The candidates running in the special election to replace former Rep. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords blamed each other last week for the negative ads being run by each campaign.
The candidates spoke during the Marana Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on May 17, although not at the same time. GOP candidate Jesse Kelly ate lunch with the more than 40 in attendance, and then participated in a question and answer session.
Democrat Ron Barber appeared after Kelly left the luncheon.
Both candidates were asked by those in attendance why the campaign to replace Giffords in the special June 12 election has become so negative.
While most of the campaign dollars are being spent on negative television and radio ads, the candidates also found themselves in several intense moments during the televised debate on May 16.
In an election where the candidates agree on very little, they came together on this subject, blaming the opposition. Both candidates said the other campaign started running false and negative ads, and they had no other choice other than to defend themselves.
“This is politics and we have to defend ourselves,” said Kelly.
Barber’s response to the question was similar.
“We need to have civility in these campaigns,” he said. “But, from the very beginning there was misinformation. The only way to deal with the false information is to push back.”
The candidates disagree on everything from healthcare, Medicare, Social Security and the minimum wage system.
While Kelly said he is in full support of Medicare and Social Security, Barber’s campaign has repeatedly attacked him on the issue because it is completely different than the stance he took in 2010 when he lost to Giffords by about 4,000 votes.
Kelly continues to run on the position that one of his first priorities in office will be to repeal Obamacare.
However, Barber’s position on the legislation passed while he served as Giffords’ aide isn’t as clear. Even though Giffords voted to approve Obamacare, Barber has refused to disclose his position on the bill, stating Giffords was the one in Congress at the time, and he has not read the 2,700-page bill.
Although Barber has said Obamacare has some good points, he stressed there are some issues with the legislation.
Barber also refused to answer questions on issues such as the EPA and the Farm Bill, noting he was not the one elected to Congress, and had not read the legislation.
When it comes to minimum wage, while Barber disagrees, Kelly said he would like to see changes once he is elected in June.
“When labor costs go up, the cost of goods and services go up,” he said. “We’re the only country in the world that holds ourselves down. We have an open bank vault full of money, and we pretend we are broke.”
Barber and Kelly also have different views on energy.
Barber, like Giffords, is a major proponent of renewable energy. Barber said Arizona should be one of the nation’s leaders in solar energy production given the amount of sunlight the state has.
“Renewable energy is only 8 percent of the energy we produce,” he said. “We have to do better.”
Kelly on the other hand continues to stress that the nation is not doing enough to capitalize on oil resources in the U.S., rather than relying on getting supplies from overseas.
Kelly is in favor of more drilling that would create more jobs and improve the economy. Barber said he’s in favor of drilling as long as it’s responsible.
The Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas that was shut down by President Barrack Obama came up during the questioning.
Kelly has disagreed with Obama, while Barber said there was too much concern from the communities the pipeline would impact. Barber said once the concerns were addressed, he would support the project.
“I support any production of oil and natural gas that will support our country’s independence,” said Barber. “With that project, there are some concerns with local jurisdictions and landowners having problems. You just can’t violate rights of local jurisdictions.”
Kelly was also asked to give his position on Pima County regulations, which are not under federal control.
“We don’t need to just win congressional elections,” he said. “It’s time to win some elections on the county board of supervisors as well.”
Kelly said too often businesses are turned away by entities like Pima County, and in the process, Arizona loses jobs and sales taxes.
With early ballots already being sent out, the candidates will face off in one more debate on May 23 at the Jewish Community Center, at 7 p.m., at 3800 E. River Road.
The special election is on June 12.