Vote 2014: Congressional District Seven Debate

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Democrat Ruben Gallego, Independent Jose Penalosa and Libertarian Joe Cobb are running to represent Arizona’s Congressional District Seven. They will debate the issues.

Ted Simons: Good evening, ask welcome to this special Vote 2014 edition of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from candidates competing for Arizona's congressional district seven. Was all our debates this is not a formal exercise, but an open exchange of ideas. An opportunity for give and take between candidates for one of the state's most important offices. As such, interruptions, interjections are allowed, provided all sides get a fair shake and we'll do our best to see that that happens. Congressional district seven is an urban district, covering parts of Phoenix, Glendale, and other valley communities. It's the majority minority district currently represented by Ed pastor who is retiring. Tonight we talk to three candidates running to represent district seven. They are in alphabetical order, Libertarian Joe Cobb, an economist, former state Democratic representative Ruben Gallego, and independent candidate Jose Penalosa, a local attorney. Each candidate have one minute for opening and closing statements. We drew numbers to see who goes first, and that honor goes to Joe Cobb.

Joe Cobb: Good evening, I'm Joe Cobb, the libertarian candidate in the congressional 7th district. I'm running for Congress because I want to change America's immigration system. I think we need to completely open up the immigration quota system, eliminate the quotas. I would give a work Visa to any person that comes to the United States to a legal border station, passes a background check, passes a health check, and asks for a work Visa. I think America needs more young workers, I think the current quota system in immigration completely strangles the American economy, as well as committing a tremendous injustice to so many families and so many people. We need more young workers. Social security is going to go broke if we don't have more young workers, so I want to emphasize that. I think I'm also the only candidate determined to & pledged to vote against war.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. For the next opening statement, we turn to Ruben Gallego. Is.

Ruben Gallego: Thank you. I'm proud to be the Democratic nominee for congressional district seven. I am more proud to have the opportunity to go and fight for this district. I like many people of my district did not grow up in the best of situations, but through the help of good programs, a good education, a strong family, I was able to go to college on scholarships. And even while there, I joined the military, served my country in the Marines in Iraq, and today it pains me to see we're slowly getting ourselves involved again in Iraq and a very dangerous pathway. I want to go and assure that our men and women do not find themselves again in a situation like I found myself in by being their voice in Congress. Please vote for me, Ruben Gallego. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And now Jose Penalosa, for our final opening statement.

Jose Penalosa: Thank you very much, Ted. Good evening, my name is Jose Penalosa, I'm the independent candidate for Congress. I'm an attorney and that is my profession. In the last 23 years I've served this community providing the American dream to folks that live in this community. The purpose of my campaign is to extend that opportunity to the folks just like my parents provided that for me. What does that mean? The opportunity and security to study. It means security and opportunity to start your own business, but more importantly, to deliver immigration reform. As an immigration lawyer, I'm the person to do that. I'm very excited tonight to announce I have the support of a broad coalition. Representative Hernandez, representative Miranda, community activist and pastor Warren Stewart Jr., and I'm excited I reached out to my friends on the Republican side, congresswoman Franks, congressman Gosar and I'm especially excited to announce this evening I have the endorsement of senator McCain. Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you all. Let's get this started. Joe we'll start with you, what are the district's most pressing needs?

Joe Cobb: As I said, I think the immigration problem is probably the most serious thing on the table right now. I think the current system of immigration, which was put into the United States law in the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan was very active and Congress just rolled over and adopted that kind of restricted racist policy, we need to open that up. There's no reason not to have open immigration, fair immigration, and to allow people to reunite with families, especially we need more young workers. I think that's the most pressing issue.

Ted Simons: Most pressing issue for this particular district?

Ruben Gallego: There's several issues, but immigration being one of them, we do need the president to move on deferred action for our adults, not just dreamers. We need to reinvigorate and reinvest in education, especially K-12 and college. The cost of college is being outstripped, has outstripped inflation for a couple years, it's making it much more difficult for people of modest means to go to college, to work their way out of poverty, and we're going to have to start fixing that, because it's going to create a huge chasm when it comes to income and equality.

