Senate Candidates Square Off In A Contentious Candidate Forum

The contest  to fill a vacant state legislative seat created by retiring Senate President Karen Fann is shaping up to be one of the most contentious races in the 2022 primary election. Three Prescott Republicans, former Secretary of State Ken Bennet (2009 -2015) and former State Representative Noel Campbell (2014-2020) faced off with newcomer and party activist Steve Zipperman, to fill the LD1 seat in the Arizona State  Senate.

At Wednesday afternoon’s  Candidate Forum sponsored by the Citizens Tax Committee (CTC) at the Adult Center in Prescott, the three candidates offered sometimes sharply differing views on topics ranging from border security and immigration to election integrity and how to reform Arizona’s academically challenged  public school system. The standing room only event was livestreamed on the Internet by KYCA radio and filmed by Prescott eNews.  Media coverage is  likely reaching the largest audience the candidates will address together this election cycle.

Photo: David Stringer, CTC General Counsel and Forum Moderator

A fourth candidate,  Democrat Mike Fogel, a retired school teacher from Chino Valley, was unable to attend. According to John Stevens,  Vice President of CTC,  they didn’t find out until after the April 4th candidate filing deadline that Mr. Fogel had qualified for the ballot and an invitation went out. Mr. Fogel had prior commitments and was unable to attend.  He sent a statement which was read by CTC General Counsel and forum moderator, David Stringer. Mr. Fogel is expected to attend the May meeting where  he will have an opportunity to speak about his political values and legislative priorities.

According to CTC President, Cathy Craig,  the candidates fielded a mix of questions prepared by the CTC Executive Board or  submitted by the audience. The most contentious issue involved illegal immigration and border security and the Biden Administration’s plan to end restrictions on asylum seekers. All three candidates advocated stronger border security and opposed the end of Title 42 restrictions. However,  Mr. Zipperman advocated using state resources to finish the wall on the US-Mexico Border, even if that meant walling off part of the Tohono-O’odham Indian Reservation. Candidate Noel Campbell took strong exception to this plan, pushing back with the argument that Native Americans are US Citizens.  It  would be illegal to wall them off from the United States.  In rebuttal, Mr. Zipperman made it clear that he had no intention of violating the rights of any US citizens.

Photo: (left to right) Steve Zipperman, Noel Campbell, and Ken Bennett

The candidates also differed sharply on the role of lobbyists and accepting contributions from special interest groups.  Mr. Bennett and Mr. Campbell both acknowledged accepting help from conservative groups such as the NRA  and school choice advocates. Mr. Campbell pointed out that state law prohibits candidates from accepting campaign donations during the legislative session.  Mr. Zipperman said he was refusing all financial help from any lobbyists or special interest groups.

Photo: Ken Bennett, responding to a question from the audience

Mr. Bennett, a former Senate President and Secretary of State, emphasized his prior experience and knowledge of state government as his strongest qualification.  Mr. Campbell, a popular, three term state legislator who was the top vote getter statewide for a legislative position in 2018,  emphasized his many legislative accomplishments, including funding for the widening of 1-17 and  Highway 69,  the new Prescott Airport Terminal, and his authorship of legislation regulating sober living homes in Prescott.  Mr. Zipperman, a retired attorney and real estate broker, emphasized his professional accomplishments in California and Arizona. He is running as an America First candidate and has been endorsed by gubernatorial candidate and Trump favorite, Kari Lake.  Anecdotal reports indicate that all three candidates  spoke well and succeeded in  delineating their positions on the issues and distinguishing themselves from their opponents.

The Citizens Tax Committee, founded in 1977,  is one of Yavapai County’s oldest and most storied civic organizations. Their  mission statement is focused on taxpayer advocacy and promoting the values of limited government and fiscal accountability. Over the years they have counted among their members  a number of political activists  and elected officials,   including state legislators, mayors, county supervisors and city and town council members.  Their monthly meeting is held on Wednesdays at 1:30pm  at the Adult Center,  1280 Rosser Street,  in Prescott and is open to the public. Plans are underway for a May event featuring candidates for the state House of Representatives.

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