Democratic incumbent Ron Barber sparred with Republican challenger Martha McSally in a combative debate at the Arizona Public Media studios on the UA campus Tuesday night.
The candidates discussed the economy, border security and gun control.
Barber cited his record as one of the most independent voices in Congress as a reason why southern Arizonans should vote for him, while McSally said that she is a proven leader due to her time in the armed forces.
The debate became contentious when Barber said McSally is creating a false image as a moderate candidate when she supported the Paul Ryan budget in 2012, which would “privatize Medicare,” “slash” Federal Pell Grants and raise taxes on the middle class, according to Barber. Barber said that all of these were examples of McSally’s positions always coinciding with the overall positions of the Republican Party.
“Now as we get close, [McSally] wants to be moderate,” Barber said. “She needs to be truthful.”
Barber’s claim comes from an interview McSally conducted with KGUN 9 News in April 2012. McSally was quick to dispute these claims.
“I have never supported the things he is talking about,” she said.
McSally added that she has repeatedly said she would not vote for the Ryan budget, contrary to what she said in 2012. McSally said the quotation is taken out of context, as she said she was merely choosing between three bad budgets.
Another focal point in the debate was securing Arizona’s border with Mexico.
“Our legal system and immigration system are broken,” McSally said.
McSally said that one solution is to monitor and intercept activity and to rely on local commanders.
Barber said that he would support an immigration bill proposed by Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, which would crack down on employers of illegal immigrants and put more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on the border.
The candidates were particularly aggressive when discussing an advertisement recently run by the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, which claimed McSally opposed legislation making it harder for stalkers to get guns.
McSally said that she has never been against such legislation, because she herself had been stalked, although she said she is a Second Amendment supporter. She said that she called on Barber multiple times to denounce the ad before ARS finally took it down. She then shook up the debate format, as she turned to Barber and asked him directly to admonish the ad.
Barber would not do so as he said the ad was not run by him, so he had no place to talk about it.
“I wouldn’t have run an ad like that, because we have a different approach to what we’re talking about,” Barber said after the debate. “I would’ve run an ad that spoke about the need to expand the background checks.”
Barber said what happened to McSally was “horrendous” and that no one should have to experience that. He said that although McSally would support legislation preventing misdemeanor stalkers from getting guns, she has not said anything about legislation to expand background checks online or at gun shows.
McSally would not give an affirmative answer on if she would support new legislation such as that, but she said she is in favor of “enforcing the laws we have on the books.”
“Washington is broken,” McSally said, in closing. “We change Washington by changing who we send to Washington.”Barber closed by saying that the most important factor is trust.
“I believe that people know who I am,” Barber said.
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