GILBERT, AZ — For a day there was no talk about the audit, no talk about whether to wear or not wear a mask. The seven candidates for governor who attended the Phoenix East Valley Partnership where there to talk about the economy.
"I think it's important to acknowledge there is still some economic uncertainty because of the pandemic and we have to be focused on rebuilding after COVID stronger than before," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who is running as a Democratic candidate for governor.
The only candidate who did not attend was Kari Lake. Lake was endorsed this week by former President Donald Trump. Her campaign said she had a scheduling conflict.
Arizona has one of the strongest economies in the United States, more people are working now than before the pandemic.
"If we want our state to grow at this pace, we need to do everything in our power to make sure we're pushing forward that entrepreneurial spirit," said Phoenix businessman Marco Lopez who is also running as a Democrat in the governor's race.
The businessman and women who make up the Phoenix East Valley Partnership see low taxes and less regulation as a pathway to growth. No argument from the Republicans who attended the forum.
"We can't just rely on the growth industry," said Karrin Robson Taylor, "We have to support other industries and have a favorable regulatory and tax climate."
Former US Congressman Matt Salmon was more direct by saying, "Instead of growing just for growth's sake, we have to target areas like advanced manufacturing and the bio-med sector."
Still, growth has its price, the cost for a home has exploded. Rent in many cases has doubled or even tripled.
"The greatest impediment in migration is housing affordability and the reputation of our schools," said Republican candidate Steve Gaynor.
Education was a big topic. Teacher salaries, re-engineering schools to teach what's needed to sustain the economy and early pre-k among the topics the candidates discussed.
"The combined price tag for all three of those things is $1 billion. We had a $2 billion surplus 2 months ago down at the legislature," said former state representative Aaron Lieberman, who's now a Democratic candidate for governor.
The next governor will inherit a booming economy. I challenge for whoever that will be is making sure they don't screw it up.
"It's going to be important for the next governor to be able to have that strong working relationship with leadership across the state and not just Maricopa County," said State Treasurer and Republican candidate for governor Kimberly Yee.
Kari Lake not attending may end up being a lost opportunity for her. The audience is interested in business, education and quality of life issues.
At some point, Lake will have to show them a plan and convince them she can deliver on it.