Read the forum transcript here:
Christopher Conover: Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Congressional District 2 Forum brought to you live from the Ballroom at the University of Arizona. I’m Christopher Conover. Tonight for the next hour we will hear from the candidates from Congressional District 2, Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally. For those of you watching at home, this is a forum, this is not a formal debate. The only timed elements this evening will be the opening and closing statements. We’ll have questions tonight from Andrea Kelly from Arizona Public Media, Jim Nintzel from the Tucson Weekly and Katy Murray, the Student Body President here at the University of Arizona. We held a coin toss earlier to see who would go first with the opening statements and Mr. Barber won that coin toss. Mr. Barber, you have two minutes and before you begin, both candidates, thank you so much for coming and joining us this evening. Mr. Barber, you have two minutes.
Ron Barber: Well, thank you Chris and thank you all for coming tonight. It’s an opportunity for you to hear from both of us about where we stand on important issues. You know, those 30 second sound bites don’t exactly say it all but here tonight we’ll have a more engaging discussion I believe about the issues important to this community. I also want to thank Katy and Jim and Andrea for being our panelists tonight and all of you of course for coming. I also want to thank Colonel McSally for her service to our country and also to all of those of you in the audience who have served in the military or in any form of uniform to protect our community and our nation and to the veterans and all of you at home who are from military families or are veterans, thank you so much for your service and your sacrifices. I came to this community with my father who was in the Air Force, grew up on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, met my sweetheart in high school and she’s still my sweetheart. We just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary and she’s here in the front row tonight, my wife Nancy. I’ve lived and worked in this community for over 50 years and I’ve provided as best I could public service to this community, this region that I love so much. My wife and I ran a small business for 23 years so we know what it takes to meet the payroll and to get customers satisfied. I’m particularly happy that tonight in the front row are my family as I mentioned but two of my guests in particular I want to say thank you for coming. My two oldest grandchildren are here listening and watching their first political debate in person and that’s Kieran my oldest grandchild and Tillie my second oldest. The Douglas family are here in force. You know, what I’ve been doing over the last several months since you sent me to Congress is fighting for middle class families, fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare, standing up for our veterans, making sure that Congress pays attention to this community and I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to go back and continue that fight for all of you in this beautiful community we love so much. Thank you.
Christopher Conover: Thank you, Mr. Barbar. Ms. McSally, you have two minutes to introduce yourself to those of the folks in our audience who haven’t met you yet.
Martha McSally: Great. Thanks, Chris and thanks for the panel and thanks to Arizona Public Media and University of Arizona for hosting this important debate tonight. Most of you know that I left home at 18 and went to basic training at the Air Force Academy and served until I was 44. I’m retired. Most of you know I have two master’s degrees, one from Harvard and one from Air War College and worked on Capitol Hill for a year. Most of you know that I took on the Pentagon for a policy that made our U.S. service women wear Muslim garb when off base in Saudi Arabia. But what you don’t know probably is why I served and why I fought and why I’m running. You see, my dad came from very humble circumstances and through a combination of service in the military, a good education and hard work, he was committed to making his country and his community better for him and his family and he literally died doing it at the age of 49. He had a heart attack and I was 12 years old. My mom, now a single mom, a widow with five kids, she went back to school and she went back to work and we were a middle class family struggling to figure out how we were going to make it for our future. And that’s what we have going on right now in America and in our community. I have neighbors right now that have lost their homes. I have other neighbors down the street that have lost their jobs. I have friends with pre-existing conditions that can’t get health insurance and Congress right now is failing us. They’re a part of the problem. They’re more concerned with their next election instead of the next generation and this is a failure of leadership from my perspective and they need to step up. We need to change Washington by changing who we send to Washington and send people who have a commitment and a heart of service in solving things and fixing things that are broken. When I see things are broken, I fix them. When I see things are wrong, I make them right. Before my dad died, he had two heart attacks and in between them I got to meet with him and among other things he told me to make him proud. I have a fire in my belly to make every day matter as if it was my last and to make a difference in the world and in our community and that’s a legacy that I want to follow. And if this is the last two years of my life, I want to spend it serving you, the people of Southern Arizona and that’s why I’m stepping up to run. Thanks for the dialogue tonight.
Christopher Conover: Thank you to both of our candidates. As I said, their answers will not be timed. It’s my job as moderator to kind of move things along but we’re going to go ahead and discuss a number of topics. Beginning our questioning will be Andrea Kelly from Arizona Public Media and Ms. McSally you will get to answer that question first since Mr. Barber had the original opening statement. Andrea.
Andrea Kelly: The question is the same for both candidates. What will be the first bill you will sponsor or co-sponsor after being sworn into office in January and I’d ask that you please be specific about what you are hoping to address with that bill.
Martha McSally: Absolutely. And you know, we often get asked as candidates, what’s the one thing you’re going to do and I say as a woman I get to multi-task, right. So, but seriously the first thing we need to do when I get to D.C. is to sponsor a bill that restores the $716 billion to Medicare that was robbed from it to pay for the government takeover of healthcare. This is very serious business and it’s impacting our current seniors. My mom is 79 years old and she’s relying on Medicare. The people in my neighborhood and my church, they’re relying on Medicare and we cannot afford to rob it in order to pay for the Affordable Care Act which is anything but affordable. So I will make sure first thing we do is restore that money to Medicare because it’s going to impact doctors no longer taking Medicare patients, it’s going to impact hospitals no longer taking Medicare patients and this is going to impact our current seniors and we’ve got to keep our promise to those seniors so I will restore that $716 billion and at the same time I will continue to fight to bring down the cost of healthcare so it’s affordable and available, so it’s doesn’t bankrupt our country or our families. We need to secure our border, we’ve got to get the economy going again, we’ve got to get people back to work so there’s a number of things that I’m going to sponsor and fight for hitting the ground running but the first will be to restore that money back to our seniors.
