Arizona: Sheriff Todd Garrison said he would rather respond to burglaries and other emergencies in the county than spend resources enforcing federal immigration laws, which, he said, is a federal responsibility. On the other hand, Democratic candidate for Sheriff Larry Roybal expressed support for the new Arizona immigration law, saying he didn't mind if he was stopped and asked for papers because of his appearance, and that the law was "one more tool" for law enforcement to use. Democratic candidate Juan R. Stewart said the law is lengthy, with many provisions, including a prohibition of racial profiling. He thinks it is a good law. Ironically, of the three candidates, it was only the Republican candidate, an Anglo, who expressed any serious reservations about the Arizona law which is opposed by 70% of the Hispanic population, according to a recent poll taken by WSJ/NBC. The South Valley is 85% Hispanic.
Spaceport: County Commission Candidate Billy Garrett, commenting on the Spaceport tax, said he wants to see numbers instead of words. Many promises were made to convince voters to tax themselves for this project but, he said, he has yet to see any accounting of just what benefits, if any, the county is reaping. Republican candidate (for the same seat, District 1) Thomas Austin said he had voted against the Spaceport tax and now sees that all the contracts are going to Albuquerque or out of state. Incumbent commissioner Karen Perez said she was resisting a temptation to tell her colleagues "I told you so," since she had been against the tax from the beginning and that if voters wanted to repeal the tax in large enough numbers they could do so. Candidates are beginning to reflect public opinion against the tax, which passed very narrowly three years ago after a major campaign for it by Governor Richardson. The other candidates for County Commission, Gilbert Chavez and John Zimmerman, were similarly skeptical, although they support the Spaceport project.
Karen Perez indicated the county budget is down 8% from two years ago and, with funded and unfunded mandates, there is little room to budge. Mr. Austin said he would fight to cut down on spending and would make sure spending did not exceed revenues. John Zimmerman said his top priority as a commissioner would be to get a master plan for action in place, since the current one is well out of date.
The only controversial moment in the evening occurred when Democratic candidate for Sheriff JR Stewart indicated he could raise morale among deputies which, he said, "was badly needed," a tacit criticism of the leadership of Sheriff Garrison. Asked to respond, Garrison simply said morale was fine, and the matter was dropped.
At one point Commissioner Karen Perez appeared to be on the defensive when she said, "I guess I'm the bad guy" because she voted against a resolution that, in part, criticized the new Arizona immigration law. But no one challenged her on the point in questioning and, if fact, at various points in the forum fellow candidates turned to her to ask for her opinion and for clarifications of factual material, deferring to her expertise. For a poor community in serious need of a slice of the county pie, five days from a primary election, the audience seemed highly deferential to the candidates. The only articulated demand appeared to be for more "recognition" by the county of the good work the firefighters do. The candidates seemed to think this was a reasonable request.