Q&A with Congressional District One candidates Kirkpartrick, Paton
By Caleb McClure
This November, voters of Arizona’s first congressional district will have an important decision to make about who should serve as their congressional representative. The two candidates are Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican Jonathan Paton.
Kirkpatrick graduated from University of Arizona with a law degree. She has previously served as the deputy attorney for Coconino County and held the position of congressional representative of the district from 2009 until Paul Grosar (R) out voted her in 2010.
Lumberjack: How do you plan to influence the economic growth in Arizona?
Ann Kirkpatrick: We have a diversified sustainable economy that’s not just dependent on one or two sectors, but that has multiple sectors. I have a three parts jobs plan and that is creating good jobs in our district and across Arizona in emerging technology like biotechnology, wind and solar. It is more than creating the energy; it is also bringing back a manufacturing proponent so that we are making the parts for wind turbines and solar panels here in Arizona. The second part of that are jobs that protect the environment. We have the Grand Canyon and one of the major threats right now is opening it up to uranium mining. The canyon itself creates 1,200 jobs in Arizona and the economic impact is $100 billion dollars, so I’m trying to protect the Grand Canyon and I’m fighting for a permanent ban on uranium mining. The third piece of my plan is investing in education so our schools will have modern classrooms, smaller class sizes and the most qualified teachers possible. I’m a product of a couple schools in Arizona. I started school at Whiteriver Elementary on White Mountain Apache Nation, graduated from Blue Ridge High School and then attended the University of Arizona, both for my undergrad and also my law degree. Our education system is at the bottom of the rankings nationally and we really need to improve on that.
LJ: How would you go about improving on education?
AK: Well at the university level it’s really important that we keep college affordable for students. Now, I have a blended family. I have two daughters, my husband has two sons and we know how expensive it is to go to college. And so access to higher education is one of the most critical doors to open to young people to achieve the American dream. We’ve got to make it affordable and achievable. And so I when I was in office I supported a bill that gave $2500 in tax credit to college students. It expanded an existing tax break called the Hope Scholarship Credit, so it was a new credit which would allow for a 100 percent of the first $2000 in tuition related fees and 25 percent of the second $2000; but that was a practical effort to make a difference for struggling students from middle class families. But that is just one example.
LJ: You also say you are committed to doing more with less; how would you go about doing that?
AK: I believe we can create jobs with federal action, not federal dollars. And we have a great example of that in northern Arizona with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (FFRI). That is a collaborative effort with the conservation groups the chambers business and lumber industry to take out the small diameter trees in the forest and manufacture them into construction composite. So it’s a win-win all the way around. I don’t know if you were at NAU when we had the horrific Troff Pass fire but we need to spend on forest [health]. Forest health is a critical issue for us, not only from a state standpoint but from an economic standpoint. The FFRI requires federal action. I was able to get the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Vilsack, to northern Arizona to look at our forest and compare the difference between those that had been thinned and those that haven’t been thinned. He felt it was a model project for the nation [and] the contract for that was just awarded. The companies are going to be building their first plant over in Winslow and, I think, it is estimated to bring about 600 jobs to northern Arizona.
LJ: What areas of federal spending would you cut if any?
AK: I think we have to be smart about the budget and paying down the deficit. I was working on a bipartisan committee. It was [made up of] former and current members of congress with one goal, which was to balance the budget and pay down the deficit, and we were just going to tackle each expensive area in the budget one by one. We [also] started with social security, put[ting] social security on a sustainable path and we were able to come up with a way to do that. Then we were going to look at Medicare and . . . the defense budget. So, that is the process that has to be taken [in order] to solve this problem. It is complex. It is difficult and it has to be a bipartisan effort to get it done, and that’s what I believe the American people want.
LJ: What do you feel should be done about immigration and boarder security?
AK: I support the Dream Act. I believe it provides a fair and sensible process so we’re not punishing young people who were brought to this country as children. At the same time, we need to continue to secure our boarder and crack down on criminal cartels while offering fair and sensible reforms to those people who are here working hard and playing by the rules so we need a federal immigration strategy that addresses those points.
Paton was awarded the rank of captain United States Army Reserve, in 2009 and has been serving since 1999. In 2001, Paton opened his own political consulting firm called Paton & Associates. He has also previously been a representative in both the house and the senate.
LJ: How would you influence the economic growth in Arizona?
Jonathan Paton: I think that the way that we could influence the economic growth in Arizona, especially in this district, is by leaving businesses alone. Primarily, we have got a lot of regulation that’s hurting people in Arizona, especially in places Saint Johns and Joseph City and elsewhere where there trying to close down the power plants for example. I think taxes are keeping people from hiring more workers. I think Obamacare, by repealing that I think you would really spur a lot of economic growth across the board in this country.
LJ: What would you put in place besides Obamacare?
JP: I think that if we repeal it [Obamacare] we need to replace it with a system that uses competition as its basis. As an example, you can’t buy health insurance across state lines; you can buy auto insurance across state lines; you can buy Geico you; can buy State Farm, whatever. You cannot do that with health insurance, which keeps our insurance rates much higher for health care. There [are] not a lot of competitors and we see, in the state of Arizona, we have very few . . . we can actually choose from.”
LJ: What would you do to improve the Arizona school system?
JP: Well, I think the biggest thing is that we send a lot of our tax dollars to Washington, as a state; and we don’t get a lot of that money back into Arizona. I think that a lot of the money we are spending on bureaucrats in DC for education should be spent at the local level in our school districts and at our universities. I think we can get a lot of regulation like “No Child Left Behind” and others that come down from the federal government that prevent us from actually helping out kids and getting the best teachers. I think that education should be the concern of your local school board, of your state legislature. I think that [education] should be less controlled by Washington DC and Washington bureaucrats.
LJ: What would your ideal solution be for immigration and border security?
JP: “I think that the most important thing, regarding border security is that we have to deploy the National Guard to the border. I think that we need to have consequences; what we had with Senate Bill 1070, which I voted for, and I think that ultimately we should pursue more legal immigration. That is what I would do.”
LJ: As a congressman, how would you combat the high cost of energy in Arizona?
JP: “Well the reason why rates are rising is because the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is threatening to close down four power plants in Arizona. I think if they would leave those power plants alone . . . rates would start to go down. I think that if they are closed, [rates] will skyrocket. That is purely a function of the president’s war on coal and actually [a] war on jobs in Arizona.”
LJ: How do you feel about new energy, as in wind or solar?
JP: “I think any kind of viable energy is great, I guess. What I don’t want is for the government to play winners and losers in private market, we saw what happened with solar when they pursued that to the extent we had all this money in loans and subsidies and ultimately, is folded and the tax payers were left wondering where that money went. We haven’t really improved our energy resources one bit. I think that there are a lot of other people out there [who] would like to provide energy, and there’s a big broad variety of it. I think the government needs to stay out of the way and it needs to quit putting its finger on the scales to land it to one side or the other.”
Both candidates have a tough race ahead. Voters are faced with a decision between two very different political viewpoints. The decision to make is whether to choose another republican to represent the first district or will Kirkpatrick be able regain the position she lost in 2010. Voting for the general election will be held Nov. 6.