Ted Simons: Most pressing needs for this district? What do you think?

Jose Penalosa: Immigration reform. Quite frankly this has been ground zero for immigration enforcement and here in central Phoenix. My plan is that when I'm in Congress, to form the group of nine with our Congressmen, I've also been endorsed by senator McCain and also to get that done, because why? I am a practicing immigration lawyer, I work before the Department of Homeland Security and the courts, I worked with the USCIS, I know the changes that must be done in order to have an effective system.

Ted Simons: If you are in Congress would you vote for the senate bill that senator McCain was very much a part of?

Jose Penalosa: I would, if I was in Congress, I bring the bill to the floor, first we have to go to committee. Committees need to be heard out. The Republicans have every opportunity and right to be heard out. And it needs to start in committee. Judiciary, immigration department, homeland security. And there has to be the opportunity to make amendments on that bill. That amendments that mirror national security interests and the humanity and compassion for our fellow human being.

Ted Simons: The bill as it stand, would you vote for it?

Jose Penalosa: I would not, because it needs to be worked on. That's what the house needs that opportunity to get done.

Ted Simons: Would you vote for that bill?

Ruben Gallego: Yes.

Ted Simons: Why?

Ruben Gallego: It's a good compromise. Right now the Republican Congress is holding hostage the rest of the bill, that is a bill that has been compromised over and over again. It's not the best but it's what we should try to get through right now. The labor community, the business community, our clergy, and they worked it out in a bipartisan manner. Let's get it done and pass it.

Ted Simons: If you represent this district, you were in the house and presented with that bill, yay or nay?

Joe Cobb: I vote for the existing bill, because it might be the only thing we're going to get. I'm not clear the Republicans will grant hearings. The Republican party is deadlocked, gridlocked on this issue. And my opportunity in Congress because I'm not a Republican, is that I can work with that small group, maybe a third, maybe half of the Republicans that believe in a free market, free economy and open immigration. But they're held hostage by the fact they're a member of the Republican caucus. Just like Ruben would be held hostage as a member of the Democratic caucus. If you're in the two big parties you're stuck in the gridlock. Only Jose and I have a chance. A libertarian would be something the Republicans would find intriguing. Even now the Republicans are afraid of us because they're afraid we're taking their people away.

Ted Simons: Intriguing is an interesting way of putting it.

Joe Cobb: I can take them all away and unite them with the democrats and pass, repeal of the quota system. The comprehensive, so-called comprehensive immigration - that's less a trap. Anything comprehensive is a trap because it bogs things down into too many issues.

Ted Simons: Comprehensive immigration reform, trap to you?

Ruben Gallego: No. It's a pathway to normalize a lot of our immigrants in this country, to give an opportunity to raise their families, to take them out of the shadows. Let's do it, it's not perfect, we could keep working it over years, but we need something passed. We need to be realistic about this.

Jose Penalosa: And that's why going to the house, the house has every opportunity to do that and the Republican majority has a right to have this bill heard in committee just like it was in the senate. And that's what I'm proposing. Once we have a compromise, then we vote on the bill. But to vote on the bill just like that, is inappropriate as much as I support the bill, but the house has to have that opportunity. My colleagues talk about their work in immigration. They have really never been to court, Ted, they don't know the process and how this works. They don't know about the process of compromise. They don't know about the process of what we need to do. For example, if we were to eliminate the hardship bars, overnight, over 3 million people would be able to immigrate through their family members. Something so simple that can be done with the experience of a lawyer coming in and saying, this is what we need to do.

Ted Simons: The art of compromise.

Ruben Gallego: I have a history of doing that. I was in leadership with the Democratic caucus when we got Medicaid expansion. That was through a Republican house, Republican senator, Republican governor. That got more than 200,000 people affordable health care. People that could never afford health care. So the art of compromise is something I've specialized in. There's a time to compromise, a time to fight. My four years in the legislature in leadership really taught me how to do that.

Ted Simons: Back to your opening statement regarding immigration. Should there be any limits place order immigration?

