KINGMAN – For gubernatorial candidate Steve Farley, public office is all about public service. Before he became a legislator, Farley, state senator (D-Tucson) said he was a citizen activist who helped lead the effort to create regional transport.
He said he was happy just being an activist when someone pointed out he should consider running for a public office.
“I found out I like being in the middle of everything,” Farley said with a laugh.
Farley, who has been in the legislature for 12 years, is a self-described “policy wonk” who believes in transparency with his constituents. He said he sends out a 2,000-word email to those he represents titled “the Farley Report” every week which details what is happening in the legislature, what is being worked on or not, and being as plain as possible.
Even with 12 years in public office, Farley said his serving job is being a father. He has two daughters who graduated from public Arizona high schools, one of whom will be starting college this August, the other has graduated college and is living in Brooklyn, New York.
“I have had a ‘parents-eye-view’ of public education in Arizona,” Farley said. “At Tucson High they had six counselors for 3,200 students. There are hazardous classrooms that have been closed...we’re not spending money to fix schools.”
Farley said since the beginning of this school year, Arizona has lost 1,000 teachers. He said 52 percent of teaching positions are vacant or filled by someone underqualified. Arizona is currently ranked 50th in teacher wages and would need a 7-percent wage increase to move up to No. 48.
“If we don’t invest in ourselves, we can’t succeed,” he said.
Farley, who has served as the assistant minority leader in the state senate as well as on the budget and finance committees, said money that could be invested in education is being spent elsewhere. Currently the state spends $9.5 billion per year on education, but “gives away” $13.7 billion via corporate sales tax loopholes, he said. The laws which are allowing this haven’t been reviewed since the 1970s.
“We could lower the tax rate and increase education spending by $2 billion,” Farley said.
Gas tax dollars are also being misallocated, he said. These HURF funds aren’t being used for the roads.
“We have the ability to stop that,” Farley said.
He is also an advocate for health care, wanting to create health care for everyone, not just those in the private sector, as well as talk about mental and behavioral health. Farley said the state needs to acknowledge that behavioral health is a part of all communities.
The state of Arizona is full of amazing people, and is bigger than just Maricopa County, Farley said, and it needs a governor who cares about the state as a state.
“People are tired of being the late-night TV state,” Farley said. “We need to come together … re-introduce the idea of public service.”
Farley is proud to be from Arizona and is excited to have the opportunity to run for governor.
“(If I’m) elected, I want people to know the governor’s office is their office,” Farley said. “It will be open to the public. You deserve someone who cares about you. Someone to govern Arizona, and not just checking off a box on their resume.”
He wants citizens to tell him what they are thinking so he can understand what they need, he said that is the definition of public service.
“I’m an insider who is like a mole for the citizens,” Farley said. “I want people to take advantage of that.”