I am glad I live in Tempe and not any of the areas in the new Arizona Congressional District Six.
Because it will be a difficult choice to make between Democratic Congressional Candidates Kirsten Engel and Daniel Hernandez.
Appearing in a debate (more like professional discussion) sponsored by Arizona PBS on May 19, 2022, both candidates ably presented themselves as viable future members of the House of Representatives as they discussed district needs, inflation, abortion, border security and immigration, and combatting climate change.
Engel and Hernandez’s responses on the several issues.
On the needs of the new Congressional District Six
Ms. Engel: “There’s a lot of frustration out there…I am hearing about inflation and high gas prices…There are things we can do about that. Opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Looking into whether or not we are dealing with price gouging…Concern about water. You know the Colorado River is in a shortage and people are very concerned about that.”
Mr. Hernandez: “Access to health care is a huge issue that has not been addressed in an adequate way…You need to make sure we have a health care infrastructure so you don’t have to drive two hours to Tucson to be able to seek the care that you need…We also have a long way to go (on infrastructure and jobs.)”
Ms. Engel: “We’ve got a lot of problems. A lot of it is left over from COVID…That is still a drag on our economy…I do fault our state government for not taking the pandemic seriously enough and making sure everybody gets vaccinated, everybody stays safe so we can get workers back to work.”
Mr. Hernandez: “When your gas is over $4.50 to be able just to get there (the store,) the goods that you are buying will go up in price. I think looking at things like a temporary gas tax holiday which several of us have called for…would be an immediate way to lessen some of those prices…We need to look at one, reducing prices by looking at price gauging, making sure we are holding companies accountable but also making sure we’re providing dollars back into people’s pockets. With a five billion dollar surplus, there are many ways we can do that at the legislature…”
Ms. Engel also pushed back on the suggestion that legislation like the American Rescue Plan sparked inflation, saying “it was a lifeline to so many people in need.” When asked the same question, Mr. Hernandez said “it was too early to tell,” and “during COVID, having people who were unable to work, these things (like the American Rescue Plan) were an important and critical lifeline…We also need to look at the supply chain issues…”
Engel then pointed out that another way to help people “with their pocketbooks” was to help reduce prescription drug costs, pointing out that individuals and families in the United States are paying three times more than in other developed countries.
On A Woman’s Right to Choose
Ms. Engel: “I feel very personally about this. I’m a woman. I’m a mom…I’m frankly outraged that we could now be facing the loss of control over our own bodies…Abortion is health care…The basis of Roe and Casey was the right to privacy. You wipe that out, the right to contraceptives, the right to marry who you want, the right to raise your children (is in jeopardy…)These are very personal rights. I can’t think of anything more personal than the decision whether or not to continue an unwanted or a risky pregnancy…”
Mr. Hernandez: “When we’re talking about abortion rights, we’re talking about so much more. We’re talking about economic issues. We’re talking about those bread and butter issues…We’re talking about bodily autonomy for Arizonans…I think we need to codify Roe at the federal level…because we’re seeing the extremist laws being passed right here in places like Arizona that say you as a person who has been raped must carry the child of your rapist. That is something that is wrong…We need to be ready to fight back because these extremist laws will not stop with just abortion…We don’t want politicians in our bedrooms, our classrooms, and our uteruses.”
Does Arizona have an Immigration Crisis?
Ms. Engel: “No. It does need help at the border. Washington…has failed us…We do need help at our border. We do need to secure our border…Certainly not walls. Walls are a Thirteenth Century solution to a Twenty-First Century problem…We have people, migrants coming who want to make a home in our country… These people are like our ancestors coming here. That is the crisis…What we need from Washington is help having an orderly asylum process…We need comprehensive immigration reform and we have to help our Dreamers…We do need a federal presence at the border…more technology and manpower. More Customs Agents and more folks to process those asylum claims…”
Mr. Hernandez: “People do not feel safe where they’re living…What we need to do is solve this crisis by one, making sure people feel safe at the border. Making sure we have an adequate presence of trained officers. Making sure we’re utilizing technology like drones and sensors…We need to actually get something done on immigration reform…We need to bring people out of the shadows and create a pathway to citizenship, especially for the Dreamers…To say there is no crisis is wrong…We have multiple crises that require different solutions…”
When asked about the Biden/Harris Administration’s move to lift Title 42 (which a federal judge in Louisiana enjoined earlier today,) Mr. Hernandez said he agreed with the position taken by Senators Sinema and Kelly on the need to have a plan in place before lifting Title 42.
