Today I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Arizona Technology Council Gubernatorial Debate. It also was a business mixer for the first little part. It turned out to be a fun and informative event.
During the event they had a large screen were people could tweet about the event and they would show all the tweets live and the candidates could read the live feedback during the event. I was active on the tweet stream, look up hashtag #aztcgovs to see what was said.
There were a few surprises, the first and most shocking surprise was that Doug Ducey canceled at the last minute, many people there wanted to see what he had to say but he was a no show, a lot of people mentioned it on the twitter roll. The next thing that surprised everyone was how friendly the candidates were to each other, it was mentioned a few times that they all had deep respect for each other. GOP heavys Joe Hobbs and Wes Harris were both there working the room for Frank Riggs. There were also a group of folks trying to get the word out on Diane Douglas and how she is against common core, I agree with Diane on this issue, and was glad to see them there.
Education was one of the main topics of the night. All four of the Republicans were against common core. Scott Smith said that we needed to raise the bar, higher better teachers and challenge students, a lofty goal but no way on how to do it. Ken Bennett said that we needed to focus on the lowest 5% of schools each year and bring them to average and that if we did that for 4 years we would be one of the top states in the United States. He also said we should allocate the funds for teachers separately from other district funds so that they get paid directly and get paid more. When asked about school connectivity most of them did not seem educated on the issue and just said that it was needed. Only Christine Jones seemed to know that 150M was already given for this task and that this amount of money is more than enough to connect every school in the state that was not connected. It is just that the government bureaucrats don’t have a clue how to do it so all of the money goes wasted. Multiple GOP candidates said that we need to copy what is working in our best schools and push it out to all schools. Fred DuVal says that we need to throw much more money at the problem of lack of education, and that Common Core is the solution we have been looking for so that our kids can compete in a global marketplace. I can’t see how dumbing down our schools will help us compete globally, and if money was the answer to educational problems then we would have no more problems. We waste way too much money, and more money just leads to more waste. Fred DuVal ended his talk about education talking about Khan Academy, but he had all of his facts wrong, he said that Salman Khan founded it for his kids, but he has no kids, he founded for his cousin, he also said he sold it to Bill Gates, also wrong, Bill Gates donated $1Million (Pocket change for him, but still a good thing.) Google has donated at least double that amount. Fred if you want to use something as an example then get your basic facts straight.
Next they talked about the small business climate. Ken Bennett talked about how we need to remove the personal property tax on businesses, this is a tax that most states don’t have but kills many businesses here in AZ. It is where you need to pay taxes each year on the equipment that your business owns, such as servers or computers, or machines that make stuff. This tax is one of the main reasons that many manufacturers choose not to locate here. Removing this law is vital, and Ken Bennett was the only one that addressed it. Christine Jones talked about all the different rules that small businesses need to address at different levels of government and how it must be streamlined, that businesses need to focus on what they do to make money not dealing with the government, this is something I have said all along. She also said she will be like Rick Perry of Texas and make it her job to personally call on large businesses to get them to move here. Scott Smith focused on his history in Mesa of attracting Apple and helping turn around the williams airport and other things. Frank Riggs says he will personally chair the Arizona Commerce Authority and that will be his prime focus. He also said that the government is not in the job of choosing winners and losers and he would be against it making grants or loans to businesses and would be against angel investor tax breaks or any rules to make it easier for Venture Capitalists to do business here. Christine Jones and Ken Bennett both pointed out how these tax breaks and easier rules have generated many times more money for the state than if we did not have them and that they would be in favor of renewal. Fred DuVal said these grants and tax breaks need to be expanded. He also said that we should embrace Common Core.
When asked about the EPA and Fed overreach all 5 of them were against it, Scott Smith was strong on how bad the EPA is and that shutting down NGS will replace a small air pollution problem with a Major water pollution problem, because NGS gets us fresh water. He also said that they simply don’t understand how dusty Arizona is. He has even gone the the EPA in person in Washington to talk about this. Ken Bennett segwayed this into other forms of Fed overreach such as his case with them about ID at the Polls. Fred DuVal waffled a bit, saying that some of EPA things are bad but some are good and that we need to embrace a Cap and Trade system.
The final question was about Arizona’s image in the rest of the nation. Fred DuVal was quick to pounce on how awful it was, he focused on the 1062 problem. The others had good ideas how to make it even better, and how to reduce taxes to bring more businesses. One of them, I forget which one, said that we are in the new a lot because we are a thought leader on a lot of these issues and that others look to us to follow us. I liked that idea.
Final Wrap Up
After attending this event this is my order of who I would vote for from these 5.
1. Christine Jones, she had obvious passion for doing this, she knew the right things to say and was able to point out the quick and easy solution to many problems. She mentioned how she helped create many of the rules that govern the internet and how she has worked for years making it free. The negative about her is that she has not been in politics and likely will have trouble dealing with bureaucratic minded politicians, because they are just illogical in their actions. I did love how she ended her closing remarks about going to “ChristineJones.com, proudly regestered for over 10 years with GoDaddy.com” I liked that. She did point out that she is the only one that does not owe favors to any political group. I personally like the lack of government experience, we need fresh ideas, and they need to come from the top. Before today she was maybe my 4th or 5th pick from the GOP field, she really has improved from the meetings from last year that we both were at.
2. Ken Bennett, he understands the system and how Arizona politics works, probably more than any of them, he did not seem to have as much passion but after 30+ of these events, with many days having 2 or more, I can see why. He is a small business guy, and understands change and progress. He said all the right things, had researched positions and would be a great leader for our state. I almost gave him first place, it was only because of Christine’s passion that I did not.
3. Scott Smith, he told a lot of jokes, was really friendly and his experience as mayor of Mesa has given him some executive experience. He seems like a nice guy. I don’t know how well he will work in a large organization like the state government. He did say he will fight the feds about the EPA.
4. Frank Riggs is a very conservative guy, he also seems like he would be very rigid. He seems like the guy who’s supporters will tear him up if he compromises on the smallest detail, the problem with that is there is no way to get things done with that attitude. He did have a good point that he served in the Federal government and that experience would help him work with the Feds. He also introduced the idea of a Consumption tax, and he said that such a thing would level the playing fields from out of state businesses selling into Arizona, and eliminate the black market. I have no idea what he means, or how this would work, and how can someone want a new massive tax and still look for Tea Party support, I don’t get it. On the positive note he was very nice to me and was the only one I was able to talk to for a few minutes.
5. Fred DuVal supports Common Core, Cap and Trade, and spending a ton more money on education, he has spent years working in the Clinton-Gore administration. He mentioned multiple times about how he would work hard to promote marriage equality and pass laws making all sexual orientations equal. He is likely going to be popular with those in college and those who have been brainwashed by our liberal school system. He is the only one here that will for sure be on the General Election Ballot, but lucky for us we are such a red state that I doubt he will have much of a chance.
All in all it was a great event, people were cordial to each other, and I was among friends, knowing many of the people there from other Arizona Tech Council events and AZGOP events.
UPDATE: They just posted the video of the event.