Christopher Conover: Mr. Barber, same question for you.
Ron Barber: Well, obviously we need to continue to implement the Affordable Care Act which has brought so many benefits to people but it’s far from a perfect bill and I’m already compiling with advice from doctors and hospitals and patients and small businesses a list of those things that need to be amended and changed in that legislation but I certainly won’t do away with the things that are beneficial. Unfortunately my opponent has said she would repeal if she had a chance the Affordable Care Act. That would mean that students could not stay on their parent’s insurance until 26, it would mean that we would not have prohibition on banning or prohibiting people from having insurance if they have a pre-existing condition, it would put an end to the removal now of the ceiling, the cap on Medicare, on healthcare in both annual and long term caps, it would mean that mean and women who are seniors would not have the donut hole closed. Those are the things we need to keep in place. We also need to go into that bill and contrary to what my opponent has said it does not cut $716 billion. It does not cut that. It does not cut it from Medicare at all. What it does is say, overpaid providers, you’re not going to be overpaid anymore and we’re going to plow those benefits back into the people who get Medicare, who invested all their lives to get Medicare when they retired. That’s what we need to do, to stand up for seniors, to stand up for middle class and to make sure that the policies that we adopt in Washington don’t continue to crush those very people that we should be representing here in Southern Arizona. So my first act would be to make sure that that action, that bill continues with the revisions that are necessary to make sure that it’s solid and unintended consequences are taken care of and those things that are not appropriate in it should be removed. That’s my first action because it will benefit the people of this community of Southern Arizona.
Christopher Conover: Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, let’s try and hold our applause until the end of this so we can hear as much from the candidates as we can. Jim Nintzel, you have the next question and Mr. Barber, you will get to answer this first.
Jim Nintzel: Congressman Barber, you have voted in the past to raise taxes on people who earn more than $250,000 a year, the top earners in the country. Critics say that that will damage the economy, it will slow down the economy. Why did you vote to raise those taxes?
Ron Barber: Simply because it’s time for the people, the millionaires and billionaires in this country who have done very well with these tax cuts over the last 10 years to step up, to step up and do their fair share part to bring our economy back. We cannot get out of this deficit by cutting services alone, although we have to cut. We have to ask the richest people in this country to pay a little bit more. It’s only fair. Middle class families have been paying and sacrificing for a decade. They need to be given some relief and I will not vote for a bill that will extend the tax cut for the top millionaires and billionaires but I will vote for the bill, as you mentioned, that will extend it for people in the middle class. That’s who we need to help, that’s the people that have been just struggling and sacrificing. You know, the millionaires and billionaires have done quite well, thank you, and it’s time for them to be part of the solution, not continuing to take the money and not give anything back to our country. We need them to be economic patriots and that’s what I’m going to ask them to do.
Jim Nintzel: All right. Colonel McSally, you said that you would not want to raise taxes on anybody at this point. You’ve taken a pledge not to raise taxes but at the same time you’ve said everything should be on the table. How do you square everything being on the table with a pledge to not raise taxes?
Martha McSally: Sure. We are in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. I mean, we’ve gone now 43 months straight with unemployment over eight percent. We’ve had the net income of middle class families go down by over $4,000. We’ve got everyone’s median net worth going down. We’ve got people that are under employed and unemployed and those that have just dropped out of the workforce and our economic situation is very serious and we have got to get people back to work. We cannot just say, let’s raise taxes as our first solution. There are people in this community, I’ll give you an example, Carroll George. He’s the head of KE&G Homes who has businesses here in Tucson and in Sierra Vista and I visited his annual meetings with his people and he loves these people. I mean, he had to let some of them go in the tough times and he’s brought them back when he can and their health premiums just went up and the home business is just getting going again and he was giving out 10 and 20 and 30 year awards of people being a part of his business with tears in his eyes knowing that these are the people that he wants to make sure have jobs. And he looked at me and said, ‘If the Affordable Care Act is put in place, if these taxes go up, I know I’m going to have to let people go.’ This is not just political rhetoric, this is not just the divisiveness that I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sick of that’s going on in D.C. back and forth with each other, this is about people in our community that are creating jobs, that are giving people good jobs that are trying to keep them at work and government mandates and higher taxes is only going to have them let people go and that’s not what I want for my next door neighbor, I don’t know about you. We’ve got to solve our economic challenges. We’ve got $16 trillion of debt right now. We’ve got to get our economy growing again as our primary engine to do that and bring revenue in to pay our bills. We’ve got to show some fiscal discipline in the federal government. We’ve got to cut. Sometimes we have to say no. We have to actually sit down and do like a household does, put all our bills on the table and figure out how to make sure we can pay all of them and in that regard we need people who are willing to sit down across the aisle, bipartisan, nonpartisan and solve this challenge together. I’m committed to doing that but I don’t think the first answer is raise taxes when we have a growth problem and we have a spending problem. If you’ve got a teenager who doesn’t know how to stay within their means, the first thing you do is not to give them more allowance. The first thing you do is to try and figure out how they’re going to get another job maybe or figure out how to cut their spending habits. We need to do that as a nation right now and when we sit down together to solve this, all options should be on the table. I personally think we need to reform the tax code, we need to bring taxes low, get rid of loopholes, it’s too complex, it’s too confusing, so that we’re bringing in the right revenue and we’re doing it at the right level so that we’re paying our bills. I’m committed to that and we should have all options on the table but right now raising taxes in an economic downturn is not a good idea.
