Wednesday, July 7, 2021
State lawmaker Randy Friese, a Democrat elected to his fourth term in the Arizona House of Representatives last year, is in the race for the retiring Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick’s seat. (The district lines are scheduled to be redrawn before the 2022 election by Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission.) Friese is a trauma surgeon who saved Gabby Giffords' life on Jan. 8, 2011. Also in the race: Friese’s fellow state lawmakers Sen. Kirsten Engel and Rep. Daniel Hernandez. (The Weekly will post Q&As with the other candidates later this week.)
What makes you the person for the job?
I guess it's just a sense of service I've had throughout my career with the Navy, a teacher at the medical school, a legislator who is serving my fourth term in the Arizona House of Representatives. So I think it'd be an opportunity to broaden my service to the community. I've always felt that being a trauma surgeon was community service. I looked at my legislative services as broadening that and this just takes it a step further.
What do you make of this audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County?
I find it dangerous. Very, very troubling. The people who are running the audit are not trustworthy, don't have the experience. I think Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said a few weeks ago that the Dominion machines now need to be returned and new ones need to be released before another election. It's just unfounded and dangerous.
Were you disappointed that the proposal for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was blocked by a Senate filibuster?
Of course. I don't understand why the senators would block a proposal that was bipartisan to start with. The commission was created with a nod towards the requests of the House Republicans that were on the developing team. The subpoena power was bipartisan, as I understand it, and there were certain things that were put in there to make people comfortable with the ability to get to the facts. This country deserves more information on how that developed, what the intentions were. We need a lot of the answers and that commission would have gotten there in a way that would make people comfortable that all points of view were respected and taken into consideration
How do you grade Congress's response to the pandemic?
I think a lot of the response to the pandemic lay in the executive branch agencies. I think Congress's response to the pandemic was voting for the funding through the Cares Act I and II and the American Rescue Plan. I think those were necessary. It was a lot of spending, but we needed to get aid and help to the American people and small businesses. And so I would look at Congress's response and probably say that it was a B-plus, getting aid out in those different plans. I would grade the executive branch a little differently until the new team came in.
How do you think the Affordable Care Act could be improved?
The intention, when the Affordable Care Act was initially passed, was to continue to work on it. In 2010, when it was passed, I believe that the Democrats in charge changed the scope of the Affordable Care Act to try to entice some Republicans to vote for it. High-risk corridors, reinsurance, those types of things, were put off to try to get some Republicans to support it. And that didn't happen. And I believe the concept was to address those in the future years. And they were unable to because the intent was then, under the new majority Republican majority—I don't know how many times they voted to try to repeal it. So I think there are things we can do to broaden the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, We need more young, healthy people using the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges to get their health care to sort of spread that risk out. And that costs, right? The more young healthy people you have buying insurance that aren't using it, the more money is available to pay for those that are older and less healthy that require the health care. So I think there are ways we can try to improve it. Absolutely. Starting with those high-risk corridors.
What did you think of the Biden administration's infrastructure proposal?
I think it's good. I support it. I think it serves two purposes. It's addressing infrastructure, repairs and new roads, repairs to bridges, as well as broadband. It's creating jobs, as well as providing a service that the country needs. State bridges, state roads and rural access to broadband. So it's creating jobs to help to defer inflation as we're putting all this money into the economy and getting people employed.
You mentioned all the money being put into the economy. Between this and the pandemic response, are you concerned about the rising deficit?
Yes, one should be concerned about the rising deficit. We need to be very careful about inflation and interest rates. And that's why I think creating these jobs, these long-term projects that are going to be around for years, will help that. Remember, not too long ago, we passed the great big tax cut that also contributed to the deficit. This contribution to the deficit is at least building roads, creating jobs and giving us infrastructure and broadband where we're getting something out of this investment.
What was your reaction to hearing the A-10 mission in Southern Arizona was once again on the Pentagon chopping block?
I suppose that's something that's going to be revisited frequently. I'm not surprised it’s being revisited and I think that's something that I would need more data on before I could come down on one side or the other. But I would say it's not surprising that it's getting revisited. Because there is some pressure to think about the A-10 and the way it's used. And is it something that should be continued? I think Fort Huachuca, our airbase here at Davis-Monthan, they're very important to CD-2. So all those things would need to be considered as that discussion moves forward.
What did you think of the Biden administration's decision to halt the border wall construction?
I support that decision. I think the border wall was the wrong solution to our immigration problem at the border. I think it was expensive, didn't achieve the goals that it was touted to. It was more of a messaging strategy than a real policy. Policy needs to be multifaceted and include helping the countries that are having humanitarian crises from which these immigrants are coming, more resources at the border to address these requests for asylum, get those requests expedited, and determine whether that request is something that can be moving forward or not. And then once the request is deemed reasonable, then move forward and get these people some sort of temporary status while they're waiting for their asylum question to be resolved. So I don't think the border wall contributes to that.
Do you think there are sensitive environmental areas, such as the San Pedro River, where the sections of wall should be removed?
If I could see that there would be some benefits to the environment and to the wildlife from removing the wall, yeah, I could just see myself supporting that if I saw that data. I also would support resolving eminent domain cases and making sure landowners get their land back or receive proper compensation for land that was taken from them during the process.
Do you have some key strategies for resolving the immigration issue overall?
I think the first piece, as I mentioned, is the recent flux of immigrants at our border—which appears to be improving—is coming from humanitarian crisis in Central America. So as I said, increasing resources at the border to adjudicate these asylum questions and cases and determine whether someone has asylum potential, and if they do, then they get a temporary status to stay and work and live here while that is being adjudicated. I think we need to expedite that process. And once we determine, “Yes, your asylum request is valid,” then they should be able to stay here while that process unfolds.
What about the undocumented folks who are here now? Should there be a pathway to citizenship as we saw in the Gang of Eight proposal that passed the Senate during the Obama administration but failed in the House of Representatives?
I would absolutely support a very obvious prescribed, linear pathway to citizenship. Very clear—this process followed by this process followed this process, but the end result being citizenship, I would support that, yes. I probably would need more information of what that entire process would look like. But I would support the concept.