Candidates for state treasurer make their case to Arizona voters

With voting already underway, voters will soon decide on all of Arizona’s statewide elected offices, including state treasurer. This year features a matchup between Republican incumbent Kimberly Yee and Democratic challenger Martin Quezada.

The state treasurer is the chief officer responsible “for the banking and investment management duties for the state, and provides investment services to local governments, and exclusively manages the Permanent Land Endowment.”

Both candidates have experience serving in the state Legislature. Quezada has practiced law in Phoenix and Yee had previous experience in the Treasurer’s Office before running for public office. Yee was also the first Asian American to win statewide office in Arizona when she was elected treasurer in 2018.

On October 3, Yee and Quezada had a televised debate sponsored by the Citizens Clean Election Commission. Yee emphasized her accomplishments while in office, while challenger Quezada criticized current investment practices.

During her successful tenure, Yee has overseen a 69% increase in total investment assets, which reached a record high of $26.1 billion at the end of last year, despite the economic impact of the pandemic. The state operating balance also reached a record high of $7.7 billion.

Another record was achieved in June 2021, when the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund, which supports K-12 education in the state, saw a return of 27.5%. During Yee’s time as treasurer, the Permanent Land Endowment has consistently delivered to Arizona schools, with $402 million to be distributed in Fiscal Year 2023.

Yee also helped launch the Financial Education Portal on the treasurer’s website, which offers free resources to Arizonans to help improve their financial knowledge and skills. As the chair of the Financial Literacy Task Force, she has also supported legislation that requires Arizona high schools to teach one semester of financial education before students graduate.

Arizona’s Education Savings Plan, a state-sponsored 529 plan that helps families save for future education, topped $2 billion in assets just 11 months into Yee’s administration and more than 21,000 new accounts have been opened since Yee became treasurer.

A major point of tension in the treasurer’s race has been the state’s policy to end investments in businesses that boycott Israel. Yee has divested $143 million from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, for not complying with state laws that protect Israel from boycotts.

Quezada, on the other hand, helped organize a screening of “Boycott” at the state Capitol, a documentary film that challenges policies that limit companies from boycotting, divesting from, or sanctioning Israel. Quezada has also supported the hashtag #FreePalestine on Twitter, a hashtag for content hostile to Israel.

In response to questions submitted by the Arizona Republic, the candidates emphasized the importance of sound investing practices. Quezada said that safety and sound executive management were key, while Yee pointed to her own record of earning over $2 billion while in office.

“The guiding principles for the investments of the Treasurer’s Office under my leadership have been Safety before Liquidity before Yield,” Yee said. “I will never lose sight of the fact that the funds I invest as the treasurer of Arizona belong to the taxpayer, so we must produce the highest possible yields on our performance.”

Election Day is November 8.

Craig Ruiz

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