which requires local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
On the other hand, Shumway and Winslow both said that the state lawsuits spurred by both SB 1070 and the federal health care reforms mostly represented a distraction from the most important issues — the chronically high unemployment rate and the state budget meltdown.
Although they avoided specifics in their call for deep spending cuts, they did offer a potentially radical overhaul of the state’s approach to funding education. They both said they favored a system that would pay school districts only for students who graduate or pass standardized tests indicating they were performing at grade level on key academic abilities. They also expressed support for systems that would make it much easier for students to shift from school to school, including charter schools.
Crandell and Barton said linking payments to the schools to student performance would reward the good schools whose students did well, and force the weak schools to reform.
Critics of that approach worry that the already wealthy school districts with many students whose parents have college educations will score much better and so get more support than rural districts.
Barton and Crandell in various appearances in Payson expressed general, but non-specific support for state legislation that would make it possible for Gila Community College to shed its current provisional status and become an independent district — with state support equal to the rest of the rural community colleges in the state.
Barton and Crandell both said they supported that idea in principle, but would have to study up on the details.