Congressional District Five Debate

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Republican candidates running to represent their party in the general election for Arizona’s Congressional District Five debate the issues important to the district.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to the special election 2016 edition of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from candidates competing in the Republican primary for Arizona's congressional district 5. As with all debates this is not a formal exercise but an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity forgive and take between candidates for one of the state's most important offices. Interruptions are allowed providing everyone gets a fair shake. It includes Gilbert, queen creek and parts of Chandler and Mesa. The seat is being vacated by Republican Matt Salmon. Four candidates are competing. They are former Go-Daddy executive Christine Jones, state representative Justin Olson and former Maricopa County supervisor Don Stapley. State representative Andy Biggs is also running but declined to participate in tonight's debate. Each candidate will have one minute for opening statements. Earlier we drew numbers and the honor goes to Christine Jones.

Christine Jones: I'm Christine Jones, a conservative business leader who has created jobs and balanced budgets. I'm not a career politician but I'm running for Congress because I think we need to fix the mess created by Washington politicians. We cannot wait any longer to secure our border to balance our budget, to defeat Isis, to do so many things that matter to ordinary citizens every single day. It would be my high honor to represent the east valley in Congress and I ask for your support.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. For our next opening statement, we turn to Justin Olson.

Justin Olson: Thank you for having me here this evening. I'm Justin Olson. I was born and raised in the east valley where my family history goes back several generations. My wife and I have chosen to raise our children in Mesa because we share the values of the community. It's a great place to live and to raise a family. I'm running for Congress because like you I am very concerned about the future that our children face. I'm concerned about Washington. Washington is broken. I'm running for Congress because we need to decrease the size, the cost and the reach of the federal government. We more that doubled the national debt under the current administration. We have got to change course. We have an FBI director who has itemized things that a former Secretary of State did wrong and refuses to charge her. We have got to change course. I'm running for Congress because I want to make sure we pass on a country to our children and our grandchildren that is a country that is strong and free and values our freedoms.

Ted Simons: All right, thank you very much. Now with our next opening statement we turn to Don Stapley.

Don Stapley: thank you, Ted. It's an honor to be here and I'm grateful for the opportunity to introduce myself to those who don't know me in this district. There are a few although I do have very deep roots in this community. I was born and raised in the east valley. I have raised my children in the east valley. My wife andry proud parents of four children and nine grandchildren. So we know the people in the east valley and we think it's a great place to live. We have a really important task ahead of us in the next 30 to 60 days, to select a leader to replace representative Matt Salmon, who is not running again. It's a very Republican district. I'm a very strong conservative fiscally conservative Republican and I have a track record at the County where I served on the governing board for many years. I'm excited for this opportunity and will be happy to answer questions and ask for the support of the folks.

Ted Simons: all right, let's get it going here. Let's start with the fact that you will be succeeding representative Matt Salmon. Christine, how will you differ or will you be a different representative than Representative Salmon?

Christine Jones: I think this is a really fair question. Obviously, I am -- the only nonpolitician in the race. The one outsider and three insiders. The way I differ from Congressman salmon, who I consider a friend and respect a lot, Matt has spent a lot of time in office and as a lobbyist. I have spent a lot of time growing a opinions, helping create jobs, almost 4,000 here in Arizona. Doing the things that really make sense from a business perspective. I bring a fresh way of thinking to Congress, not the same kind of thinking that politicians would bring, not that they are bad people, just a different way of thinking to the mix.

Ted Simons: how will you differ from Representative Salmon?

Justin Olson: How I will differ, he's been a great conservative leader. I also have been a conservative leader and that's what I plan to be in Washington. I fought to reduce the deficit. We had a $3.6 billion deficit in the state legislature. I so the to change that. We closed that deficit, balanced our budget. That's what I'll do in Washington D.C. Christine talks about being an outsider, she doesn't live in the district. I think our district wants folks who represent the community, represent the values and the principles that east valley residents hold dear.

Christine Jones: You mentioned my name and I will say we have to be very careful. I'm the wife of an Air Force officer. My husband has been putting on an Air Force uniform for 40 years. We have been married for 29. If you insist on living multiple generations in a district you will never send a military member to Congress and that's a big mistake.

Justin Olson: I think voters want somebody who has the opportunity to cast a vote in the election. Christine won't be able to vote in her own ballot.

Ted Simons: Don Stapley, how will you differ from Matt Salmon?

