Few Came to Hear Husband-Wife GOP Candidates Tout School Choice in LD24

Lela Alston is a Democrat running for re-election to the Arizona House in LD24.
Lela Alston is a Democrat running for re-election to the Arizona House in LD24.

Hardly anyone came to hear two Republican candidates for the state legislature at a recent Clean Elections Candidate forum that was held at the Hampton Inn on Highland Avenue in Phoenix.

The attendance was very small with a total of 10 people, which included the timekeeper, the master of ceremonies, the audio engineer, and my partner and I. It was a “forum” because the only candidates who participated were the two Republican nominees for the legislature, the husband and wife team of Vicki and David Alger.

Vicki Alger is running for the Senate against Democrat Lela Alston, who is currently representing the district in the state House of Representatives. David Alger is seeking a position in the state House of Representatives and is opposed in that race by Democrats Dr. Amish Shah and Jennifer Longdon. Of the five candidates, only Ms. Alston has served in an elected public office.

  • Ms. Alger has extensive experience in education policy and research. Her work includes positions in a number of conservative education think tanks, research, and publications on school choice and competition in the education marketplace. She has been a consultant to a number of federal and state agencies, and her research has been cited in publications and in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Mr. Alger served in the Navy and retired from the Navy Reserve in 2015. His campaign website lists experience in government contracting, finance, asset & facilities management, construction, and the legislative process. Mr. Alger identified the need for reforms in the Arizona Family Court system as a primary interest for running for office.

As you might expect, Ms. and Mr. Alger expressed similar positions on the various topics raised by the questions. Both of the Algers took the conservative position that federal mandates are barriers to personal freedoms. They promote school choice via the charter school option to increase local control over education. They do, however, note that there needs to be more scrutiny of expectations and outcomes.

Amish Shah, MD, a Democratic candidate for LD24 State House.
Amish Shah, MD, a Democratic candidate
for LD24 State House.

In regard to growing the economy in Arizona, the candidates believe that the state should encourage competition and taking risks. Arizona should welcome all businesses by striking a balance between regulations and protecting the public. They claimed that the low tax climate was responsible for attracting businesses to Arizona.

For education, Mr. Alger noted that the money is already available for education and that it is being spent on too many non-teaching items, such as “Taj Mahal” administrative buildings and bureaucracy. He would advocate for fewer buildings and increased investment in teacher salaries, classroom materials, and parental choice programs.

Along with the increase in funding going directly to instruction and instructional support, Ms. Alger believes that giving parents, teachers, and the local school board more freedom in curriculum decisions rather than relying on standardized testing mandated by the federal government for accountability and measuring outcomes. They believe that the best means to improve education is to encourage public schools to compete for students to keep enrollment. This approach would also hold school administrators accountable.

Poverty is the government’s fault?

The discussion turned to family court and again, both the Algers voiced strong concerns about what they believe is dysfunction and lack of transparency within the system. They cited the failure of judges to read or apply the law, that the judges do not cite findings of fact, and that they openly admit that they have not read reports related to cases that they are reviewing.

LD 24 Democratic State House Candidate Jennifer Longdon
LD 24 Democratic State House Candidate Jennifer Longdon

On the question of how to best help people in the district who are living at or below the poverty level, both candidates expressed the belief that the government is too involved which prevents people from wanting to improve themselves. They claim regulations also prevent people from helping others through charities.

The Algers rolled out the usual GOP tripe that private and non-profit organizations do a better job than the government in terms of helping people. They propose that non-profits know their populations better and are therefore in a better position to identify where the needs are and how best to meet them.

On texting and driving, they would support strengthening and applying the existing criminal distraction laws and increasing the penalties for convictions, with the caveat that the government not “go too far” using California laws as an example of over-reach. The remedy to texting while driving should start first with families educating their young drivers.

During the open Q & A session the candidates responded to questions about driver’s education in community colleges (mostly thought it represented “mission creep” and that perhaps insurance companies should sponsor those classes); how to improve the Department of Child Safety (separating too many families when they should be helping to keep families together); and the opioid crisis in Arizona (the focus should be on prevention and treatment, not punishment).

On a question about water regulation, Mr. Alger says that more must be done to improve water management for Arizona. He thinks that the current laws did not take the growth of the state into account and that revisions are a priority because water is so vital to our economy and life in the state. Ms. Alger agreed but added that caution must be exercised to avoid over-regulation while being forward thinking.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Alger espoused promoting growth while protecting the rights of citizens in general and parents in particular. Ms. Alger proposed that the best approach to representing the district was to work with people with different points of view and to use reason, respect, and honest disagreements to move the district forward.