400 Turn Out to Hear Democratic Congressional Candidates

400 Democratic primary voters turned out at the candidate forum at Rincon High School.
400 Democratic primary voters turned out at the candidate forum at Rincon High School.

Illustrating the intense interest among Democrats in ousting Martha McSally from Congress, 400 people turned out to hear five Democratic congressional candidates at a forum organized by the progressive PAC Represent Me AZ.

A show of hands revealed that the audience was made up of primary voters. They showed up on a Thursday evening 10 months prior to the primary, looking for the candidate who can recapture the District 2 seat in Tucson.

And it may turn out that McSally will bail on re-election as she considers running for Flake’s Senate seat.

All the Democratic candidates supported a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, allowing women on Medicaid to use Planned Parenthood, restoring funding for the Affordable Care Act, requiring a background check for gun purchases, and opposing changes to boundaries of national monuments.

As a precinct committeeman, I listened for a candidate who would most interest voters on door-to-door visits. Here’s my take.

Candidates who have been elected to office

Bruce Wheeler is the candidate with the most-clearly expressed platform. He emphasized his support for Medicare for all. “Each one of us knows someone that’s on Medicare. It works, it’s efficient, and it’s cost-effective. It’s already covering the most expensive section of the population, and by making it universal we strengthen it,” he said.

Calling for action on climate change, Wheeler said, “it is an existential issue, a ticking time bomb. Every year we go backwards is robbing future generations of a healthy planet.”

A man who spoke Spanish growing up, he supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He attacked Trump efforts to build a border wall or impose a 20% trade tariff with Mexico.

He was a state representative for Tucson from 1975-1977, a Tucson City Council member from 1987-1995, and state representative again from 2011 to 2017. Admitting he hasn’t focused yet on campaign contributions, he has raised only $6,362 in donations.

Ann Kirkpatrick has garnered early support with an endorsement from former Rep. Gabby Giffords, and with donors who have contributed $337,852 to her campaign.

Yet there were catcalls and boos for Kirkpatrick when Mary Matiella asked about her 2015 vote against the Clean Power Plan. “We have to balance protecting the environment with keeping jobs,” Kirkpatrick said.

She called for an end to oil subsidies and for a national energy strategy to encourage wind power and electric cars. Kirkpatrick favors comprehensive immigration law that includes the Dream Act so that the Border Patrol can focus on criminal activities at the border. Citing her membership on the House homeland security and veterans affairs committees, she called for modernizing the military, yet also saving the antiquated A-10 mission for Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

Rebutting views that she is a Tucson outsider, she said: “I’m an Arizona Wildcat” who got her college and law degrees at the UofA, taught high school in Tucson, worked in the Pima County Attorney’s office and got married in Tucson.

Matt Heinz spoke the least of all the candidates. He must overcome his resounding loss by 43,933 votes to McSally in November 2016. “Losing is not fun,” he said. Prior to that he was an AZ state representative (2009-2013).

As a physician, he emphasized his work at the Tucson Medical Center, saying, “I’m uniquely able to interact with folks not just about heart attacks and strokes, but when their kid just lost his job.” 

He called for limiting the availability of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, refurbishing the electrical grid, and harnessing wind and solar energy.

Regarding the economy, he said, “We have a bottleneck at the Mexican border in terms of goods moving across. We don’t need more border agents, but customs agents to increase the number of jobs we have,” he said.

Heinz has raised $262,333 in campaign contributions.

Bill Kovacs, Mary Matiella, Matt Heintz, Ann Kirkpatrick and Bruce Wheeler.
Bill Kovacs, Mary Matiella, Matt Heintz, Ann Kirkpatrick and Bruce Wheeler.

Candidates who have not been elected to office

Mary Matiella has the longest government resume, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Army for financial management, appointed by President Obama, Assistant CFO at Housing and Urban Development and CFO for the US Forest Service. She has raised $93,143 in contributions.

