Originally Published: June 24, 2016 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT – It was the political version of speed-dating Wednesday, June 22, as many of the candidates in the August primary made the rounds at an event hosted by the Republican Women of Prescott at Hotel St. Michael.
While many candidates are running unopposed, a few are in heated races, and it showed.
“My opponent refused to follow the attorney general’s decision, and I don’t think that makes for a good supervisor,” said Marla Festenese, who is taking on Yavapai County District 4 Supervisor Craig Brown.
She said she wants to see better use of the jail in downtown Prescott before county officials spend more on plans for a new one.
That’s a claim that doesn’t sit well with Sheriff Scott Mascher.
He said the Gurley Street jail is used daily for short-term holding, either for inmates attending court downtown or for booking arrestees by agencies in and around Prescott.
“It works very well for that,” Mascher said, adding it’s inadequate for long-term incarceration, as it doesn’t meet federal standards.
Festenese, a small business owner, once worked in Brown’s office, and he didn’t hold back on his opinion of her. “She has a lack of integrity,” Brown said.
There’s a similar race between District 1 incumbent Supervisor Rowle Simmons and challenger Mary Beth Hrin.
Simmons said for much of his district, the supervisor is the most influential local elected official.
“I’m like the mayor of some of these small communities,” he said. “We’re all they have.”
Hrin was critical that the county wasn’t aggressively combating the expansion of drug and alcohol abuse recovery homes in unincorporated areas.
She said she advocates more cooperation among agencies, citing group homes and public pension debt as issues that affect both municipal and county governments.
“We’re going to have to start combining a lot of things,” she said.
While a third county supervisor, Tom Thurman, is running unopposed in District 2, two others are in contested races, though only one candidate each from District 3 and District 5 attended the night’s event.
County Supervisor Jack Smith is running on a record of reducing the county budget, and touted his efforts in bringing interdenominational prayers to the top of Board of Supervisors’ meeting agendas.
His opponents in District 5, Steven Irwin and Harold Wise, did not attend.
With sitting District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis running for state legislature, Diane Joens and Randy Garrison are running to replace him.
“The only reason I’m running is that he decided to run for the state legislature,” Joens said, citing her experience as a former employee in the Board of Supervisors office.
Garrison did not attend Wednesday’s event.
Judd Simmons, who is running for county assessor had a free forum as incumbent Pam Pearsall also was not present.
He took the opportunity to highlight the allegations against Pearsall, including charges of nepotism and a letter from the state Attorney General’s Office reminding her of the requirements for registering lobbyists.
“I want to restore confidence to the office,” Simmons said.
All three candidates running for two seats in the state House of Representatives attended.
David Stringer of Prescott spoke about his work on elections related to taxes – in some cases supporting and in others opposing tax increases.
Incumbent Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, stood on his record in transportation and veterans issues, and his latest accomplishment in passing a recovery homes bill in the 2016 session.
Davis said if elected, he’ll work to represent rural Arizona in a legislature dominated by urban interests. “I want to bring a little sanity down to that body,” he said.
The night also featured candidates for the Central Yavapai Fire District board, Yavapai College and Chino Valley Fire District.