John Allen and Daniel Toporek compete to be elected Maricopa County treasurer
The Maricopa County Treasurer's Office will have a new leader after the November election.
Republican state lawmaker John Allen defeated controversial incumbent Treasurer Royce Flora in the August primary. Now, Allen will face first-time politician and Democrat Daniel Toporek in the general election on Nov. 3.
Though little known to the general observer, the Treasurer's Office serves a vital role: It sends out property tax bills and collects and disburses the county's tax revenue.
Both candidates say the Treasurer's Office became too political under Flora's command and both say they would provide increased transparency.
The race will likely depend on whether voters see political experience as a help or a hindrance.
Daniel Toporek served as the Army National Guard aviation training officer, overseeing a $150 million training budget. He also served as the Arizona National Guard Command chief warrant officer.
He retired from the military last year and moved back to Maricopa County, where he grew up.
"I had served my last couple of assignments in Arizona and D.C. and I just really got very tried with the amount of partisanship and the lack of public servants serving the public," Toporek said.
He originally planned to run for the state Legislature, but there already was a qualified Democrat running. He said he wanted to "maximize the opportunity for change" and not cause confusion, so he dropped out.
Almost immediately after, he was approached about running for Maricopa County treasurer.
After investigating the position, Toporek said he felt there was an opportunity to make government better and more transparent inside the office.
Toporek said he was particularly concerned to learn that Royce Flora's chief deputy treasurer is Russell Pearce, a former state lawmaker who was recalled from office and was the architect of the controversial Senate Bill 1070 that targeted undocumented immigrants.
Toporek said his concern didn't stem from politics — though he described his politics as "180 degrees opposite" of Pearce's. He said he was bothered that the chief deputy did not have professional investing experience.
Toporek said he would replace Pearce with someone who has significant experience in the finance industry to ensure the taxpayers' money is managed skillfully.
Toporek said after talking to some Treasurer's Office employees and treasurers from other counties, he believes the office needs enhanced collaboration with other counties and better morale within the office.
He said the big difference between Allen and himself is the work experience. Allen has spent a significant amount of the past two decades working in politics and is a "partisan politician," not all that different from Flora.
"I don't have any long-term political agendas or goals. I just want to be a good servant," Toporek said.
State Rep. John Allen is one step closer to switching from state to county government after defeating Flora in a primary race for county treasurer.
Allen was first elected to the state Legislature in 2002 and has spent 11 of the past 17 years in the Arizona House of Representatives. He was the Republican majority leader in 2017 and 2018.
Before politics, Allen worked many jobs, including construction, ground operations at an airline, and sales, and he owned a small business.
Allen said his wife worked in the Maricopa County budget office for 31 years, which allowed him a window into how the county operates.
He said in the past few years, many people have been dissatisfied with Flora's performance as county treasurer.
"I threw my hat in the ring and stuck to it because I felt that change was necessary there," Allen said.
He said he would like to make the Treasurer's Office more user-friendly and foster better cross-county collaboration, so that issues, like the high-profile tax dispute that nearly led to a veteran losing his mobile home, are avoided from the start.
"This office should be almost invisible," Allen said. "We should do this so well that people don't have to think about it."
Allen said his reputation at the Legislature was someone who "gets the job done." He said he has taken tough assignments, including majority leader, and "excelled at it."
He said he would take that attitude to innovate the Treasurer's Office.
Allen agreed with Toporek that the biggest difference between them is their experience, though Allen sees his time in politics as an asset.
"You have to have had a little bit of experience in this type of government," Allen said.
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