On this week's episode of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: Pima County Republican Party chair Bill Beard and Pima County Democratic Party chair Cheryl Cage talk about Donald Trump's immigration plan, Tucson's bus strike, whether former lawmaker and Republican-turned-Democrat Tom O'Halleran can win the congressional seat that U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is giving up to challenge Sen. John McCain and more. Tune in online here or check it out on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on broadcast, DirecTV and Dish.
Here's a transcript of the show:
Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we're talking Zona Politics. Joining me today, the chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, Cheryl Cage, and the chair of the Pima County Republican Party, Bill Beard. Thanks to both of you guys for being here
(Nintzel): So let's start today, Bill, with Donald Trump released his immigration plan this last week and it is a very, it's a tough plan. He's talking about trying to create a self-deportation situation. Is this trouble for the Republican party?
(Bill Beard) I think Donald Trump is one of those kind of political events that come along from time to time in our history that, regardless of what you may feel about the individual, and particular thing that individual is speaking to, they're talking to the broader language of where we are in our politics in this country If you look at where we were even just a few years ago the current occupant of the White House came in on hope and change. Well, I think for the average person that was sold on that line, they are coming up asking the question, where's my hope and where's my change. Someone like a Donald Trump comes along and just speaks to that average individual, regardless if they are Republican or Democrat or Independent, and he is drawing a resonance in the the American community in a way that few politicians have an opportunity to do, simply because he's speaking in a language that the average person relates to. Again you don't have to be a Democrat, you don't have to be a Republican. He is speaking to the heart and soul of what a lot of people You can argue about the specifics of any detail in his positions he may have but he's speaking to a broader audience out there, and I think that is something that folks in both political parties that do not pay attention to that will regret it come election day next year.
(Nintzel) Cheryl, what do you think about the idea that Donald Trump is the "anti-politician" of the campaign and also we're seeing something Ben Carson is doing really well in the polling, on the Republican side — sort of the weariness with traditional politicians.
(Cheryl Cage) Well, I think there's a big difference between "Hope and Change." I think what Donald Trump is touting is fear and hatred. I mean, everything that he talks about is negative It's negative about our neighbors to the South. Negative about woman. It's negative about everything and, um, I think this is going to be a huge problem for the Republicans, becaue when people start really paying attention that doesn't resonate with people. People don't, are tired of the fear and the hatred and the xenophobia that is being spouted by the Republican party. And I think it's going to hurt whoever their candidate is in the general because in order for them to win this primary, they're goint to have to you know, follow that populist line. And I think that I think it's a shame and it breaks my heart that that the Republican party is so filled with this kind of rhetoric and fear-mongering, so I think it's going to have a huge impact. Donald Trump, himself, is, you're right, in that he's a showman, and he you know, this is the kind of thing that maybe the one good thing is that there is a conversation started because people on the other side, and people, moderates, within the Republican Party are going to say "That's not who we are." That is That is, you know, "We are not Donald Trump."
(Beard) Let's take a look at two things you mentioned: moderates and fear. Number one, the moderates that are in the Republican party, I think they're asking the same questions the moderates across this country are asking. They're asking the same questions the conservatives and the liberals are. They're asking, "What is it that in my daily life is better than it was four or eight years ago. And for the average person, they have less net income; they have higher health-care bills, despite what the current occupant has talked about from day one, Barack Obama. You've got folks that seriously question whether this country has a foreign policy because it seems to keep changing depending upon what the president is reacting to today. I seem to remember a lot about some red lines being drawn, and that we were not going to change our position whatsoever. How many times has the red line moved in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Iran. All of these things lead to that second point I mentioned fear. Fear that our central government in Washington, D.C. is not taking care of the things that need to be taken care of. The basic defense of this country. The basic protection of our personal liberties How many times have we heard stories about this administration doing things with the NSA, doing things with the our own previous Secretary of State was keeping her personal, confidential, super- secret information as Secretary of State in a bathroom closet. I'm sorry, those things directly go to that fear you spoke of. The average person out there is afraid that their government is not taking care of the basics. (Nintzel) I want to get back to, Cheryl has a question, here.