Christopher Conover: For those of you just tuning in at home this is a Congressional District 2 Forum brought to you live from the University of Arizona, the Ballroom in the Student Memorial Union and our candidates this evening are Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Ron Barber. Next up for the questioning is Katy Murray, the Student Body President here at the University of Arizona. Katy, your question and Ms. McSally, you get the first answer on this.
Katy Murray: All right, so this question is for both of you. Now more than ever access and affordability to an education is becoming an alarming issue. For example, student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt. What do you believe the federal government’s role should be regarding education?
Martha McSally: Thanks, Katy, and I know you see this better than anyone, right? What year are you in school?
Katy Murray: Senior.
Martha McSally: You’re a senior, okay, great. Well, the class who graduated before you as you know 50 percent of them couldn’t find a job, a lot of them are moving back in with their parents and they’ve got this insurmountable debt growing. Look, I’ve had the opportunities I’ve had to serve because I’ve had a great education. I’m passionate about education. When my mom went back to work, she went back to work as an educator until she retired at the age of 77. When I was teaching at the Marshall Center, countries that are coming out of conflict and developing, we would tell them, ‘Look, education is your backbone and your future, your prosperity, your stability and your security are based on it.’ So I care deeply about education and education is our future. And right now, quite frankly, we’re failing. We’re barely in the top 30 in the world. In math and science we’re in worse place than we are in other subjects and this is the future of our country. We’ve got to make sure that those kids who want to get a college degree are able to get it and it’s affordable. We’ve got to keep the cost of college down, we’ve got to make sure that they have access to loans but they’re not going to bankrupt them. We’ve got to make sure the Pell grants are still available because it gives people opportunity and certainly those who want to serve on ROTC and other scholarships that’s another way to go. So I’m committed to make sure that our education both primary and secondary is getting back on track to our future because our future depends upon it. Our future in science and technology and in innovation and entrepreneurialship depends on our students being able to get a quality education. But on top of that, when they graduate, we’ve got to make sure they can get a job. Our economy is so stagnant. We’ve got to get the economy going again, we’ve got to help small businesses which are the engine to growth that are going to put you to work after you graduate with a good job that helps you pay back your loans so you can provide for yourself and your family. I’m committed to solving these problems with anyone who’s willing to try and do that cause I care deeply about education and I’m going to get down to that business. Thank you.
Christopher Conover: Mr. Barber.
Ron Barber: Well, Katy, you’ve put your finger on an important issue for many people in this room, whether they are students or whether they’re families who are sending their kids to school. Before we left for the district work period I was proud to vote for a bill that prevented student interest loans, interest on student loans from doubling. It would have gone up by double on July 1st had I not taken the action along with other members of Congress. I also was proud to vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act so that students can still stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26. I only wish that that had been in place when our daughter was going to nursing school, she’s in the front row. She did not have insurance because she aged out of our policy. We had to dig into our savings to find a way to make sure that she had good coverage when she went to school. That no longer is the case and we need to keep it. Now, it’s hard for me to really fully understand my opponent’s position on public education or higher education for that matter. She has said that she would like to get the federal government out of the business of education. In Arizona, that would mean $3 billion less of our tax money coming to Arizona, about a million coming to the University of Arizona, I’m sorry, a million going to public education and $2 million going to the University of Arizona. We can’t afford to have that. It would have an economic impact, dreadful economic impact on our community. My opponent has also said that she will vote for the Ryan budget plan if given a chance. Let me tell you what the Ryan budget plan does to students. It would cut by 42 percent the number of Pell grants allowed in this country. 42 percent. What does that mean for the University of Arizona? There are 10,000 students right here at this institution who are Pell grant recipients, one out of every three students. That would mean 42 percent of those less that would not be able to get a Pell grant to help them with their education. We need to be investing in education, K through 12. We need to be investing in education at the community colleges, at the universities, because that’s the path to the future for good jobs for our community, for the students who are graduating. We cannot stay competitive in this technological world, in this global economy, unless we invest in education, particularly in the STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and math. We have to invest in that. China and India and other countries are racing ahead while we’re falling behind. We need a greater investment in education not less as my opponent would propose. We need more money in education, more money in public schools, more money in higher education. That’s the way to the future. Those kinds of investments will make America competitive well into the next century and that’s what I support.
Martha McSally: One thing that’s been very disappointing to many people as they see the political environment right now is a constant distortion of positions and mudslinging that goes on. You asked me the question in the Arizona Daily Star about education because you took it out of context Ron and I answered it in the Sunday paper, I’m not sure if you read it. But when I said I wanted the federal government out of education I was talking about primary education. No Child Left Behind is hand stringing our teachers and putting federal mandates on them for bureaucratic procedures that then have them teaching to the test. That is not what we need right now is the federal government trying to drive education locally. Our primary education is best when it’s locally driven with parent involvement where excellent is resol… sorry, excellence is rewarded and not the federal government trying to tell teachers how to do their business or teach to the test. I’ve spent tireless amount of hours talking to the parents and the teachers in the community and they want the federal government to stop telling them what to do. I certainly heard it from my mom while she was in education and she was dealing with those mandates. So that’s what I meant by the federal government getting out of the way is related to primary education. And again, he keeps throwing out those ‘she would support the Ryan plan.’ Well, Mr. Barber, you’ve said you support the Simpson-Bowles plan and both of us have said… Look, I’ve come on record many times that I’ve got problems with the Ryan plan and that’s just being distorted in order to scare people. This is not what people are interested in this community. We don’t…we need to stop scaring seniors, stop scaring middle class, scaring women, now we’re trying to scare students. I’m trying to solve problems. I’m trying to go serve in D.C. to actually represent our community which includes everyone including our students and I am passionate about education and I promise you when I get there I’m going to fight to make sure education is affordable and available and we have the best education in the world. Thank you.
