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Democrats battle for northern Arizona state senate seat

By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ – All four candidates are members of the Navajo Nation, and two are former state representatives: Sylvia Laughter and Jack Jackson, Jr. Laughter served three terms, Jackson one. Jackson says if he's elected he'll make education funding a priority.

"Everybody talks about investing in our kids. We need to be able to do that by providing more funding for education."

Opponent Sylvia Laughter also says she'll work to protect state funding to northern Arizona.

"So that's what I'll be focusing on, to make sure there are no additional budget cuts to the divisions and organizations that are presently receiving appropriations from the state."

But that's largely where their similarities end. Jackson's pro choice, Laughter pro-life. Jackson opposed SB1070, the controversial immigration bill passed by the last state legislature. Laughter says she's not sure how she would have voted. But she says on the campaign trail she's heard a lot of support for the bill.

"I think it's a really tough decision. I support whatever my constituents would like. And so far I'm hearing a lot of positive responses."

Laughter has been endorsed by State Senator and SB1070 author Russell Pearce. He admits it's an unusual endorsement, but says Laughter is a conservative Democrat who votes with Republicans on 90 percent of the issues. Laughter converted to an Independent in her last two-year term, but then lost her re-election bid.

Two other Democrats are vying to represent this sprawling district. Kee Allen Begay has served as a Navajo Nation Council delegate for the past seven years. He graduated from Arizona State University, then returned to the Navajo reservation. He says his priority in the state senate would be to represent rural Arizonans.

"I'm rural, I'm the voice for rural, this is what I stand for, this is what I want for my rural community, for my rural legislative district number two."

Gloria Hale Showalter also is from the rural Navajo Nation. Over the past three decades she's worked as a teacher, principal, and school district superintendent. Now she wants to take that experience to Phoenix to fight for education.

"I thought someday I'm going to get into the state leg seat, and I'm going to provide the input I think is so necessary for the pub school system, because I have not see that during the 26 years I have been in Arizona and serving the students and parents of Arizona."

Whichever Democrat wins the senate seat in legislative district two, Northern Arizona University political scientist Fred Solop says they'll have trouble making their voice heard in the Republican dominated legislature.

"Democrats really have not been included in the budget conversations, we don't expect to see the Democrats being included in the foreseeable future."

Incumbent Albert Hale is not seeking reelection to the Senate because he's already served the maximum allowed eight years. So instead he's running to represent District Two in the House.