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GOP treasurer hopefuls differ on approach



Arizona Republican voters will choose between a politician and the deputy treasurer in the Sept. 10 primary for state treasurer.

The candidates are Richard Petrenka, the chief deputy state treasurer for 14 years, and David A. Petersen, a state senator from Mesa for the past eight years.

As might be expected, Petrenka is stressing his technical experience, while Petersen speaks of his ability to work within government circles and use the office as a watchdog for taxpayers.

The two candidates disagreed about how the Treasurer’s Office should function.

Petersen wants to broaden it to make it a watchdog for taxpayers that is more involved in setting state policy. Petrenka maintains the office should concentrate on its duties as chief banker for state government.

The winner of the primary will face state Sen. Ruth Solomon, a Tucson Democrat, in the general election. She is unopposed in the primary.

Solomon, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, is a retired teacher who has served in the Legislature since 1989. She spent six years in the state House of Representatives and is finishing her eighth year in the Senate.

All three state treasurer candidates have pledged to abide by the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Act, a campaign finance reform measure approved by state voters in 1998. The act creates a campaign financing system that provides full public funding to qualified state and legislative candidates who agree to limits on spending and contributions.

In the primary election, all three candidates will have roughly $50,000 each to spend.

The primary winners will be given $63,000 to spend in the general election campaign.

Petersen said the Treasurer’s Office should act more as a watchdog for taxpayers and become more involved in setting state policy.

“The Treasurer’s Office is elected for a reason. The framers of the state constitution wanted checks and balances,” said Petersen. “The state treasurer is not hired by the governor or the Legislature, but by the people.

“The Treasurer’s Office can’t follow every state program, but it should provide oversight of big-ticket programs and speak out about them and provide specifics to the press.

“My primary opponent is a career bureaucrat, but he doesn’t have leadership or policy experience.”

Petrenka said the idea of expanding the treasurer’s duties is “impractical and ill conceived.”

“This office has done well because we have kept our eye on the ball and attended to our constitutional and clerical duties.

“The basic duties of the office are to act as the chief banker for state agencies, the custodian of state money and to invest and distribute state money according to statutory directive.”

Petrenka said taxpayers already have a watchdog, the auditor general.

He stressed his experience in the office and said his election would ensure the office stays on its course.

He has been the chief deputy state treasurer for 14 years under the past three state treasurers – Republicans Ray Rottas, Tony West and Carol Springer – all of whom support his candidacy.

Petrenka has also been endorsed by all GOP county treasurers in Arizona.

“They know what the job entails, and I am proud to have their backing,” he said.

Of the approximately $9 billion managed by the Treasurer’s Office, $8 billion is in fixed-income investments such as money market funds, bonds and treasuries.

Of the other $1 billion, known as endowment funds, 60 percent is invested in a fund that buys all stocks on the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Petersen says the office has done poorly in endowment-fund investing over the past three years.

“We could have been up over $158 million, and instead we’re down $58 million in the endowment funds from March ’99 to today,” he said. “Yeah, it’s Monday morning quarterbacking, but it was a poor investment strategy from the beginning.”

Petrenka countered that the investments are solid and will show big returns when the economy rebounds.

“If you combine these funds with other endowment investments, we show a net profit of $96 million over the last three years, which is how long we have been buying equities or stocks in the endowments,” he said.

“I think our record speaks for itself. We have consistently outearned our benchmarks, we have 14 years of clean audits from the Auditor General’s Office, and we have the confidence of all the cities and towns that have invested with us over the years.”

Petersen said he is supported by Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon; Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix; and 23 members of the state House and nine state senators. He said he has also been endorsed by Dr. Arthur Laffer, a Reagan administration economist.


At www.tucsoncitizen.com, you’ll find stories, a calendar of political events, links to candidate Web sites and maps of legislative and congressional districts. Click on the site’s Election 2002 logo.


Date of birth: Sept. 20, 1950

Party: Republican

Education: Attended University of Phoenix, Brigham Young University and Arizona State University, majoring in business and finance

Top issue: Redirecting investment strategy and being a better watchdog for taxpayers on fiscal matters

Web site: Petersenfortreasurer.net


Date of birth: July 25, 1951

Party: Republican

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, N.J.; master’s degree in public administration, Arizona State University.

Top issue: Experience. He has been chief deputy for 14 years under the past three state treasurers.

Web site: Petrenka2002.com

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