Christopher Conover: Mr. Barber, go ahead.
Ron Barber: Well, I just want a…I just want a moment or two to correct some things that my opponent has said. It’s really hard to keep up, Martha, with the back and forth positions that you’ve had. One day you say one thing and the next day you say another and that’s what’s difficult for me to really understand what your position is. Let’s talk about a different question that was posed to you at a forum. When you were asked if the federal government should be involved in student loans you said, ‘absolutely not.’ Do you know what that would do to students who need a loan to get through school like my daughter who went to nursing school? They wouldn’t have them if that wasn’t available. That’s not right. You know, when you say you’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act you’re also going to repeal the opportunity for students to be able to stay on their parent’s insurance. That’s not right. When you say in the newspaper that you want Arizona…you want the federal government out of Arizona’s business and education, that’s not right because those monies not only come to public schools K through 12, they also come to this university to the tune of $2 million so you can take away the public school part of it but what about the school here, right here at the University of Arizona which receives $2 billion in services. You know, it’s real clear that we have a difficult time understanding exactly where my opponent stands and we’ll go through some issues tonight where the position is shifting. We’ve seen it happen in other races too, having extreme positions one day and then shifting to moderate positions the next. You know from where I stand from the very beginning that I have been consistent in my positions without question. I think it’s important to know where my opponent stands.
Christopher Conover: Ms. McSally, you go.
Martha McSally: We’re going to have to move on to the next subject I’m sure but this is just what’s wrong with politics, distorting positions, taking them out of context and then mudslinging and scare tactics. Mr. Barber, you said you support the Simpson-Bowles plan. The Simpson-Bowles plan also stops student loans, the federal government being involved in student loans. The Simpson-Bowles plan raises 15 cents on our gas tax. The Simpson-Bowles plan puts $100 billion in new taxes on the middles class. So I mean, let’s stop with the distortions of my positions on things. It is clear that I’m very strongly for education and I was talking about No Child Left Behind and federal mandates. I will fight for money to come to University of Arizona. I will fight to make sure that this district has everything they need for the best education for research and development and I’m committed to that and we should move on to the next question cause I think people are tired of the mudslinging.
Ron Barber: Well, that’s… No, no, we have to, we have to continue because…
Christopher Conover: Go ahead, Mr. Barber.
Ron Barber: We’ve been here before. In the special election I had an opponent who did the same thing. He took extreme positions early on in his career running for office in 2010 and then when it came to 2012 the new person arrived and that’s what we’re seeing tonight and what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. When you said that you would vote for the Ryan budget plan, it takes away money from research. When you said you would vote for the Ryan budget plan, it takes money away from Pell grants. When you said you wouldn’t go for student loans, that takes away money from students. You can’t have it both ways. You’ve got to stand up for education, you’ve got to be consistent and my…my position has been consistent from day one. Back in the 1980s I founded the Educational Enrichment Foundation which helps education. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I have two children here in the front row and one more not here in public schools. I want what’s best for them and I know what they’re going through. They’re going through higher class sizes. We cannot let this continue. Arizona is now 48th in the country in funding for education. We need to do something about it. We don’t need to remove the federal supports that are here. We need to have the state step up and continue and if possible expand the federal support so that students from K through 12 and all the way through higher education get the support they need. That’s the way forward for this country, not a waffling back and forth about whether you’re for or against education. It’s hard to keep up.
Christopher Conover: As I think most people expected, we’re not going to find a whole lot of agreement here tonight so let’s go ahead and move on. Andrea, you have the next question.
Andrea Kelly: You’ve both tonight talked about each other’s positions on things but there’s also been a lot of ads from outside groups casting each of you as partisan or signing on with your party’s platforms. Let’s watch two of those right now.
Christopher Conover: These will be up on the monitors for everybody.
For Congress, real differences. Martha McSally is a 22 year Air Force veteran, the first woman to fly in combat since the Gulf War. Ron Barber is a political insider who took a 43 percent taxpayer funded pay raise while Arizona families were struggling. McSally will repeal Washington’s healthcare law that takes $700 billion from Medicare. Barber voted against repeal and with his party nearly 90 percent. Vote against Ron Barber. 60+ Association is responsible for the content of this advertising.
…be slipping away because people like Martha McSally think their plan is better. Her backers in Washington already voted to essentially end Medicare. Now McSally wants to raise the age for retirement so you’ll have to wait and she turned Social Security over to Wall Street where retirement dreams vanish every day. Martha McSally, the wrong plan for Arizona seniors. House Majority PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.
Christopher Conover: Andrea, your question regarding these ads.
Andrea Kelly: So both of these ads come from groups opposing each of you. If you do not agree with the characterization of yourself in these ads, please explain how they wrongly depict you.
