Liberal Republican challenger debates Sen. Jack Harper

Sen. Jack Harper John Zerby

Sen. Jack Harper, LD-4 (left), and challenger John Zerby participated in a Republican primary debate last Thursday in Sun City. Zerby came across as knowing very little about the legislature and as liberal as a Democrat on most issues. He is endorsed by the LD-4 AZ Education Association and the Firefighter’s Union. He refuses to take a pledge against raising taxes, unlike Harper. He has missed 1/3 of the Wickenburg Town Council meetings while serving on that board the past 3 1/2 years. Harper never missed a roll call vote his first 3 1/2 years in the legislature (and has only missed one vote ever).

One of the first questions was whether the candidates supported tax incentives for businesses to locate within the district. Harper responded and said that broad-based tax cuts across the board are the best for business and the economy. He said the state property tax should be repealed. Zerby disagreed, and said the state property tax shouldn’t be repealed, since it funds “necessary services.” Harper told him he had his facts wrong; the state property tax goes into the general fund.

Zerby said the government should create economic incentives for alternative energy companies to relocate here. Isn’t that something Janet Napolitano is pushing for? Sounded like Zerby was aiming to get a cabinet position in her Democrat administration.

Zerby said it’s fine to borrow money and issue bonds for more funding for public schools. He thinks education is a more important issue than illegal immigration, saying that Arizona ranks 49th in the nation in terms of education. He neglected to mention that this “fact” has been widely refuted – there are numerous other states that share that “49th” ranking, and one of the criteria for that ranking is how much money is being thrown at the schools. In other words, Arizona is penalized and ranked lower for being more efficient with its money.

Harper responded and said if we took care of our illegal immigration problem first, we wouldn’t have money problems because there wouldn’t be so many illegal immigrants and their children in the public schools. He noted how the employer sanctions law is successfully driving them out of the state.

Zerby said that teachers are the most underpaid profession. This is a little problematic, considering most teachers in Arizona start around $40,000 and they get summers off. Although their pay may be a little low, it’s a bit of a stretch to say it’s the most underpaid profession. They wouldn’t be so underpaid if there wasn’t a public school monopoly. One former teacher of mine told me that instead of teaching at the college level, he taught at a preparatory private high school because the pay was better. If allowed to compete on the same ground as public schools, the private sector would be able to pay teachers better.

Not surprisingly, Zerby said he is opposed to school vouchers. Harper supports school vouchers and would like to see the Blaine Amendment taken out of our Constitution so private schools may fully compete with public schools.

One question from the audience was how do the candidates plan to balance the state budget? Harper said that government agencies such as the Governor’s Strategic Office of Budgeting and the Department of Commerce should be downsized. There are hundreds of people working there year round, even though the legislature isn’t even in session half the year. Commerce also has too many employees, a waste of state money. It exists to hand out pork to friends of the governor. It’s a job training tax on labor. It doesn’t help bring jobs to Arizona, it just helps people working for the Governor get into office. In addition, Harper said he would see that government employees stopped taking trips at taxpayer expense. He has never taken a trip at public expense, unlike many in the Governor’s Office and at the legislature.

When asked what he would do about those who do not have health insurance, Zerby said we should adopt the healthcare plan that Democrat Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson had put in place. Harper noted that Richardson’s plan includes paying for illegal immigrants’ healthcare, something Harper opposes. Zerby said it is “the state’s duty to provide healthcare to its citizens.” Is Zerby working on Hillarycare? Zerby denied that illegal immigrants are clogging our hospitals.

The candidates were asked if they would vote to shut down the Maricopa County healthcare district, a wasteful boondoggle that is bleeding funds. Zerby said he wouldn’t shut it down, because he couldn’t ensure that its patients would receive healthcare elsewhere. Harper said he would shut down the district, although the hospital would continue to function; the legislature does not have authority to shut down the actual hospital.

Another question from the audience was whether the candidates would do something about Valley Fever. Harper said the state shouldn’t use the taxpayers to pad the pockets of pharmaceutical companies, instead let them compete in the free market to come up with vaccines. Zerby disagreed and said the state should be involved in creating a vaccine.

Asked about gay marriage, again the candidates were on different sides of the fence. Harper supports an amendment defining marriage, and said that judges are not supposed to make public policy, throwing out the will of the people. Zerby disagreed, saying he opposes the marriage amendment and that it’s divorce which ruins the sanctity of marriage.

When asked if he thought legislators should get a payraise, Zerby said he didn’t know how much legislators made! Now that’s a guy who’s done his homework for the job.