(Cage) There's nothing wrong with answers that the Republican Party are giving are based on fear. and hatred, xenophobia against you know, misogyny. I'm telling you that that's not the goint to rule in the general election.
(Beard) We don't like rulers in this country. We like presidents.
(Cage) All ...
(Beard) We don't like rulers in this country. We like presidents.
(Cage) I said rule in the general election. Don't turn my words Bill
(Nintzel) This all goes back to the specifics of immigration. In the 2012 election the Latino vote went heavily in favor of Obama and in the Democrats. And you had a situation where the RNC did a study afterwards and they said, "You know we need to get comprehensive immigration reform passed, because the problem is Latinos see our position on self-deportation and whatnot, and tney close their ears to any other kind of messaging. And that didn't work out. The comprehensive immigration bill failed in the house, it passed the Senate but did not go any further, and now you have Donald Trump saying these things about immigration and again, getting back to the self-deportion idea, and you have other Republican candidates starting to follow him, and I'm just curious, do you think there needs to be a better effort to reach out to Latino voters, or is this going to fly?
(Beard) Let's take a step back, here, and think about that term "Comprehensive Immigration Reform How many times have we heard it in the last 30 years Where there's "We're going to have a comprehensive deal that's going to solve all the problems. all the problems of the world. (Nintzel) ...including in the Republican National Committee.
(Beard) I agree with the point, but not all the specifics I think if you poll the average Latino voter, they will actually say, "Many parts of these comprehensive bills are not what they can stomach. They are not part of something that is going to solve all the problems of the world. You need to take immigration back to what it is we're supposed to do in this country. Do we want the best and brightest here and and helping to benefit America.
(Nintzel) And I think we all agree with that.
(Beard) If you do, where do you start that conversation? You have to start that conversation with the simple things like, you need to know who's coming in the door. You need to know where they're coming from and what they're doing when they get here. You look at every other country in the world and you even look back through America's history. When they brought immigrants into this country, it was with the idea that it would better our society over all. You cannot start from the assumption that every person that's going to come in the door is going to, by default, have all the privileges of everything men have fought and died for in this country, and then just presume that everything will follow well after that. You start with
(Nintzel) Let me just ask, isn't the real sticking point in comprehensive immigration reform the status of the eleven million estimated undocumented people now in this country and that is what has held things up.
(Beard) I think it ...
(Nintzel) That the Democrats are asking for a path to citizenship for these people. Republicans, at least in the House, did not want to go forward with that.
(Beard) I truly believe for the average citizen is the third or fourth question we ask. The first question you have to ask is, "Do we have a problem currently with illegal immigration? The answer to that question is indisputably yes.
You start ....
(Cage) Now let me just get in here. You know there was a wonderful article, editorial in the paper today the other day, that talks about the fact that we need to know the facts when we talk about immigration. And you're talking about you know, and Donald Trump is talking about all these murders and rapists and everyone that's coming up over from Mexico, and, right here from the Immigration Policy Center, found that the hispanic immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than native-born Americans This holds true especially for Mexican Salvadorans and Guatemalans, who make up the bulk of the undocumented population. And the other thing is, is that unauthorized immigration has been going negative since 2007. So you, and the Republican Party and Donald Trump are using fear and hatred and the wrong facts, well, untruths to make an issue that really isn't there. Now, I'm not saying that you know, we don't need that comprehensive immigration How are you going to deport eleven million people. These are people who a lot of them have mixed families. Some of them are citizens, some of them are not. How are you going to tell Mexico to pay for a wall? I mean, that's ridiculous. The other thing is that he wants to change our constitution. Um, or the 14th Ammendment, and the only he'd have to do that, or he'd have to have the supreme court go back and change their ruling on birthright citizenship. All of the things that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are talking about. Once again, very clearly, let me state, are based on, not the facts, based on fear, and that's not going to fly.
