When the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission created Congressional District 1 last year, many couldn’t believe the size. CD1, which was created because of the state’s increase in population, is by far one of the largest congressional districts in the nation, and there are two candidates wanting to run it.
Besides losing congressional bids in 2010, Republican Jonathan Paton and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick have very little in common. They are polar opposites in so many respects, including where they live in the district. Paton, a former state senator, lives in Southern Arizona, while Kirkpatrick, a former rep., lives in the northern part of the district near Flagstaff. CD1 runs from Cochise County all the way north to the Utah border.
Paton compared running to be a congressman in CD1 to running for mayor in 200 towns.
However, when asked what they have learned while campaigning over the last year, both said it doesn’t matter where constituents live, the economy and jobs are major concerns.
How to address the concerns is only the tip of the iceberg on how the candidates differ. Kirkpatrick is looking at more jobs focused on renewable energy, while Paton is big on taking government out of business, and pushing to get already-established industries, such as mining and drilling, back on track.
Kirkpatrick’s plan has three parts; push for job creation in emerging technologies such as solar energy, create jobs to protect the environment and push for more good-paying jobs to educate children.
Paton said rural Arizona lives and dies by decisions made by the federal government.
“Your only real government becomes the bureaucrat from Washington,” he said. “In this district, you’ll find somebody who has experienced it, or knows someone who has. You can be a farmer in Marana, a rancher in Safford – at some point they’ve all had to deal with the federal government.”
As the two candidates have battled for the chance to run CD1, television, radio and print advertisements show a true disdain for each other.
Paton has worked to tie Kirkpatrick to President Barack Obama and his policies on health care, Medicare, foreign affairs and more.
Kirkpatrick revamped a term used by Paton’s opponents in 2010, “Payday Paton,” calling him a lobbyist that works for special interests.
The race took a major step into being negative when Kirkpatrick released an ad tying Paton to the Rio Nuevo controversy in Tucson. Many claims in the ad have been proven false, as Kirkpatrick claimed Paton was part of the board when millions of taxpayer dollars were misspent, and an investigation with the FBI and Attorney General’s office is now under way.
However, Paton became a member of the Rio Nuevo board, serving to clean up the problems. Paton said he was one of the ones calling for audits to see where the money went, and Kirkpatrick’s claims were nothing short of ridiculous.
When asked about the campaign’s decision to move forward with the false claims, Kirkpatrick said they aren’t necessarily false because Paton served as a state senator at a time when the Arizona Legislature gave money to Rio Nuevo.
However, Kirkpatrick, who is also a former member for the state legislature, served the same time as Paton in 2006. House Bill 2702, known as the Rio Nuevo shared revenue bill, came before the legislature, passing the final reading 40-16 with Kirkpatrick also voting to approve it.
Paton’s campaign has also come out with misleading facts, but not as personal as Kirkpatrick. The main issue in question for Paton’s campaign is the claim of $700 billion in cuts to Medicare that Obama supports, and Kirkpatrick will too.
The numbers have been proven as incorrect, but Paton asserts that when all is said and done, the numbers do match and he doesn’t feel his campaign is off base in releasing such information.
“They say it wasn’t a cut because they say its cutting money to the doctors that treat you,” Paton said. “Doctors are going to get to a point where they aren’t going to handle anymore Medicare patients. You will start caring about it when your grandmother isn’t getting treatment.”
Kirkpatrick said Paton and Republicans are off base when it comes to Medicare, and the idea of creating a voucher program would never work.
Kirkpatrick agreed the CD1 race has become one of the most negative of the election season, but noted her campaign started out with two positive ads.
When it comes to Paton continually tying her to decisions made by the Obama administration, Kirkpatrick said, if elected, her district would always be put first, even if she has to abandon party lines.
Kirkpatrick said she hasn’t agreed with everything Obama has done, noting she is against his tax plan and opposed the bailouts approved as a measure to help the nation get through the recession that started back in 2008.
“My campaign is strong and energized,” Kirkpatrick said. “I am confident.”
However, Paton is just as confident in his chances to win the Nov. 6 election that is now less than a week away.
“I’ve served our country, I’ve served in the legislature,” Paton said. “An NRCC poll showed I am five points ahead, and we feel good about where we are headed. We clearly have the momentum.”