Joe Cobb: Only the limits imposed by getting a background check so we know who is coming in, a health check, but if you're young and healthy and have a clean background, they should be given a work Visa. I would say unlimited time. I don't care. We need these people. These are excellent good working people. We want more of these people in the United States. I do.

Ted Simons: Illegal immigration, some say, they say it very loudly, is illegal. They are not here authorized, it is an illegal activity. How do you respond?

Jose Penalosa: I respond to that first is that really as many folks say, if these people come seeking a better opportunity like my ancestors did, and whether they come here legally or illegally is irrespective of this. Our judicial system is based on compassion and our fellow man and helping them or her out. The statutes, it is a violation much federal law to enter without inspection, without a visa, punishable. Right now the department of homeland security and U.S. attorney's office effectively has a program that stops that. Prosecution of the federal district court out of Yuma and in Tucson. But the bigger issue is when the folks -- We also understand that many of these people come from families, Ted. We also understand there's innocent children involved. I do a lot of work with the dreamers in Arizona. And I advocate for them, I've been to fair was them and I represent them pro bono. I know their parents are looking for peace and security and just like the employers are and just like this community. And that is why something needs to be done as soon as possible. Mr. Gallego has been around for four years supporting President Obama since he's been in the Arizona legislature and during that time period he hasn't said anything about the 2 million deportations that President Obama has accomplished.

Ted Simons: Let's hear him say something now.

Ruben Gallego: You know, that's false. I've actually been on radio shows where I've said that's a bad policy. I have asked for a stop of the deportations. I have actually issued editorials in the Huffington Post and other written places --

Jose Penalosa: You've only done it since you've been a candidate, Mr. Gallego. Be sincere with everybody --

Ruben Gallego: That's not true.

Jose Penalosa: -- You did you not do that before. While I am helping people in jail and I'm helping families, Mr. Gallego.


Ruben Gallego: That's not true. You and I were actually in press conferences together while I was actually the state house. You and I were outside of ice together.

Ted Simons: Hold on. We can't have I talk over each other.

Ruben Gallego: You and I were outside of ice together asking for people --

Jose Penalosa: You only showed up for a photo op. I was there to do the real work.

Ruben Gallego: As I was saying, I was there, I had demanded the deportation stopped. I did it before there was a congressional race. I'm going to continue doing it. Fact is, I've asked for the President to stop this deportation and to give immediate relief to these families and I'll continue doing that.

Joe Cobb: It's not a crime to come into the United States in an airport with a tourist or student Visa and to stay longer than the term of that Visa. It's not a crime. It's not even a misdemeanor.

Jose Penalosa: That is correct.

Joe Cobb: Only the people that walk across the border and don't enter into a legal border station, only those people have committed a small infraction. And even then, they're only subject to deportation. Not a crime.

Ted Simons: Again, critics will say any kind of path to citizenship equals amnesty.

Joe Cobb: The Republican pollster invented that whole concept in 2004. He said hey, Republicans, run against the immigrants. Let's call them illegals,d don't say undocumented, which is true. Illegal is not true, but that's the Republican slogan and we shouldn't use it.

Ted Simons: The idea that again, any kind of path to citizenship equals amnesty for those who are here unauthorized.

Jose Penalosa: That is incorrect. What it equals is opportunity. An opportunity for business to be successful. Opportunity for children to be successful and have security here. Opportunity for business. But for the individual, it entails this -- Coming forth and taking biometrics. Applying, passing civics tests, paying back taxes if that is necessary. And also --

Ted Simons: I have to stop you. Because you initially said you would work and the Republicans control the house, and they should have their opportunity to put amendments --

Jose Penalosa: That's correct.

Ted Simons: You realize most of the people you would be dealing with consider any pathway to citizenship equaling amnesty.

Jose Penalosa: You see, if you don't have that discussion, in my profession I'm used to going to court and you're the judge. You're going to listen to me, to Mr. Gallego and Mr. Cobb. That's due process. If we don't have that system in the house, where committees have the opportunity to review these bills and vote, and then have a vote that reflects the interests of this country, then the system doesn't work. So the senate bill must be heard. And that's the reason because some folks don't want to allow that process to take place, why the bill is held up.

