Secretary of State Ken Bennett works across party lines and seeks to draw all interested parties into negotiations and planning; his commitment to election integrity is paramount. That's why he has earned the Star's endorsement to begin his first elected term as secretary of state.
Bennett, a Republican, was appointed in January 2009 by Gov. Jan Brewer to succeed her as secretary of state.
A former Prescott City Council member and president of the State Board of Education, Bennett was elected to the state Senate in 1998 and was its president from 2003 until he was termed out in the 2006 election.
Since the steady Bennett took over as secretary of state, his office has absorbed a 22 percent budget cut, he told the Star's editorial board. "We managed this with no layoffs, and we improved customer service," he said.
This was accomplished, for instance, by cross-training the staff so that even financial officers and assistant secretaries of state now input data for applications for partnerships, notary-public seals and other business filings handled by the office, Bennett said. A priority is implementing a fully electronic system so that applicants can do this themselves.
Bennett told us he wants to create county voting centers that would resolve problems with voter confusion about their precinct's location. Arizonans could go to a voting center, prove they were eligible to vote in that county, and get a voter-specific ballot printed on the spot. We think the idea has promise.
As for the state's continuing budget crisis, he said: "If we're asked to do more, we'll continue to do more with less. Areas less critical than education, health care and public safety ought to take bigger budget hits."
The Democratic candidate, Chris Deschene, has impressive credentials. He has served one term in the Arizona House of Representatives from Legislative District 2 in northeast Arizona. He is a member of the Navajo Nation, served in the Marine Corps for 10 years, and is an attorney and engineer. We are impressed by his passion and personal demeanor.
We were concerned, however, about his understanding of the role of the secretary of state and the importance of avoiding partisan activities. For instance, Deschene criticized Bennett for not launching an investigation of candidates who filed last-minute write-in nominating petitions for Green Party primary nominations, which allowed them to qualify for the general-election ballot with a single vote.
Bennett responded that the secretary of state's role is not to investigate candidates' reasons for running or whether they have the support of their stated political party. His job is make sure the proper paperwork was filed - and his office did that, he said.
"We should not be applying some arbitrary or capricious test to decide who gets to be on the ballot," he said. "The voters should decide who's going to represent them, and it should not be decided by a politician who is trying to keep someone on or off the ballot."
Bennett has demonstrated a commitment to election integrity, customer service and efficiency during his 19 months in the post. He should be elected.
Arizona Daily Star
Our endorsements for U.S. Senate and governor will appear tomorrow. A complete list of our candidate endorsements and positions on ballot propositions will be published Oct. 31.
If you missed our take on a particular race or the Star's position on a proposition, they're available online at: azstarnet.com/news/opinion
Please scroll down the page and the links to the candidate endorsements and the propositions will be on the right.