Congressional District 1 Debate

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Join us as republican candidates running for Arizona’s first congressional district debate issues important to the district and the state.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special "Election 2016" edition of "Arizona Horizon." Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from candidates for Congressional District 1. This is an open exchange of ideas and an opportunity for give and take. Interjections, even interruptions are allowed. CD-1 is huge. It stretches from page to north of Tucson and takes in much of eastern Arizona. 25% of the population is American Indian. It is being vacated by Ann Kirkpatrick, who is challenging John McCain for his U.S. senate seat. Among those accepting the challenge, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, businessman Shawn Redd and refired air force colonel, Wendy Rogers. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers and that honor goes to Wendy Rogers.

Wendy Rogers: Good evening, my fellow Arizonans. I was privileged to be one of the first women pilots. I served a 20-year active career. I'm a fifth generation career military officer and our son was the sixth generation to serve. I have children. I have grand children. I own a small business. I look forward tonight to telling you a little bit about more of how I will do that.

Ted Simons: thank you very much. For the next open statement, we turn to Ken Bennett.

Ken Bennett: Ken Hi, I'm Ken Bennett. I think most Americans are pretty fed up with the broken promises coming out of Washington, D.C. and I'm running for congress because I think I can help getting America working again. It means getting our financial house in order, balancing the budget and not borrowing from future generations. It's a strong economy that provides jobs and the strongest military in the world in securing or borders. Things are not going to change in Washington, D.C. unless we have elected people. I make payroll every two weeks and paid off our debts. I balance billions of dollars of Arizona's budgets. We need people in public service for the service, not the publicity.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Our next opening statement, we turn to Shawn Redd.

Shawn Redd: Thank you, ted. I'm Shawn Redd and the first native American to seek nomination for the first Congressional District. Here in this district, if you value conservative values, we have got to choose and nominate a candidate who is going to go into November to bring those people to our side and get elected. This was mandated to have 13 tribes with a very specific purpose, that was to give the democrats an advantage. They have won the last two congressional races. I'm a lifetime conservative, a lifetime republican. I believe in less government, less waste. Smaller taxes, and better opportunities for our business people. Again, my name is Shawn Redd. I am a candidate that can win this fall.

Ted Simons: Thank you, all, very much. Let's get it started here. Wendy, this is a huge, sprawling district.

Wendy Rogers: We have been doing business for 19 years. We own a home inspection business. Our retirement home is in flagstaff. This is a republican district. I am called to serve and this is a situation where I fly my own aircraft and I ride my bicycle to 100 doors a day in the heat. I pull everybody I talk to. By and large, everyone in this district however, who I've talked to, is very upset at the prospect of our national security being compromised compromised and the border being compromised.

Ted Simons: Shawn, why represent this district?

Shawn Redd: well, obviously, the biggest thing is, is that I believe in conservative values. Less government. The democrats have an advantage and that's the reason I'm running. I've never run for political office. I'm a businessman. I've done business across the Navajo nation. I have friends in tribes. I have been to tribal council meetings. I am the first native American to seek the republican nomination. It's an opportunity for me to serve our party and get conservative representation in Washington.

Ted Simons: Why do you want to represent this particular district?

Ken Bennett: This is the district I grew up in, ted. They took Prescott out of it. They took my hometown of the district but this is where I grew up. I have driven gasoline trucks and delivered to page, all the way down to Tucson and the white mountains. We had customers who were farmers and ranchers and we delivered fuel to mines and native American tribes. It's really who is in CD-1 so this is where I've lived all my life.

Ted Simons: Ted Simons: What is the number one need for residents in this district?

Ken Bennett: I think the number one need is a stronger economy that's growing faster and producing more job and opportunity than we have. It was just released, some statistics at the national level, for the first time in the history of our country, we have had 10 years in a row where the growth was less than 2% in a row for 10 years in a row. We need to get our economy growing and people are looking for jobs and opportunities so they can support their families.

Ted Simons: Biggest issue for district 1?

The biggest district that everyone has told me, from my polls of thousands of people at their doors is Wendy Rogers: national security and the border. People feel that we have no security for our state or our country. There is a lack of willingness in Washington, D.C. to bring to bear on the problem and people are very frustrated especially during the presidential primary time frame and I had an earful everywhere I went.

Ted Simons: Shawn, we're hearing economy, national defense. What do you think the biggest issue is in this district?

Shawn Redd: It's tough to tie up because it reaches from page and clear down to Tucson. There is a vast difference the nationality, the ethnicity. It's a very diverse district. That's part of the reason I feel I'm so prepared to represent this district. I would say it's the consistent overreach of the federal government, reaching in to our lives, whether it's establishing national monuments or overregulation.

Ted Simons: Your assessment of the house in recent house has been criticized a do nothing.

Shawn Redd: I often say that you go in as a freshman representative in a 435-member chamber, it's tough to make a change. Yes, I do agree with a lot of the people's concerns that the house of representatives have squandered things. The speaker said he didn't have time and opportunity. I think they had the opportunities to do more.