Christopher Conover: And Mr. Barber, you get to answer this question first.
Ron Barber: Well, I think first of all we need to all be in agreement and I think we are that outside groups should not be in our state trying to influence local elections. That’s just wrong. The problem we have in this country is that we have an out of control financial contribution system. Ever since the supreme Court declared that corporations were people we now have people donating money anonymously to political campaign ads like the ones we’ve seen. That’s wrong. We need to get back to talking to each other here not from outsiders in Washington, D.C. or wherever they might be. You know, I don’t like ads that wrongfully depict myself or my opponent but let me just talk about the depiction. You’ve asked about this particular ad. I’m glad it was changed because here’s what an outside group can do. The original photograph in that ad for me was when I was MCing the first anniversary of the shootings in Tucson on January 8th. That’s how out of touch these groups are and I would assume my opponent would not support that kind of an ad. They’ve changed the photograph but it was that way for about a week. You know, the issue with my opponent in particular on this ad is the message I think is right actually even though I don’t like outside ads coming in. My opponent has said that she wants to see Social Security privatized and Medicare turned into a voucher system. That’s the fact. I’ve said that too in my campaign and also here tonight and last week, last week when we had a debate in Sierra Vista. Some of these are factual and some of them are highly personal in character assassinations and that’s what I don’t like. They talk about 43 percent increase, you know, that’s really a very slick way of trying to change who I am and what I’m all about. I have worked for all of my career as a public servant…you don’t get paid a lot of money as a public servant and I never went into it for that purpose and when Congresswoman Giffords decided to give all of us an increase after the first year to bring us in line with the other people who do similar jobs in the state, that’s what that represents but they don’t tell you the whole story so that’s what I don’t like about ads, they distort, they try to go after the person. In the ad that you just saw I think the real message there was the issue, the issue of Medicare and Social Security privatization. In that sense the ad was accurate but I still would prefer that we not have outsiders coming in to try to influence our politics here in Arizona or anywhere.
Christopher Conover: Ms. McSally.
Martha McSally: Well, this ad and Mr. Barber’s ads that are attacking me are totally misrepresenting my positions and they’re being played out of kind of the partisan playbook that you’re seeing around the country right now and that partisan playbook is since I’m a Republican, let’s try and scare the seniors, let’s try and scare the middle class, let’s try and scare women, right. So I’m Republican so somehow they’re going to say I’m trying to take away Social Security and Medicare, I’m against the middle class and now I’m a part of a war on women, all right, and none of it could be further from the truth. I mean, I have said many times, I am committed to protecting and defending Social Security and Medicare for our current seniors and for my generation and the next generation. Look, if we do nothing, in 2024 at the latest, Medicare is going to be insolvent. If we do nothing, in 2033, if we…nothing, Social Security is going to be insolvent so I’m trying to figure out thoughtful solutions that are based on math. I do think we need to improve our education system in America cause we do have a problem with math. This is just basic math and I want to try and sit down with anybody who’s willing to make these programs solvent for my generation and the next with a absolute promise to protect it for our current seniors. So this ad couldn’t be any further from the truth and it lines right up with the ads that Mr. Barber has run where he says, ‘I approved this message.’ The next ones that you didn’t see are about the war on women. I’m a woman warrior. I’ve been fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality my whole life. You want to talk about a war on women, walk in my shoes down the streets of Kabul, walk in my shoes down the streets of Riyadh where women have to be covered up, where they’re stoned, where they’re honor killed if they’ve been raped, where they can’t drive and they can’t travel without the permission of a male relative. That’s a war on women. When I talk about…when I go out and talk to women in our district and around the country, they’re concerned right now about jobs, they’re concerned about affordable healthcare, they’re concerned about the future of Social Security and Medicare for them and a good education for their kids. That’s what I’m ready to fight for. These ads are totally false and distorting my positions and Mr. Barber today was on the radio saying he’s against negative ads yet he’s running them from his own campaign that are saying out of the same partisan playbook, scare the seniors, scare the middle class, scare the women. This is what’s wrong with politics these days and this is why I’m running to change it.
Ron Barber: I think this is going to be one of those evenings when we get the reset button pushed many times. When it comes to Social Security, my opponent has said…if you listen to her words tonight, she wants to protect it for current recipients, they’re already getting it, there’s no change there that anyone’s proposing. Current recipients, now that’s the code word.
Martha McSally: And future generations.
Ron Barber: Let me finish please. What she really means is she wants to change the system for people who are not yet retired. She wants to invest in the volatile stock market. I was with 500 seniors the day the stock market tanked and $1 trillion was lost. You can imagine how shocked and upset they were that their 401Ks virtually disappeared in one hour. We cannot invest in that kind of a system if we want to provide guaranteed income to people when they reach their senior years. 20 percent of Social Security recipients, that’s their only source of income. For future generations we have to protect the system. My opponent says she wants to be able to invest in the stock market. That’s not what I believe in and that’s her position. That’s what that ad pointed out. She has also said that she wants to approve a voucher system for Medicare. That would make Medicare a privatized system. When the healthiest people would leave the system leaving the people who need the most care back in the system because they couldn’t afford to go into the private system. That’s a problem and that’s my opponent’s position. We’ll talk more later I suppose about her position on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. I’m concerned, like we all are, about the plight of women in other countries where they are abused and put down and made to be second class citizens but I’m here running for Congress right in Southern Arizona and I want to make sure that the women who live here have their healthcare decisions protected and not interfered with by a governmental person, a congress person or an employer and my opponent unfortunately has that position. We’ll talk more about that later on.