Don Stapley: He's a friends. I respect and honor his service and honor the fact that he wants to come home and spend more time with his family. The people of the east valley and particularly the area I live in, represented Gilbert and Mesa on the board of supervisors for a number of years, know me, know I will work very hard for them to change the course of our government in D.C. We have big problems and we have got to solve those problems. I'm not afraid to roll my sleeves up and do just that.

Ted Simons: Christine mentioned being an outsider. Can being an insider work when the approval rating for Congress right now is between nine and 16%. Justin mentioned things are broken, not working. How are you going to change things?

Don Stapley: You bring new, fresh ideas and find like minded representatives in the Republican caucus that you can work with. There's ways to do this. I think it comes from experience. It's not a business. It's not just about business acumen, it's really about how you build a purpose and a direction and you move legislation to change the way the system is not functioning. Pass balanced budgets, do big things with the entitlement programs that we have big problems with.

Ted Simons: Some folks think that's a great idea. Others say business is business and never the Twain should meet.

Christine Jones: I can tell you what I have had success doing in the past. When I was at Go-Daddy for about a decade I helped develop policy which governs what happens now on the internet. You have to provide leadership. You find members of Congress and find things about which they agree and bring them together and push the policy forward. Very successful doing it in the past. Exactly the approach I'll take now. The difference is between a business and government is that government tends to forget that you have to manage to a bottom line. You have to have a set of metrics against which your performance is measured. You have to hire and fire and create jobs and that's where the business expertise helps.

Ted Simons: you agree with that?

Justin Olson: I think what we need are folks that have been able to stand up to the difficult pressures that exist in public policy making. That's what I have done. I have not been a career politician. I have had a career outside politics but in addition to earning a paycheck the entire time time I was serving for the last 5.5 years as a representative of the east valley I have proven I have that ability to stand up to the pressures that exist in public policy making. They are strong, particularly in Washington D.C. We need someone with a proven record, someone who is a proven conservative leader. That's what I offer to the constituents.

Don Stapley: My response to this, Ted, is that I was a success and had successes in the business sector, in the private sector. There are a lot of skills you can apply to government. At Maricopa County, which is larger than 17 states, we successfully paid down debt. We paid off all of the long term debt. This is one of the best run counties in America because under my leadership and with my colleagues on the board we really set the path not spending more than we took in. I think those kinds of ideas are desperately needed in Washington D.C.

Ted Simons: let's shift gears here. Do you support presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump?

Justin Olson: As I'm knocking on doors talking to voters that's one of the most frequent questions that I get. I support the Republican nominee. I think it's critical we elect someone who is going to be able to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court with a conservative. The vacancy that justice Scalia left is a critical vacancy. If we elect Hillary Clinton we're guaranteed to change the makeup of the court for generations to come. We have got to get a conservative constitutionalist on the Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: that's a yes.

Justin Olson: it is.

Ted Simons: do you support Donald Trump?

Don Stapley: I do. I think he has a lot of business expertise. I'm concerned. I think a lot of people are about some of the rhetoric that we have heard throughout the debates. But I could never continue -- vote to continue the existing liberal administration of the Obama years and I think that's what the democratic presumptive nominee would bring. So yes, I will be voting for Donald Trump.

Ted Simons: do you support Donald Trump?

Christine Jones: Yes, I have said since day one I will support the Republican nominee. It would be a colossal mistake for this country to send the Clintons back to the White House. I would encourage every Republican to vote for Donald Trump, not just me but I really think we have to get behind this candidate.

Ted Simons: all three of you mentioned you don't want to see X, so you're going for Y, Y, being trump. What is about Donald Trump, what is it about him that you support?

Christine Jones: Well, first of all he's the Republican candidate. The people have spoken. Justin likes to talk about a constitutionalist on the Supreme Court. We should just follow the constitution. If we're going to be defenders of it, stand up dare day, let's let it speak when the people have made their choice. Nevertheless this is a time when people have said we're sick of politicians. Enough of the politicians. Enough. We're just done with it. We need to send an outsider. That's why you got Donald Trump. I actually agree. It's one reason I'm running for office. We have to send nonpoliticians to office.

Ted Simons: what do you agree with?

Justin Olson: First if Christine had won her race last time around she would be a politician. Some of us have been successful in taking the argument to the voters and have earned that support and respect in addressing issues, balancing budgets, keeping the tax burden low. With Donald Trump people are Fed up with Washington D.C. I'm Fed up with Washington D.C. Folks are feeling like they are not being listened to. How long did we ask Washington to secure the borders and force immigration laws. We have to represent the people. That's what I promise the voters of congressional district 5.

Ted Simons: Donald Trump has said many things. You mentioned the rhetoric. Some of that rhetoric is pretty strong and can be awfully divisive. Do you still support him?