Ted Simons: What do you think of congress resume?

Wendy Rogers: You have a republican-lead congress and a senate who doesn't fulfill what the house has done. That's the feedback I've gotten from U.S. representatives back in Washington. To get things done, you have to find ways to work with people that transcends parties. When you're in the military, it's the mission that comes first. Everybody is from somewhere else. Again, one of the first women pilots in the air force, I had that trajectory in my career where I had to work with people to fly cargo and troops all over the world, to hot spots. As a small business owner, likewise, you have to be able to go to the customer. And the customer tells you what he needs and you get that done that way.

Ted Simons: Will you be open to compromise, as a lawmaker? Because a lot of people see partisan and gridlock and you want to be part of this -- what are you going to do back there?

Ken Bennett: The same thing I did at the state legislature. I was on the city council. There would be 90 people instead of 7 and I'd get lost in the shuffle. I've built relationships during the four years I was senate president. The budgets we passed, it put $1 million into the rainy day fund. Also, put more new money into k-12 education. Those budgets were supported by 15 out of 17 republicans and 11 of the 13 democrats. I think that's evidence of leadership where you can bring strong majorities together to get things done for the benefit of the state.

Ted Simons: Let's shift gears here. Your assessment of the current racial tensions in America. What can congress do about the situation?

Shawn Redd: It's an unfortunate situation that's occurring in the country right now. It is at the hands of the fault of the current administration. They've been more divisive and it's terrible to see. What you do in the congress? As a congressman, your responsibility is to the people of the first Congressional District. As the first native American to run in this seat, it opens a lot of doors and opportunities for a lot of different minorities and in this district, we're heavy minority. It will be to maintain local connection and taking care of those opportunities.

Ted Simons: The racial situation in this country, do you agree that the president is mostly responsible? What can congress do to help ease the situation?

Wendy Rogers: It lies at the seat of commander in chief. As a leader, he sets a tone. His words are carefully chosen and the nuance that he puts forward when he talks as an effect on the inner cities and "Black Lives Matter." I harken back to a military situation when a commander in combat sets the tone for his troops, it starts at the top. I lay it squarely at this feet and congress should try to influence him. When he has a mind to set that tone and it's divisive, as Shawn said, that's a real problem.

Ted Simons: President to blame, not so much congress. Not so much everyone else?

Ken Bennett: I wouldn't put it all on the president, but he has contributed to evidence or overreacting and saying things in a matter of hours of one event and is contradicted what comes out in later months. The president is the leader of our country and it sets a very important majority. I don't know that it's all his fault. I think we can do better of not thinking of each other of [Indiscernible] Americans. I look forward to the day we're Americans instead of African Americans or native Americans.

Ted Simons: You mentioned native Americans and you mentioned -- reference the folks coming in here. You mentioned immigration. immigration reform, what do you do? What would you push to have done?

Shawn Redd: You can't have that discussion until you secure the border. You cannot --

Ted Simons: okay, I've got to stop you there. Define a secure border.

Wendy Rogers: It has to be more secure than it is now when and if the wall is built, it won't be a 100% solution, but much better than what we have now. You cannot give up on one method. You have to use a combination of methods. Increase surveillance, increase them to be on the border. You have to support the border patrol with conviction from Washington. It involves also building the wall. So, it is a patchwork quilt of many things that need to be done. That stems from the political will that is lacking in Washington, D.C. We have to secure this nation.

Ted Simons: Building a wall, is that required for immigration reform? If you build a wall and things still aren't quote/unquote, secure, what's next?

Ken Bennett: Building a wall doesn't solve the problem. There are areas where there could be walls, fences, technological devices. We need to secure the border. I've talked to many border patrol agents and just a couple of weeks ago in graham county, one said, give us the people and the resources that we need and let us do our job. I said, how short are you?

Ted Simons: He says, we have 290 people in my area. He said, we need another 300. They are less than half of where they should be. He clearly indicated that their leadership are keeping them from really Shawn Redd: doing their job. The border patrol agents and the people that live at the border will tell us whether that border's secure.

Ted Simons: Immigration reform, what would you champion back in Washington?

Shawn Redd: Well, I think you got to focus on the wall. I really strongly believe in that. You say, what kind of wall do you need? You look at the Southern border of Mexico and that gives you a good idea of a direction. Walls are used all over the world and they're very effective. I would like to enforce the current rules and regulations that are already on the books. I believe very strongly in the laws that have been established for proper citizenship to become naturalized. I think those are very important. It gives you a concept of what it is to be American and know what our values are, where we came from and I believe those are extremely important things that need to be enforced and brought up.

Ted Simons: What about kids that were raised here? Some from being raised here from infants, but not born here. What do you do with those kids?

Shawn Redd: You're saying they're not citizens?

Ted Simons: No.

Shawn Redd: The policies need to be followed. We need to have those folks naturalized and go through the legal steps.

Ted Simons: Do they stay here?

Shawn Redd: Well, I certainly am not in favor of giving everyone the opportunities to skip the line of the people to come to this country of opportunity. But, it is a tough question.

