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Steve Pope

Border Skirmish

McCain wins endorsement of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but Dem opponent Kirkpatrick points to a mixed immigration record

As the battle over Latino voters heats up in this year's Arizona Senate race, U.S. Sen. John McCain welcomed U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez to Tucson last week.

Palomarez flew in from D.C. to give McCain the national chamber's endorsement and praised McCain's military service, as well as his support of the Latino business community and his leadership in pushing a comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate. The so-called "Gang of Eight" bill later died when the GOP-controlled House refused to bring it up for vote.

"We've seen other candidates for the presidency run from the Gang of Eight bill," Palomarez said. "Sen. McCain has never run from the Gang of Eight bill. He's stood firm on what he did back then and he supports it today. It's that kind of consistency and political courage that we endorse and few in this country have that kind of characteristic like John McCain does."

The endorsement highlighted one of the storylines of the 2016 campaign: Conservative Republicans say McCain is too soft on immigration, while Democrats say he's too much of a hardliner.

McCain's likely Democratic opponent, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, debuted an online campaign ad that criticized McCain for what she called his "immigration doublespeak." It highlighted McCain's 2010 vote against the DREAM Act as well as his support for a border wall in his 2010 reelection campaign and his repeated pledges to support Donald Trump, should he become the GOP presidential nominee.

Trump famously launched his White House run with a speech in which he characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as "people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." (On the positive side, Trump added that "some, I assume, are good people.")

And both Trump and Ted Cruz have said that they want to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country, including the so-called DREAMers who were brought to country as children and who have grown up in the United States, rather than provide a path to citizenship as outlined in the Gang of Eight bill.

McCain said yesterday that he believed some of the current Republican presidential candidates would eventually embrace a comprehensive immigration reform proposal similar to Gang of Eight bill. But when asked which of the candidates would do that, McCain said, "I don't know, but I know this: I will do everything that I can to resolve this issue because I know that it has be resolved by whoever is president of the United States."

The anti-immigrant rhetoric doesn't appear to be helping the GOP presidential candidates win over Latino voters. A February Washington Post-Univision News poll showed that eight out of 10 Latino voters had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, while 44 percent had an unfavorable view of Cruz (compared to 39 percent who had a favorable view). And a Public Policy Polling survey of Arizona voters earlier this month showed that 70 percent of Latino voters disapproved of McCain's job performance, while 26 percent approved of his job performance.

Palomerez said that the high disapproval numbers represented a major problem for the GOP presidential hopefuls because "every 30 second, a Latino turns 18 and becomes an eligible voter. That's 60,000 brand-new voters every single month and that's going to be the case for the next 21 years in a row."

"I've had conversations with both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump on this issue of immigration and we've agreed to disagree," Palomerez added. "They will never see the White House without at least 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. It's simply not going to happen. So their challenge now is, what do you do if you get the nomination? How do you begin to un-ring the bell and how do you find a way to move forward to win the Latino vote. It's going to be very, very difficult for some of them."

Wrestling Ally

Pima County's wackiest politician draws a primary opponent.

Pima County Supervisor Ally "Oops" Miller, a frequently unhinged Republican serving her first term, has drawn an opponent in this year's GOP primary.

John Winchester, the Arizona state director for Christians United for Israel and an outreach director for the AZ Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona, told the Weekly last week that he thinks it's time for Miller to go because "she's a problem."

"Ally facilitates conflict," the Tucson native said. "A lot of people are asking me, 'Why are you running against another Republican?' Well, she's irrelevant. She's preaches low taxes, but taxes are projected to go up for the next three years. She preaches about wasteful spending, but she doesn't have any influence there. We need someone who can influence the county."

Miller won a four-way GOP primary with 38 percent of the vote in 2012 and then went on to win District 1—a heavily Republican district that includes the Catalina Foothills, Marana and Oro Valley—in the general election.

Since her election, Miller has feuded with her fellow supervisors, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and her own District 1 staff, where she has lost two chiefs of staff and numerous other employees in just four years. She has frequently voted against the county's economic development efforts that are supported by the local business community, including a plan to move a road to help Raytheon, the county's largest private employer.

Winchester is critical of Miller's "demeanor, her methods, the way she pursues what she thinks is good for the county. I'm not going to challenge her character in pursuing what she wants, but her methods I will challenge. They're destructive. I need somebody who is going to bring leadership to the board and move the county in the direction it needs to go in, and she's not doing it."

Miller doesn't get along with the three Democrats on the Board of Supervisors—Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez—but she has been particularly critical of her fellow Republican on the board, Ray Carroll.

Carroll, who announced earlier this year that he wouldn't seek reelection this year, recently traveled with Winchester to Israel. Winchester, an ordained minister, baptized Carroll in the Jordan River.

But Winchester downplayed his friendship with Carroll. While Carroll and he have worked together over the years on various faith-based events, it was only during the Israel trip that they really got to know each other.

"Ray and I have never been close, but we're closer now," Winchester said. "We've got a lot in common, but we're not longtime friends or anything."

The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Brian Bickel, a veteran and retired hospital administrator.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's guests include UA space scientist Dante Lauretta, who will talk about the upcoming OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission.


More by Jim Nintzel

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