Tea Party speakers Sadie Jo Tomerlin, Jim Muhr, Mac Feezor, and Shirley Dye.
Photo by Andy Towle.
Only the Republican candidates for Gila County recorder attended a Payson Tea Party debate last week to wrangle over how the vital but often inconspicuous office can improve customer service — and use the Internet to quickly post vital records online.
The Democratic candidate was a no-show.
Payson Tea Party President John Muhr expected Democratic candidate Mickie Nye to attend and acted surprised when he did not show up.
Muhr said he hoped that all candidates running for office in this election feel comfortable participating in the Tea Party debates. The Tea Party has consistently supported Republican candidates and often harshly criticizes Democrats.
However in the primary election at the end of the month, the only contested race for recorder involves the two Republican candidates, incumbent Sadie Jo Tomerlin and challenger Mac Feezor.
The only Democrat running, Nye is assured of a face-off with the winner of the Republican contest.
Organizers opened the debate up to questions from the audience and various other political clubs, but only received three questions in return. To add depth to the debate, organizers asked the candidates to submit questions. Vice President Shirley Dye said Tomerlin submitted about a half a dozen questions and Feezor just a couple.
Feezor’s platform has a simple message: It’s all about the data.
“My skill set is mainly data,” he said. “When buying a new CAD system, the most expensive part of the purchase is moving data.”
Feezor spent years as an engineer moving data onto new systems. He recently acted as an invaluable member of the redistricting committee, taking over as the chief data cruncher for the citizen-run group.
“This makes me uniquely qualified to move data, which offers openness and speed of service,” he said.
In particular, Feezor would like to delve into getting the 100 years of data online that the recorder’s office paid $55,000 to convert from paper to digital. Currently, Feezor says that information needs to move along more quickly in the redaction process to get online sooner rather than later.
“Historians are anxious to do research,” said Feezor.
Tomerlin touted her expertise in understanding and applying the regulations her office must follow.
She answered questions such as, “What are early ballots?,” “What is the office doing to register voters?” and “Why have polling places changed?”
Both candidates addressed a brouhaha that has boiled over on the San Carlos Reservation. Candidates and reservation leaders have asked why Tomerlin’s office has abandoned early voting and knocked voters off of registration lists.
Tomerlin replied that most of the voters that have dropped off of the list are inactive and do not respond to contact efforts. She said that anyone might participate in early voting by dropping a ballot in the mail. The county pays the postage.
Feezor agreed with Tomerlin on both issues.
“On this one thing, Sadie and I are ... in complete agreement,” he said.
Critics of Tomerlin’s decision to no longer post a county employee on the San Carlos Reservation to accept early ballots have suggested the decision could decrease Democratic turnout, since Native Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The absent Nye has raised questions about whether Tomerlin’s office has acted to depress Democratic registration and turnout.
Throughout the debate, Feezor mostly agreed with what Tomerlin had to say. She demonstrated her understanding of the process clearly to the crowd.
The two issues on which Feezor did criticize the incumbent’s performance involved the delayed access to information and the disparity of office representation between the north and the south. He said virtually all of the employees in Tomerlin’s office work in Globe and that having workers constantly driving from Globe to Payson wastes money.
Feezor said if elected he could fix those two things.
Tomerlin promised to increase citizen education about the importance of voting and step up registration drives to young voters.