THE DONNYBROOK IN SADDLEBROOKE
The Republican candidates in Congressional District 1 who are vying for a chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick came to SaddleBrooke last week.
While the August primary is still six months away, House Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher Gary Kiehne are already working to win over Republican voters in a congressional district that reaches across rural Arizona from northern Pima County all the way to the Grand Canyon.
All three candidates laid out their basic narratives: Tobin portrayed himself as an experienced lawmaker who has been a leader in the Arizona Legislature by reducing taxes, balancing the state's budget with deep spending cuts and voting for tough-on-the-border legislation such as SB 1070. Kwasman claimed the mantle of the most conservative lawmaker in the race with the support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and FreedomWorks. And Kiehne presented himself as the authentic outsider, dropping folksy lines such as: "I grew up just being a cowboy, but I've spent a lot of time in the general business world. I've been in the oil business, the gas business, the construction business, the heavy equipment business, the subdivision business, the office management and ownership business. You name it, folks, I've tried it. So if you want to send somebody to Washington who can darn near do anything, who's a jack of all trades but a master of none, I'm probably your man."
While the event was meant to be a forum where the candidates just answered questions rather than debating each other, it was marked by a fierce clash between Tobin and Kwasman.
The sharp elbows began near the end of the forum as the candidates discussed the Medicaid expansion that Gov. Jan Brewer forced through the Legislature last year. Both Tobin and Kwasman, along with the majority of Republican lawmakers in both houses, opposed the expansion, which passed with the votes of all of the Democrats and handful of Republicans who crossed party lines to join them.
But while Kwasman pushed against the expansion from the start, Tobin was willing to talk with Brewer, healthcare representatives and business leaders who wanted the expansion. Before the debate began, Kwasman handed out copies of a proposed constitutional amendment that Tobin had floated as a palatable alternative to Brewer's proposal.
After Tobin said he "absolutely opposed" the Medicaid expansion, Kwasman stood up to protest.
"This is my district and I represent you," Kwasman said. "And I can not stand by and watch a politician just lie to your face in my district."
Kwasman criticized Tobin for offering an alternative to the Brewer proposal.
"If we're going to send people to Washington, D.C., we cannot afford to send people who are going to say one thing and do another," Kwasman added. "I don't care if it's a Democrat or a Republican."
A few minutes later, Tobin got a chance to respond while explaining that while he disagrees with Sen. John McCain on many issues, he thought the recent censure of Arizona's senior senator by the Arizona Republican Party was wrong.
"I don't happen to agree with Sen. McCain about a lot of things, and that's what is good about our party," Tobin said. "I don't like being called a liar. I think that's what's bad about our party. I like being able to have a conversation with Mr. McCain and say, 'I disagree with you on your immigration stand. I disagree with you on your budget stand.' I like to have those conversations. I don't like to have conversations with people who can fabricate some of the truth."
Tobin said part of a lawmaker's job was to try to work with different interest groups.
"You want someone who just wants to vote no and go nowhere? I get it," Tobin said. "But if you want someone who is going to say, 'Hey, this is passing, maybe I should fix it,' that's what you're seeing out there."
But Kwasman said that Obamacare was an issue that allowed no compromise.
"Sometimes, you just have to fight," Kwasman said. "Other times, you do what's right and you take your portion, but not with Obamacare. Not at all."
As the two lawmakers traded jabs, Kiehne suggested that the both of the "career politicians" were the problem.
"I think you witnessed right here the actual differences between the candidates," Kiehne said. "I think you can see for yourself how, just a couple of years ago, Mr. Tobin and Mr. Kwasman were endorsing each other when they were running for the state Legislature. And now they're not too happy to be running against each other. And that's career politicians at work."
Keihne got the biggest laugh of the day with his own explanation of how he got into the race.
"I was watching Fox News one evening," Keihne said. "And I was telling my wife what a bunch of idiots we have up there because maybe it was when they made Congress excluded from Obamacare. She was fixing dinner and I went over to eat dinner with her. And she said, 'Why don't you just quit your dad-gummed belly-achin' about how terrible they are and go fix it?' So I ate a couple more bites and I looked at her and I said, 'I believe I will.' She said, 'You will what?' I said, 'I'm gonna fix it.' She said, 'Are you an idiot?' I said, 'I'm fixing to prove it.'"
ANOTHER SUPREME REJECTION
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday, Feb. 24, that it would not hear arguments regarding an Arizona law that sought to strip funding from Planned Parenthood for health-care programs unrelated to abortion services.
The 2012 law sought to prevent women on the state's AHCCCS program or other state-assisted programs from using Planned Parenthood's clinics for any of their health-care needs—birth control, cancer screenings, STD treatment and similar services.
The case largely rested on whether Planned Parenthood was "qualified" to provide the services. Federal law says that the state can't discriminate against qualified providers when deciding how to spend federal Medicaid funds. The new state law declared that any organization that provided abortion services was not considered a "qualified" provider.
Planned Parenthood sued, arguing that the state couldn't determine qualifications on that basis. A federal judge in Phoenix agreed and put the state law on hold.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne appealed the federal district court decision, despite the precedents that suggested that the law could not stand up to constitutional review. The state lost again at the U.S. Circuit Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court announced earlier this week that it would not hear Arizona's final appeal of the law.
Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Bryan Howard called the Supreme Court's decision "a victory for Arizona women and their families."
"The men and women of this state have the right to see the health care provider they deem is best for them," Howard said in a prepared statement. "Thousands of low-income women rely on Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic health care. Politics should never interfere with a woman's access to vital services."
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