(Nintzel) Let me weigh in on .... I was asking Bill about the Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Let me ask you. Why is a path to citizenship so vital on the Democratic side. For the undocumented people.
(Cage) Well I think that what you have to deal with is what you have in front of you.And many of these people, the majority of these people have been taxpaying good citizens. Um, I am always in favor of grandfather. I mean I think that's really important to do that, which means you don't change the rules on people in the middle of the stream. That's where we start. We have to be fair with these people who came here and have done good things for our country. When you talk about you talk about this country and the men and women who have died for this country, well they've come from every country in the world. And to all of a sudden say, "Uh, uh" We've got ours, we don't want you, is not the smartest thing."
(Nintzel) and why a path to citizenship, why not just some sort of normal status? so that they don't
(Cage) Because we need to stand on the same ground. I mean, if people are going to be integrated and really become those open members of a good society, they need to have all the rights and privileges and they need to have a path way to citizenship.
(Beard) You talk about facts. There are a few things that are very true that cannot be denied. There are tens of thousands of people that are in this country illegally that have committed felonies. and in many cases are left in this country by our judicial system. That's coming from the federal government. That is something that I don't care what your political party is, that drives the average citizen, that drives the average citizen talking about immigration comprehensive reform as nuts. They think it needs to be solved before you get to the question of a path to citizenship.
(Cage) May I agree with you for a moment? I think that that's one of the little pieces that we can look at and that we can agree. If someone has done great damage to this community If they've committed a felony, you know if they're consistent, whatever, a criminal, then, you know, I"m okay looking at that and saying, "This is not a good thing to do, if they are undocumented, we have to look at that, certainly." No one's saying that if someone been a serial murderer, that you're not gonna get them citizenship. You know that.
(Beard) For the average American citizen, regardless of political party they want to have certain basic things taken care of before we get to this talk of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform. You start by getting, you get rid of This has to be done before you have the conversation about Comprehensive You need to take care of the problem with hundreds of thousands of immigrants that came here on Visas that have overstayed their Visas We have no regular means of tracking those individuals whether they're here for good or evil, we have no means of tracking them on a regular basis in this country. You have tens of thousands of people who have committed felonies. Why are they left to just gather.
(Cage) You and I just agreed on that.
(Beard) The point is that if you don't solve that problem first. the conversation about "Comprehensive" reform is not going to take place, politically.
(Cage) You want to solve the problem without a conversation You just want to do what you want to do without talking with Democrats.
(Nintzel) We're clearly not going to solve the immigration issue here this morning, but we are gonna have to leave it there because we have a lot else to talk about and I wanted to bring the conversation back around to local matters with the bus strike that's going on. We are taping this a few days before it airs, so it could be resolved by the time we do this, but Cheryl, are we going to see these buses running again, soon? I certainly hope so, but there are a couple of things that are really important for people to understand, and that is that the bus drivers are not employees of the City. They are contract employees with, the city contracts with a professional transit management company. So when people talk about the City Council getting involved in the strike and why don't they end it, people need to understand that, by law, they can't get involved This is between employees and a management thing. Um it's hurting our city. It's definitely hurting our city. The mayor's come out and said it's hurting our city. I think everyone wants this to be resolved, and I'm hopeful that it will be
(Nintzel) Bill, what do you think has gotten to this point?
(Beard) Well, I thnk you have to go back a little bit in history here and look at when the contract actually expired. It expired a year ago. In its infinite wisdom, they decided to have it go for an additional year. You can say that the City Council is not involved with what goes on with Sun Tran, but you have to question whether a contract or renewal just before election day in an election year for City Council might not have played some factor in the extension of the original contract. You know the City Council has painted themselves into a corner financially for a long time It doesn't just involve SunTran. They have made such bad decisions across the board on where the spending priorities are they have no flexibility left to do the things that they would usually do We can find an couple extra million to pass on into the agency that pays the SunTran workers. There have been for a long time estimates that they could save millions in the transit budget if they'd simply economize and increase efficiency in the way the routing is done, etc. Even some of the striking workers have made recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of Sun Tran The city always refused to listen. You know, this whether you like it or not, resides at city hall. They're the ones that made the mess and, you know, come November, I think the citizens of Tucson will have an opportunity to correct that.
