You could smell the fear in the room at the Pima County GOP’s secret CD 2 Congressional Candidate Forum at the gaudy Oyster Club in Tucson. The candidates were asked how they could win in light of recent democratic victories, and how they could govern without dominating all three branches of government.
Lea Marquez-Peterson repeatedly pleaded for donations, noting with alarm that “Nancy Pelosi has already been in Arizona and made a half-million-dollar ad buy!” and that front-runner Ann Kirkpatrick had raised more money than she did.
Only 40 people attended the event, which the Republicans tried desperately to keep secret. The GOP tried to ban reporters, to prohibit photos, and to require all cell phones to be turned off. The forum was so secret that candidate Casey Welch didn’t show up.
Only one serious candidate
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Candidate Brandon Martin complained, “I hope we can speak in bigger venues.” (Last month, more than 400 people attended the Democrats’ Congressional candidate forum in Green Valley.)
Martin and candidate Danny Morales battled to take the more arch-conservative position. Candidate Marilyn Wiles didn’t really have many positions. Marquez-Peterson appeared to be the only serious candidate.
None of them proposed any idea to actually help people. They were all against things — like “chain migration,” not becoming “part of the establishment,” against the “Dreamers,” against raising taxes, and against the Mueller investigation.
Guns, Guns, Guns
Noting that hundreds of thousands of people were currently in the nationwide March For Our Lives against gun violence, the candidates had differing ideas for gun safety. Marquez-Peterson and Wiles called for better background checks. Morales called for arming teachers. Martin actually said, “We don’t have a gun problem. They don’t jump off shelves and shoot people.”
Asked if it would be an impeachable offense for Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, they all said no — and that they would support Trump. “I would give him a high-five,” Morales said. Each said the investigation should be stopped.
All the Republican candidates were against “chain migration,” referring to family-based immigration which has been in effect since 1990.
Martin supported extreme vetting to allow only “freedom loving” immigrants. He said he would “kick out” DACA recipients immediately. “If you’re a Dreamer, you’re illegal. Your parents broke the law, sorry. ICE and law enforcement agencies will round you up.”
Morales, who is an unpaid reserve deputy in Cochise County, recounted proudly how he helped deport a 19-year old girl who had grown up in Douglas, and how she cried as she was taken away.
Marquez observed that it would be disruptive to immediately deport 800,000 people, but she opposed citizenship for Dreamers. Wiles talked but didn’t take a position, except that immigrants “must assimilate.”
Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike on North Korea
Morales and Martin, of course, supported starting a nuclear war with a pre-emptive strike. Wiles and Marquez-Peterson supported sanctions instead.
Building a Border Wall
The candidates all called for building a wall at the Mexican border. Wiles wanted a wall with watchtowers. Martin emphasized, “It must be a tall wall. If we make it high enough it will make it more difficult to cross the border.” (There was no discussion if Mexico should pay for it.)
F-35 Jets at Davis-Monthan Air Base
All four supported basing F-35 jets at the air base, even though they agreed the program was a “case study in waste.” Marquez-Peterson cited “naysayers who complain about the noise.” The F-35 produces 105 decibels in a low pass-over, equal to the sound of a jackhammer.
Brandon Martin of Sierra Vista was the comic relief. He had a glaring, beady-eyed expression to go with a giant, Arizona-shaped gold name tag. An ex-Army intelligence officer, he loves freedom but not for women considering an abortion (he’s pro-life).
He said the second amendment “shall not be infringed, shall not be touched. We love our guns in Arizona. Guns are not for sport shooting and hunting. They are to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government.”
Martin opposed government spending and government involvement in people’s lives, without explaining. “I’ll let you drive the creative solutions,” he said.
He said Republicans must appeal to the conservative base to win. “Ann Kirkpatrick has raised $750,000. If the best we can do is raise $400,000, we are woefully behind,” he said.
Martin picked fights with the other candidates. For example, he said he was listening to Pima Supervisor Ally Miller say that Caterpillar should not have been given incentives to move to Tucson. Marquez-Peterson looked at Martin with a quizzical expression, saying “how can 2,000 jobs be bad for Arizona?”
Martin also fought with Morales about the Douglas Port of Entry, which Martin said was “in the wrong place” and “incapable of improving.” This got Morales whipped up, saying, “you can kiss this district goodbye if you keep saying that.”
Danny Morales of Douglas is a wannabe who loves posing in uniforms. His self-made website has a separate section of photos of himself. He’s an unpaid Cochise County deputy, the ex-mayor (pro tem) of Douglas, in the Navy (reserve), and a (substitute) teacher. And he’s a youth pastor — he said the Oyster Club was beautiful, except for the naked-lady art in the restroom.
“I have led troops in combat, I mean, in support of combat positions,” he said. He was cocksure in supporting a nuclear first strike on North Korea.
He said, “I have a great voting record. I’ve taken tough votes even with my supporters frowning at me.”
He claimed several times that Democrats were changing their party registration to support him, but this is hard to believe considering his pro-gun and anti-immigrant positions.
Marilyn Wiles of Tucson was kind of a mystery. “I’m a facilitator,” she said, and “I’m a change agent.” She is CEO of Enlighteneering, Inc., which does “co-active coaching,” and “business process re-engineering and process improvement,” for federal agencies.
She talked about addressing the “hard issues” without saying what they were. She said immigration law “should be changed,” that she “challenges the status quo,” and that Arizona “needs to think differently.”
She said she had worked on Capitol Hill and knew her way around the capitol so that “I don’t have to find the ladies room.”
Lea Marquez-Peterson of Tucson, who ran a chain of gas stations into bankruptcy, repeatedly asked the audience to give her money. She said she had only $400,000 in donations but needed to raise $2 million to $3 million to beat Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick or Matt Heinz. That said, she is closely tied to Gov. Ducey and Koch brothers dark money.
Marquez-Peterson has been operating a ring of local “Hispanic” chambers of commerce since 2009 across southern Arizona. When answering questions, she had to read carefully from handwritten notes.
Marquez-Peterson said small businesses are the key to Arizona’s economy. She would stop family immigration and build a border wall, but did not explain how that would help the economy. Even though she’s never been elected to office, she is the front-runner among this rag-tag band of outsiders.
She told the audience, “we need to create a broad coalition of support” to win the election, but no one was listening.
Most pathetic moment
The most pathetic moment came when Pima GOP Chairman David Eppihimer stumped the candidates with this question (which I have on tape):
“Given the current political uncertainty, please give a few examples of your topics and your approach to a divided executive versus legislative government, versus the one-party majority that we have now that may exist after your swearing-in.”
The candidates asked for him to repeat the question. Eppihimer stumbled on:
“I think the questioner seems to anticipate a change in the structure of government that we enjoy right now being in the one-party dominance of all branches. The questioner anticipates that’s going to change. What would be the topics you would be pursuing to be solved, and how would you work within that new dynamic of governmental structure that would be occurring.”
He asked the person who asked the question if he wanted to rephrase it. No one spoke up. Someone asked for the question to be resubmitted on a card. Finally, Eppihimer said, “Or we can throw it out.”