Local political candidates visit campus, forum emphasizes educational funding

By Todd Hardy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 29, 1996

Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Libertarian John Zajac, a candidate for U.S. Congress from District 5, speaks to UA students about questions such as drug use, immigrant status violations, education and state taxes. Nine candidates for three different political offices spoke of their goals yesterday at noon on the UA Mall.


Tuition reform was the main issue at hand yesterday as local candidates for U.S. Congress and the Arizona Legislature assembled on the UA Mall to trade ideas about education.

"I would like to see education in Arizona be completely free," said Charles Josephson, Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives from District 14.

Josephson was one of nine candidates from Southern Arizona who took part in Election Connection '96, sponsored by the Arizona Students' Association.

Candidates who participated in the event followed students to 11 a.m. classes, set up campaign tables and discussed their political beliefs in a forum discussion for a crowd of about 150 people on the University of Arizona Mall.

As part of the forum, candidates were asked to give their interpretations of a phrase in the Arizona Constitution that says education should be "nearly as free as possible."

Josephson said the high costs of tuition and textbooks make it difficult for many qualified students to achieve higher levels of education.

"Something is either free or it isn't free," Josephson said. "As far as the money coming out of your pockets, education is certainly not free."

Marion Pickens, Democratic candidate for state House of Representatives from District 14, said the Arizona Legislature is not giving education the high funding priority it deserves.

"I think we have gotten much farther than we need to from that definition of free," she said.

Full-time, in-state students enrolled at the UA will pay $1,004 in tuition for the spring semester. Non-residents will pay $4,188.

Some of the candidates said that the framers of the constitution never intended for education to be completely free.

George Cunningham, Democratic candidate for the state Senate from District 13, said he supports the current tuition system, where students have to pay about 20 percent of the total cost of their education.

"Any service that is provided for free will be abused," he said.

Cunningham said scholarships and financial aid are effective ways of ensuring that all qualified students can pursue a college education.

Sharon Collins, Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives from District 14, said the universities need to re-evaluate where they spend their money because of the rising cost of tuition.

"There is so much money put into bricks and mortar. I'd like to see where the money is going for undergrads," Collins said.

Candidates were also asked to share their views on other issues ranging from abortion to homosexual rights.

Libertarian John Zajac, a candidate for U.S. Congress from District 5, used the question about abortion to express his views about legalizing marijuana.

"We should have the right to our own bodies, and a right to use the drugs we want to use," he said, sparking rousing cheers from the crowd.

Zajac said he plans to end the war on drugs because the federal government should not have the right to regulate what people smoke and ingest.

"I will work hard to keep you guys from going to jail just because you smoke a joint," he said.

Cody Hill, a management information systems senior, said he thought all of the candidates provided insufficient answers to the questions.

"They were confusing people," he said.

Hill said the discussion would have been more effective if candidates for U.S. Congress, state Senate, and state House of Representatives had participated in separate forums.

Berry Melfy, ASA director at the UA, said she thought the forum was a big success.

"I was very encouraged by the turnout of candidates and students. It shows there is an extreme interest in this university, and in the role it plays in the state," Melfy said.