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Virtual debate series for Arizona Legislature candidates starts next week
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Virtual debate series for Arizona Legislature candidates starts next week

  • Screenshot of Clean Elections website

Candidates for the Arizona Legislature will make their cases during a series of primary debates hosted by the state Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The online events, organized by district, will run from June through early July.

The events will be "the most comprehensive, nonpartisan legislative debate series in Arizona" meant to “spark dialogue between voters and candidates," a Clean Elections news release said.

The debates will include candidates for the Republican primaries in areas such as LD3 in Tucson and Pima County as well as Democratic primaries for areas such as LD11 in Marana, Oro Valley, Casa Grande and Maricopa. 

Candidates facing primary opponents will debate according to their districts.

A full list of upcoming and past debates — with links to recordings — can be found online. Voters can also email questions to be read to candidates through a link included on the listings or to ccec@azcleanelections.gov.

Next week, debates will cover candidates from Pinal, Graham, Gila, Coconino, Mohave and Apache counties as well, to name a few.

Journalists from the Arizona Agenda and Arizona Capitol Times along with Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun, will moderate the debates.

More than 200 candidates are seeking legislative offices across 30 districts, Clean Elections officials said. In 2020, their debates garnered more than 16,000 online viewers and more than 800 submitted questions.

The virtual debates will also be streamed on the Clean Elections YouTube channel, which includes past debates. Voters can also find their legislative district with the CCEC Voter Dashboard.

This Saturday, the Tucson Sentinel will help host a debate between Democratic primary candidates for secretary of state. Editor Dylan Smith will moderate a discussion between Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes at the Madera Clubhouse ballroom in Quail Creek. The Sentinel is asking the public for suggestions for questions the two candidates should be asked — email editor@tucsonsentinel.com to raise topics you think the candidates need to address.

On July 9, the Sentinel will help put on a debate between CD 6 congressional candidates, also in Green Valley at the Good Shepherd Church.

AZ PBS will also host debates throughout June for candidates seeking higher state offices, including both partisan primaries for governor and the Republican primaries for secretary of state and the Corporation Commission. Those debates will take place in person.

Questions can be submitted by the public for the PBS debates through links on the CCEC listing, which includes dates, times and the candidates for those debates.

Some high profile candidates have turned down their spots in several of the upcoming debates, including Democrat Katie Hobbs, who’s running for governor, and Republican Mark Finchem, running for secretary of state.

Republicans Kelly Townsend and Wendy Rogers have yet to respond to their invitation to debate for LD7, which covers Downtown Phoenix and a large swath of the surrounding area. The State Senate has opened an ethics investigation against Rogers after she blamed the Buffalo shooting on “feds.”

Other debates for the Democratic primaries for secretary of state and Republican primaries for attorney general took place several weeks ago and are available to watch on the Arizona PBS YouTube channel.

Some congressional primary debates have also all taken place and can be watched on the Arizona PBS YouTube channel

Legislative primaries have taken place for notable districts including for LD4 in Pima County and LD5, which includes Chandler, Gilbert and nearby areas. Those recorded debates are available online with the Clean Elections debate listings.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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