by Jim Nintzel
Three of the five Republican candidates who are running in the GOP primary for the chance to take on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appeared in a Tea Party debate last Monday, June 14 in Green Valley. Here’s a tape-delayed liveblog of the event. Times are approximate.
2:12 p.m.: Jesse Kelly introduces himself: He’s a conservative Marine running for Congress “because this country has had enough liberalism and it’s time to do something about it.”
2:14 p.m.: Brian Miller tells the audience he’s an A-10 instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve and he’s running for office because “we need to hand down a better future to our kids and our grandkids and our great-grandkids than what we had.”
2:16 p.m.: Former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton says “we don’t recognize our country anymore because of what’s happening in Washington, D.C.” He gives some shout-outs to audience members and warns that the current direction of the nation will lead to “the death of the American dream.”
2:18 p.m.: Kelly says he supports the Rosemont Mine personally, but that the “United States Congress has nothing to do with the mine.” He says the mine will generate tax dollars and notes: “These politicians have shown one thing: Unless you give them the revenue through private enterprise, they’re taking it with tax dollars.”
2:20 p.m.: Miller says the mine should go forward as long as Rosemont fulfills its regulatory requirements. He says a member of Congress shouldn’t use “political maneuvering” to distort laws to block the mine.
2:22 p.m.: Paton says he’s opposed to the mine and produces a letter from Jamie Sturgess of Rosemont Copper that states that Sturgess can’t support Paton as long as he opposes the mine. “I will never sell out your water rights as your state representative, your state senator, and certainly not as your congressman.”
2:25 p.m.: Paton boasts that he has voted not only for SB 1070, but “for every single
anti-illegal-immigration bill in the state Legislature.” He says that the immigration law will force illegal immigrants to move out of Arizona. He says he sponsored a human-smuggling bill while in the Legislature.
2:29 p.m.: Kelly says he supports SB 1070 and the only people who oppose it are “the liberals and the media and the malcontents who are in this country illegally.” He takes a shot at Paton’s boast about passing that human-smuggling law, saying the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who has endorsed Kelly) accuses Paton of trying to prevent the law from being used against run-of-the-mill illegal immigrants. “I think that I’ve heard for the last time about a human-smuggling law that you passed and didn’t want enforced,” Kelly says. “That is the problem with politicians. That is the problem with weak-willed politicians on our side who say one thing and do another.”
2:30 p.m.: Paton asks for a minute to rebut. “That’s just patently false,” he says, noting that he has the endorsement of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who used the law to charge illegal immigrants of conspiring to enter the country if they paid a coyote.
2:31 p.m.: Paton says the 1,200 National Guard troops on their way to the border are not enough. He wants at least 6,000 troops—and not just the National Guard. He wants Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine troops to stand guard on a new border wall.
2:33 p.m.: Kelly calls for double-layered border fence all along the border, more Border Patrol agents on the border and investigations into companies that hire illegal immigrants. He reminds the crowd that he’s been endorsed by Tom Tancredo and Joe Arpaio.
2:35 p.m.: Brian Miller points out that building and maintaining the 2,000-mile fence and adding more Border Patrol agents will cost a quarter of a trillion dollars over 25 years. Miller says you can get the same results “for a fraction of the cost” by putting more Border Patrol agents on the border itself. He wants to make it easier to come to the United States legally, prevent undocumented immigrants from getting welfare benefits and eliminate citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants.
2:40 p.m.: All three candidate vow to repeal the health-care bill. Kelly wants to people to buy health insurance without government or employer aid but with tax credits. Miller wants to reform the system with less government regulation and allow insurance companies to policies that cover fewer procedures.
Paton goes off to explain that Citibank, General Motors and the health-care system are now controlled by government. He asks the crowd what it’s called when you nationalize industries. He gets a shout-out of “Socialism!” from a handful of crowd members. “Absolutely,” says Paton, explaining that the “free market” can take care of health care and agreeing with Miller’s proposal for cut-rate insurance plans. He says there are problems with Medicare reimbursements and says “we have replaced the insurance companies who have their bean-counters that say they’re not going to cover you for this or that, and now we’re replacing them with people in the government who are going to say, ‘We’re going to deny coverage to you because you’re not important enough.’ That’s not American, that’s not the free market and that’s not how we do it in this country.”
2:47 p.m. Climate change. Miller says cap-and-trade “goes against the very fabric of America” and will increase taxes. Paton says it’s a “cap on the economy and it’s trading away our jobs overseas.” He complains that Giffords shouldn’t have flown to Copenhagen for a global-warming conference. “On this environmental issue, we’re trusting the same people who can’t seem to be able to stop the oil leaking into the Gulf,” he complains. He says a good free-market approach to energy conservation is to “incentivize people by staying out of their way and getting out of the over-regulation of the energy sector in this country.” Kelly complains that Congress wants to control water pressure in household toilets. He demands: “Stay out of my toilets, Gabrielle Giffords!”