Ted Simons: And some would say the system isn't working that well right now, because of the partisan divide. How are you going to go to Washington and change things?

Ruben Gallego: Well, when it comes to reform, the partisan body is going to be there. The Republicans are not going to let immigration reform come to the floor. Putting Mr. Penalosa aside it's not going to change anything. Some of the persons he's mentioned supporting him were the most ardent supporters of SB 1070 and they're still supporting that. They're not going to allow this bill to come through while the Democratic president is there to allow comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime, what the president needs to do is give relief to these parents, to family members, people with no criminal history, no serious --

Jose Penalosa: should have told him when he was president --

Ruben Gallego: no serious criminal history --

Jose Penalosa: You have been linked to 2 million deportations. Admit the truth. You've been pictured at the White House with him at the Christmas dinner while people in this community are suffering. And I'm on the street helping them out. How are you going to look them in the face and tell them that?

Ruben Gallego: I have no problem. I have always spoken to the president honestly and to other Democrats. I have always said we should stop deportations. And I've also been one of the fighters of the state against some of the laws that are trying to really hurt the Latino community. And you're proud to take these endorsements from supporters of SB 1070 and even SB 1062, you should take that then.

Jose Penalosa: Just like when you -- [TALKING AT ONCE] Anti-immigrant against MLK holiday, and where you took that picture sticking out your tongue. That same thing you're talking about?

Ted Simons: He did mention that you have some endorsements from folks who did sport 1070 and do support 1062. How do you respond?

Jose Penalosa: Look, first we're Americans, and second the thing is this, when I work with people every day in my law practice, I work with Republicans, democrats, and whoever. And we're there to find solutions to find commonality, and get things done for the better interest of this country. So I'm never going to find that perfect person that something that I agree with them or her all the time. I don't even find that with my spouse and my children. So I have to reach out and for the betterment of this state and this nation, work with other people to the art of compromise. That's what this is about.

Ted Simons: The people in this district would be impressed to know that Trent Franks supports you.

Jose Penalosa: That's correct. The Republican people of this district to know I have that commonality. And they're also impressed to know Democratic Latino folks who I deal with every day in my office will be really impressed to know senator McCain supports me and he knows I'm the point man on immigration, more than Mr. Gallego or Mr. Cobb.

Ted Simons: We have to move on. I want to get to economic development. What does this district need as far as economic development is concerned? And what can you do in Congress to help?

Joe Cobb: We need jobs. This district, the whole city of Phoenix all of Arizona needs greater economic growth. Economic growth is stimulated by government only when government gets out of the way of private entrepreneurs who create jobs. Jobs are not created by government. Jobs are not even subsidized by government. I think the best thing the federal government can do is reduce the regulations, the excessive regulations, the environmental protection agency is threatening to shut the state down now and I think we should put an end to that. Congress has the power if it would act. I don't think the Democratic Party is interested in that. I think the Democratic Party is in favor of the environmental protection agency and its regulations. I think what we need to do in fact is to stimulate the economy by tax cuts, I know that sounds hackneyed, but it's true the taxes and regulations are the two things that will kill economic growth and jobs are.

Ted Simons: In this district. From Washington, what can you do?

Ruben Gallego: Reauthorization of the transportation budget is really important. There's a lot of infrastructure, money there that should be coming back to Arizona and we've been largely missing. As well as raising the gas tax because we haven't done that in a while and now you see the effect on crumbling roads. Hopefully bringing more money back for light rail, finishing our system would be helpful in creating a cosmopolitan and strong downtown. It'll help create more jobs. As well as investing in college education, TGen, more research grants that's what we could do in Congress that would be helpful to this area.

Ted Simons: Critics will say government jobs aren't real jobs. How do you respond to that?

Ruben Gallego: Well, I was a government employee when I was a United States marine corps. I considered that a real job. I think that's just a very quick nice little thing that political pundits say, but they pay the bills, there's police officers and teachers that are servants to the community, and more importantly they're spending spurs the economy.

Ted Simons: Do you think government jobs are real jobs and should we see more of those in Arizona, in your district?

