— Pam Powers Hannley (@P2Hannley) October 8, 2014
Last night’s televised debate between CD2 Congressman Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally was livelier than I had anticipated. In the end, it was obvious that Barber had won the debate. He answered the questions with concrete, specific examples and ideas, while McSally displayed great skill in avoiding actually answering most of the questions.
Barber was the real surprise of the evening for me. He came out swinging from the beginning with a bow to women’s right to choose and acknowledgement of the landmark SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage (two things McSally is against). It’s a good thing he led with these issues because they differentiate the two candidates and otherwise would not have been raised. (As Donna Greathouse has pointed out, debate moderators have repeatedly deemed women’s rights as not worthy of one question.)
In the beginning of the debate, both candidates tried to prove they were the most independent (since this highly competitive district has so many independents). Barber touted his record as the “fourth most independent” Congressman, which means he bucks the Democratic Party routinely. In fact, McSally’s charge that Barber does what Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi tells him to rings particularly hollow with most Democrats who wish he would do just that!
Although she strongly supports guns, environmentally damaging energy policies, the sanctity of life, marriage for straight people, militarization of the border, continuation of the A-10, reduced access to healthcare, budget cutting, and the employers’ right to choose appropriate contraceptive methods for their female employees, McSally repeatedly said that she would not be a cookie cutter Republican. She said would work both sides of the aisle, but when pressed, the only non-Republican idea that she supports is equal pay for equal work. (Good thing– since she is trying hard to woo women away from pro-choice Barber. Maybe she realized that the burka story is getting old, and she actually has to speak up regarding issues that affect women who live in CD2.) McSally’s hat tip to her old boss, retired Senator Jon Kyl, speaks volumes regarding how independent she would be in Congress. (Did she forget she was speaking in Tucson?)
Several times during the course of the evening, McSally was caught lying about her support for Congressman Paul Ryan’s draconian plan to remake Medicare into a voucher program. Barber hit her hard on this and eventually forced her to explain her 2012 stance. She said that back in 2012, when she was asked which budget she would voted for, she was given three bad choices– the progressive budget, the Democratic Party’s budget, and the Ryan budget. Given those choices, she said that she would vote for the Ryan budget (which included dismantling Medicare and making it into a voucher program). Even after that statement, she spouted the anti-voucher line later in the debate.
Both candidates talked about an “all of the above” energy strategy, but clearly McSally made the Koch Brothers proud with her anti-environmental stance on the Keystone XL Pipeline, fracking, etc.
McSally is unabashedly pro-gun and pro-NRA; she is against background checks and closing loopholes that allow unfit people to readily buy guns. She smiled gleefully as she talked about the right to own guns– again, sort of Palinesque. The discussion got heated when McSally charged at Barber and tried to get him to denounce the common sense gun law TV ad that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly ran against her. Barber stood his ground and said that he wouldn’t take responsibility for an ad he didn’t sponsor. (Gabby’s and Mark’s political action committee rpoduced and paid for the ad.) Personally, McSally’s continuous whining about this ad is disingenuous. If you don’t want stalkers to have guns, you should be standing with Gabby–not complaining about her. (I wonder how many guns McSally owns.)
One theme repeated thoughout the evening was McSally’s avoidance of the questions. It got old… really old. Hasn’t she been called out enough by the blogs and the mainstream media for her unwillingness to actually state an opinion? Last night, she would make some general statement, sort of related to the question, and then go off onto her talking points. I was disappointed that Christopher Conover, the AZPM moderator, didn’t get her back on track, as Phoenix newscaster Brahm Resnick did with Republican Doug Ducey, during his first televised debate with Democrat Fred DuVal.
There have been many mostly ceremonial votes that Barber has made that I don’t agree with, but I found myself agreeing with him quite a bit last night– particularly when he said “it would take a lot of convincing” for him to vote for boots on the ground in Syria.
I also agreed with Barber when he said the real Martha McSally was Tea Party Martha from 2012— not the new corporate Republican Martha, who has slid to the left, avoided questions, and nuanced her hard-line positions to trick us. We don’t need any more Tea Partiers in Congress. They’re #Bad4AZ.