3 p.m.: The candidates are asked about fiscal reform. Paton says the only way to rein in spending is to reduce taxes, “because if there isn’t that revenue going in, they’re not going to be spending it.” Evidently, someone hasn’t been paying attention to the how Washington has worked for the last decade. Paton says that ending earmarks—which account for 2 percent of the federal budget—will solve the federal government’s budget problems. “It’s the only way to do it,” he says.
Kelly says “tax cuts work. We need to get to a 10 percent flat tax in this country. … If 10 percent is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for the federal government. They’ll find a way to make do with it. And we constantly hear this lie that—well, I guess it’s not a complete lie—that 10 percent wouldn’t fund the government at its current levels. That’s the idea! It doesn’t need to be at its current levels.” He wants to get rid of agencies like the EPA and the Department of Education. He blames the Gulf oil spill on environmental regulations that force companies to drill in deep water by keeping coastlines off limits. He digresses from the topic of financial reform and suggests dropping “the mother of all bombs—the largest non-nuclear device” on the undersea well to seal the seafloor.
Miller calls for cutting back on everything that government does. “The size and scope of the federal government is just too large.” He calls for the elimination of the Education and Energy departments and wants to get rid of earmarks. He calls for replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax of 30 percent on all goods. “These are some of the ways we need to move toward fiscal responsibility.”
3:10 p.m. The candidates are asked whether they support eliminating citizenship for children born to undocumented workers in this country. All three say that Congress should do something about it. Kelly wants to “clarify” the 14th Amendment. Miller says “that’s exactly what we need to doing.” Paton says it’s important to get rid of “a bunch of liberal judges all across this country” and put conservative judges on the bench.
3:15 p.m.: All three candidates hate earmarks. Paton gets worked up about Giffords delivering $62 million in stimulus dollars for Tucson’s urban streetcar. He asks: “How many people are actually going to use that? No one.” Then he notices that I’m the only person in the audience to raise a hand. “Oh, we have Jim Nintzel here. He lives in the downtown area. Congratulations, Jim—we’re all paying for your trip!”
Jesse Kelly says “earmarks stink.” He doesn’t mention to the crowd that Don Kelly Construction, the family construction firm that he works for, has accepted tens of millions of dollars in government contracts that were funded through earmarks and the Obama stimulus plan. He chastises politicians that request earmarks: “It’s Republicans who take earmarks, too, and that’s just stunning. We’re supposed to be the party of adults, of fiscal responsibility, of saying no.”
3:25 p.m.: The candidates are asked if they support a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Kelly says he doesn’t support a balanced-budget amendment because government will raise taxes. He wants to limit government spending to a certain percentage of GDP. Miller says he support a balanced-budget amendment “with a safety valve” if the country needed more money for national defense. Paton only supports a balanced-budget amendment by preventing the federal government from raising any taxes or fees without a two-thirds vote of Congress, just as the state cannot raise taxes without a two-thirds vote of the Arizona Legislature.
Kelly asks for a chance to rebut Paton: “I’m sorry, Jonathan, but I cannot let you go on with this talking about reining in government spending. You voted for Janet Napolitano’s budgets. In ’08, you voted for her budget that increased state spending by a billion dollars. In ’07, you were given a worse fiscal rating by Americans for Prosperity than Janet Napolitano herself. And this excuse that you were overseas—Americans for Prosperity flat-out refutes that. They say it would have been worse if you’d been back home…. This talk of giving up government spending now that the state is bankrupt because of decisions you made at the state Legislature, simply doesn’t wash anymore.
Paton rebuts back: “I wish I knew where this was coming from, because honestly, Jesse, what you’re doing is you’re accusing me of not being a conservative. And the fact of the matter is, I voted for the budgets I voted for—the ones that you’re talking about—because I am conservative. That budget eliminated the state income tax for active duty military. That bill that you’re talking about made sure that we put more law enforcement on our border. And that same budget that you’re talking about made sure that we’re going to put limits on our spending for schools by paying cash for schools instead of bonding. And the truth of the matter is, the reason that you keep bringing up my record is because you don’t have record of your own, and that’s just too bad.
Kelly returns fire: “What’s too bad is your record. And you did say something accurate: I am accusing you of not being a conservative. In fact, you were ranked in the bottom third by conservative groups that rank conservatism by Republicans in the Legislature. That amazing budget that you just praised was hailed as, quote, “a major achievement for Democrats” by the chairman of the state Democratic Party. I am accusing you of not being a conservative. Kelly complains that Paton has voted against tort reform but now says he supports it on his Web site. “This kind of talk out of both sides of your face is exactly how we got here. … You’re not a conservative. Now I understand that it’s Republican primary season and it’s the year of the Tea Party and you would like to be one. It’s fashionable. But you’re not. Own it. That’s your record.”
Moderator Ray Carroll offers Miller, who is seated between Kelly and Paton, a chance to comment. Miller gets a big laugh from the crowd with his response: “I think I’ll just scoot back.”