by David Safier
Let's boil the three-candidate race for the two Legislative District 9 House seats down to essentials.
If you vote for Democrats Victoria Steele and Randy Friese, you'll be represented by two solid progressive legislators. Randy Friese emphasizes education as his most important issue. Victoria Steele emphasizes mental health issues, along with a focus on "women's issues," a term she uses to encompass a wide range of issues which benefit all Arizonans. If you lean toward supporting Democratic principles, vote for both of them. If you lean conservative, they're not your candidates.
If you vote for Republican Ethan Orr, you'll get a legislator who votes for the NRA agenda (he has a 92 percent approval rating from the gun lobby), votes against abortion (he signed a fetal personhood proclamation which states that embryos are people, meaning that abortion should be illegal, including in cases of rape and incest) and votes for expanding private school vouchers (he supports private school tuition tax credits and "Empowerment scholarship accounts," aka vouchers on steroids). You'll also get someone who occasionally votes with Democrats on health care (he was one of the Republicans who gave the Democrats enough votes to expand Medicaid), education (he believes in giving money to public schools with one hand while taking it away for vouchers with the other) and some budget items. If you like the Ethan Orr grab bag, he's your man. If you're thinking about voting for him but have trouble with his stands on gun safety regulations, abortions and vouchers, don't. The two Democrats are far better choices.
Orr says you should vote for him anyway, because he's a sane Republican — meaning he votes like a Democrat — if, of course, you forget his votes on guns, abortions and vouchers. It's a questionable piece of logic. Democrats vote like Democrats. With both Friese and Steele in the legislature, you'll still get two people making the votes Orr congratulates himself for, and you won't get his "Nothing to see here folks, move along now" conservative votes.
On a number of bills every session, a few Republicans simply can't stomach voting for their colleagues' right wing agendas. Get enough of those renegade Republicans voting with Democrats and you can block a bad bill, or pass a good one. If you take one Republican out of the legislature and replace him with a Democrat, that means Democrats need one less Republican to cross the aisle on a close vote. Without Orr, some of the worst gun/abortion/voucher legislation might not make it into law next session.
And if DuVal wins in the too-close-to-call governor's race? With a veto pen in his hand, DuVal will block the worst excesses of the Republican majority as Napolitano did during her time as governor. And also like Napolitano, he'll play "Let's make a deal" with the legislature, giving Republicans some of what they want in exchange for more progressive legislation. His hand will be strengthened with every Democrat who replaces a Republican and shrinks the size of the GOP majority. Orr might be an occasional ally for DuVal on those issues where Orr tends to vote like a Democrat — meaning sometimes he'll be almost as good as a Democrat — but more often, he'll be fighting DuVal from the other side of the aisle, making it more difficult to nudge Arizona from being what John Stewart calls "the meth lab of Democracy" toward taking more reasonable stands on vital social and economic issues.