Faced with term limits, state Rep.
John Verkamp, R-Flagstaff, announced his candidacy for state Senate.
Verkamp said he is seeking the District 2 Senate seat so that he can continue his work on issues such as health care, education and job creation.
He is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Sen.
John Wettaw, R-Flagstaff, who is leaving the Senate because of term limits and is returning to teaching chemistry full time at Northern Arizona University.
"I have been a strong supporter of Mohave Community College and I always have been a strong advocate for education," Verkamp said.
As a member of Republican moderates known as the Mushroom Coalition, Verkamp said he fought a proposal in last year's budget from the Republican leadership to slash education funding by $27 million.
The coalition succeeded in approving a budget that increased public education funding by $80 million.
Verkamp listed health care reform as a major priority.
During this session, he said he led efforts to appropriate $80 million to build a new state mental hospital.
He also sponsored a floor amendment that gave Arizona patients the right to sue their health maintenance organizations, and made Arizona the third state in the country to bring this kind of accountability to the managed care system.
However, Verkamp acknowledged that the HMO Act will not help many residents of rural Arizona because their HMOs have abandoned them.
Premier Healthcare of Arizona, which represented thousands of seniors and working people in Mohave County and elsewhere in the state, collapsed in November when the state Department of Insurance placed it in a receivership.
"One of the things I have been working on really hard is to try to provide better health care to the outlying areas, including Kingman and Bullhead City, because the HMOs have basically abandoned the outlying areas of Arizona," Verkamp said.
As a consequence, some residents of rural Arizona may pay as much as $500 a month for health care premiums - higher than their mortgage payments - Verkamp said.
"We need to come up with a statewide plan, which is a bill I introduced in the Legislature this year, to provide better access to all our citizens," he said.
Verkamp cited other legislative actions he has taken that benefited Mohave County, including $1.4 million in funding for the Juvenile Detention Center, which opened in October.
He obtained the funding in his capacity as co-chairman of the Juvenile Justice Commission.
Verkamp, who was born in Grand Canyon Village, earned both his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Arizona.
He was a captain in the U.S.
Army from 1965 through 1970.
He later served three four-year terms as Coconino County attorney.
While doing so, he directed the successful prosecution of three of the most notorious murderers in the county's history: Anthony Lee Chaney, William C.
Mauro and Richard Bible.
Verkamp, elected in 1992 and re-elected three times, serves a sprawling district that includes Bullhead City, Kingman, Seligman, Ash Fork, Williams, Flagstaff, Sedona, Verde Valley, Pine and Strawberry.
He shares the district with Rep.
Joe Hart, R-Kingman.
Hart, who also must step down because of term limits, could not be reached for comment regarding his political plans.