Ted Simons: Wendy, kids born here -- not born here, brought here as infants, they're adults now. Some of them don't speak Spanish. What do you do with these people?

Wendy Rogers: You enforce the law.

Ted Simons: Which means?

Wendy Rogers: What the law says.

Ted Simons: Which means?

Wendy Rogers: they have to go back.

Ted Simons: You deport them?

Wendy Rogers: However you execute it, the law needs to be enforced.

Ted Simons: Ken, do you agree with that?

Ken Bennett: No. I think it's a case by case basis. If a child was brought here as an infant and the rest of the family has become citizens or they're here legally now, I agree, you should not let them cut in front of the line. You're not going to deport an 18 or 22-year-old American who has lived here all but a few months of their life to a country where none of their family is anymore. I do not support amnesty and I don't believe that process that you allow them to go through, should allow them to leapfrog in front of others in the process legally. It's going to have to be done on a case by case basis.

Ted Simons: Does he have a point there?

Wendy Rogers: That could involve somebody leapfrogging ahead.

Ken Bennett: If the law doesn't support a leapfrog, the judge should not allow a leapfrog to occur. You're going to have to take these cases on a case by case basis.

Ted Simons: What do you think about that? Basically from what you said, it sounds like deportation?

Shawn Redd: I think it's certainly -- definitely an option. And it's a possibility and it's viable. I just don't agree with that, it's been done in this country before. It's done around the world. You look at what Mexico's doing themselves. They don't tolerate it. They don't tolerate illegal immigration.

Ted Simons: We mentioned American Indian representative, it is big, they have needs, they have issues. How would you represent American Indians?

Ken Bennett: same way I would represent everyone else in CD-1. I would respect them, listen to their needs, build relationships with them, which is what I did as senate president. The district that I served included native American tribes and we had a good relationship with the tribes and the tribal leaders. I know many of them with many of them. I played baseball with [Indiscernible] for many years and he became the vice-chair of the [Indiscernible] tribe there. It's a matter of building relationships and treating them the same, fair, equitable way I would everyone else.

Ted Simons: biggest issue for tribes in district 1?

Shawn Redd: They are more effected by the federal government. Everything is regulated by the federal government. All of our land is held in trust. That is at the foremost -- the top priority of any native American is land issues because it effects everything down the line. When you don't own your house, when you don't have any ability to build equity, to have that value, that security and transfer that or to cash that value out, it's a major hindrance in your entire life. Property issues are a top priority.

Ted Simons: major issue as far as native Americans.

Wendy Rogers: There are two things that native American tribes [Indiscernible], the military and grandparents on both of those and we have deep and abiding relationships, my son does, in his reserving. My son was a reserve in the marines. There is a deep and abiding sense of loyalty and duty amongst native Americans to serve their country. I think that's transcendent [Indiscernible]

Ted Simons: each candidate will give a one-minute closing statement. Going in reverse order, we start with Shawn Redd.

Shawn Redd: thank you, ted. I really do appreciate this opportunity. This is the biggest privilege of my life, to run for U.S. senate. I am a candidate that can win. And I don't like to get boxed into the simple box that I'm just a native American that's only worried about native American issues. I do understand those and I will get native American votes that it will take to win. I'm the only candidate that has the republican elephant on my tables. Any other candidates have one simple thing to do, find democrats to vote for them. I don't have to do that. I can use my personal relationships and get those folks to relate to our values, to our conservative principles and get them to vote for us and we will win this seat back. Vote Redd and we'll turn this red, like a good republican should.

Ted Simons: Ken Bennett?

Ken Bennett: Thank you, ted, for hosting us and thank you for watching this evening. I'm Ken Bennett. First and foremost, I'm a husband, a father and a grandfather. I'm a native of Arizona. Born and raised here. Fifth generation. There are a lot of other good candidates here and I respect them. I would distinguish myself in the following way -- it's represented by 16,000, that's the number of paychecks I signed as I ran our family business in the Prescott for 23 or 24 years. I know what it's like to create a job. $40 billion is the Arizona state budget I balanced. We did it with the majority support of republicans and democrats. We need leaders who have signed the fronts of checks, not just the back. And bring people together. Ken Bennett, thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Now, for our final closing statement, here's Wendy Rogers.

Wendy Rogers: I'm colonel Wendy Rogers, I'm going to be your congressman and I'll tell you why. We have fewer than 20% of congressional members today who have ever served in the military. We are a nation at war and I think a lot of us have woken up to that fact. We have unrest in our cities, but moreover, we have Isis as a severe threat. We need more veterans in congress. I will serve you honorably. I took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. I have a reputation for being very forward-leaning. I was the first one in this state to endorse Donald Trump and I am an unflinching patriot. I'm a fifth generation career military officer. I will defend this country until my dying breath.

Ted Simons: thank you, candidates. And thank you for watching this special "Election 2016" debate featuring the candidates for Congressional District 1. Keep watching "Arizona Horizon" for debates and coverage. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. CAPTIONING PERFORMED BY LNS CAPTIONING

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