This week Arizona Public Media hosted a debate between the two leading candidates for governor. Republican incumbent Doug Ducey and Democratic challenger David Garcia addressed an array of topics that included education funding, border security, the economy and the environment. Christopher Conover served as one of three panelists for the debate. He joined Lorraine Rivera in studio to fact check some of the claims made by each candidate.
On the issue of public safety, Garcia said lapses in Department of Public Safety patrols along the border are the result of a lack of funding from the Ducey Administration.
"My opponent said that would be a priority. And today our highways are still left unpatrolled for four hours because my opponent Doug Ducey has not provided the funding for 24/7 patrols as he said he would,” Garcia said.
Ducey countered and claimed law enforcement operates 24 hours a day in Arizona. "But with our Border Strike Force and with our Arizona state troopers… we have prioritized focusing on drug cartels, human trafficking and child sex trafficking,” Ducey said.
Conover explained that Ducey is technically correct because DPS patrols Arizona's highways at all hours of the day. However, when it comes to the border, sheriffs in Yuma and Santa Cruz counties have told AZPM that lapses in DPS patrols do occur, giving more weight to Garcia's claim. DPS Captain Tony Mapp also released a statement to AZPM stating there are areas along the border that aren't covered 24/7.
The two candidates had differing views about Arizona's economy. Ducey touted 240,000 new private sector jobs created in the last three years and a low unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. "The last time the unemployment rate was this low, people were renting their movies at Blockbuster," Ducey said.
Garcia acknowledged growth in Arizona, but said it lags when compared to most other states in the region. "Arizona's job growth rate was behind every single one of our western neighbors with the exception of New Mexico."
As Conover explained, both candidates are cherry picking figures that support their views without offering the full context. During the recession, Arizona's unemployment rate was more than 10 percent for several months of 2009 and 2010, prior to when Ducey took office. By the time he was elected, the jobless rate had already declined to around 6 percent and the economy was showing signs of improvement. It has since remained within 4 percent for the last year.
Garcia's claim that other western states outpace Arizona in terms of job growth is only partially true. Data from federal agencies show that in the last year Arizona experienced a 2.9 percent boost in job growth, putting it ahead of California, Colorado and New Mexico. Only Utah and Nevada experienced greater increases.
Prior to debating in Tucson, the gubernatorial candidates held their first debate at Arizona PBS in Phoenix. University of Arizona Dept. of Communication professor Kate Kenski reviewed clips from their first encounter to evaluate whether the candidates' debate styles worked in their favor. Overall, she praised Gov. Doug Ducey and David Garcia for agreeing to participate in the forums.
"There are many candidates who dodge debates… They can't control exactly how the moderator is going to ask a question, they can't control what their opponent is going say," Kenski said. "The fact we have our gubernatorial candidates engaging in this important American form of public address is something we should applaud both for."
Arizona 360 capped off the month with a journalist roundtable to discuss some of Arizona's most high-profile, election races. Jim Nintzel, executive editor of the Tucson Weekly and Tucson Local Media, and Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller joined Lorraine Rivera to discuss the candidates for governor, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd congressional districts, and U.S. Senate.