The only scheduled debate between Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican Lea Marquez Peterson on Tuesday night did not disappoint. as the two women clashed over abortion, guns, Social Security, healthcare and immigration.
The Congressional District 2 candidates spent an hour at the Tucson Jewish Community Center answering questions for journalists from the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Public Media, the Arizona Republic and KJZZ in front of an audience of over 300 people.
While the two differed on a number of issues, mostly along party lines, those there was a recurring narrative on Tuesday night asking voters whether they want to support a political newcomer with deep roots in the community or elect a former Congresswoman who moved to Tucson last year.
Marquez Peterson, the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, repeatedly hammered home that Kirkpatrick had no real ties to Tucson.
“She is not one of us and moved here to our community,” Peterson said early in the night.
Kirkpatrick countered that she moved to Tucson help care for her grandchildren last year and decided to run after current CD2 Rep. Martha McSally voted for a healthcare bill that would stripped protections for over 2.8 million Arizonans with pre-existing conditions.
After the debate, Kirkpatrick told reporters that her daughter and her grandchildren no longer live in the district, although her son still works in Tucson.
Kirkpatrick argued that Marquez Peterson was misleading the community in her attempts to label herself as not a politician, noting that the she is an advisor to the Ducey campaign and has been involved in local politics for years.
Here are some of the highlights of the debate
The future of A-10s, D-M
Asked about the future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base after A-10s are eventually retired, Marquez Peterson acknowledge that while she’d fight for the A-10 to keep flying for as long as possible – that the long-term future of the base will be tied to new aircraft.
“We need to continue to fight for additional missions as Davis-Monthan Air Force Base,” Marquez Peterson said.
Kirkpatrick seemed to misunderstand the question – focusing on the future of D-M after the A-10s are retired – and said she would continue to fight to keep the planes in the sky for as long as possible.
“I want to keep the A-10s at Davis-Monthan, I want to keep that base open and continue the fight that Gabby Giffords and Rono Barber started,” Kirkpatrick said.
On Trump visiting CD2
Asked about whether she wanted President Donald Trump to come to southern Arizona, Marquez Peterson said it would be an honor to have him visit the district, but hasn’t requested that Trump for his help.
“I am running on my own regard, I think it is important that people understand my experience as a problem-solver, taking initiative and being involved in my community,” she said.
Kirkpatrick shot back that Marquez Peterson has already brought House Speaker Paul Ryan to Tucson and follows his agenda, not her own.
“She will follow his agenda to a T, she is not independent,” Kirkpatrick said. “Believe me, she will cut Medicare and Social Security.”
On the issue of gun control, Kirkpatrick conceded her stance has evolved over time, saying the Jan. 9 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Gabby Giffords changed her mind.
“I used to hunt with my dad, it was part of our way of life,” Kirkpatrick said. “I was devastated when Gabby was shot, when Gabe Zimmerman was killed, when John Roll was killed.”
During her short answer at the debate, Kirkpatrick discussed a program that would teach parents to ask others parents about how their family stores their guns before arranging a play date with their children.
Marquez Peterson said she fully supports the Second Amendment and said the focus should focus on fixing issues with law enforcement databases not working with each other and mental health issues facing the country.
“I do not believe we should be penalizing lawful gun owners, legal gun owners and taking away their guns,” Marquez Peterson said.
On climate change
Marquez Peterson said she believes that humans have played a role in global warming on Tuesday night, but cautioned that any solutions to addressing climate change must be weighed against the possible harm to the business community.
“I think it is a delicate balance between growing a company and the environmental regulations put in place and making sure that that don’t overreach,” the Republican candidate said.
Kirkpatrick disagreed with her Republican rival, saying global warming is real.
“I believe in the science behind climate change. The defense department believes it. It has been said that it is the biggest existential threat to the planet,” Kirkpatrick said. “We should have done something about 20 years ago. But really have to do something about it now.”
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan online newsletter that analyzes elections and campaigns, describes Congressional District 2 as “leans Democrat.”