It’s a theme he’s seized on in the closing weeks of the campaign.
State Sen. Tim Bee, a Republican, seeks to paint freshman U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, as a liberal who’s out of touch with voters in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, which includes the Northwest and part of Pima County, all of Cochise County and portions of Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.
Bee has sought to inextricably link Giffords with an unpopular Congress whose favorability rating stands at just 14 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of national polls.
“We’ve had some very major issues and this Congress has done nothing to address that,” Bee said in a phone interview last week.
Bee also points to what he considers the serious failings of Giffords on immigration reform. She “has very little to show on what was the No. 1 issue two years ago,” Bee said.
In 2006, Giffords trounced conservative Randy Graf, a notable feat given that the district typically leans Republican.
In Pima County, for instance, registered Republican voters outnumber registered Democrats by 129,459 to 121,717, according to the County Recorder’s Office.
But, on the serious issues of 2008 — the economy, taxes — Bee thinks he holds wider appeal for Southern Arizona voters.
BAILING OUT WALL STREET
The Republican criticized the Washington bailout of Wall Street and banks earlier this month, a bill Giffords initially opposed. The congresswoman switched her vote on the bailout package, citing added benefits to Arizona’s solar energy industry and the negative reaction by Wall Street to the bill’s initial failure.
Bee worries about the nearly $1 trillion in debt the bailout bill will heap upon future generations.
He favors a temporary suspension of capital gains taxes on investments and keeping income taxes low.
“Consumers don’t have the resources to buy taxable goods” right now, Bee contends.
A Democratic plan, given voice by presidential candidate Barack Obama, to end years of tax cuts on people and businesses earning more than $250,000, would make it harder for Washington to “restore confidence (and) free up credit,” Bee suggested.
“Any increase in taxes is bad,” Bee said, echoing the GOP protest of Obama’s and other Democrat’s economic plans.
‘BICKERING IN POLITICS’
The CD8 race in recent weeks has grown tense, with both sides running critical — often harsh — ads on the local airwaves.
Bee decried the recent airing of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad that linked him to alleged misdealing by a transportation company owned by his brother Keith Bee.
For his part, Bee said he only did part-time work for his brother’s company and that the Democratic ad played it fast and loose with the facts.
Giffords asked the DCCC to pull the ad shortly after it began airing on local television.
But other Democratic ads have hit Bee for a fund-raiser he held with President George Bush over the summer, claiming that, among other things, he stuck county taxpayers with the security bill for the visit.
Democrats and the Giffords’ campaign have sought to paint Bee as just another Bush Republican, a particularly weighty charge given the president’s historically low approval ratings this year.
“I think people are tired of the bickering in politics,” Bee said. “I think good ideas come from both parties.”
And, contrary to her claims, Bee said Giffords votes in lock step with most Washington Democrats.
“You have to be able to show the differences between yourself and your opponent,” Bee said. “What (the Giffords’ campaign) haven’t attacked me on is my record. They’ve taken more of a personal tone.”
In the closing weeks of the campaign, Bee’s schedule is “jam-packed” with events, he said.
He’ll continue to hammer home the idea that he is the only true moderate in the race, with a record of bipartisan work in local politics.
He faces an uphill battle to unseat Giffords after just her first term in Washington.
But, Bee thinks his message of keeping taxes low, curbing spending and bridging partisan divisions will resonate with voters.