2 Democratic Candidates For Trent Franks' Seat Debate In Phoenix

Published: Friday, January 26, 2018 - 7:40am
Updated: Friday, January 26, 2018 - 5:39pm
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(Photos via Hiral Tipirneni and Brianna Westbrook for Congress - Facebook)
Candidates Hiral Tipirneni (left) and Brianna Westbrook.

It was the Democrats turn to debate in Phoenix last night in the primary for the 8th Congressional district. KJZZ’s Bret Jaspers was back in the studio to give The Show the lowdown after the Republicans debated Wednesday.

MARK BRODIE: So there are two new faces running for the Democratic nomination here. First off, can you just tell us who they are?

BRET JASPERS: Yes, I can definitely do that. Hiral Tipirneni [tipper-NEH-knee] is a physician. She also does work vetting cancer research projects that might get charitable funding. Brianna Westbrook is the other candidate, and she’s a political activist and works as a sales manager at a Honda dealership.

BRODIE: All right, so we talked yesterday about the Republicans in the race and started with immigration. Let’s go back to that issue. What did the Democrats have to say?

JASPERS: Well, they were pretty different from the Republicans. Both had unqualified support for the DREAMers. Brianna Westbrook said increasing legal ways to come in would make the border more safe.

"We need to increase surveillance, so we know who’s coming in. We need to keep a better record of who’s coming in. We can do that by increasing work visas, so more people feel that they don’t have to hide when they come here. Create more pathways to citizenship," said Westbrook.

Westbrook did not support a border wall at all. Tipirneni was similar — she said a wall was not an efficient use of money. Although like Westbrook, she thought there were other things we could do to tighten the border — more drones, or advanced technology.

GOLDSTEIN: As we mentioned, of course, this is the Democratic Party, so there must have been passionate statements about health care policy.

JASPERS: Yes. Westbrook endorses Medicare for all. That would be a single-payer type of plan.

"That’s the only direction we can go as a nation for our health care system. And the discussion’s already started. We just need people to champion it to get it through the house and get it put into law," said Westbrook.

Medicare for all is a plan that Bernie Sanders and others have proposed. It would likely be very expensive and also quite a big change for the entire country. But it has really passionate supporters.

And Tipirneni, for her part, also said that health care is a right, but she didn’t go as far as Westbrook. She started talking about strengthening the things in the Affordable Care Act, the things that people like. But listen closely to the end of the [statment from Tipirneni].

"Letting kids staying on their parents plans to 26, making sure that there’s no penalties for pre-existing conditions and age. Making sure there’s no junk plans. And then the next step is expanding Medicare. Let folks from 50 to 64 buy in," said Tipirneni.

BRODIE: Medicare, of course, is the plan for Americans 65 and up, to let people buy into that at a younger age could be an affordable option for that slightly-younger group. Or, at least so the argument goes, right?

JASPERS: Right. And what I find really interesting is that Democrats in Congress right now are looking ahead to 2020 and setting the stage for a big debate between single-payer versus Medicare buy-in, or something like that. So on health care, these two Congressional candidates here in the 8th District are a microcosm of where the national Democratic Party is right now.

GOLDSTEIN: So any other policies, important ones that came up?

JASPERS: Well, climate change is something we should touch on because Wednesday night, when the moderator asked the Republican candidates to raise their hands if they believed in human-caused climate change, none of them raised their hands.

Last night, both of the Democrats did raise their hands. Tipirneni said there is a potential to create a lot of jobs in solar and wind power if Arizona were to get on board.

"We have to make sure that the leaders who make those decisions believe in the facts. And the science is real. We need to act on it and Arizona should be at the forefront of that," said Tipirneni.

So, the science of climate change, we know, is real. But politically, Republicans are not willing to go there — at least these Republicans, and not in a primary.

BRODIE: So, Bret, the big question: Can a Democrat win in this district?

JASPERS: It is a long shot. Among active, registered voters, Dems are only 24 percent of the district. Republicans are 41 percent. But you know, the quote “other” category of active, registered voters is 34 percent. Both of the Democrats last night talked about the enthusiasm they were seeing out there. You know, they’d need a lot of that “other” category to vote for them in the general, whoever it is that wins the primary.

GOLDSTEIN: Any even before that, remind us when the primary is.

JASPERS: Early voting starts next week.

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