Here is what you need to know about everyone running for governor in Arizona this year.
Carly Henry, The Republic |

During a town hall Tuesday to discuss gun violence, gubernatorial candidates spent much of the time discussing weapons falling into the hands of “bad actors” on the streets and in schools.

But what happens, a Black Lives Matter activist asked, when the “bad actor” is a law-enforcement officer charged with protecting the people of Arizona?

The question spurred a frank discussion about police brutality at the town hall — organized by student-led gun-control group March for Our Lives Arizona — though candidates differed on whom to blame.

Democrats Kelly Fryer, David Garcia and state Sen. Steve Farley said some officers fall short when it comes to impartiality and maintaining the trust of minority residents.

Republican Ken Bennett said it is elected officials who have fallen short when it comes to adequately funding and staffing law-enforcement agencies. 

Incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is running for re-election, did not attend the forum.

“The vast majority of our police officers are doing a very difficult job very well, but there are a few who are not,” Farley said, pointing to recent scandals involving Mesa police using excessive force.

In one case, a man was beaten by a group of officers; in another, officers roughed up a 15-year-old robbery suspect who was handcuffed; and in a third, a man was hit and later mocked by officers as he lay in a pool of blood. The targets were black, Native American and Latino, respectively.

“The kind of racial violence that has been happening is inexcusable and must stop,” Farley said. “When an officer does that, the officer must be terminated.”

Fryer similarly said police violence is “laced with racism” and that, as governor, she would ensure the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is more “reflective of the diversity of the state.”

“Right now, if you look at the faces of the people who decide how our law-enforcement officers are trained, there’s only one person of color and there are no women,” she said. “Can you see the structural issue that we have here? … It’s not that we have bad police. It’s that we have a bad system.”

Garcia said he came from “a neighborhood where, when you called the police, you weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen next.”

“Too many people I know didn’t call the police and, as a result, became victims,” he said. “Being a law enforcement officer, I can only imagine, is difficult — probably one of the most difficult professions I can think of. But likewise, when you lose the trust of your community, you’re not able to carry out your ability as a law enforcement officer.”


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Garcia said that, if elected, he would ensure Black Lives Matter representatives had a voice in conversations about community policing: 

“When I hear ‘black lives matter,’ I hear communities that are crying out and reminding us of their humanity and the trust that they have lost,” he said. 

Bennett said he has “all the respect for an organization like Black Lives Matter,” but it’s not “as simple as just identifying certain (affected) groups.”

He cited limited funding and inadequate staffing as key barriers to effective law enforcement.

“It does come down to standards and trust, but that’s a two-way street,” he said. “We’ve got to fulfill our responsibility as the leaders and as the appropriators of money to make sure they have the number of people that they need to do their job.”

Here’s a look at how the candidates responded to other key questions at the town hall, held at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley.


Kenya Rodriguez, 17, speaks at a March for Our Rights rally on July 7, 2018.
Bree Burkitt, The Republic |

Guns on campus

Asked whether he supported putting more armed officers on school grounds, Bennett said yes.

“I don’t believe that we need to be violating the Second Amendment to protect our children,” he said. “I think that we can use the Second Amendment to protect our children.”

Garcia said he would not back “policies that put more police officers and/or more weapons on campus.”

“Eyes and ears as early as possible, that’s what you need — people to be aware, to see something, to hear something and to let somebody know,” he said, referring to counselors and teachers. “That’s the foundation of preventing an event on campus.”

Farley echoed the need for a better counselor-to-student ratio at Arizona schools. If counselors “have a workload that’s manageable, they can discover problems before they start,” he said.

Fryer said she is “opposed to guns in school, period, on anybody, including law enforcement.” She said she is in favor of having metal detectors at schools, despite the idea’s unpopularity.

“Until we have sensible gun-safety laws in this state … my priority is keeping you (students) safe,” she said.

“Safe Arizona Schools” plan

Of the school safety proposal Ducey crafted during the last legislative session, Fryer said she thinks “there were a couple of things that are actually moving in the right direction.”

“We need more money for mental health and for counselors in our schools,” Fryer said. “But there will never be guns in schools under my watch as governor of this state.”

Ducey’s plan, which ultimately failed to advance, called for more police officers and counseling in schools; a school safety tip line; and a new class of restraining order to restrict volatile individuals’ access to guns. It did not propose universal background checks.

Farley said Ducey’s bill “did nothing to actually make schools safer or make any Arizonans safer from gun violence.”

Garcia said it was “obvious that that bill was not enough, because we’re here today still having this conversation.” But he agreed with Fryer that the focus on mental health professionals was a “positive start.”

Bennett said he thought Ducey’s plan “went too far and violated the Second Amendment.”

“That’s why it couldn’t get through a Republican-controlled legislature,” he said.


3D-printed guns

Regarding 3D printing of guns, Farley said state officials “should be challenging that on major public safety grounds.”

“This would gut any background checks we have, because people would be able to print out their own gun in their own home,” he said. “And the fact that this is a plastic gun — imagine what that means to kids who are playing with plastic toy guns right now.

“If they see that laying around, it looks like a toy,” he said. “It’s not going to be a toy when they use it.”

Bennett, on the other hand, said he believes Arizonans “have the right to build a gun in their own home.”

“I have many friends who are metal workers and build their own guns,” he said. “I don’t think the Second Amendment is conditional on being able to detect a weapon.”

Garcia said the threat posed by 3D weapons “is a prime example of how fast these issues are moving,” a sentiment echoed by Fryer.

“We had a conversation about metal detectors and were agreeing and disagreeing, but with a plastic gun, that’s a moot point,” Garcia said. “You can walk through any of those metal detectors with a plastic gun.”


Candidates Ken Bennett, Doug Ducey, Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia answer questions you might not ask them in the azcentral studio.
Thomas Hawthorne, The Republic |

Previous efforts

Asked what he had done to limit gun violence in the past, Farley said he proposed legislation limiting magazine capacity and requiring comprehensive background checks to purchase weapons.

Garcia said he had, “at every turn,” reminded policymakers “of the importance of counselors and the psychologists and other support professionals that help schools run.”

Bennett said the most important thing he’d done in terms of prevention was “to raise three children to respect weapons.”

“I think the most important thing that happens with respect to deterring gun violence occurs in the home,” Bennett said. 

Fryer said she had called for law enforcement training in de-escalation techniques and unconscious bias in the Tucson area.

“I think we have a cultural problem with guns,” she said.



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