Nine candidates participated Friday in a forum hosted by The Arizona We Want Institute. Each was given 15 minutes to answer questions related to education, job creation, environmental issues, infrastructure, healthcare and youth.
Lattie Coor, chairman of the Center for the Future of Arizona, kicked off the forum by saying the next Arizona governor must "change the image of Arizona on late-night television."
Most of the candidates said Arizona has work to do in improving its national reputation, particularly in the face of the international attention from controversial issues such as the immigration law Senate Bill 1070 and the vetoed religion bill Senate Bill 1062.
"It has created a perception that we have moved towards a segregated society in Arizona," Riggs said. "Responsible leadership uses careful rhetoric, careful language, not inflammatory language. We are all Americans and I think we are losing sight of that."
DuVal called such legislation a "terrible impediment" to attracting and keeping young talent in Arizona. "We've got to put out a welcome mat, not a stop sign," he said
Melvin disagreed it has hurt Arizona.
"We are viewed as a pro-business state," he said. "I don't believe this rhetoric that some have pushed in the media and on the left."
The candidates offered a variety of suggestions for improving education, agreeing changes need to be made.
Bennett said he opposes the Common Core education standards, but believes Arizona needs to have high standards, particularly in the areas of reading, writing and math. He said he would boost education funding by growing the economy and putting more of that added revenue in to K-12 education.
"I want to fix the education system," Bennett said. "I want to be first in the country in education in four years, first in the world in eight."
Smith said he'll support the Common Core standards already implemented, but would closely monitor how they are working in the classroom.
"There should be local control in adapting the curriculum," he said.