Earlier in the week, responding to a request to comment on Title 42, Mr. Hernandez relayed:
“I’m disappointed by the administration’s hasty decision to end Title 42 without a clear plan to secure the border. Title 42 was an emergency public health rule that has clearly not benefited our state. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in border crossings in Arizona since it was implemented. But the Biden administration’s decision could result in more chaos and burdensome costs for Arizona and other border states.
As a child of immigrants, I’m living proof that the American Dream is still alive for people seeking a better life in this country. But as a lifelong Arizonan, I’ve seen our state pay the price of Washington’s failure to enact meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform. I urge President Biden to reconsider the decision to lift Title 42 and I urge both parties to finally work together on meaningful immigration reform.”
Ms. Engel offered:
“We can’t keep it forever. It’s a stop-gap solution. It doesn’t allow people to apply for asylum which is the only way their claim is adjudicated…At this point, I want a plan because it is a concern that there are going to be a lot of people that may try to come in as a result of the lifting Title 42…”
On Combatting Climate Change:
Ms. Engel: “Arizona, we are ground zero in terms of climate change. We are feeling the heat. We are feeling the drought. We are feeling the wildfires. This is an issue I have spent my professional career working on…We should really be investing in solar energy so that we truly become the solar capital of the world. We should be investing in EV Cars and EV infrastructure. I think we should be getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies…We don’t have time to wait…We were told that we basically had eight more years before a real crisis…”
Mr. Hernandez: “I think there are short term and long term solutions that we need to be looking at…” He then praised local efforts like those in Phoenix with the laying of “a different kind of asphalt that will not retain heat” and “putting in more shade, utilizing solar power (panels)as shade” as immediate short-term solutions. He also cited his support of the $500 billion in the infrastructure plan that would go toward “investments in new renewable resources, making sure we are creating good union jobs, making sure we are putting people back to work and building infrastructure but in a smart way so that when we do have more people that have those EV Cars, we have the infrastructure set up…”
Post Debate Press Releases
Both campaigns released statements and fundraising requests the day after the debate.
Ms. Engel’s campaign stated:
“Earlier this week, Kirsten took to the debate stage and proved why she is the most qualified candidate to represent the people and communities of AZ-06.
From her extensive knowledge of climate change, and the many solutions before us that will enrich our economy for generations to come, to her commitment to defend safe and legal abortion care for every Arizonan, the evidence is clear: Kirsten Engel is the dedicated leader we need in Congress.
However, our Republican opposition is determined to keep Kirsten from becoming our next Representative in Congress. Because after their success in passing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, they believe they have the momentum needed to take back not only this seat but the House of Representatives, as well.
But we’re not going to let them slow us down. We’re going to continue to prove to voters that Kirsten is THE candidate who can not only keep this district blue but who will bring real solutions to the issues Arizonans care about.”
Mr. Hernandez’s campaign wrote:
“On Wednesday, Congressional candidates Daniel Hernandez and Kirsten Engel squared off in their first debate of the primary. The two discussed issues ranging from inflation to reproductive rights. On immigration policy, when asked if there was a crisis at the border, Engel gave an unequivocal “no”:
Ted Simmons: “Kirsten, does Arizona have an immigration crisis?”
Hernandez: “So I have to disagree with my opponent…To say there’s no crisis, I think, is wrong.”
The Arizona Republic covered the debate and wrote that “Engel rejected the idea that Arizona has an immigration crisis” while Hernandez disagreed with Engel and “called for more border agents, more use of technology to monitor the border, and a system to bring undocumented immigrants ‘out of the shadows’ and put them on a path to citizenship.”
“The contrast between Kirsten and Daniel couldn’t have been more clear in Wednesday’s debate,” said campaign manager Sarah Robinson. “Daniel understands the problems Arizonans are up against including the real challenges facing our border communities. Daniel is the fighter we need in Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform.”