Martha McSally, Kyrsten Sinema Attempt To Define Their Differences In Arizona U.S. Senate Debate

By Jimmy Jenkins, Steve Goldstein
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 12:33am
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 7:28pm

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Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Martha McSally (left) and Kyrsten Sinema prepare for their only debate on Oct. 15, 2018.

The two candidates vying for retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat squared off in a debate Monday night in Phoenix.

Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema responded to a broad range of questions as the congresswomen sought to distinguish themselves in the only debate scheduled before the Nov. 6 election.

National politics dominated much of the discussion at the debate, hosted by Arizona PBS and Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix. McSally repeatedly touted the successful economy, which she said was on fire thanks to Republican tax cuts.

Martha McSally
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Martha McSally.

“I voted to cut your taxes, providing the opportunity for about $2,000 per Arizona family." McSally said it was "more money in their pockets instead of going to Washington, D.C.”

Sinema said the cuts, which she opposed, had led to deficit spending and argued that President Donald Trump’s tariffs against China were having a devastating effect on Arizona’s agricultural industry.

Sinema said she supported increasing funding for border security, including money for a border wall, but called for a smarter solution to the immigration crisis that includes a path to citizenship for dreamers.

She said she supported “increased boots on the ground, drones, night-vision cameras and increased technology so we can actually interdict the dangerous cartels who are bringing in drugs, but also smuggling humans."

McSally said she has the support of border ranchers and the Border Patrol Council, a labor union for Border Patrol agents. She said she also wanted to see a legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and supported a merit-based immigration system.

McSally said she would not support a government shutdown to fund a border wall.

Kyrsten Sinema
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Kyrsten Sinema.

McSally defended the zero-tolerance policy that led to family separations, saying the Trump administration was put in an untenable situation where it either had to enforce the law or keep families together.

“I think we can all agree, families should not be separated," McSally said. "But I think we can also agree, we need to enforce the law. Border security is national security. And the definition of a country, is that we control who is coming in and out of our borders.”

But Sinema said the Trump administration did have a choice and their interpretation of the law was purposeful — to deter migration into the country. She said she believed separating children from families was not reflective of American values.

Both candidates were asked about their support of Trump’s legislative agenda.

McSally said she was proud to work with the president, while Sinema attributed her votes for Republican legislation as proof of a willingness to reach across the aisle.

“I often do vote against my own party," Sinema said. "And that’s something I think Arizonans depend on and are proud of. They want an independent voice in the United States Congress.”

But McSally sought to cast her opponent as a far-left candidate, closing the debate by accusing Sinema of treason. Answering questions after the debate, McSally doubled down on the claim pointing to a report from CNN detailing comments Sinema made as an anti-war activist.

"This is the definition of treason," McSally said. "Saying it's OK for Americans to join our enemy."

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