BISBEE — With the resignation of former state LD14 Rep. Becky Nutt, the county Board of Supervisors has the responsibility to appoint a new person to finish her term and Tuesday, the process began with a question and answer interview session.
The Republican Party of Cochise County produced three men to be her replacement — Lupe Diaz, Brian McKeighen and Robert Montgomery.
Supervisors Ann English, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby took turns asking questions.
Montgomery, from Palominas, said he was the chairman of the Republican party of Cochise County and a precinct committeeman for 13 years. He is also a member of the county Planning and Zoning Commission. He and other officials of the party met last Sunday to decide which three candidates out of 150 precinct committee members would be put forward for the LD14 seat.
“We cannot go wrong here,” he told the supervisors as he looked at Diaz and McKeighen. “The supervisors will pick one of us this week and we will be secure in our republican values. My great relief is to know that our representative seat will be filled by a qualifying Republican of our own choosing.”
He was asked by the party to toss his name in the hat for the LD14 seat and he did.
McKeighen, who comes from a ranching family in the St. David area, is a financial advisor.
“We have the opportunity to bring in some new blood, new values to the state that sometimes are missing and not necessarily talked about,” he said.
Diaz, a Bisbee native, a Benson city councilman and pastor in Benson, said “I learned a lot about government and how it can help or hinder the people around us. One of the reasons I got involved was getting some good policy going, especially in the area of Benson. I want to see people thriving.”
English asked: “At the state, it’s important to have the courage to represent your district even when you’re pressured by your peers. Tell us about the time you had to make a tough decision that was the right thing to do even if it was unpopular?”
Montgomery answered, “As a precinct committee member, I have to make tough decisions. I consider all opinions.”
McKeighen, a financial planner from St. David who sits on the board of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation of Pima County, said, “The Bureau writes policy sometimes for the legislature to abide by. I don’t always agree with them, though. I’m open about what I think should happen as well as what the consequences are for the policy actions they’re trying to put in place. I make them think about it. We have to set some our beliefs aside and recognize the other beliefs and come to a middle ground. Doing right for the masses even though it doesn’t benefit you or anyone you know.”
Diaz replied, “Sitting on the city council, you’re creating policies that affect everyone. And there are times we disagree about the direction it’s going. Our job is to keep the city out of trouble and make sure our policies are moving forward. I’ve even challenged the procedure to make sure the city is on level ground.”
Judd asked: What are a few examples of where you have served in a leadership role, elected position or on a community, regional or state board. What was your responsibility there and what did you learn from that experience?
McKeighen, who is the treasurer of the county Republican party, said he was a high school member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and continues as a volunteer with the St. David FFA to provide jackets to those who needed them. He is also a board member of the St. David Heritage Society.
Diaz said he took over the Benson Ministerial Association when he first arrived and collaborated with the community on a number of issues from suicide prevention programs to outreach at the high school. He also worked with the Forgach House for abused women. Overcoming the problems of the chamber of commerce after the embezzlement of money created opportunity to establish best practices to ensure the financial responsibility, we had there to prevent it from happening again.
Montgomery said volunteering “always turned out to be a lot more than what I thought it would be.”
He sits on the Palominas Fire District board of directors setting the tax rate and managing the budget and has “learned a lot.” PFD is involved with certain charities and has provided food and car seats for children at no cost to parents. In 2014, he began an initiative to rid Sierra Vista of red light cameras which ended in a landslide victory.
Crosby: In your opinion what is the No. 1 problem with the political system in Arizona?
Diaz replied, “The No. 1 problem would be election integrity. People are not trusting the system right now. So, there’s a lot of conflicting ideas about what needs to take place with election integrity. Now we have to find a way to bring back the voters to get them involved in the election process to get them the best people to represent them at the state level. Otherwise, we’re going to give it up to a minority group that is choosing for the majority. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Montgomery said, “Election integrity is a problem because many Republicans across the state believe that there was much trouble with the 2020 elections here. If we don’t have an election process we can trust, people won’t participate in it.”
McKeighen said, “It’s important to find good quality candidates to help us pass bills. Election integrity, I do believe there’s a compromise in there to where you can still have early mail in ballots as well as voting in person. You have to be able to verify the people showing up and the mail in ballots. I think that’s where people lose track of what’s going on. The other reason for good quality candidates is you have a lot of people who can’t set aside their own hard beliefs. They can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes to take a different perspective on the issue and see what they’re seeing.
“All they want to do is ‘this is how my party votes, this is what I want to do instead of looking at the other side. There’s a couple of things to change. One is attitudes against parties. We should be working as one group, as a whole for what’s best for our state and our people. There should be middle ground and you should have conversations about it. If people would be more respectful of each other in the house, out of the house and the senate, I think that would go a long way to help improve the integrity and the issues with our political system and the legislature.”
Judd: Legislative issues are often difficult and complex. As a legislator, how would you research and learn a new issue and where or from who might you seek advice from on a subject of which you have limited knowledge?”
McKeighen told her, “Go to committee meetings to find out what the issues are. You can learn a lot from the different areas. How they’re voting on different things. What the public response is to each bill. Then go back and meet with the committee person to figure out what are the things you need to overcome and what are the things I think we should add to these bills. As a legislator, there’s a whole resource of people you can go to. Then it’s up to the individual to compile the information and do what’s right for the public.”
Diaz said, “At the legislative level you have a lot of resources available to you. There’s going to be a research staff that will be doing some of that work. Also, being able to understand where those pushing the bills are coming from. And, then you have all the lobbyists who are out there and different agencies that are pushing for an outcome. Looking from the other side of an issue is important and bouncing off colleagues. We can survey the public if there’s time for that.”
Montgomery replied, “My experience as a committeeman and on the fire board, I talk to all the people involved. I have petitioned every office holder in our region for advice through the years. I am not the expert. I’m the one who gets the expertise from those who are.
In all, the Supervisors asked nine questions. To watch the full interview, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE2AeqkH4nM.
The supervisors will appoint the new representative on Friday.