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Four Democrats vie for northern Arizona house seats

By Theresa Bierer

Flagstaff, AZ –

Last week, a Flagstaff City Council member hosted a meet and greet for State House candidate Tom Chabin. Chabin was appointed to the post in 2007, then elected a year later. He says his 20 years living on the reservation and his time on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, prepared him to represent the diverse district.

"I'm going to continue to serve native America as I always have. My fundamental position all along is everybody is a citizen of Arizona. "

Chabin says residents of District 2 - both on and off the reservation - have been hard hit by the state budget crisis.

"We've lost over 500 education positions in our legislative district in the last 2 years and that hurts. it hurts all of us. we've had cutbacks in mental health services, we've had cutbacks in services rendering to people who are diabetic. And it affects native america as much as it does Flagstaff."

Chabin's fellow incumbent Chris Deschene is not running for re-election. Instead he's running for secretary of state. Hoping to replace him is Albert Hale. He's a former president of the Navajo Nation and the current District 2 State Senator. But he's prohibited from seeking re-election to the senate because of term limits.

Hale supports returning tax dollars paid by Native Americans back to the reservations. He estimates 32 million dollars in Navajo tax revenues are sent to the state each year and he wants a larger chunk of that money returned to District 2.

"I've introduced bills the last seven years to try to accomplish that. For the first time last session, we finally had a hearing on it. It's a process of education."

Hale also says he'll work to strengthen school districts throughout the state.

Fellow candidate Pat Carr, has worked for education reform and is a former union leader who represented Bureau of Indian Affairs employees. Carr says the republican and democratic parties have a lot in common.

"Where I do think the real split is, is with our relations with Mexico. And that's a very, very serious thing. "

Carr believes SB 10-70 has damaged Arizona's reputation.

"We're supposed to become globally competitive in our educational system. And if we can't even work with our neighbor next door I don't think we have a chance in working with people in foreign lands and foreign countries."

Albert Tom, the 4th Democrat running for one of the two seats, didn't respond to requests for an interview. He was elected to three terms in the House earlier this decade, and has also served on the Navajo Nation Council.

Northern Arizona University political analyst Fred Solop believes incumbent Tom Chabin has the best chance to win one of the 2 seats in the election next Tuesday.

"I think incumbents are likely to do well. They have name recognition. People have been satisfied with the work they have done. They are fighting the good fight. They're representing the values of this district so i don't see criticism leading toward change."

That could also benefit Albert Hale, who's served in the senate for the past eight years. But Solop also predicts Republicans will continue to dominate the state legislature, and will likely continue to exclude Democrats in budget negotiations.

In Flagstaff, for Arizona Public Radio, I'm Theresa Bierer.