Voters will decide Tuesday whether to keep state Mine Inspector Joe Hart in the job he has held since 2006.
Hart faces Democrat and political newcomer Bill Pierce.
Pierce, who lives in Mesa, said he wants to enforce safety rules, citing an accident in 1985 when he was working in an Arizona cotton gin when he fell through an opening in the floor and was badly injured.
Hart said his main priority is securing abandoned mines, and points to the 1,561 abandoned mines his staff has secured during his 12 years in office as reason to vote for him.
Usually the old mines are boarded up or fenced off to prevent people from going inside, where they can get hurt or trapped.
The mine inspector’s office is responsible for enforcing mining law and inspecting mines for violations, conducting safety training, investigating workplace accidents and complaints, and evaluating some of the estimated 100,000 abandoned mines.
The mine inspector must be a full-time job, and inspectors are ineligible if they are simultaneously working for any mining-related company. The annual salary is $50,000.
Pierce cited his more than 44 years of experience working in and around the mining industry, which he said gives him a better perspective than his rival of how to keep workers safe.
He started his career working for the Michigan Department of Transportation as a materials buyer, which required him to visit mines to test the material used to build roads.
Then he worked for a series of companies in the private sector starting with Material Testing Consultants in Michigan, he said, working in quality control and again frequently visiting mines. He retired in 2012.
Hart says he began working in his father’s underground mines when he was 8. Hart also worked for Duval Mining Corp. for 20 years, and has owned radio and television stations in Kingman and a cattle company.