Brewer, the Republican incumbent and Goddard, her Democratic challenger, sparred over who would be able to bring new jobs to the state, who could do more to crack down on illegal immigration and whether anything has been done to improve Arizona’s faltering public education system. No plans were unveiled and few were described in any detail as Brewer and Goddard traded accusations and criticisms.
Goddard accused Brewer of dragging her feet on job creation and questioned why the governor had not backed a plan to bring new jobs to the state.
Brewer, meanwhile, wanted to know how Goddard would have avoided the billions in budget cuts he has been so critical of, and accused him of avoiding taking a position on the sales tax increase that prevented more spending reductions.
Perhaps more than anything, the debate was defined by Brewer and Goddard talking over each other and trading their latest campaign trail talking points.
Brewer went after Goddard early for the support he’s gotten from labor unions that supported a boycott against Arizona, while Goddard continued his drumbeat of criticism over Brewer’s well-publicized but false statements that Mexico’s cartel violence has left headless bodies in the Arizona desert.
Brewer didn’t answer when Goddard asked her to retract her statement about the decapitated bodies, and had even less to say about the issue after the debate. During a post-debate interview, reporters asked Brewer several times why she wouldn’t retract the comments about headless bodies.
Instead of answering, Brewer turned around and walked out the door.
Brewer, Goddard, Green Party candidate Larry Gist and Libertarian candidate Barry Hess agreed that jobs and the economy were the most important issues of the upcoming election, but found little common ground aside from that. The debate was hosted by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and moderated by Horizon host Ted Simons at the KAET studio at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Goddard said Arizona has lost 128,000 jobs since Brewer took office in January 2009, and asked why she hadn’t yet implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce Arizona’s high unemployment rate.
“That’s not the way you respond to an emergency. You respond to it with all hands on deck,” Goddard said. Goddard recently unveiled a plan that he claimed will bring 300,000 jobs to Arizona and referenced it frequently during the debate, but did not discuss its details.
Brewer pointed to the moratorium she placed on new agency regulations when she first took office, touted the creation of public-private Arizona Commerce Authority, and said she planned on pushing tax reform in the 2011 legislative session that would ease the burden on businesses.
“I think the choice tonight is very clear. I have brought thousands of jobs … and Terry has did nothing,” Brewer said.
Echoing a criticism she’s repeated since January, Brewer asked Goddard how he would’ve avoided the $2.2 billion in budget cuts she’s made while dealing with Arizona’s massive fiscal crisis.
She boasted of her work to get Proposition 100, a temporary one-cent sales tax increase, passed in a May special election, and accused Goddard of straddling the fence on the issue. Goddard didn’t take a position on Prop. 100 until the week before the special election, instead saying that would support it if Brewer rejected a proposed tax cuts package.
“I have supported Proposition 100 and led the campaign … and Terry jumped on board four days before the election after he turned his finger into a weather vane,” Brewer said.
Brewer was plagued by some of the same grammatical errors that were widely publicized after her GOP primary debate in June, using the phrase “have did” or “has did” several times. In her opening statement, Brewer appeared to lose track of her thoughts and froze for about 10 seconds in mid-sentence before regaining her composure.
SB1070, Arizona’s new illegal immigration law, dominated much of the debate, similar to the manner in which it has dominated the state’s political discourse since the Legislature passed it in April.
Brewer chided Goddard for his opposition to controversial but popular law, while Goddard fired back that he has done far more than Brewer or SB1070 to secure the border by prosecuting cartel members and stopping the flow of drug money into Mexico.
“We need to do what I’ve been doing, follow my lead and cut the cartels apart,” Goddard said. “I’m the one that’s on the border fighting against the cartels.”
When Brewer mentioned the massive deficit she inherited from former Gov. Janet Napolitano, Goddard acknowledged that the Democratic governor made some mistakes, but said Brewer should stop assigning blame and accused Brewer of failing to balance the state’s budget.
While Goddard demanded that Brewer retract her statement about headless bodies, Brewer insisted that Goddard disavow the support of unions like the Service Employees International Union that urged boycotts against the state over SB 1070. Goddard said he disagreed with the unions position on the boycotts – which were largely called off after a federal judge blocked key portions of the law from going into effect – and accused Brewer of implying that he supported the boycotts. Goddard publicly opposed the boycotts.
When Goddard called on Brewer to acknowledge that there have been no documented beheadings in Arizona, Brewer fired back on the boycotts, which has become a central talking point for many Republican candidates in the state.
“Terry, I will call you out. I think that you ought to renounce your support and your endorsement of the unions that are boycotting our state and trying to drive our economy into the ground,” Brewer said.
Goddard said the unions support him despite his opposition to the boycotts.
The final part of the debate focused on private prisons, a frequent issue raised by Goddard and other Democrats since three convicted murderers escaped from a privately run prison near Kingman in July. Brewer said the cause was human error, not a flaw in the private prison system, and that the people responsible have been fired.
Goddard, however, said the prison, which was originally built to house drunk driving offenders, allowed a “climate of indifference,” which he said was evidenced by a Department of Corrections report released after the break-out. He said 400 violent offenders, including 117 murderers, have been moved to the prison during Brewer’s tenure as governor.
Brewer said the prisoners were moved according to guidelines that have been use for decades and were updated in 2005. She said Goddard signed off on the changes himself, though Goddard said the allegation was false and that he had nothing to do with the prison guidelines.
Goddard defended the federal health care bill passed by Congress in March, which he said is imperfect but has laudable portions, such as the provisions barring insurance companies from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions and allowing people to continue using their parents’ insurance coverage until they turn 26 years old.
He said he believes the law is constitutional, and said Arizona’s participation in a lawsuit against the bill was irrelevant because 20 other states had already joined the suit. He also slammed Brewer for attempting to gut KidsCare, a children’s public health care program. The $18 million in cuts, as well as more than $400 million in other health care funding, was restored because the new federal health care law would have stripped hundreds of millions in federal funding to Arizona if the cuts were implemented.
Brewer once again accused Goddard of opposing cuts to unaffordable programs without proposing a way to pay for them.
“We cannot afford it and it is inherently wrong” for the federal government to impose the health care law on Arizona, Brewer said.
Goddard called Brewer’s proposed health care cuts “mean and hard-hearted” and said the state was not even allowed to make the cuts because Arizona’s health care system – which Brewer noted is among the most generous in the nation – is a result of a voter mandate.
“It’s not something you’re doing out of generosity,” Goddard of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System’s benefits. “It’s not Obamacare. It’s not health care reform that’s causing this problem.”
Watch the entire debate below, or click here to see the video on KAET’s website.