Democrat Matt Heinz is an emergency room physician and former state lawmaker who is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) in November. He is facing former state lawmaker Victoria Steele in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. This Q&A is an edited and condensed transcript from a recent interview with Heinz on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel. Next week, the Weekly will bring you a Q&A with Steele.
What makes you the best candidate to take on Martha McSally?
Well, I think that the Democrats need to nominate the strongest possible candidate to articulate the message that we are more consistent with the values of Southern Arizona voters and their beliefs, and I believe I'm the candidate to do that, based on my background as a physician, my experience as a legislator, with my ability to get bi-partisan measures through, and signed by Gov. Brewer, even. And also, my experience in the federal government, I know actually a little bit about agencies, how things work and also how they don't.
Money is a big issue in these races. You're going up against one of the top fundraisers in the nation. Can you be competitive there?
Absolutely. Having no resources, of course, would be a problem, but I'm really, really proud of the campaign we've pulled together, and the message we're getting out already to the voters, and I'm looking forward to really going toe to toe and on the airwaves very soon, here. So, yes, we're going to be able to compete very well here in Southern Arizona.
Gun violence is a big issue in this district after what happened at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner, but elsewhere in the country, mass shootings are becoming an all-too-often occurrence. Your thoughts on what kind of legislation Congress should be pursuing to address gun violence.
It is unconscionable that we have allowed it to get to this point. The inaction of Congress and people like Martha McSally, who has voted 12 times to allow people with confirmed terror connections of some kind, on the terror watch list, to acquire weapons at a local Walmart without any sort of check. No Fly/No Buy, I would endorse that, obviously, but you can't really enforce that unless you have the gun show loophole closed. You can't have 45 percent of weapons changing hands without any sort of background checks like they do now. So those are two measures that absolutely must pass, and there are certainly many others we could look at.
You support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Why do you think that the undocumented people who have entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa should have a shot at citizenship?
The vast majority of these folks did not storm the border and come in by force, as I think a lot of people try to say on the other side [of the issue]. They overstayed a tourist visa. And that was it. They certainly broke the law. But, by and large, these are families trying to make a better life for themselves just like my grandparents, who came from Northern Lebanon, and like my great-great grandparents, who came from Germany-Prussia, like all of us come from immigrants, and so those who are living peacefully and working and abiding by the laws of the land at this point, I do believe deserve a right to move forward, pay a fine, make sure they know the language, take some tests, pay back taxes, all of those things to eventually acquire citizenship.
Do you think we need more security on the border?
I think that we have actually a pretty secure situation on a lot of the border, but we must maintain that, and we need to make sure we don't just focus on putting agents on the border. We need to augment Border Patrol agents with more intelligent technologies. And that would be satellite infrared technologies, which they're implementing to some degree. Drones, possibly. So I want to avoid just looking at basically having a human presence on the border. There's a lot we can do to augment them. And the border is not just something that must be secured. Of course it must be. We need to look at border commerce, and we absolutely have to get more, not just green shirts, but we really need more blue shirts, and that is customs agents. It doesn't help that we expanded, for example, the Nogales Port of Entry, but we don't staff it. It's only one-third staffed some of the time. So to allow our largest trading partner, which is Sonora, Mexico, to continue to help us have jobs in Southern Arizona, we need to really open up the free flow of safe, secure commerce and goods between Sonora and the United States. That's what I want to focus on, also.
Congresswoman McSally has been very critical of the Obama administration in the fight against ISIS. She says the Obama administration isn't doing enough to combat these radicals in the Middle East. Your thoughts on her criticisms.
I think that she's kind of towing the party line. As she does in pretty much every way. She has a 93 percent to 94 percent voting record with the Republicans on most extreme issues, so it doesn't surprise me at all to hear that she's critical of the administration. The facts are that the effort against ISIS is actually going fairly well. The United States is very good at acquiring and then acting on strategic intelligence, and also force and power projection into any region pretty much in the world. We are not good at urban warfare, counterinsurgency and nation-building, which is why we need to continue to work on completely pulling ourselves out of Afghanistan and any other theaters like that. Her criticism doesn't really surprise me at all, but actually we are doing pretty well, frankly, at assisting those folks on the ground there, without a massive amount of United States men and women, our troops, on the ground.
You mentioned pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Congresswoman McSally has also been critical of the Obama administration plans to reduce troops in Afghanistan. The administration actually announced recently that they're going to slow their roll on that particular front. Your thoughts on where we should be with troop levels in Afghanistan.
I look at pretty much everything through the lens as a physician. All public health and safety. And if I'm asking you, your kids, brothers, sisters or maybe your parents to sacrifice themselves for something, I have to be able to defend that to your family if you don't come back. If I'm your representative, I can't defend that. I cannot defend putting more people in Afghanistan where we are unwanted, and where we are not that adept at those counterinsurgency and nation-building activities. We've seen this again and again, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and before that in many other places, and I cannot defend to the families of our troops that this is a mission that is truly critical to us. Now, if there's an identifiable terror cell, if there's something that we need to be acting upon, absolutely. We project ourselves there. We target. We move in after we get the intelligence and we take them out, and then we leave promptly. That's what we need to do.
Congresswoman McSally has voted to strip funding from Planned Parenthood for healthcare services other than abortion. Your thoughts.
Planned Parenthood is an amazing, amazing network of clinics where many of my patients, men and women, go for wellness. Men can have treatments for infections there and get vasectomies, but if you want to reduce the rate of abortion, you should support Planned Parenthood, not take it down. Six votes to take away Planned Parenthood funding and even voting to hold up funding for all sorts of other things, like Zika virus response, right? I mean, it's ridiculous, and it really doesn't show leadership to me, or understanding of the district, where Planned Parenthood is actually quite popular among her constituents.