For his closing statement, Harper summarized some of his accomplishments and principles. He helped refer the marriage amendment to the ballot. He is a fiscal conservative and believes in the sanctity of life. He will hold government spending to population growth. He accused Zerby of being beholden to the labor unions and said that his campaign is a vendetta against him. One of Zerby’s union bosses sent Harper a threatening email about a Senate vote, and since Harper didn’t vote the way he wanted, he rounded up Zerby to run against him. This vendetta will result in taxing senior citizens more.

Zerby responded and admitted he works for the firefighters labor union and denied that they have been involved in intimidation tactics.

Based on watching the debate, it would not come as a surprise to anyone if it turned out Zerby had switched his voter registration from Democrat to Republican just to run against Harper in the primary. He was clearly out of place in a Republican primary.

Watch the debate


  1. Looks like another easy choice to make! Way to go Jack!

  2. It must be some badge of honor among mushy moderate Republicans. I was beaten like a dirty carpet by Senator Jack Harper. An exclusive club for sure.

  3. Buddy Breon says

    Jack Harper is unbeatable. Why? Because he works harder than any other candidate in the state. He knocks on doors and walks hundreds of miles every year to talk to the citizens of his district.

    Add to that his true conservative beliefs and Senator Harper brings to the voters exactly what they want. Liberals, like Susan Burke and Ed Cirrillo, found out the hard way that beating Harper in the primary is impossible. Zerby didn’t even do enough homework to know which side of the fence his voters sit on before opening his mouth.

    It’s no wonder Jack Harper pounded him into political dust.

  4. AZpublius says

    Harper is an embarrassment. Doesn’t sound like Zerby is qualified either. Too bad. Harper is little influence, gets outvoted consistently, and does not have the intellectual or rhetorical capacity to convince others to support his “true conservative principles.” He is NOT effective.

  5. publius,

    What do you consider effective? Tim Bee helping pass the governor’s budget? If that is effective you can have it.

    Harper is honest about what he stands for and works hard to advance those things.

  6. I am glad to see more liberal Republicans like me are running for office. We liberal Republicans owe a great debt to President Bush and his administration, who are now moving us toward democratic socialism as the government is taking over funding home mortgages, student loans, banks and other financial institutions like Bear Stearns.

    No Democratic President has ever done more to get the federal government involved in the economic system. Way to go! We liberal Republicans who favor an activist government are winning at the highest levels of this administration.

  7. AZpublius says

    Lester – You’re absolutely right. Harper had no impact on the budget. Not even in a direction he would support. So, in essence, he got rolled. Principled ineffectiveness is just ineffectiveness.

  8. Conservative to the Core says

    It’s hard to have a say on a budget when you have RINO in the Senate that will vote with the Governor and back stab the Republican Caucus. This budget is because of the RINO, not Harper.

  9. AZpublius says

    I would only reflect that former Senator and Dr. Tom Patterson was and is a principled conservative who found a way to be influential and effective in determining public policy. He was so because he was interested in solutions, did not obsess about scoring political points, and was deeply intelligent and knowledgable about both process and policy. His leadership is an example that many other conservatives fail to follow. They are too interested in the headlines, in the rhetoric of conservativism, without actually figuring out how to be successful within a diverse institution. Too many conservatives today (elected and non-elected) are too interested in criticism of both liberals and other Republicans. It is therefore not astonishing that they have difficulty recruiting others to support their initiatives (if they even HAVE any). There are certainly other conservatives that measure up favorably to Dr. Patterson. But Jack Harper is not one of those conservatives, in my humble and singular opinion.

  10. Spontusld4 says

    I read some of these comments with disbelief and a great deal of frustration about the representation of District 4. I am getting tired of listening to people tell me what they think I want to hear and uttering some simple catch phrase to change the subject when they are actually faced with a challenging question to answer. I am looking at Senator Harper’s issues from his previous campaigns and reading the promises that he has had six years to fulfill.

    1. Seal the Border — Failed, still seems pretty open to me!

    2. Make the property tax cuts permanent — Failed, need I say more?

    3. Family Values — I’m not even sure what Senator Harper’s goals were in this area, as it seemed like a collection of buzz words to me.

    4. Efficient Spending in Schools — Failed, I have yet to witness any change in the status quo and our state still seems to be providing a less than adequate service. Even if we are not 50th in the Nation, we certainly are not performing well.

    5. Right to Keep and Bear Arms — Again, I am not sure what Senator Harper’s goals were in this area and I was under the impression that this was more of a Constitutional Issue rather than LD4?

    6. Less Traffic Congestion — Failed, take a look at the commute from Senator Harper’s neighborhood for a painful example.

    These are the six issues Senator Harper campaigned on and has apparently been working on during the last six years. I believe that we have stagnated or declined in each of the actual “issue” areas under Senator Harper’s leadership. He may have some sound ideals and philosophy, but he appears to be unable to actually accomplish anything because of his extremism in other areas.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know that it definitely is not Senator Harper!