Jose Penalosa: The essential jobs of law enforcement, public health and safety are real jobs because those are the folks we need. Absolutely. In order to sustain and have the infrastructure of our government. But outside of that, that's where the question is. Is government over bloated? Do we have too many bureaucrats? Obviously the answer is yes, because there's always efficiencies that can be done. But the real issue is this -- I'm the only candidate here that's owned a business for 23 years. 23 years. My own law practice, I have employees and make decisions, I pay taxes, I fight the IRS. And I manage people. And I know people in this community, 57% of the community, Latinos in this state are private small business folks. We have immigration reform, it's going to flourish. And it happened under president Clinton because he was the benefactor of the Reagan amnesty. This community flourished in the mid '90s and the late '90s.

Ted Simons: Do you want to respond to that, the idea the community flourished under what are back then Republican principles of cutting taxes, cutting regulation?

Ruben Gallego: No. The Latino community flourishes when we invest in them. It is true if you do bring comprehensive immigration reform and you bring people out of the shadows the economy will flourish. Bring people putting their money under their couches and in their mattresses you'll give them credit where they could buy businesses, expand businesses, as well as buy homes. That would actually be very helpful to the economy. But what we need to do is reinvest in the Latino community. Right now the cost of college is outstripped inflation so much so that Latino trying to save money for college is going to be extremely difficult by the time their kids are 18. Not just Latinos, but any working class family. If you can't educate your kids it's going to be difficult for them to move them into middle class.

Ted Simons: New FAA flight rules are affecting your district. What are your thoughts on that?

Jose Penalosa: Once again the thoughts on that is the new FAA rules, there was not due process. What's the appropriate process? There were not community meetings, folks were on the aware of the opportunity to speak with FAA officials. They did not have the opportunity to speak with their congressmen or senators. And this is going back to the issue. When one party controls something and people are not heard these are the grievances. So the FAA, most of the federal administration association they must listen to the public and make adjustments throughout different airports the FAA listens to communities and makes adjustments. San Diego has a rule that there's no departures and there's no landing from 12:00 to 6:00. So the flight path can go back to the way it was and that's what worked.

Ted Simons: What do you think the -- What do you think you should do as the representative of this district to convince the FAA to change? Or should the FAA change those rules?

Joe Cobb: The first place the member of Congress can influence the FAA by writing to it and influencing it as well as stirring up support from other members of Congress. But the main problem we have, I think Obama's decided to punish the Republican state of Arizona and I don't approve of that kind of political punishment from politicians. You mentioned earlier what could Obama do or what should he do for immigration. I think he's hurt the issue by making the Republicans foam at the mouth. I think Obama should do everything he can do and I certainly approve of all of the concessions that have been made for the dream act I think the dream act ought to be enacted immediately. But I think the administration is the problem right now. Mr. Gallego would be a member of the president's party. If the president asked to go to war he'd probably vote to go to war.

Ted Simons: Would you vote to go to war if the president said let's do it?

Ruben Gallego: It depends what war.

Ted Simons: What about air strikes over Syria? Are we doing the right thing in the Middle East?

Ruben Gallego: We're -- striking Syria is not correct. Arming the Syrian rebels is not what we should be doing. It's very dangerous. I would have voted against the bill especially the head -- The amendment that gave us the ability to sell weapons to so-called moderate Syrian rebels. It's a very dangerous -- Back to the FAA, I think which is also very important right now, next -- The process they're going through should have gone through public hearings. But that is also very representative of the small government bureaucratic mind-set, that people -- That they took away the public hearings. That's what we have to protect. The public has a right to know what's happening, not just where these airplanes are flying and taking off from, what pollutants are in the air. There is going to be a public hearing October 16th at city hall, if you want to take part. There will be FAA administrators there. I have already contacted some FAA administrators as well as department of transportation people. And also to make sure to communicate the complaints about the community because they are right, we should have public hearing, the reason we didn't because there's this general Republican-based idea that the government is too bureaucratic, it takes too many steps to get anything done.

Jose Penalosa: FAA has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican. They're appointed by the president, you know that. It doesn't have anything to do with that.