Christopher Conover: Ms. McSally, yes, please go ahead.
Martha McSally: You know, it’s just very disappointing to see that you continue to distort my positions. I mean, you know when I was first asked, when I first came here, Jim, you asked the question, what do you think of the Ryan plan. And you know what my answer was, ‘Who’s Paul Ryan?’ Okay, this was in February. So, I mean I know that upset a bunch of people in my party but the reality was I am not a classic party foot soldier. I didn’t even know who he was and I have since read his plan and I have gone on the record many times saying that I have concerns with it, specifically in the area of Medicare without us addressing bringing the cost down of medical care for everybody to make sure it’s affordable and available. Again, this is what’s wrong with politics these days. Things are getting distorted, taken out of context and turned into attack ads to scare people. Look, we need to solve these issues for our future. I didn’t say we want to invest in the stock market. I just want to make sure Social Security is solvent. I don’t know the exact answers, I’m willing to sit down with anybody who’s going to help solve it. Let’s do this together. We’ve got a lot at stake. This takes authenticity and leadership and not negative attacks and misrepresentations and distortions.
Christopher Conover: You’re listening and watching a…
Ron Barber: You can say they are distortions all you want but the facts are that they are what you’ve said and what you plan to do. It’s on the record. It’s not made up. It’s on the record and that’s what we’re talking about. The people of this community need to know real clearly which candidate stands up for seniors, which candidate stands up for women, which candidate stands up for education, which candidate stands up for middle class families and that’s what we’re here to talk about tonight and you can talk about distortion all you want but those positions are on the record, nothing made up. They’re your words and your statements and we’re just sharing them with the community so they know exactly where you stand.
Christopher Conover: You’re listening to and watching a forum with the two candidates for Congressional District 2, Ron Barber and Martha McSally. We’ve only got about 15 minutes left as we work our way towards your closing statement so I want to go ahead and keep moving forward at this point. Jim Nintzel from the Tucson Weekly, you have the next question and Ms. McSally you get to answer it first.
Jim Nintzel: Colonel McSally, you mentioned earlier your concerns about people with pre-existing conditions getting health insurance. If you were to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, what would be your plan to insure that people with people with pre-existing conditions were able to get health insurance?
Martha McSally: Absolutely. I think we do need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And look, this is a complex issue. I’ve spent a tireless amount of time with doctors and nurses and hospital administrators and everybody in all parts of the industries trying to understand what are the cost drivers and how we can bring them down without a government takeover. Look, I believe fundamentally and I know we can all agree that patients, their families and doctors need to be the people that are making healthcare decisions, not the government, not a Secretary of Health and Human Services and certainly not a 15 person unelected board of bureaucrats who’s going to start making decisions to ration care. That is not what I’m for. So there are some thoughtful solutions out there. One of them that has been introduced is HR3000. I’ve been studying it and I think there’s some reasonable alternatives in there that give individuals tax incentives so they have portability of insurance, that your insurance is not just tied to your employer, you can take it with you. You can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions but the incentive is everybody’s skin is in the game not because of a government mandate that makes you pay a penalty or gives businesses penalties if they don’t cover you but because you are incentivized to get in the game because you have a tax break yourself. So you get that incentive, you can buy insurance across state lines, it’s portable, we have some reasonable tort reform so that doctors stop practicing defensive medicine that’s driving the cost up and we actually give people choices. I think there’s a great example here in town. It’s called Caremore. It’s a Medicare Advantage facility here that about 9,000 seniors have signed up for including some of my very good friends and neighbors and I toured that facility and they are a bunch of doctors who came together to try and figure out how to solve the healthcare challenge, make seniors healthier and keep them out of the hospital and keep them in good shape. And this is a great example. They have coordinated care, they have doctors and nurses on staff, they have call lines, they have electronic measures of your blood pressure and your weight so if something’s not going right they know about it so you don’t end up in the emergency room on Saturday night. They’ve got a gym and every senior I’ve talked to to include good friends of mine said, ‘This is the way to go.’ They are incentivized to keep our seniors healthy through preventative aspects and they’re a Medicare Advantage program that is going to take a cut from the $716 billion cut. Many of those popular programs are going to have to close down. So I think that’s a model of where we need to go. It’s a complex issue and we need thoughtful solutions and I’m ready to sit down with anybody. But I do know I want doctors, patients and their families the ones that are making healthcare decisions and we’ve got to figure out how to bring the cost down so it’s affordable and available for our government and for our families. So pre-existing conditions can be covered under a program that also has incentivizing portability and choice and that’s what I stand for and that’s what I’ll replace the Affordable Care Act with which is anything but affordable by the way.
Jim Nintzel: May I ask a follow up to that?
Christopher Conover: Jim, you have the follow up. Jim Nintzel, you have the follow up.
Jim Nintzel: I’d like to ask you, as it’s turned out Medicare Advantage has cost about 15 percent more than traditional Medicare in its application so it doesn’t seem to have actually brought cost down. Why has Medicare Advantage failed in the private sector to be able to compete effectively with the government program?
Martha McSally: Well, I think more of the Medicare Advantage programs need to be like the one that I’m talking about which is Caremore which isn’t just an insurance company but is actually one that’s providing care through coordinated and managed care and in that sense they’re incentivized to keep the cost down because if you end up in the hospital or the emergency room or you get admitted after you’re released from a surgery, then that comes out of their pocket so they are incentivized to keep the cost down because they’re given a fixed amount per senior. And I think that’s a better model of Medicare Advantage as opposed to just an insurance company model. I mean, ask anybody who’s a Caremore…I’m not doing a commercial here for them but I think it’s a very good model of preventative care that keeps that cost down.
