Some 300 people packed Catalina High School yesterday night for the CD2 Congressional Democratic candidate forum held May 3, 2018, by the Represent Me AZ grassroots PAC. Here are the high points:
- This forum showed what democracy looks like: an open, public and free event, as contrasted with GOP candidate forums which are closed, secretly announced and cost money to attend.
New candidate Yahya Yuksel, an attorney, stole the show with his articulate, quotable and confident presence. Born and raised in Tucson he has worked for Democratic campaigns since he was a teenager, including Gabby Giffords and Mayor Karin Uhlich. “I’m a young Democrat. I’m running because we see a broken Congress, we see constant war, and we see the economy not working for everybody. We need new ideas, not yesterday’s answers,” he says.
- The candidates seethed with resentment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) which has offended local Democrats by picking candidates so early in the primary. “It is shameful that the DCCC has taken the task, before you have had a chance to vote to endorse a candidate,” Bruce Wheeler said to loud applause. “The outside interference is something that needs to be countered.”
- Mary Matiella zinged Matt Heinz with the question, “What are you doing different this time to make sure you win?” In 2016 Heinz lost in his run for Congress in CD2 by 44,000 votes in a race where he relied mostly on TV ads.
- Ann Kirkpatrick made a mistake by not attending. The forum was an opportunity to capture support and deflect criticism. She leads in fundraising, winning important endorsements, and getting the DCCC support that the other candidates, not surprisingly, begrudge.
- Heinz zinged the absent Kirkpatrick when asked if he would endorse Kirkpatrick if she wins the primary. “It is important that the Democrats nominate a Democrat, he said to loud applause. “As soon as I hear that, I will absolutely endorse them,” he says. Heinz is the leading attacker of Kirkpatrick, criticizing her northern Arizona origin and long-ago top rating from the NRA. Kirkpatrick lives in Tucson and has a “D” rating from the NRA now.
- Veteran legislator Bruce Wheeler is apparently running a one-man campaign. He says he personally collected 95% of his signatures to get on the ballot. Wheeler has only $8,686 on hand, so he is not raising funds effectively.
- After a one-year campaign, Mary Matiella still stumbles over her words and has a hard time making herself clear. In a bizarre argument, she said the EEOC [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] had been disbanded and should be brought back. This is not true — because the EEOC is still actively litigating discrimination charges and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.
- Bill Kovacs boldly called for de-funding of ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is breaking up undocumented families captured at the border. He also says that marijuana should be removed from the forbidden Schedule 1 list of drugs. His says his mother has chronic Crohn’s disease and is a marijuana patient. “When you look at what marijuana and CBD [Cannabidiol] can do for chronic pain, it is a lifeline for America, he says.
- Barbara “Chemtrails” Sherry has become a fringe candidate who currently does not have the 1,274 signatures needed to get on the ballot by the May 30 filing date. She bitterly and incoherently criticized front-runner Kirkpatrick.