Ruben Gallego: FAA trandporation

Jose Penalosa: The process -- The head of the FAA was an appointee by Obama so let's just leave it at that -- The point is, there's no public hearings, and that's the whole point of everything, when you have a bill and you do something everybody has a right to be heard, and that's my point.

Ruben Gallego: That's a very small government mentality that pass because we're not having public hearings. So we have to make sure we guard against that.

Jose Penalosa: You're just covering for the president. That's incorrect.

Ted Simons: The last question, a number of times both of these gentlemen have said basically that you will be carrying water for President Obama, you will not question and you will do as told. Respond, please.

Ruben Gallego: No. I'm fairly independent minded. I will agree with the president a lot, and we don't, we don't. And that's just going to happen. Right now, for example, in terms of the Syrian war and the Iraq war, I probably would not have voted for this bill especially if it had to do with the Syrian writer who said we were going to sell weapons to the Syrian rebels. There's a lot of --

Joe Cobb: This is a lifetime job for a young man. And Mr. Gallego is going to be the most junior member of the minority party for the next decade. His only hope is to hang on long enough for some of those people to die off.

Ted Simons: You want to respond to that?

Ruben Gallego: I look forward to working there and I'll work whether I have to do to make sure this community gets what it needs.

Ted Simons: Each candidate will now give a one-minute closing statement and going in reverse order of the opening remarks, we start with Jose Penalosa.

Jose Penalosa: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. My name is Jose Penalosa, independent candidate for Congress and hopefully I can earn your respect and vote on November 4th. My campaign is about to bring peace and security to this community, and that is done by immigration reform, economic development, and educational opportunities for our children. It's to bring back the American dream to our community and have the opportunities that my ancestors provided for me. To that extent I'm for the dreamers, I'm for immigration reform, I've always been that way, I've dedicated my life service to that. But to that extent, I'm willing to reach out, and to my friends on the Republican side, my friends on the Democratic side, to take leadership of this issue and bring reform to this community. And to that extent I'm very glad to have the support of the Republicans especially senator McCain, to get that done. If this community wants immigration reform, as senator McCain has indicated, you need to go with me, the experienced person to get this done, thank you for the opportunity, good night.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you. And Ruben Gallego now with our next closing statement.

Ruben Gallego: I'm proud to be the Democratic primary winner for congressional district seven. I will be going to the seat to work for our district. On the educational front, as the first person to go to college in my family, I know how important our investments in education are to continue the expansion of the American dream. As a first generation American, seeing my family, my immigrant family struggle to get here to this country, and to succeed in this country I understand what our family members are going through. And as a veteran of the Iraq war, I see all these wars that are occurring, and will be guarding to make sure that our Marines, our sailors, our airmen and army people are soldiers are sent with the proper equipment and tools that are least justifiable. It is my pleasure to work across the aisle, but more importantly, with our community to ensure that we have proper representation in Washington, DC. Thank you.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. Our final closing statement now from Joe Cobb.

Joe Cobb: Ted, thank you very much for having me on. I think the major issue in this campaign is the immigration issue. But the war issue is a very strong second I'm the libertarian candidate. I believe in individual rights, individual freedoms, human dignity, and the free market. I want to help Arizona grow, I will help our district grow, I want to see America become a more prosperous and free country. The main thing that is strangling American business and dooming the future of social security is the problem of not enough young workers. The baby boomers came along, and then they didn't have enough children. The whole social security Ponzi scheme requires more young workers. Let them in. Let them in. We need them, after all. I am concerned that the President Obama is going to lead us into war. I'm very opposed to that. And I think we need to stand up for it now, early on, and say we're not going to go there. Mr. Gallego as the democrat is going to follow President Obama and I regret that. Sorry.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you. And thank you for watching this special Vote 2014 debate featuring candidates for congressional district seven. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

Ruben Gallego:Democratic Candidate, Arizona's Congressional District Seven; Jose Penalosa:Independent Candidate, Arizona's Congressional District Seven; Joe Cobb:Libertarian Candidate, Arizona's Congressional District Seven;

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