Voters in Legislative District 20, which includes Glendale and part of West Phoenix, will elect a state senator and two state representatives Nov. 3. Arizona Clean Elections is sponsoring a series of candidate debates in districts across the state.
One of the first was the LD 20 event, held Aug. 17 and moderated by Julia Shumway of Arizona Capitol Times. Three of the five candidates on the ballot appeared at the forum.
Campaigning for Arizona Senate reelection, Republican incumbent Sen. Paul Boyer did not attend the event, but his Democrat opponent Douglas Ervin participated in the forum. In the House of Representatives race, Republican incumbent Rep. Shawnna Bolick did not attend, while Republican incumbent Rep. Anthony Kern and Democrat opponent Judy Schwiebert participated in the online debate via Zoom.
“I’m sorry my opponent couldn’t show up. … I understand he has a class tonight, but I prefer he was out talking to voters and answering questions and being a part of the democratic process, which debates are very important,” Ervin said.
“My parents, an Air Force captain and a nursing teacher, instilled in me Arizona values like respect, integrity, community service, hard work and personal responsibility,” Ervin said. “But when I was down at the Legislature, I saw there were too many lawmakers who did not bring those values, especially when they put party before people.”
Ervin detailed his background in business and accounting during his introduction, saying he hoped to use his experiences to bring better school funding to the state of Arizona. He stated that some of his main reasons for running, and why he would be a strong fit for the Arizona Senate, are that he would like to see officials who will actually listen to the community, work together to solve problems and serve the state with integrity.
Kern stressed his support of the police and the Second Amendment.
“I have raised my children here in Glendale, Arizona, and I am honored to represent the district,” Kern said. “I believe firmly in free speech, I believe in a quality education for our students, I believe in a robust business environment where jobs are created, and I believe in policies that make that happen.”
Kern stressed that he can work across the aisle with Democrats to ensure plans are made to better Arizona.
Schwiebert introduced herself by saying she would have never imagined running for public office until this year. As a community leader and as someone who was a teacher for 27 years in District 20, she said she cares deeply about fixing public schools within Arizona.
“As a mom, a grandmother and a teacher, it breaks my heart that last year alone, Arizona had children in over 1,800 classrooms who had no permanent certified teacher,” Schwiebert said.
“That’s because of the failure of our Legislature. We can and must do better,” she said.
Shumway addressed the issue of students going back to in-person classes and asked Ervin his thoughts on what he can do to make sure students are safe in these classrooms. As a volunteer tutor for second-graders, Ervin said he has personal experience with understanding how a traditional classroom setting affects students.
“I know children learn best when they’re actually in class, but they also learn better when they’re healthy,” Ervin said. “They learn better when their peers, their teacher and their family is healthy, so that’s the top priority, is to make sure that everybody is staying healthy.”
Kern stated that whether a child goes back to in-person learning should be based on the choice of their parents.
“I’ve heard from a lot of parents in the district, and there is a lot of concern about their children not going back into school,” Kern said. “Parents need to get back to work, and they have no one to watch their children as they teach in their home and as their kids learn online.”
Schwiebert, who is a grandmother, said she understands why residents would like to see their children back in school. She also said she knows that teachers are anxious to go back because they understand how important in-person learning is for children, but she agrees that it is a local issue that needs to be decided on by school boards.
“This is a really difficult circumstance because there are so many people who feel so strongly in different ways,” Schwiebert said. “I appreciate that our school board members are listening to stakeholders and to public health experts so that they can open as quickly and as safely as possible.”
The questions in the debate ranged from issues on schools returning to in-person classes to mail ballot voting. Viewers of the debate were also invited to ask questions for the candidates.
There were two questions from viewers, both directed at Kern. One of the questions concerned a viral photograph of Kern and a group of lawmakers not wearing masks at a restaurant in March.
“On these photos I posted on social media, most of them have a choice to wear a mask or not wear a mask. So again I lean on the side of personal choice and personal responsibility,” Kern said.
All three candidates were adamant about the importance of bipartisanship and working together to create positive change.
“Our district and our state truly needs people who will work in a bipartisan way, and in a multipartisan way, and really walk the walk instead of just talking about it,” Schwiebert said.