Stumbling over her words, Matiella needs to work on her public-speaking skills. In supporting renewable energy, she said, “We have to definitely punish or put penalties on the use of fossil fuels. The main problem for the greenhouse effect is fossil fuels. It will be an unpopular thing to do because it’s a big industry with lobbyists. We have to be strong enough to fight the lobbyists.”

She favors Medicare for all, protecting the environment, background checks for gun purchases, tax credits for solar energy and electric cars.

She said the mission of Davis Monthan “requires the A-10” airplane, adding, “Davis Monthan will evolve, the boneyard can get bigger and they can do drone support.”

She decried the border wall as “a really stupid idea. It doesn’t work. What does work is good border security and hiring more agents. We can have drones checking to see who’s coming across the border.” She added, “I resent the fact that President Trump represented Mexicans as criminals and rapists. People who come from Mexico have contributed to this country.”

Billy Kovacs positions himself as the pro-business candidate who likes to avoid party labels. At age 30 he manages the Congress Hotel and owns the Prep & Pastry restaurant.

Saying the congressional district “is not a Democratic or Republican district,” he added, “I have a new vision of what the district should be,” without saying exactly what that was.

He disagreed with Matiella saying, “We don’t need to increase the number of border agents. We need to increase the amount of trade and commerce that comes from Mexico.”

He called for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “We are Hungarian immigrants. We have a vineyard named after my grandfather who was a Hungarian freedom fighter,” he said.

He agreed with Matiella that the A-10 is vital for close air support, but said, “the future of war is cyber warfare. It won’t be on the ground  anymore.” He called for ending overspending on military subcontractors and ensuring that soldiers are paid a living wage.

He has raised $20,282 in campaign contributions.

32 thoughts on “400 Turn Out to Hear Democratic Congressional Candidates”

  1. So, I watched the video of the candidates that Carolyn linked. The healthcare discussion starts at 50:42 or thereabouts.

    Without addressing what was said by a specific candidate by name, these are the main points that were made:

    – we need to work on improvements to the ACA
    – prescription drug costs are too high
    – we need to put money into prevention
    – people should be able to buy into Medicare
    – get corporations out of our prescriptions
    – the public option would be the pathway to Medicare for all
    – we need Medicare for all, Medicare works, it is cost effective, already covers 65 and older, should be universal

    So, overall, not much there except perhaps an acknowledgement of the problem. But I see a few issues:
    – Fixing the ACA is the Democratic party leadership line. That opens up many questions, the main one being when will be ready to move to “Medicare for All”?
    – Everyone seems to agree that prescription drugs are a huge problem which seems to indicate Medicare Part D needs an overhaul before being spread to the whole country.
    – Buying into Medicare is a talking point. People are already buying into Medicare. Part B is not free. Medicare Advantage has zero premium plans but you land in an HMO with all the associated problems. Better plans have premiums. And Medicare supplement plans (sold by private insurers but regulated by Medicare) have premiums. So what does buying into Medicare actually mean? What would that look like?
    – At least one candidate seems to be proposing that Medicare as we know just be deployed to the whole country.

    So, IMO, it comes down to just this. Healthcare is huge. The Democrats need a vision, a shared vision.

    • I have many thoughts on these issues, but I’ll just say this for now.

      If Democrats want a talking point that requires no further elaboration and would take us in the general direction of “Medicare for All”, why not propose lowering the Medicare eligible age from 65 to 60 or even 55? It would also be in alignment with a phased in approach to universal healthcare.

    • I should mention that Part D (prescription drugs) isn’t free either.

      Here’s another thing. The Social Security Administration has a program called Extra Help for Medicare eligible people who cannot afford the Part D premiums, deductibles, or copays.

      There are also Medicare Savings Programs at the state level for those who need help paying for Medicare costs.

      Do I dare ask why we set up these systems knowing that a large number of beneficiaries cannot afford them? So we have to set up additional systems for “extra help”.

      And the same is true for the ACA, as we know.