Don Stapley: yes. There isn't a good option here. Frankly, I believe that his business experience will kick in. He has always had good, strong associates and people who work for him that report directly to him. My hope is and my expectation has he will select a strong vice presidential candidate. He will select strong cabinet members and I agree with Christine and with Justin, I think the Supreme Court is one of the most important decisions that he has and we cannot, cannot let that go to the liberals in the next four to eight years.

Ted Simons: Let's say just for an example, just theoretically, he loses. That there is a President Clinton. Can you work with a President Clinton? In other words, does the word compromise exist?

Christine Jones: Well, I have been able to be successful in policy development with Washington with both Republican and democratic administration. I have bills hanging on my wall signed by George Bush and by Barack Obama. The answer is yes. This again is an example of a place where you need leadership. Keep at tagging me. I would be happy to attack back but I would rather make this about issues. This is an election about sending people who can provide people with a different perspective. That's what I bring.

Ted Simons: Compromise is almost a dirty word these days. If there were, theoretically, a Democrat in the White House, you would have to in some ways in Washington somehow work with that administration. Would you be willing to do that?

Justin Olson: I think what we have to do is do everything in our power to get the country back on the right track. It's not there now. As I mentioned spending is out of control. We have to recognize that we are on an unsustainable path and it has to be addressed regardless of who is in power. That's my commitment. I will do everything in my power to ensure that we get back on the right path. That we balance the budget. We reduce spending we lower the debt, secure our borders. That we be an advocate for the most innocent among us, that we protect the right to life, the second amendment, that we have strong national defense.

Ted Simons: do people say they don't want partisanship, they don't want grid log. They are calling this a do nothing Congress. They have been saying this for years. Do they have a point?

Don Stapley: I think they are right. Congress has been gridlocked. It's ridiculous that they can't even work amongst themselves in the Republican caucus in many cases. We have big problems. I demonstrated and I'm not a politician, I'm really a civic leader first and foremost. I haven't even been in elected office for nearly four years. I'm back because I believe I have a certain level of understanding of the federal government. I was elected the president of the national association of counties by my colleagues in all 50 states. I served in that role as an officer concurrently with my service here on the board of supervisors in Maricopa County. I traveled the country. I worked with about half of the leadership across the country who were Democrats. The other half Republicans. We found common ground and we pushed those issues forward and got a lot done as a voice of America's counties I want to bring that same approach, and if Mrs. clinton becomes president, we'll have a lot of work to do but I pledge to the voters of this state I'll do everything in my power to keep government on track.

Ted Simons: What can you do in your power regarding immigration reform? What needs to be done? What realistically can be done?

Christine Jones: well, I'm on the record saying you have to secure the border first. I published what I thought was a very thoughtful border security plan for Arizona and Congress clearly does not want to fix it. If they did they would have fixed it decades ago. The critical thing about policy making is you have to do it in small incremental bits of improvement. Typical ubiquitous overhaul fails, whatever it is this notion of fixing it all in one fell swoop generally doesn't work. You have to fix the border. You can fix the issue of work Visas and overstayed Visas and all the things but you have to do it in bits and pieces. This whole wave your hand and fix the whole thing rarely works. Congress will never fix this unless you get outsiders. If you have this on the left and the right and it's an electable issue they will always use it as that and never fix it.

Ted Simons: immigration reform. What do you seep and do you agree it can't be done or shouldn't be done in one fell swoop?

Justin Olson: I agree we have got to address our immigration problems. Frankly, Americans are Fed up with the fact that Washington has ignored their demands that we secure our borders. We have got to secure our borders. We have to enforce immigration laws. What we have is an inhumane system that entices immigrants to put themselves in harm's way by crossing the desert or hiring a coyote. If they get here they are rewarded with some opportunities that are available to them once here. It's a horrible system. We have got to secure our borders. Got to enforce our laws. We can have an employer sanction system. That worked wonders in Arizona by eliminating the draw and the inducement. In addition to securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws.

Ted Simons: give me immigration reform.

Don Stapley: It has to be done. The immigration laws are broken. They have been broken for decades. There's an elephant in the room in the form of 12 million or more illegal folks who are here. Many of them with children who are citizens. Vice versa. Children whose parents really have good jobs, they are tax paying, locally law abiding folks. We have to face the issue. I like to talk about the other side of this issue. That is my belief that the real issue that people want to talk about are jobs and the economy. It's indicative of the problem with immigration. What if we staple a green card to every Ph.D at ASU from -- what a novel idea. How stupid are we to send them home to compete with us when they could be here creating the next Google or Facebook or whatever it is technology, innovation, that will continue to build the economy.

