A discussion with Ann Kirkpatrick, who was elected as the U.S. Representative for Arizona’s Congressional District One.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Last month at the election results in Arizona are now official. The final ballot count shows that turnout was at 74%, that's down 3% from the last presidential election in 2008. Close to 3,000 more votes were cast this year. But the turnout rate was lower, because it did not match the increase in registered voters. And Ann Kirkpatrick is back in Congress. She was first elected to district 1 in 2008. She lost her reelection bid two years later, but won the seat back last month. And joining me now to talk about her return to Congress is Ann Kirkpatrick. Good to see you again, and thanks for joining us.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Thank you so much.
Ted Simons: Why did you decide to run again?
Ann Kirkpatrick: People ask me to run again in the district. They felt like I had not done a lot for the district when I was in office. And approached me after I lost the election about getting back in the saddle so I did.
Ted Simons: And quickly. I don't want to get into the history, why do you think you lost two years ago?
Ann Kirkpatrick: The economy was bad. People were angry. There was concern about the affordable care act, which I supported. This time, people are, are interested in problem solving. Over and over again, I heard during the campaign, we want people in Congress who can get something done.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, what did you learn the first time that you can either put into practice or change?
Ann Kirkpatrick: One of the things that we did the first time is we had all of the Arizona delegation met for breakfast once a month. We would meet on the house side one time, and then the Senate side the next time. And that went away. After the 2010 election. And so, congressman-elect Matt Salmon has talked with me about it, and we want to revive that. And it's a good opportunity for the Arizona delegation, just to sit down and visit and let's choose those things that we can work together on.
Ted Simons: As far as your district is concerned, that is a big district. As you are well aware. Seems like it's bigger than it was before. How do you represent everything from mining interests to logging interests to small towns and big towns? 3 How do you do that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: The district is bigger than the, than the state of Pennsylvania but it's Pennsylvania with a population of 700,000 people. And lots of small towns. And it's very diverse. So we do have, we have mining, the timber industry, farming. We have 12 Native American tribes. And we have tourism. The Grand Canyon. So it's balancing those interests.
Ted Simons: How do you do that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: By getting out and talking with people and finding the middle ground.
Ted Simons: You do that, and again, first, back in D.C., we were talking earlier, it's five hours one way and five back just to get back here. And touch base, and then you have got to go to all these. How do you accomplish that? Are there ways? High-tech ways?
Ann Kirkpatrick: We used technology and will continue to use that. We did a lot of teletown halls when I was in office, and that's where, you know, people, we call it people in their homes, say, we're going to have Town Hall on this topic. Join us and join in. That's really good way because we could talk with people in Chin Lee, you know, up on the Navajo nation, and all the way down in Stafford and Thatcher, so it's a good way to unite the district on similar issues.
Ted Simons: And you mentioned earlier that people are looking for solutions now, as opposed to the attacking thing you heard before. You mentioned Town Hall, you were criticized for not answering, leaving a Town Hall, something along these lines, what happened there and it was that, was that something that seemed like it was a climate, an aspect of the times? What would happen there?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It was a Congress on the corner at a Safeway, we were there to meet constituents one-on-one so I was there with two case workers, and we had a folding table and couple of chairs, so, it was not designed to be Town Hall, but we went back and did a town hall. But, that got left out of the story.
Ted Simons: Ok.
Ted Simons: Because we want for make sure, you said, you know, that's why I'm asking, responsive to a lot of folks in different areas.
Ann Kirkpatrick: The one issue that really unites the district is economic development. And, and so, I have a vision, based on a lifetime of service in the district, and of a diversified economy. And all my life, Arizona has been in boom or a bust cycle, and so my, my vision and my goal is a diversified economy for Arizona.
Ted Simons: How do you do that, especially, you have got everything from mining interests to logging interests, small college towns to, to, you know, the smallest of towns. How do you make sure that first of all, you get the economic development going, but secondly, you got ecological concerns, environmental concerns. How do you do that?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It's been an innovation that distinguishes between a leader and follower, and not only my district, but Arizona as a whole has a great opportunity with innovation, and that's how we balance those competing interest. So we have got great opportunity here with biotech and bioscience but we also have emerging technologies like wind and solar, so Arizona's first wind farm is in congressional district 1 over by snowflake.
Ted Simons: What about traditional interests? The logging interests. Mining. You have got this resolution, what's going on with that? It's suspended. Are you going to do anything to revive that? Should it be revived?