    • And continuing my healthcare rant…

      The elephant in the room that we do not often speak about is under-insurance. This was a mega problem in the individual insurance market prior to the ACA, and the ACA did help with some aspects of this problem. But it is still a major problem.

  2. It only works in other countries because they can draft off of U.S. innovations. Europe has half the MRI machines, the workhorse of quality healthcare, per capita as the U.S.

    North Korea, the totalitarian worker’s paradises that you all are striving for, doesn’t have any MRI machines that I can detect. I guess Cuba has one now.

    We are about to encounter the most apocalyptic challenge in modern healthcare history, completely antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and you all are suggesting we send the motor vehicle department into battle for us.

    Good luck on that.

  3. McSally running for US Senate against a probable field of Republican heavyweights instead of sticking around to trounce a bunch of Democrat back benches is “bailing out.” Talk about vitriolic denial.

  4. I wasn’t really impressed with any of the five candidates on stage last night. All of their answers, for the most part, were far to canned, and didn’t really seem to stem from an appreciation of the distal causes of much of the malaise in the country. Each of them expressed support for Medicare for All, yes, but it didn’t appear that any of them were really able to articulate the particular advantages (and potential disadvantages) of said policy relative to public option / Medicare Part A for all / ACA with tweaks / etc., nor make serious efforts to discuss why, say, Matt Heinz was big on talking the advantages of trade, while the American Medical Association’s lobbyists artificially inflate medical expenses by restricting the number of residencies offered in the country to 65,000 per year and pushing for licensure programs which forbid the practice of medicine in the U.S. without having first completed a U.S. based residency.

    And every candidate, possibly with the exception of former State Rep. Wheeler, was far to deferential to the military-industrial complex and fighting the wars overseas as the hired muscle for U.S. corporate interests that we’ve been fighting in Central and South America and the Middle East and elsewhere since at least the end of World War II.

    Now, I get it, this was primarily an audience of Capital-D Democrats wanting to hear talking points that toe the party line, and politicians tend to like to say the politically correct thing, but there just wasn’t a lot of substance from any of the candidates that is going to make me want to support one of them. I will continue to attend and to listen (and to attempt to sway opinions), but right now, I didn’t have a lot to like.

    • *far too. I made that mistake at least twice while posting. I blame the fact that the keyboard on my laptop seemed to be having some issues as a blatant attempt to save face.

    • I think a lot of folks are saying the “Medicare for all” talking point without understanding much about Medicare. There’s Medicare parts A and B, Medicare Advantage (part C) and Prescription Drug coverage (part D). And private insurers sell optional Medicare Supplement policies to those who have parts A and B but do not want Medicare Advantage.

      Private insurers are involved in Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug plans, and there is massive room for improvement, as you might imagine. Of course, under Medicare they are regulated very differently than other health insurance, and those regulations are mostly effective. But rising costs are still a major problem, especially for people on fixed incomes.

      When people talk about “Medicare for all”, they really need to have an understanding of Medicare because it has it’s share of complexity, it involves private insurers, and there should be major revisions made before it is extended to the entire population.

        • You and Edward make excellent points, as usual.

          American’s don’t need health insurance, they need healthcare. Scrap it all and go to single payer like every other first world country.

          People who say other countries don’t like their healthcare are lying, and people who say it won’t work here have a very low opinion of America.

          • Meant this as a response to FSNT.

            It only works in other countries because they can draft off of U.S. innovations. Europe has half the MRI machines, the workhorse of quality healthcare, per capita as the U.S.

            North Korea, the totalitarian worker’s paradises that you all are striving for, doesn’t have any MRI machines that I can detect. I guess Cuba has one now.

            We are about to encounter the most apocalyptic challenge in modern healthcare history, completely antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and you all are suggesting we send the motor vehicle department into battle for us.

            Good luck on that

          • Dude, the MRI machine (it used to be called an NMRI machine, as I recall, but the N for nuclear scared people) wasn’t developed until the 1970’s.