Ted Simons: what do you do with those kids born here or brought here as infants, raised here, and their parents are undocumented.

Christine Jones: There's two different groups of people you just mentioned. People born here are citizens. There's a constitutional provision that distinguishes that. People brought here are not. My personal belief is you cannot grant citizenship to anyone who entered the country illegally. That is because if you reward bad behavior, if you're a parent, if you reward bad behavior you automatically require or encourage that bad behavior to continue. There has to be a point at which we say if you break the law there is a consequence. We are a nation of laws and we are going to enforce them. So I have a very firm feeling that citizenship is not the right end point to people in the country illegally.

Ted Simons: if the child was not born here would you deport that child?

Christine Jones: Again there are lots of different buckets here, right? To say let's deport all the people here illegally is a love Liz political statement but to say we're going to deport all of them is a logistical possibility so my answer would be maybe.

Don Stapley: let me share with you my experience. I speak Spanish fluently. I know a lot of these people very well. They are neighbors and friends. They are frustrated just as we all are. A path to citizenship is not the highsest priority to them. They are desperate. They want to be honest, straightforward and want to come out of the shadows. They want to square themselves with the law. My position is let's treat them the way we want to be treated, as families. Let's let them finds a way to stay if they are working, if they are not criminals, they have no record of criminal activity, let's find a way to let them stay and be productive and work within the economy where they are currently working anyway but do it legally.

Ted Simons: make sense to you?

Justin Olson: What we can't do is create an inducement for folks to put themselves in harm's way. That's what we saw two years ago when the Obama administration issued an executive order enacting the dream act without the approval of Congress, absolutely unconstitutional. He created a dramatic human rights crisis because this created a draw for unaccompanied minors to come across the border in search of this benefit that was recently granted by granting this sort of blanket amnesty we're creating that environment where we're inducing folks to put themselves in harm's way. That's not in their best interests, not in the best interests of the security of our country.

Ted Simons: again, child born here, raised here as American as apple pie, what do you do with them?

Justin Olson: We have to secure the border, enforce immigration laws. Your question is should we have mass deportations, absolutely not but we should not grant amnesty that would induce more unaccompanied minors to put themselves in harm's way.

Ted Simons: each candidate will now give a one-minute closing statements going in reverse order. We start with Don Stapley.

Don Stapley: thank you, Ted this. Has been an energizing discussion. I really think by and large we're all Republicans here at the table except I don't know your affiliation. You know, we all life skills and experience in different fields. We all come from a different perspective. We are all Republicans. I respect that. The difference I think is we want to send somebody to Congress who can work with people, who can solve a big problem. I think I'm that guy. I think I have had that experience and I want to do it in Congress. This County in 18 budgets I voted on we never raised the property tax rate. We lowered it. I'm proud of that record. I want to use those skills to do the same thing as the next Congressman from congressional district 5. Thank you for having us.

Ted Simons: Thank you. Our next closing statement, Justin Olson.

Justin Olson: thank you so much for having me. I'm Justin Olson. I think the balance of the future that our country is facing I'm reminded of the statement of Ronald Reagan when he said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, defended, handed on or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in the United States where men were free. I'm running for Congress because I believe fervently these freedoms established in the stay with us must be defended and I will fight with every ounce of energy and passion and devotion that I have within me to defends those freedoms. ly be your voice for the conservative values that you hold dear. I'm Justin Olson. I would be honored to have your support.

Ted Simons: thank you very much. Here's Christine Jones.

Christine Jones: thank you, Ted, thank you, Justin and Don, for being here as well. I wish our other colleague was here with us. I'm Christine Jones. I'm running for Congress because as a conservative business person I have had an opportunity to create a lot of jobs, most of them in Arizona, and I know what it's like to balance the budget, to hire and fire people. As a CPA, I spend a lot of time rooting out fraud, waste and abuse. There's a fair amount of that at the government level. As a wife of a military officer for 29 years I have an immense heart for our veterans and for the people who have served this country, and I want to be your representative in Congress to defend them and to defend you and to defend the values upon which this country was founded. I'm Christine Jones. I'm running for Congress and I would love to have you support.

Ted Simons: Thank you for watching this special election 2016 debate featuring the Republican candidates for Arizona's congressional district 5. Keep watching "Arizona Horizon" for debates and political coverage in this important election year. You can find us online. A repeat of tonight's debates, what we have done in the past and have planned for the future at AZPBS.org/horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

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