Residents of Saddlebrooke had the opportunity to hear from the four Republican candidates running in Congressional District 8 when they gathered at the community’s Mountain View Club House on March 14.
Frank Antenori, Jesse Kelly, Martha McSally, and Dave Sitton are running in the special election to fill the seat of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who announced her resignation on Jan. 25. Whichever candidate wins the Primary Election on April 17 will face Democrat Ron Barber, who announced his candidacy following Giffords’ resignation. Barber served as Giffords’ aide throughout her two terms in office.
The candidates were each asked to explain their running platform against Barber, the presumed winner of the Democratic primary, who was injured alongside Giffords last January when alleged gunman Jared Loughner wounded 13 and killed six.
“Mr. Barber is going to give you a lot of hope, and a lot of hype, and people are going to try to buy into it,” said Antenori. “He’s going to play the sympathy card. I lost 26 close friends in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve seen people shot. I’ve had people die at my feet. To say that he is going to get elected because he was in close proximity of gunfire I think is a stretch. I think it’s about results.”
Kelly, who lost a close race to Giffords in the 2010, said this time around will be different.
“The short answer to the question is, I’m not going to win it, you are,” he said. “We came within 4,000 votes of beating a supposedly unbeatable incumbent who outspent us three to one because of you. We will finish the job this time.”
The candidates took a moment to discuss some major issues of concern to Tucsonans, including border security, which Sitton said would be his number one priority if elected to office.
“Immigration is a separate issue,” he said. “The border must be secured on to its own, one because it’s constitutionally correct, two because we have no idea what’s coming across that border.”
Antenori said until the federal financial crisis is under control, there will be no money to spend to secure the border.
As gas prices have continued to rise, so has the likelihood of the issue affecting voting patterns in upcoming elections, evident as one member of the audience asked the candidates for their solution to the problem.
McSally said it is important to create a long-term strategy as opposed to a simple, short-term solution. She also made mention of the uncertainty in the Middle East greatly impacting gas prices, stating it is important to not allow Iran a position of power when it comes to oil.
“This is important for us to address this threat, address it strongly, which we have not done in the last three years, and make sure we do not have a nuclear Iran bullying our national interests.”
Kelly said the United States has all the resources necessary to become self-sufficient in regards to domestic energy, and added that the current pipelines that have been closed down should be reopened, as domestic oil could have a major impact on reversing the federal deficit.
“When an oil field is found, it doesn’t create jobs, it creates towns,” he said. “That’s what energy does. It creates wealth, it creates jobs for the nation. It is the one catch-all that can solve so many of our problems.”
Each of the candidates were critical of President Barrack Obama’s “big government,” and Kelly referred to Obama as “the worst President in history.”
The forum ended with the candidates each taking some time to meet with members of the audience to allow for individual questions.
The Primary Election will be held April 17, followed by the General Election on June 12.