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Kirkpatrick and Tobin Square Off in CD-1 Debate

Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

Congressional challenger Andy Tobin sought votes during a debate Wednesday night by arguing that if you don’t like Barack Obama you should oust incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer was there.

Tobin’s arguments came down to a laundry list of what he said were shortcomings of the Obama administration. He said the Affordable Care Act is a failure. He said the problems with the Veterans Administration health system happened on Kirkpatrick’s watch. And then there was this.

“Congresswoman Kirkpatrick voted to close Gitmo. Which means we’re looking to putting terrorists on U.S. soil. I mean, that is not rural Arizona. That is an absurd decision to make that these people come here,” Tobin said.

Kirkpatrick pointed out where she differs with the administration. That includes the Environmental Protection Agency clean-air mandate which would require closure of several coal-fired power plants in the sprawling congressional district that runs from the state’s northern and eastern borders all the way to the suburbs of Tucson. But, she also got in some shots of her own at Tobin, who as state House speaker, supported large cuts in state spending and approved various business tax cuts which are now taking effect, many in the name of economic development. Yet she said Arizona’s unemployment rate remains far above the national average. And, over his objections, she told Tobin his policies have hurt the recovery.

“You’re opposed to immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform,” Kirkpatrick said.

“That’s never true,” Tobin said.

“You slammed through the House of Representatives the very discriminatory bill 1062 …” Kirkpatrick said.

“That’s not true either,” Tobin said.

“… which almost cost us the Super Bowl. And those gave Arizona a black eye. And then you refused to provide the funding for our most vulnerable children and for education and building good schools. That’s what businesses look at if they’re going to come to Arizona,” Kirkpatrick said.

SB 1062 would have allowed business owners to claim their own sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse service to some. The only reason it did not become law was that it was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Tobin does not deny the state has a high jobless rate. But, he told debate moderator Ted Simons of KAET-TV that it’s not because of anything he or the Republican-controlled Legislature have or have not done.

“Washington’s got their foot on our throat, is what’s going on,” Tobin said.

“Explain,” Simons said.

“Well, look at what the EPA does to our businesses. Look at the coal mines. Look what’s happening there. And Congresswoman Kirkpatrick talks about the Resolution Copper mine. But Harry Reid won’t move it off of his desk,” Tobin said.

Kirkpatrick, however, along with Republican Paul Goasar, has been a cosponsor of federal land-swap legislation for that proposed mine near Superior. That still leaves the question of immigration reform. Kirkpatrick said she’s all for securing the border to keep out criminals.

“But there’s an economic piece. And we have a lot of farmers in this congressional district who rely on guest workers to come and help them in their fields,” Kirkpatrick said.

But, Tobin said the legislation needs first to secure the border before dealing with the 11 million in this country without papers. And, he doesn’t trust the administration to do it the other way round.

“You can’t sit across the table from this president, shake his hand and believe he’s going to tell you the truth when he says he’s going to secure the border,” Tobin said.

Tobin did say he would back some method of ensuring that immigrants brought here illegally as children can remain.

“If they’re here, I have a problem with sending children back to countries they’ve never been from and languages they’ve never known,” Tobin said.

But, he said that discussion should take place only when the border is secure. Kirkpatrick got in the last shot of the night, pointing to Tobin’s Paulden home.

“My opponent unfortunately is one of the few candidates in the state of Arizona who can’t vote for himself because he doesn’t live in the district. That’s not representation,” Kirkpatrick said.

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