  11. Spontusld4 says

    On another note — also from the debate and also included in the collection of buzz word nonsense. As someone very familiar with the congestion in Arizona’s emergency rooms; the problem does not stem from illegal immigrants, it stems from too many people going to emergency rooms for treatment of non-emergency conditions! Arresting each non-citizen at the door would be great, but would not speed up your visit when 80% of the remaining patients should have visited their family physician.

    Additionally, in LD 4 specifically, we have added thousands and thousands of people to the district without building any new hospitals! Think about the growth in the district over the last twenty years and then realize we still only have one real hospital in the entire district!

    How about visiting your personal family physician once and a while for that two year old back pain??!

  12. Did Jack Harper write this article? For the last several years I have watched as Harper has made promise after promise, and has not delivered. He is a typical politician with lots of tuff talk, little action. I was impressed with John Zerby at the debate. He took a higher road, not attacking Harper, instead focusing on the issues. Harper came across as a immature child intent on name calling. Not only is the info in this article re: Zerby’s stance on issues out of context, much of it is flat out wrong! Shame on you Harper lover!

  13. RinoHunter says

    Im glad the people in LD4 dont give a hoot about what you RINOs think – Jack represents LD4 and LD4 supports Jack. Just because some of you whining, complaining, problem pointers elect Democrats and RINOS to represent you – dosn’t mean LD4 has to “CONFORM”. In fact I would like to see a few more of your rants lacking solutions… if you take special attention to each of your comments you all shared one common phrase… “I don’t know”… Need we say more?

  14. Actually, most of my “I don’t know” comments stemmed from the actions of Senator Harper. I don’t know what he has been doing in office for all of these years because I don’t know what he has done to “support” district 4. I don’t know why he made all of those campaign promises, because he hasn’t done anything to keep them. I don’t know why people still support this person because I don’t know what in his record would merit any support.

    There are lots of easy solutions to many of the issues that Senator Harper campaigned on, but I don’t know if he can actually play well enough with others to accomplish anything.

    For some reason, I am beginning to feel like Mr. Hand replying back to Spicoli and I don’t know why!

  15. And I don’t know why people keep supporting this guy. Play close attention to the 38:45 time mark — this is apparently where Zerby enacts his master plan and makes Harper shut off the microphones on accipurpose

    If you watch the whole video, Senator Harper’s story does not match what actually took place. He took deliberate action to subvert the established process of our State Senate and lied about his actions — either on the Senate Floor or during his ethics hearing. So at best, he lied while representing district 4 in an official capacity, at worst, he committed perjury.

    I agree, much worse has happened in a variety of levels of our government. But if we, as voters accept that behavior as the norm, then we breed flawed leadership and deserve the incompetent and corupt government we create. If we allow someone like Senator Harper to claim that he was an innocent victim of a partisan attack rather than holding him accountable for his actions, then we all lose. But if we hold our leaders to the standards that they themselves promise to uphold, we may one day have an effective government that we can be proud of again.

  16. So this is the best update to date! I go to the polls this morning to work against Harper and who do we find working for him? Paid pollworkers from Las Vegas, Dallas, and other outside cities! PAID POLLWORKERS FROM OTHER STATES!

    Wow, you really must have done a great job during the last six years if you have to pay people from other states to work for you on election day. How are the grace of God and the sweat of volunteers going to work — if you don’t have any volunteers?

    These people didn’t even know who Harper was, what his issues were, or where they were, they were just collecting a paycheck. When some of his workers were told about his positions on the issues, his history as a State Senator, and his behavior during the campaign, they did what any competent person would do — dropped his signs and abandoned their posts! When people learn what kind of person Senator Jack Harper is, they immediately withdraw their support and look for another candidate — even if they are from another state!

    Even better, at another site, he has Spanish Speaking Pollworkers from another state holding up his “Secure the Border” signs! I really would like to see some identification from all Senator Harper’s employees today.

    The Senator stated some pretty bizarre views about labor shortages and ways to fill them in his Youtube interview — perhaps he is using more of those outstanding businessman skills today (oh, wait a second – he ran his business into the ground and had to file bankruptcy)!

    Throughout all of his lies, all of his immoral behavior, all of his attacks against opponents he has always maintained the opinion that the voters of District 4 support him. Why is it then on election day that the only people who seem to be supporting State Senator Jack Harper are the people from out of state that he has hired? Why does he have to pay people to work for him when he has so much support?

    John Zerby has workers at every polling place who are actually volunteering for him? Not a single paid poll worker? That says a great deal about the person in my view. Perhaps being a reasonable Republican and not a fascist REALLY IS what the people of District 4 want!


    ~ El Spontus

Leave a Reply