by Jim Nintzel
Congressman Ron Barber, who is facing Republican challenger Martha McSally in next Tuesday’s election in Congressional District 2, rolled out a group of military veterans who support his reelection bid, including:
• General John Wickham, US Army (Ret.) and former US Army Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan;
• Glen W. (Bill) Van Dyke, Maj. Gen U.S. Air Force (ret.) and former Adjutant General of Arizona;
• John F. Cronin, Maj. Gen U.S. Marine Corps (ret.);
• U.S. Air Force Colonel Terrie Gent (retired), the former Chair of the Arizona Veterans’ Service Advisory Commission;
• Victor Walker, Master Chief, United States Navy (ret.);
• Stan Abrams, Captain, U.S. Air Force;
“Ron Barber remains dedicated to serving everyone in his district, particularly veterans, just as former Congresswoman Giffords did,” Wickham said in a statement. “I have watched Ron help veterans in many ways, including presentation of service medals and sponsoring legislation to benefit veterans. In my view, there is no one better qualified or dedicated to serve Arizona’s veterans than Ron Barber.”
The endorsements were met with skepticism from Team McSally.
“Congressman Barber likes to talk about supporting veterans, but what he fails to mention is that he supports a plan that would not only cut TriCare by billions of dollars but also raise premiums and fees for our veterans,” McSally campaign manager Bruce Harvie said. “Our veterans deserve better than that.”
Harvie said that those statements were contradicted by Barber’s support for the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was a blueprint developed by a presidential commission headed up by former U.S. senator Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles to bring the federal budget into balance.
The Simpson-Bowles plan, which includes tax hikes and cuts in government services, has been praised but not fully embraced by President Barack Obama, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan (who actually voted against advancing Simpson-Bowles before complaining that Obama did not embrace it).
Those comments have formed the basis of several negative ads funded by the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2012 campaign that claim Barber wants to raise a number of taxes.
Prentice said that the examples cited by Harvie all state that while Barber said that Simpson-Bowles was a starting point for developing a plan, he has never said that he would vote for Simpson-Bowles in its current form.
Harvie dismissed Team Barber’s spin, saying that Barber “can't have it both ways. He can't reverently talk about Simpson Bowles when he thinks it will help him, then suddenly be against it when it doesn't. That's just typical Washington double talk.”
But Prentice denied that Barber ever embraced Simpson-Bowles in its entirety.
"Ron Barber has never said he would vote for the Simpson-Bowles Plan, just that we should use it as a basis to start the discussion of a bipartisan plan to get our budget balanced,” Prentice said via email. “If Bruce Harvie can't stop lying about that, Martha McSally might have to fire her second campaign manager this year.”
Here’s the press release on the endorsement from the veterans:
Leading Southern Arizona veterans today announced their endorsement of Ron Barber for Congress. In their endorsement of Barber’s reelection, the decorated veterans highlighted Barber’s focus and bipartisan work on military and veterans issues as Congresswoman Giffords’ District Director and since being elected to Congress in June.
The group of prominent veterans endorsing Barber include: General John Wickham, US Army (Ret.) and former US Army Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan; Glen W. (Bill) Van Dyke, Maj. Gen U.S. Air Force (ret.) and former Adjutant General of Arizona; John F. Cronin, Maj. Gen U.S. Marine Corps (ret.); U.S. Air Force Colonel Terrie Gent (retired), the former Chair of the Arizona Veterans’ Service Advisory Commission; Victor Walker, Master Chief, United States Navy (ret.); David Alegria, Captain, U.S. Army (ret.), Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient; U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage; Stan Abrams, Captain, U.S. Air Force; and David Landon, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force (ret.).
Barber was endorsed by the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Alliance last month. It was the organization’s first ever endorsement of a candidate for office.
“It is a true honor to have the support of so many men and women who have served our country bravely and who call Southern Arizona home, and to work every day to make sure that we keep the promises we’ve made to our veterans and men and women in uniform,” said Barber. “I look forward to continuing to be a strong voice for Southern Arizona’s veterans and military families in Congress.”
General John Wickham, U.S. Army (Ret.) and former US Army Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan said, “Ron Barber remains dedicated to serving everyone in his district, particularly veterans, just as former Congresswoman Giffords did. I have watched Ron help veterans in many ways, including presentation of service medals and sponsoring legislation to benefit veterans. In my view, there is no one better qualified or dedicated to serve Arizona’s veterans than Ron Barber.”
“In the political season, talk about supporting veterans and the military is cheap. Actions supporting veterans and the military are the true indicators of awareness and intent,” said John F. Cronin, Maj. Gen U.S. Marine Corps (ret.). “Through repeated visits to the VA hospital and military facilities in Southern Arizona, Ron has demonstrated he understands veterans and military issues. Both before and since becoming a Congressman, Ron has made wounded veterans, active military, veterans and retirees a priority, and has advocated diligently on their behalf.”
“Ron has years of experience advocating for our military, a clear understanding of how important our military is to Southern Arizona’s economy, and knows what needs to be done to help care for the nearly 100,000 veterans who live here,” said Glen W. (Bill) Van Dyke, Maj. Gen U.S. Air Force (ret.) and former Adjutant General of Arizona. “Since being elected to Congress, it’s no surprise that Ron has continued to build on that experience and has been a strong advocate for Southern Arizona’s military and veterans in Washington.”
“There is no questioning Ron’s commitment to the men and women who have served and currently serve in our Armed Services,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Terrie Gent (retired), the Chair of the Arizona Veterans’ Service Advisory Commission. “We are lucky to have a strong advocate for our veterans in Washington who works across the aisle to help make sure our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
“Just as Congresswoman Giffords’ office did, Congressman Barber’s office has helped make my transition to civilian life go smoothly,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage. “I’m voting for Ron Barber once again because I know he will provide the same kind of help to other men and women who have served.”
“Ron was a strong defender of Southern Arizona’s veterans before he went to Congress, and he continues to be one now that he is our representative in Congress,” said David Alegria, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. “I have no doubts that Ron will continue to work with both parties in Congress to make sure we are supporting our veterans.”
“I support Ron because he has stepped up and continued to serve his community,” said David Landon, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force (ret.). “Ron knows that we have to uphold the special obligation we have to our veterans and military families.”
The endorsements by Southern Arizona’s decorated veterans come after the Southern Arizona Veteran's Alliance endorsed Ron Barber for Congress earlier this month. In their first-ever endorsement of a candidate for office, Ed Wagner of the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Alliance said, "Ron has a longstanding and proven record of fighting for the interests of Southern Arizona's veterans. He has not only introduced legislation to protect our pensions, but he is also fighting to protect our access to the medical services that we veterans and our families sacrificed for. Unlike his opponent, Ron knows the issues: he is fighting for the Blue Water Sailor and is asking why veterans that have been exposed to radiation aren’t getting the attention and services they earned. Every day, Ron is standing up for veterans and with this endorsement, Southern Arizona’s veterans are standing up for him; we are committed to sending him back to Congress.”
Since being elected to Congress in June, Barber has worked across the aisle to protect those who currently serve and have served. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Barber introduced two pieces of bipartisan legislation to protect veterans, including the Protection Veterans Pension Act (H.R. 6171), which combats financial scams that prey on veterans’ benefits, as well as the Veterans Health Access Act (H.R. 6393), which would make it easier for veterans to be treated at private medical providers in their communities. Barber also introduced an amendment to protect troop pay as well as an amendment that would provide housing to the country’s 70,000 homeless veterans. He is a member of the Veterans Jobs Caucus and has formed a Veterans Advisory Council.