(Nintzel) Cheryl, has the council been too reluctant to deal with the questions of fare increases and route efficiencies? They've had a number of reports come to them. They've turned down the recommendations thus far Your thoughts on whether the city should have moved sooner to try to put less of a burden on the general fund portion that goes to the Sun Tran so that they would have had the revenue to be able to avert a strike.
(Cage) You know one of the things that Bill just brought up is the bad decisions that have been coming out of City Council and you know, being able to find a couple million dollars. It sounds easy doesn't it? But it's not easy. And we have been in a down slope for five or six years. We are now coming out of it. I anticipate the next couple of years are going to be really good ones for Tucson. And we have a billion dollars in investment in downtown So, there's that. As far as the bus thing, the bus strike is converned constantly, when people look at how to fix this, they always go to the bus rider. And that's always the way we're gonna solve everyting. And bus transit systems, government transit systems are not meant to be money-makers. And so I think you have to look at what the management company is making. Where can they be more cost-effective. To simply say we should raise bus fair fares is simplifying the problem.
(Nintzel) But they had a recommendation from the city's own transit task force. That said, we have some of the lowest rates in the country we have a special program for low-income riders that no one else in the country has there are, we have had ...
(Cage) But there has to be other things that have to be talked about.
(Nintzel) ...ten years without raising fares.
(Cage) It's true, I mean I'm not saying that it shouldn't be on the table and we shouldn't be discussing this. I'm saying that everyone focuses on the ridership first, and I don't think that that's the way to solved this issue.
(Nintzel) Okay, Bill, you think it will play a role in the election?
(Beard) I think ultimately people are going to ask, come November, whether or not they like the town they live in. Do they like driving down roads that that despite all the PR announcements out of city hall, there's gonna be more failed and bad roads in Tucson after their paving projects are done. That's by their own transportation department. We're going to have 25% fewer cops on the street now than we had just five years ago. Those are things that directly affect the decisions people are going to make come election day for City Council. Republicans have put forth three candidates that I think will, they have the real opportunity to change the direction of Tucson back to making the right kinds of decisions not just about transit but all across the board. Prioritize things the way they're supposed to be prioritized. If you don't take care of the basics all those other things become conversations about what color you're going to paint the third story window on the attic roof instead of, we've got a foundation problem. Let's fix that before we argue about what color we're going to paint the third story attic window.
(Nintzel) One of the other big issues coming up, I think, on the ballot this year, is the question of whether we'll keep red light cameras, the photo radar enforcement here in the City of Tucson. Cheryl, should the city hang onto this Should voters say, "Yeah, we like this program."
(Cage) Let me say in right response to Bill there. He makes everything sound so simple and easy. It's like you want to just have no conversations with other people who don't think like you and just, you know, change the problem. I haven't heard anything from any of your candidates about any specific on how they want to change the City of Tucson, so I think people are going to look at what's happening with the state right now and say, "Do we want our city to be run like our state and the answer is going to be absolutely not.
(Nintzel) And we are ... have those candidates on this program next month, so hopefully we'll have them have a chance to have that conversation, but, let's get back to the red light camera
(Cage) You know it's an interesting situation to have it on the ballot. I don't know what's going to happen. I've gotten a ticket from a red light camera and it was very expensive, but I also think that it's a deterrent. I think people pay more attention to what they're doing and we have some pretty serious driving issues in this town. You know, I've moved down to mid-town so I walk along Speedway and I cross the road, and people are just not looking and I think that the red light cameras, in my opinion are a great idea. (Beard) The red light cameras, everywhere they're put before the public, they go down overwhelmingly. I think there wer just a few exceptions. I think the citizens of Tucson are going to say overwhelmingly, come November, "Red light cameras, your day has come and gone." It's time to come back to a little sanity when it comes to things like that. in the City of Tucson.
