By Cecilia Chan GSN Managing Editor

Voters can watch candidates spar for their votes in an upcoming debate for Legislative District 12, which includes Gilbert and Queen Creek, as well as LD 17, which covers part of Gilbert and Chandler.

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission sent invites last week to Republican Eddie Farnsworth, who faces Democrat Elizabeth Brown in the Nov. 6 general election for the LD 12 State Senate seat.

Invitations also were sent to the candidates vying for the two House seats: Republicans Travis Granthan and Warren Petersen and Democrats Joe Bisaccia and Lynsey Robinson.

All three Democrats are Clean Election candidates, meaning they are publicly funded by the commission in return for not taking donations from special interest groups and corporations. Clean Election candidates are required to participate in the debates.

But it is unclear how many of the Republican candidates will attend.

At a debate slated for legislative hopefuls last Friday in LD 18, which covers parts of Mesa, Chandler and Tempe, incumbent Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard declined to attend. At the press time, the commssion said it had not heard from Senate hopeful Frank Schmuck or the other Republican House candidate, Greg Patterson.

“We strongly encourage voters to attend,” said Gina Roberts, the commission’s voter education manager. “After the debate concludes, they will have a chance to engage with the candidates, sort of a meet-and-greet.”

The commission has been hosting candidate debates for statewide and legislative races for 20 years and this August’s primary officials saw a high turnout for the debates because of the competition in the races, Roberts said.

Unofficial voter turnout for the primary seem to bear out her statement, with 31.38 percent reported by the Maricopa County Elections Department. The turnout for the 2016 primary was 27.03 percent.

“We’re definitely seeing more people turn out,” Roberts said. “Off the top of my head, it can range from anywhere 30 to 60 voters, with some over 100 in attendance, depending on the district. It’s great to see voters participate.”

She said it was a packed house during the primary debate for LD 12 candidates, although just four of the 10 candidates participated.

“We had stacks of questions submitted, which sounds like this district has high interest,” Roberts said, adding the video of the debate logged 149 views.

Roberts said if all the LD 12 candidates show up, the debate could last 90 minutes. Candidates had until Monday, Sept. 10 to RSVP.

The debate will be structured so that all the candidates will answer the same questions in the first half. In the second half, they will answer questions directed specifically to them by the audience.

Roberts said voters can submit questions online and watch the debate live on Arizona PBS. Video of the debate will be posted afterward on the Clean Elections website.

Questions submitted by voters who attend the debate will be given preference, Roberts said.

Candidates also will be able to give opening and closing statements.

Roberts said the commission has received a few questions already, including a standing question related to hunger issues, food stamps and the SNAP program, to be asked of all candidates at the debates from the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

If you go:

What: Clean Elections debate for state Senate and House candidates in Legislative District 12

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18

Where: Hyatt Place, 3275 S. Market St., Gilbert

  • ••

What: Clean Elections debate for state Senate and House candidates in Legislative District 17.

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9

Where: Chandler Downtown Library, 22 S. Delaware St., Chandler

Submit debate questions to ccec@azcleanelections.gov