Two of the seven state Senate seats in Southern Arizona have contested races in the primary election later this month.

Arizona’s Legislative District 11, which extends from northern Pima County through Pinal and into southern Maricopa County, was previously represented by former Sen. Al Melvin, but Melvin left to launch a bid for the Republican nomination for governor. He dropped out of that race.

State Rep. Steve Smith.

Two members of the GOP are facing off for Melvin’s seat: state Rep. Steve Smith, and businessman Scott Bartle.

Both say the key to balancing the state budget is with spending cuts, and they differ on how to improve the state’s education system.

Bartle is a Maricopa Unified School District board member, who said, while he disagrees with budget cuts in his district, public schools do have room to trim spending.

“I’ve seen how much bureaucracy exists, see how much regulation exists, and how much opportunity there is for us to sharpen our pencils and do more with what we have," he said.

Smith calls for performance-based pay in schools.

“To help pay teachers what they’re worth, and to help identify those good teachers, but to subsequently identify the bad teachers," he said.

On the topic of the economy, Smith said he sees more incentives in the 2011 Arizona Competes Bill, which he said helped the economy rebound.

“That bill was for primarily manufacturing. Now we want to take everything that was in there and apply it to technology," he said.

The bill set up funds to attract businesses and help small businesses.

Bartle said he believes the Legislature can be the problem in the economy. His prime example:

“We’ve passed some legislation, and luckily the governor vetoed SB 1062. What is this bill?" he said. "Which was another opportunity for businesses and leisure travelers to look at Arizona and have another excuse not to come here.”

The winner will face Democrat Jo Holt in the general election.

In Southern Arizona’s only other Senate seat with a primary election race, incumbent Democrat Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford and challenger Salomón Baldenegro are squaring off in Legislative District 3 of Tucson.

Baldenegro said several votes by Cajero-Bedford led him to challenge her. One was in 2011 to cut Medicaid.

“She said that was a mistake, but that begs the question, if she doesn’t know what she’s voting on with these hugely important issues, then that raises questions," he said.

State Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford.

Cajero-Bedford said she deserves re-election, pointing to her history in the Legislature. She said her committee assignments are proof of her effectiveness.

“I sit on the Appropriations Committee, and I have for 10 out of my 12 years," she said.

Cajero-Bedford said she also is a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Rules Committee. She said her work has been largely to stop legislation she sees as counter-productive.

“Democrats have worked to make things not happen, and bring attention to some bad legislation that people don’t realize what is happening," she said.

The winner of the LD3 Democratic primary wins the seat, because there is no Republican challenger.

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