5 Arizona GOP Candidates Vying To Replace Trent Franks Debate
Early voting starts next week in the 8th Congressional District primary. It includes a big chunk of the northwest Valley. The Republican candidates met Wednesday night for a debate sponsored by the Arizona Republic. Democrats in the race debate Thursday night. KJZZ’s Bret Jaspers listened watched the candidates face off.
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Let’s start with immigration, the big topic in Congress right now. Where do the candidates stand?
JASPERS: Well, broadly, all the candidates wanted to make clear they want to crack down on illegal immigration and also change legal immigration. Boosting e-verify, changing or ending so-called chain migration or family-based migration. So there wasn’t much daylight between them.
Former Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump tried to parse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue a bit more. That’s the program for people who came here illegally as children.
"You could have two misdemeanors on your record and the federal government will turn the other way. There’s really very little vetting as it now stands with DACA. And I think it’s bad policy to grant amnesty to those with low skills who break the law as teenagers," said Stump.
MARK BRODIE: So while Congress is talking about a permanent solution for DACA folks, Stump is saying DACA isn’t strict enough.
JASPERS: Right. He pointed out that you can apply for DACA if you came to the U.S. illegally before turning 16. That’s why he’s able to say “teenagers,” a group that probably gets less sympathy than if he were to say “children.”
As for breaking the law, you can’t apply for DACA if you committed a felony, or committed more than two misdemeanors or what the government considers a “significant misdemeanor.” Stump’s saying the requirements should be even stricter than that.
GOLDSTEIN: Anyone else we should touch on here?
JASPERS: Well, talk-show host Clair Van Steenwyk went the furthest and said the undocumented people who were brought here as children should be deported.
"The reality of DACA is it’s an executive order. It’s not a law. And President Trump made a mistake himself by extending an executive order. The one he didn’t cancel is the one he should have canceled first: DACA. It’s not a law," said Van Steenwyk.
He said all this talk about the DACA program has created the space for Congress to discuss amnesty for these folks.
BRODIE: OK, let’s turn to government finances. What did the candidates have to say?
JASPERS: Well all of the candidates said the national debt is a significant issue. The moderator then asked them to specify how they’d bring down the national debt. In a back and forth with moderator Ron Hansen, former state Rep. Phil Lovas returned to a promise that he wouldn’t take a government pension.
"I did that at the state legislature. I turned down a pension. I sponsored a bill to shut down the elected officials pension plan. And in Congress, I will turn down a pension as well. RH: But is that enough to bring down the national debt. PL: It’s a start. We all have to do our part," said Lovas.
GOLDSTEIN: Did any of the candidates get more specific with the big fiscal changes they would seek?
JASPERS: Well, they were definitely optimistic about what the new tax bill would accomplish in terms of economic growth, and boosting taxes revenue. That is a very disputed idea.
Former State Sen. Debbie Lesko said entitlement programs — that’s Medicare and Social Security — that they should be reformed, but not for seniors or “people who are going to become seniors.” Then the moderator asked her if that means changing the age of eligibility for these programs.
"I think there’s a variety of things that we can do and I’d like to talk to other experts on that. But just like pension reform. I did it and moving forward we changed it so that it was sustainable. I think we need to do that with entitlement reforms," said Lesko.
When Lesko said, “I did it,” she’s referring to a change to public pensions that capped the cost of living increases for retirees.
BRODIE: And what about the reason we’re even talking about this race — Trent Franks. Did he come up?
JASPERS: Well, the Arizona Republic hosted the debate, and they did a recap at the beginning. It reminded people that Franks resigned because staffers complained he had asked them to carry a baby as a surrogate for him and his wife. Franks didn’t come up in the question and answer part of the debate but former state Sen. Steve Montenegro trumpeted Franks’ endorsement of him in this race.
"Trent Franks would say anything nice of anybody up here, but he called me because he knows what it’s gonna take to stand in Washington, D.C., with a backbone and fight for you," said Montenegro.
Last night, Montenegro seemed to be reaching out to Franks’ evangelical base to say, "Hey, I’ll carry that torch."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct a quote from former state Sen. Steve Montenegro.