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Tucson congressional candidates Mary Matiella, Matt Heinz, Barbara Sherry, Bruce Wheeler, Ann Kirkpatrick and Bill Kovacs unanimously raise their hands in favor of supporting renewable energy.

Former Congressman Ann Kirkpatrick emerged as the Democratic candidate with the best chance to be elected to Congress in Tucson at a candidates forum watched by 400 people Sunday in Green Valley.

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I’ve studied and met all the candidates and heard them three times at previous candidate forums. My conclusion is that Kirkpatrick has the Congressional experience, common-sense positions, and key political backing to beat the upcoming river of poisonous money from the Koch brothers during this year’s elections.

The Democrat who wins the August 28 primary will likely oppose Lea Márquez-Peterson, a Republican who is closely linked to Kochbot Gov. Doug Ducey. She operates several Hispanic chambers of commerce and is noted for her business bankruptcies.

Knows the job & has support

Kirkpatrick knows the job, having served in Congress from 2013 to 2017 in northern Arizona. Impressively, she has raised a record $750,000 in the campaign’s first five months, with $465,000 cash on hand. She has the endorsement of former Congress members Gabby Giffords and Ron Barber, and she has the backing of the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

She disagreed with all the other candidates on the subject of Medicare for All, an idea that Progressives cheer but which has no known funding source. “I don’t support Medicare for all in a single-payer system because I don’t see a way to pay for it all,” she said, noting that 140 million people already get health insurance from their employers. However, she said people should be able to buy into Medicare especially when there is no reasonable option to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Regarding gun safety, Kirkpatrick says she has changed her position. Nine years ago she had an “A” rating from the NRA, but in 2016 she was given a “D” rating by the gun lobby.

“I have a record in Congress to ban gun violence. I voted to strengthen background checks, to close down the gun show loophole, to stop people on the terrorist watch list from getting guns, to stop stalkers and domestic abusers from getting guns,” she said. “That’s why Gabby Giffords endorsed me.” Giffords was shot in 2011 but survived and co-founded the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“We can beat the NRA. We can ban assault weapons and make it harder for people to get weapons of war,” she said, adding that she belongs to
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Matt Heinz released a two-page platform for gun safety. However, I can’t take his candidacy seriously because he lost against Martha McSally by a massive 44,000 votes in the 2016 race for Congress.

Kirkpatrick said she will support Medicare and Social Security. “They are not entitlements,” she said. “They are earned benefits.”

Wheeler noted that Republicans will attack the programs when they try to pay for their $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations. I thought Bruce Wheeler had a good grasp of the issues and solid positions, but he has raised only $11,355 for his campaign, making me doubt he has widespread support or the resources for a successful campaign.

Kirkpatrick opposes a border wall and said Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform that allows legal entry so that the border patrol can instead focus on criminals. “The border is only safe and secure when the ranchers who live on the border feel it’s safe and secure,” she said.

Mary Matiella called for a pathway to citizenship for the DACA Dreamers. She has a 34-year background as an executive in the federal government that qualifies her to be a department head — and she has not held elected office.

Regarding Arizona’s military bases, Kirkpatrick said she co-sponsored legislation to save the A- 10 training mission, but added that “the future of our security is cybersecurity not boots on the ground.” She first visited Afghanistan in 2009 and agreed that the US should get out of the 17-year war.

Kovacs emphasized that the US should rely more on diplomacy rather than military power. At age 30, he is handsome, tall and has studied well to learn the issues. However, I wish he had run for city council or the county supervisors first.

Towards the end, ex-rancher Barbara Sherry began rambling incoherently about training plumbers, artificial intelligence, “China will crush us,” there are now 17 vineyards, fine particles from military jets that destroy people’s lungs, and entrepreneurship. “We can do this!” she said without specifying anything.

She should drop out of the race now before she embarrasses herself more.

In conclusion, Kirkpatrick emphasized three issues:

  1. Building a world-class education system in Arizona. The state is Arizona is currently dead last nationwide in elementary school teacher pay and 49th in the country for secondary school teacher pay.
  2. Passing comprehensive immigration reform.  There are some 11 million immigrants in the United States who are here unlawfully.
  3. Raising the minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not increased since July 2009. Republican Lea Márquez-Peterson led the Koch-funded battle against the minimum wage, which just rose to rose to $10.50 on Jan. 1 in Arizona.

And Kirkpatrick emphasized the goal for all Democrats to achieve: taking back the Congressional seat in District 2.

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