Ann Kirkpatrick: We're very concerned about that. We need the jobs. So we've been watching that very closely, talking with advisors of this morning. And there is still a window of opportunity to get that done before the end of the year. And so, we'll watch and see what happens there. But, you talk about, you know, balancing, a model for balancing those competing interests. The forest restoration project is a great example so I was born in McNary, which is a lumber town when I was a kid. It had population of about 3,000 people, and now it's less than 300. Because the industry went away, but it's a new one. And so, that, that forest project was a model, for sitting down with conservative groups. Conservation groups. And chambers. And forest service, the timber industry. And really coming up with a plan that works.
Ted Simons: Is that a plan that can continue to work, though? Because the first contract was set up and there was a bunch of people upset about it. I guess they are going to be upset no matter what, but can it continue to work?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It can continue, and it could a model for other collaborative ways of solving difficulty issues.
Ted Simons: If this resolution compromise if, that can't work, if the logging industry as we once, as you certainly knew it with the big trees, if that seems to have gone the way of the do-do, as well, are people in these towns prepared if the future?
Ann Kirkpatrick: They need the jobs. They want the jobs, and they are embracing the new technology. And so one of the opportunities that we have with the community colleges, and to do workforce training, so that we'll have the skilled workers that we need in those industries. I'm very optimistic about it, I think it will an great opportunity for Arizona.
Ted Simons: As far as what you can do for Arizona, minority party there, in the house, how much can you really get done?
Ann Kirkpatrick: You can get a lot done. You know, in my first term, I did have seven bills that were signed into law. And every one of them had Republican co-sponsor. And it's process of building relationships and getting to know what people care about. That's one of the reasons why the Arizona delegation breakfast is so important. Because we'll find out, what issues are you concerned about? What we partner together on? And, actually, get things done?
Ted Simons: As far as the, the fiscal cliff is coming here, and this is, obviously, topic a back there, and I don't know at what will happen, but, what should be done there? How do you solve this?
Ann Kirkpatrick: Well, it can be solved. I was working with group of, of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. Current and former members of Congress. And who would get together. We had one goal, and that was to balance the budget and pay down the deficit. And we took an item, subject, and we studied it. And we came up with good ideas about how to solve it. And we were going to get back and draft that into the legislation. That would work. And it has to be focus on, on good ideas. Regardless of where they come from. And that's what I'm looking for.
Ted Simons: But there is some who say that the best idea is to go ahead and tax those over 250,000, and others, in your chamber there, are saying, those are the job creators, you just can't do it. They are really at loggerheads.
Ann Kirkpatrick: I have a different idea. I think that we should keep the tax cuts for people who make 500,000. 8
Ted Simons: So up the level.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Right.
Ann Kirkpatrick: But that's another, let's think about this. Let's think it and come up with new ideas.
Ted Simons: As far as the affordable care act is concerned, it's the law of the land, is going to be there and you voted for it, and again took some heat for that. Should -- is it perfect the way that it is? Should it be tinkered with? How should it be?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It's not perfect. It is not perfect. It was step but one of the things that really has to be fixed is, is the physician reimbursement under Medicare. We have got to work on that so I've been meeting with groups, hospitals, CEOs, and I come from health care background. And I was one of the attorneys for Flagstaff Medical Center, for over 20 years. And so, a unique perspective from the operation standpoint of health care and running a hospital. And so, we're going to continue that work.
Ted Simons: And especially, in rural areas, do you find when you go back to Washington, or is there a group that you can meet with who had the same concerns? Because someone who represents urban areas, they are not going to understand what you are going through.
Ann Kirkpatrick: It's so true. And, it is more of, rural versus urban issue. Across the country. In terms of health care, and one of the things that we have a hard time doing, is attracting good doctors and keeping them. In the rural areas but here's another example of how innovation is our opportunity, and that's with telemedicine.
Ted Simons: You went back for oh, last question, you went back to oh, and obviously, and it is probably exciting times and optimism runs high, but a lot of folks see Congress as dysfunctional, what's your impression, what can be done?
Ann Kirkpatrick: It's relationship building, and the process is, is treating each other with stability. First of all, and just getting to know each other. Finding common ground. And so, issues like Veteran's health care, and that's not a partisan issue. And there are a lot of Veterans, and there are people who care about Veterans. And who are independents, Democrats and Republicans, and you find those people, and you put together some kind of collaboration and work together.
Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Thanks so much.
Ann Kirkpatrick:Congresswoman-elect, Congressional District One;