(Nintzel) Alright. I want to talk a little bit about Congressional District 1. We had the Supreme Court decision saying that the Independent Redistricting Commission did have the authority to draw these maps so they are staying the way they are, but we do have an open seat in CD1, and we've had Ann Kirkpatrick move to take on John McCain in the senate reace, and you had an interesting situation with Tom O'Halleran, a former Republican, who ran as an Independent this last time for the state legislature has now jumped to the Democratic ticket. Can he win that Democratic primary up there.
(Cage) I think that he did well in his last race. Not well enough, but he still did pretty well for an Independent. And I think that he has shown that his values are good Democratic values and I believe that the Democrats are going to listen to him and give him a fair shake.
(Nintzel) Bill Beard from the Republican party it's an interesting situation where you have a guy jumping from one party to the other to try to ...
(Beard) He's all yours. You know, when it comes to that race it's kind of an interesting district when you look at it. You've got Flagstaff on the one end, and you've got Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke on the other end of it as bookends. And then you've got something the size of Pennsylvania in between, with all of these small little hundred-thousand couple ten-thousand sized communities all across it. It's going to take someone who can understand that it's not just about what you, what the needs are from someone, say, in Flagstaff, or someone that has needs in SaddleBrooke or Oro Valley. It's a lot of those rural communities and small little bedroom communities that have popped up across that district to win that race You've got a couple of candidates on the Republican side that I think would be very effective in that race. You've got Ken Bennett, you've got Gary Kiehne, you know there are a couple of other people that have been discussed discussing whether or not they're going to run. It will be
(Nintzel) It sounds like it's shaping up as a Kiehne - Bennett race at this point. David Gowan the House speaker but the District did not change in his favor and he'd have to move to be in that district.
(Beard) If you were a betting man today I would say that would probably be how it looks but ...
(Nintzel) Gary is the rancher who ran last time and came very close to winning that Republican primary, but did not get elected up there, and Bennett former Secretary of State, former Senate president.
(Beard) Both individuals will be fine candidates and represent that district well in Congress.
(Cage) I mean you know, Ann served that district very well and I think people will particularly with the Democratic party with a very favorible impression.
(Nintzel) It's a slightly Democratic district, but you have a lot of registered Democrats up there on the reservations who may or may not get out to vote. That's kind of a challenge for Democrats. Turnout there. Mitt Romney won the district in the presidential race and Ann Kirkpatrick won the congressional seat.
(Cage) Ann Kirkpatrick is doing really well with that, and she's made a lot of inroads for communications and a connection with those voters, so I think that will be a positive thing for her.
(Nintzel) And are there other Democrats? Barb McGuire the state lawmaker said she's going to run. Is anybody else thinking about getting into that race? Or are you guys—what does it say that your bench has a situation where a Republican's a guy who's a new Democrat is coming over to run.
(Cage) Well, I think I don't want to knock out Barb McGuire because she could possibly be a good candidate. There are still other people that maybe are thinking about it. It's still fairly early and the fact that the Republican side isn't set yet will have some impact
(Nintzel) It's a long ways off. Alright, we have to wrap this up I wanted to say goodbye to George Rosenberg, a long-time newspaper man and community advocate, he passed away last week, and that is our show for today. I'd like to thank my guests, Cheryl Cage from the Pima County Democratic party Bill Beard from the Pima County Republican party for coming in here today. I'd also like to thank our sponsors over at the Arizona Inn and Hotel Congress for their support of our program. If you missed any part of us, you can catch us on zonapolitics.com or at Facebook. And thanks for watching. We'll see you next time.