            The single payer healthcare systems in Canada and the UK began in the 1940’s and 50’s.

            So, your MRI example is a massive fail.

            And, as far as who’s drafting off of who:

            The x-ray machine was invented by Wilhelm Röntgen, a German who died in the 1920s.

            Penicillin was discovered in the 1920’s by Alexander Fleming, a Scot living where Scots live, in Scotland.

            Both pretty useful things in medicine, please don’t make me look up more.

            So what have you learned, Thuck Thuck Bo Buck? That the MRI machine came about after single payer was already in use for decades in the UK and Canada, and that science does not have borders.

            We’ve been through this before, Falcalzone, learn to use a calendar, time travel is not an acceptable debate tactic.

            And seriously, why can’t “conservatives” do critical thinking? Your argument fell apart for me in the first paragraph.

          • It’s not time travel. Right now, today, Europe, your nirvana, has half the MRI machines per capita as the U.S.

          • It is time travel if you’re using a device that wasn’t in use until 30 years after UK/Canada health care systems were in place to claim that UK/Canada healthcare systems relied on that device to survive.


    • I didn’t hear any toeing the party line and saying the politically correct thing. Remember that Medicare for all is a cutting-edge idea. Planned Parenthood and gun control are also radical ideas in today’s society.

      • I can accept your position with regard to Medicare-for-All (even though I don’t think the candidates did a great job of articulating *why* or *how* they were planning to get there), and as much as my generation would like it to be otherwise, Planned Parenthood is more controversial than it has a right to be.

        In regard to the questions on the Military and Davis-Montham, however, I retain my original position. The candidates all appeared far too deferential toward military spending and toward indulging Tucson’s reliance on the military-industrial complex as a source of jobs for the local economy, something which has contributed to Tucson’s lagging Arizona in job creation over the last quarter, according to the Daily Star. When it comes to military action and intervention, I did see a lot of toeing the politically-correct line from all of the candidates, with the partial exception of Mr. Wheeler.

      • If Democrats are going to promote “Medicare for All” they need to have the idea fleshed out to a degree that people understand what they are talking about. Do they want the existing Medicare system to be expanded to cover the entire population? With what major revisions? And, most importantly, what will be the role of private insurers?

        I realize this is a congressional district level election, but the Democrats need to think this through before the 2018 mid-term election and all be singing the same tune.

        I certainly support a healthcare system at the federal level that covers all of our citizens. But when I hear a candidate saying “Medicare for All” I have some issues:
        1. Is that you talking or does the Democratic Party “leadership” support this?
        2. If it’s the party, then what does “Medicare for All” mean? Can you provide even a high level outline of the “system”?
        3. And, at the highest level, what does implemention look like? Because there are still a hell of a lot of people without healthcare insurance. How long is this supposed to take to get healthcare for everyone?

        Reasonable questions, IMO.

      • So, since Bernie has already put this out there and this really be an idea turning into a concept into the first draft of a plan, Democrats need to catch up. Just sayin’.

        This is huge. The ACA has done what it needed to do, that is to build consensus for healthcare as a right. The moment has come…

        • ** So, since Bernie has already put this out there and this really be an idea turning into the first draft of a plan, Democrats need to catch up. **

          Had to fix the whole sentence. Sorry for blathering away like talk radio. See what a bad influence the trolls are?

      • It’s all coming back to me now. The Democratic party leadership is clearly not on board with “Medicare for All” in the near future. And most of these fossils will probably be dead before they do get on board. Or perhaps they are just opposed to anything that Bernie Sanders is promoting because he challenged Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries.

        Bernie’s bill didn’t get much support:

        Sanders’ single-payer push splits Democrats

        Most liberals are on board with the bill being introduced Wednesday, but Democratic leaders and vulnerable incumbents largely steer clear.
        By ELANA SCHOR 09/13/2017 05:08 AM EDT


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