PHOENIX — While a hefty amount of election coverage is being given to the race between presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there are several other races that will have a big impact on not only the country, but Arizona.
One of those races is for a U.S. Senate seat that’s been held by Republican Sen. John McCain for years. He and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, squared off in an hour-long debate on Monday night.
Though the debate was only 60 minutes, the candidates covered a lot of topics. From immigration to health care, the economy to the Supreme Court, McCain and Kirkpatrick gave their stances on a lot of issues that matter to Arizona voters.
To make things easier, I went through the entire debate and took quotes from each candidate on each issue. I then complied it all — broken down by individual topics — below.
Keep in mind, these stances below may be out of sync to what is listed on each candidate’s website or positions they may have already taken. This piece is based purely on the debate and, in an effort to make it as much about the issues as possible, I left out attack language save for where absolutely necessary.
That being said, here is where McCain and Kirkpatrick stand, based on their Monday debate comments.
A healthy portion of the debate was spent on immigration. Both candidates agreed that reform is needed, but were divided on how to carry it out.
“I’m all about enforcing the law, but we all know this law is broken,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s an economic issue because it hurts business but it’s a moral issue because it’s tearing families apart. I’ve been a consistent supporter of immigration reform – that includes the DREAM Act.”
McCain, as he did for most of the debate, relied on his experience to show he’s serious about a topic.
“I was able to get immigration reform through the United States Senate,” he said. “That is a very big difference between having working groups and talking about it and legislative accomplishments and I promise you the Dreamers were part of immigration reform.”
Kirkpatrick said she has introduced legislation that would allow Dreamers to work on Capitol Hill in hopes of humanizing their cause, while McCain said the human rights issues — particularly the smuggling of young Central American people into the United States — are pressing.
Kirkpatrick said she supports both DACA and DAPA. McCain did not mention either policy.
The immigration conversation quickly switched to that of border security, another topic with which the candidates ran.
McCain wasted little time calling for the border to be fully secure using a combination of drones and towers coupled with an increase in Border Patrol agents.
“We can do it (secure the border) with technology and also additional Border Patrol personnel,” McCain said. “I work very closely with the Border Patrol, that’s why they endorsed me.”
McCain said the government needs to do more financially to attract Border Patrol agents.
“It’s tough on the border in 115- to 120-degree heat,” he said. “We should be providing those Border Patrol agents that are on our Southern border with incentive pay because there are a lot of them that would like to be up in a nicer environment. It’s tough when you’re sitting in a vehicle in this kind of heat.”
The senator also called for a shorter training program for veterans who want to enter the Border Patrol after their service is up, warned against the dangers of Mexican heroin and claimed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will eventually attempt to sneak terrorists into the nation via the southern border.
“It has now become a national security issue,” he said.
For her part, Kirkpatrick said she would like to see immigration reform passed so the Border Patrol would be able to use its time and resources to combat criminal activity.
“We have tribes that are on the border. I visited with them and have friends who are ranchers down there. The border will be secure when they feel secure and they don’t,” she said, adding that she has zero tolerance for drug or human smuggling.
She also spoke out against Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border and to deport millions.
The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has been a contentious issue in the McCain-Kirkpatrick race. McCain’s ads have featured a quote from Kirkpatrick saying voting for the act was one of her proudest moments, but she said she knows the program needs changes on Monday.
“We do need to fix it, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. “And we really need to fix the increasing cost of prescription drugs.”
McCain said the problems with Obamacare started at the beginning, when it was “rammed through the Congress of the United States without a single vote from the other side.”
“I fought for weeks and weeks and weeks against Obamacare and they would not allow us an amendment. There was not a single amendment allowed. There was no input from the minority party.”
Kirkpatrick said Republicans could have spent more time over the past years working to correct it instead of repeal it.
“This is an example of something that we could’ve been doing the last six years instead of continuing to repeal Obamacare over 60 times,” she said. “We should have been working to fix it.”
McCain said Obamacare should be repealed and replaced, especially with a majority of Arizona counties having only one provider.
“There’s no choice there. It’s a scam,” he said.
There were few issues where Kirkpatrick and McCain were split more than the economy. McCain called for fewer federal regulations while Kirkpatrick called for diversification.
The debate quickly turned to the housing collapse of 2008, which hit Arizona particularly hard.
“I saw so many families really suffer in the housing crisis,” Kirkpatrick said. “It really hurt families and it didn’t hurt the people of Wall Street who made more money.”
Kirkpatrick said she was against the Wall Street bailouts.
McCain said 2008 had little to do with government interference and instead laid the blame on the housing industry.
“The reason we haven’t recovered as quickly from this recession as we have from other is because this government’s micromanagement of the economy and the government regulations,” he said.
Kirkpatrick said she supports Proposition 206, which would raise the state’s minimum wage, while McCain said he was against it.
McCain and Kirkpatrick were also divided on what the nation should do in regards to selecting a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
“We need to have a working Supreme Court and the DAPA-DACA decision is an excellent example of that,” Kirkpatrick said, alluding to a split decision that essentially killed President Barack Obama’s immigration reform orders.
She would like to see a replacement before Obama leaves office, but McCain said he would prefer to wait until after the November vote.
“I would much rather have eight Supreme Court justices than a justice who is liberal … Their actions, in my view, are not in keeping with my interpretation of the Constitution,” he said.
The security of the U.S. was a topic that slipped in at the tail end of the debate, despite it being mentioned on occasion during the border security portion.
Both McCain and Kirkpatrick were in agreement that ISIS needs to be destroyed, but were conflicted on how to do so.
McCain called the fight against ISIS “an ideological struggle” and suggested the U.S. send about 10,000 troops to work with a coalition to seize Raqqa, Syria from ISIS control.
Kirkpatrick said she wants to see ISIS leaders killed, but is not willing to send troops unless there is both an extraction plan in place and a plan to care for them when they return home.
Piggy-backing on the topic of caring for troops, both Kirkpatrick and McCain are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the Phoenix VA Health Care System’s newest director.
Kirkpatrick said she wants to see bipartisan cooperation when it comes to helping veterans. McCain said he wants to work to give veterans options when it comes to health care.
As is typically the standard for Republicans and Democrats, there remains a divide over the attack in Benghazi that has been a major attack point for Trump in his race against Clinton. The debate was no different.
Though little time was spent on the topic, McCain said Clinton’s involvement should disqualify her from the presidency and Kirkpatrick said, while she is sympathetic to those killed, numerous congressional investigations have turned up no wrongdoing.
During the debate, Kirkpatrick said she is for the implementation of term limits to avoid politicians spending too much time in office.
I think we should have three, two-year terms – that’s a total of six years – in the House (and) two, six-year terms in the Senate – that’s a total of 12 years,” she said. “If you do those back to back, that’s 18 years in Washington. That’s enough.”
McCain said term limits are up to the voters.
Given little more than a cursory mention, infrastructure was one of the least-discussed topics of the night. Kirkpatrick said she hopes to pass a six-year national infrastructure package while McCain boasted of his work to begin the Interstate 11 project.
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