Jim Nintzel: Congressman Barber, pre-existing conditions is what Colonel McSally is talking about actually going to be effective in providing people with pre-existing conditions private health insurance.
Ron Barber: Well, it’s already in the law and it needs to stay in the law. I don’t trust the idea that we’re going to repeal and then replace with some list of things that have never been played out. It was a long fought out battle to come to an agreement on a health plan and healthcare affordable care plan that would affect millions of people in this country. Let me just say something about, specifically about pre-existing conditions. As a result of that change in the law, 17 million children in this country now are going to get care because they have a pre-existing condition that were previously prohibited from care by insurance companies. I don’t have a lot of trust that insurance companies are going to all of a sudden step up and decide to do this on their own. They need to be told how this works because pre-existing conditions matter. Let me just talk about a specific situation that is part of my life’s work. When I worked as the Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities we had hundreds and over the years thousands of children who came into our system with developmental delays at birth. We brought therapy services to their home, we helped their families work with their kids. Many of those children did not…were not eligible for services anymore because their delays were gone. They were at age-appropriate developmental stages. Those children under the previous situation had a pre-existing condition and they could not get healthcare. I talked to thousands of families about that problem, they could never get insurance because their kid had once been diagnosed as having a developmental delay even though it was gone. We cannot turn our backs on those children and all the children in this country who need to have healthcare. Now, the Affordable Care Act has done a lot of good but it’s far from perfect. We absolutely need to make changes in it but not in pre-existing conditions, not that segment. And as far as the Medicare Advantage programs are concerned which my opponent just brought up, they actually, Jim, are in our state paid as much as 125 and 135 percent of the traditional Medicare program, not 115. That may be the average across the country. And you know what’s happened since those rates have been reduced under the Affordable Care Act, enrollment in Medicare Advantage programs has gone up so obviously something’s working opposite of what my opponent would lead you to believe. People need to have choices but they don’t need to have their tax dollars overpaying insurance companies for services that they deliver but can’t necessarily be accountable for. And another thing that the Act does in regards to Medicare Advantage programs is it creates an incentive. If your program helps people have better outcomes, then you’re going to get rewarded for those outcomes. That’s the way medicine should work. It should be rewarded for healthy, preventative care and good outcomes not for insurance companies hiking up prices and preventing kids from getting the care they deserve.
Christopher Conover: By my clock we have about five minutes left in our program and I want to move on. I want to let Katy get one more question in here. As I said, we only have about five minutes so if both of you could hold your answers to about two or so that would be great. Katy Murray, President of the Student Body here at the University of Arizona, you get our last question tonight.
Katy Murray: All right. Well, the final question for both of you then is, today as you know, 50 percent of college students will graduate from college without entering the workforce. In addition, in 2010 Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, ‘One quarter of U.S. high school students drop out or fail to graduate on time.’ Given that this is the current state of our nation, how do you specifically plan to insure that our young people, the future of our nation, are able to compete in today’s competitive global economy?
Christopher Conover: And Mr. Barber, you get to answer this one first and again, if you all can keep your answers to about to about two, two and a half minutes that would be great.
Ron Barber: Well, this has to do with getting people back to work as well as creating new job opportunities and here in Pima County and in the southern part of our state we actually have a foundation on which we can build more and more jobs. We have a burgeoning bioscience and high tech industry here. We have a burgeoning solar industry here. Arizona now has 5,000 solar jobs and is second in the nation behind California in creation of jobs. We have the University of Arizona with incredible research capability that needs to be able to move those research products and innovations to market quickly and when she first arrived I worked with President of this University to talk about how we could make that happen more quickly, what could our office do to help tech launch Arizona which is helping professors to move their research to market. Those are the kinds of jobs that we want in this community to keep young people here. And I have already voted for a job bill that will get people back to work. I voted for the transportation infrastructure bill which will bring almost $1 billion to our state and would create nearly 30,000 jobs over the next year. That’s action. We can talk all we want but we have to take action and I’m prepared to work with anyone in this community, the business community especially to help small businesses grow, to keep taxes low on small businesses, to fix that part of the Affordable Care Act that does not help small businesses. Small businesses ultimately are the engine of this economy. 70 percent of our economy is based upon small business. I’ve been a small business owner with my wife, I know what it takes to run and operate a small business and I want more of that for everyone. When we have that kind of a situation, we will have jobs for students so they won’t have to leave their community to get jobs elsewhere. My daughters are both working here, I want everyone’s daughter, everyone’s son, after they graduate from school to be able to have a job right here, a good paying job so they don’t have to leave and that their education is no longer seen as a disadvantage but something that will get them a job for the future.
Christopher Conover: Mr. Barber, let me get Ms. McSally in here before we run out of time. Thank you.
