Republican congressional candidate Jonathan Paton pointed to his military service and years served in the Legislature and his Democratic opponent Ann Kirkpatrick painted herself as a bi-partisan bridge builder. But eventually their Thursday night debate in Casa Grande for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District turned to the negative images each has been proffering about the other.
Kirkpatrick zeroed in on the fact that her opponent, until recently, did not live in the district. Paton, who has long lived in Tucson, but just outside of CD1, moved into Oro Valley, in the most southern part of the expansive, mostly rural district, well after he decided to run for the seat.
Paton highlighted Kirkpatrick’s votes supporting President Barack Obama’s stimulus and health care plans, during the Flagstaff Democrat’s single term in congress. She was elected in 2008, but defeated by Paul Gosar in 2010. He decided after the state’s congressional districts were redrawn last year, to run in the neighboring, more Republican-friendly 4th Congressional District directly to the west.
“When she was in Congress, she voted for the stimulus and the fact of the matter is that stimulus is going to be costing our children and our grandchildren for generations to come, and the only thing it stimulated was an economy, but not our economy, the Chinese economy,” Paton told the nearly 300 in attendance.
Paton told the crowd that he would support a full repeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He also associated Kirkpatrick’s voting record with that of former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. That garnered vociferous applause from his supporters, who appeared to vastly outnumber those for Kirkpatrick.
Practically everyone had one or the other’s campaign sticker pressed to their chest.
In contrast to Paton’s characterization of Kirkpatrick as a devotee of the Democratic agenda, she pointed to legislative successes in the face of a partisan, deadlocked Congress.
“This is a do-nothing Congress. This Congress has done nothing, because they can’t get together,” Kirkpatrick said, before talking about the seven bills she worked on that were passed. “The way you do that is working with other people, building relationships, finding out what people care about and looking for that common ground. That’s what you get from me as a representative.”
She held off on the attacks against Paton’s residence for most of the debate. But when he called the seven bills Kirkpatrick had passed “not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things,” she turned to defending her bills and calling out the Tucson lawmaker for moving into the district he wants to represent.
“I can’t believe – well, I guess I can believe it, because my opponent has never lived in the district and doesn’t know it – I can’t believe that my opponent would say that my seven bills for the district were insignificant,” Kirkpatrick said in her closing statement.
Kirkpatrick then rattled off some of the accomplishments of her bills, such as raising the amount of travel reimbursement for veterans and bringing running water and electricity to Native American and the White Mountain areas.
Kim Allen, the Libertarian candidate for CD1, said he’s been both a Democrat and a Republican and urged attendants never to vote for an incumbent or former lawmaker.
Instead, he told the audience, they should vote for him.