Democrat Victoria Steele has worked as a mental-health counselor, journalist and former state lawmaker. She is now seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) in November. She is facing physician and former state lawmaker Matt Heinz in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. (Last week, the Weekly brought you a Q&A with Heinz.) This Q&A is an edited and condensed transcript from a recent interview with Steele on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel.
What makes you the best candidate among the Democrats to take on Martha McSally?
I think I've got more heart than anybody that's in this race. I have the experience of being an actual legislator. And I was in the legislature representing District 9 for the past three years, with the exception of this year, and I bring a broad range of experiences. I was a television news anchor and reporter for about 25 years. And I was also a master civil counselor. A mental health counselor. I specialized in domestic violence and substance abuse and relationships. So, once I was in the legislature, I was able to take those skills of being able to communicate well and to be able to build coalitions bring those together to get legislation passed. To get things done, to create good policy.
You have trailed your opponent, Matt Heinz, on the fundraising front. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently designated Mr. Heinz as a candidate in an "emerging race" in the Red to Blue program that they have. Can you raise enough money to legitimately compete with Martha McSally, who is one of the top fundraisers in the country?
Let me tell you about what the fundraising picture really looks like, from a broader view. My fundraising numbers are about here. Matt's are about here. Martha's are way up here. Neither one of us is close to Martha's fundraising numbers. But I also don't want you to think, and I don't want anyone to think, that fundraising or the amount of money in one's bank account is the only thing that matters when it comes to choosing someone to be your representative. This campaign is a grassroots campaign and I reflect the people in my district. They know what it's like to struggle. They deserve to have somebody represent them, who understands what it is like to struggle, to work through things.
Gun violence is an issue that residents of Southern Arizona are all too familiar with after the shooting of Gabby Giffords and others at the Congress on Your Corner event in 2011. We, of course, are not the only ones who have experienced mass shootings. Recently, we had the worst one in U.S. history at the Orlando nightclub. What kind of legislation do you think Congress should be looking at to address gun violence?
I think at a minimum Congress should be looking at—and I'm really distressed that they have not really taken any movement in this direction—what they should be looking at is expanding the background checks, closing the gun show loopholes, and making sure that people who are on the "no-fly" list cannot buy a gun. I mean, bottom line, if you're too dangerous to board an airplane, you are too dangerous to go to your gun store or online and purchase a weapon. That just makes sense. And my Republican incumbent opponent has repeatedly blocked that type of rule from being anywhere close to being passed. And that's understandable, because she is funded by some gun lobbyists.
And you support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Why do you think undocumented people who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas should have a shot at citizenship in the United States?
I think when we start talking about things like immigration, when we start talking about the economy, when we start talking about border security, we need to think in terms of our border in three ways: border security, borderland culture, and border commerce. So if you have border security, I think every country has the responsibility to secure their borders. And Border Patrol should be given all the resources they need to do that job well. But I also think we need to look at our borderland culture, because we live in an area where there is a rich mix of people and cultures. It's a great diversity. That's who we are. We should be embracing that, and we should never let fear and bigotry and calls for a giant wall and getting rid of 11 million people, we should never let that kind of stuff hurt our borderland culture and who we are. We also need to look at borderland commerce. We have about $30 billion a year in commerce coming over our border with Mexico, $30 billion a year just to Arizona. And we also have about $8 million a day, from visitors crossing the border into Arizona, who spend $8 million a day, here. If we are talking about getting rid of people, we're talking about incarcerating people, and we're talking about building a great, great wall, then what we're doing is assaulting our own economy. That doesn't make sense.
Congresswoman McSally has talked a lot about national security concerns, that the Obama administration is not doing enough to fight ISIS. Do you think she's right about that?
No, I do not think she's right about that. I think she approaches things from her military experience, which I give her credit for. She did time in the military. I think that is wonderful. That's an enormous public service, and I think that's wonderful. At the same time, when it comes to issues around terrorism, we live in an era that's not the Cold War anymore. We can't do things quite the same way that we used to, so when I hear people in the Republican Party talk about making sand glow, or you know, lighting up the desert with gunfire, we have a different war to fight. This is different. We have non-state bad actors who are resilient, they are creative and they find new ways to go after weak targets. So we have to be more creative. We have to be more strategic in how we go after them. We must not stop, but we can't do things in the same old way. And ISIS is going to morph into something else. It's what happens. They do, they morph. And they change, and, you know, they go online. I think in order to do this we have to have strong diplomatic approach. We have to have procedures. We have to have policies that are in line with our values of individual freedom and justice and protecting people's rights, and I think protecting people's civil rights is really important in this process.