Martha McSally: Thanks. Again, going back to…again, you can’t want the 2700 page Affordable Care Act except for the part that taxes businesses to pay for it cause it’s over $2 trillion in cost so someone’s got to pay for it and that’s going to impact our small businesses. Look, I am a champion of small businesses which is the engine of growth. Seven of 10 jobs come from small businesses and we need the federal government to stop with more mandates, more regulations and higher taxes which are suffocating small businesses. Because of Mr. Barber’s voting record which we haven’t had time to get into tonight, the National Federation of Independent Businesses which represents small business interests, they’ve endorsed me. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed me. The Association of Builders and Contractors, the homebuilders, the wholesalers, anybody who cares about getting you a job and getting our young people to work, they’ve endorsed me because it’s surprising, Mr. Barber says he’s a small business owner because when he goes to D.C. he’s been voting against their interests. 89 percent of the time he has voted with Nancy Pelosi and Raul Grijalva and they are not in areas that are helping our small businesses. They are in areas that are hurting our small businesses. We need to get the federal government out of the way so that those businesses can flourish, so we can get our people back to work, so people can be working in jobs that are based on their education and their training. We’ve got to lower the taxes and keep the tax code simple so companies are incentivized to bring jobs back from overseas. We can compete in the global market but the private economy is what creates jobs, not the government and I’m going to be a champion of the private economy.
Christopher Conover: We’ve basically reached the time where we have to stop the questioning so we can get your full closing statements in. I do want to thank the audience for their attention and their good behavior as audiences go as we wrap this up this evening. As I said before, we flipped a coin for opening and closing statements and our Democrat Mr. Barber will make the first closing statement, he will have two minutes, and our Republican Ms. McSally will make the final closing statement, she will also have two minutes. So Mr. Barber, as we begin to wrap this up, you have two minutes for your closing statement.
Ron Barber: Absolutely. Thank you very much for coming tonight. Thanks to ASUA and to Arizona Public Media for bringing us together for this debate. There’s a real difference between the two people you see standing in front of you tonight. One of them says that middle class families should get more taxes. She supports the Paul Ryan budget. She’s never said specifically how she would differ with that. I will fight to make sure that middle class taxes stay low and I voted for a bill that would do it and 97 percent of small businesses will stay with a tax cut because of the bill I voted on. She tries to confuse you with saying I voted with some people for 90 percent of the time. I crossed the aisle 23 times on important bills. Many of the bills you’re referring to, Ms. McSally, are those bills that everyone votes for. You can’t do that because it’s not true. You can’t say that because it’s not true. If you send me back to Congress, you can expect the following, I will continue to fight for middle class families, to keep taxes low, I will continue to fight for small businesses to make sure that it can thrive and grow, I will stand up for our veterans, I will stand up for seniors and I will not vote for any bill that would privatize Social Security or Medicare. We can solve the problem of solvency but that’s not the way to do it. And finally I would say, when it comes to the right of women to make their own healthcare decisions, you can count on me to stand up for that right. My opponent unfortunately has said that when she submitted two questionnaires that she wouldn’t even be okay with a woman making a choice for abortion even if she was victimized by rape or incest. That’s wrong.
Martha McSally: That is not true.
Ron Barber: And she can say all she wants that it’s not true but that’s on the papers she submitted to two…two times to an organization. And finally, when I was in a parking lot waiting to go into a restaurant to meet someone, I heard her say that employers should be able to discriminate against women on contraception. That’s wrong. You can count on me not to take those positions. I will fight for you in Congress if you send me back and I want your vote. Please vote for me on November 6. Thank you so much.
Christopher Conover: Ms. McSally, your final statement of the evening.
Martha McSally: Yeah, thank you. Well, again, this is what’s wrong with politics these days is the scare tactics, the divisiveness and the distortions. And you know, that’s not why I’m serving. You know, I realized as a young girl after my dad died and my mom went back to work that it was up to me to figure out what my future was going to look like and make a difference. When they opened up fighters to women, I stepped forward and realized it was up to me to pave the way. When I was in a very complex close-air support mission in Afghanistan with Americans on the ground, their lives at stake and my entire systems failed and there was no one else around to help, I realized it was up to me to use the training I got here at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to deliver fire power under emergency circumstances so they could live to fight another day and get back home to their families. When there was discrimination against our service women making them wear Muslim garb in Saudi Arabia, I realized it was up to me to stand up for what’s right and to stand up for them. And now is a similar conviction and call to duty that I feel. Our country and our community has got some serious challenges. The middle class is struggling and I’m a part of it. I am concerned about where we’re going and it is up to us, it is up to us to work together. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. We need to fight for the middle class. We’ve got to get people back to work. We need to champion small businesses. We’ve got to protect our seniors. We must protect the covenant of our veterans. We’ve got to secure our border. We’ve got a lot to do and now it’s up to us to work together to solve these problems because there’s so much at stake. And in 14 days it’s going to be up to you. Who you gonna vote for? You do have a choice here. Mr. Barber, sir, you were elected to serve out Gabby Giffords term and I thank you for that service. Thanks for serving our community. But it’s time for us to move forward. We need someone who’s going to fight, we need someone who’s going to lead, who’s got the education, experience and energy to stand up for us. I’m asking for your vote and your support and I would be honored to serve you, to fight for you and to stand for you even if I have to stand alone. I’m an independent spirit and I’ll do that. Thank you for coming tonight.
Christopher Conover: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of our Congressional District 2 forum. First of all I would like to thank both of our candidates, Martha McSally and Ron Barber for joining us here at the University of Arizona. I’d like to thank our panelists Andrea Kelly, Jim Nintzel and Katy Murray for crafting our questions for the evening. And I want to thank all of you, those of you who came out to the University, those of you watching on TV at home or listening on the radio or watching on the internet. Now if you’d like to see this again, go ahead and go to our website azpm.org and remember it is you who have the last word, not these two because November 6th is the day we all go to vote. Thank you so much for watching, have a good evening.