Eighth Congressional District special election debate


TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO THIS SPECIAL "ELECTION 2018" EDITION OF ARIZONA HORIZON. I AM TED SIMONS. TONIGHT'S SHOW IS A DEBATE, FEATURING THE TWO CANDIDATES RUNNING IN A SPECIAL ELECTION IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT-8. THE ELECTION HAD TO BE HELD AFTER FORMER CONGRESSMAN TRENT FRANKS RESIGNED DUE TO SEXUAL HARRASMENT ALLEGATIONS. ARIZONA'S EIGHTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT COVERS SURBURBS NORTH AND WEST OF PHOENIX. THE DISTRICT'S VOTER REGISTRATION IS 41-PERCENT REPUBLICAN, 24-PERCENT DEMOCRAT AND JUST UNDER 33-PERCENT INDEPENDENT. THE SPECIAL ELECTION WILL BE HELD ON APRIL 24. "EARLY" VOTING STARTS WEDNESDAY. AS WITH ALL OF ARIZONA HORIZON'S DEBATES, THIS IS NOT A FORMAL EXERCISE. IT IS AN OPEN EXCHANGE OF IDEAS, AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GIVE AND TAKE BETWEEN CANDIDATES FOR ONE OF THE STATE'S MOST IMPORTANT OFFICES. AS SUCH, INTERJECTIONS AND EVEN INTERRUPTIONS ARE ALLOWED, PROVIDED THAT ALL SIDES GET A FAIR SHAKE, AND WE'LL DO OUR BEST TO SEE THAT THAT HAPPENS. HERE NOW IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER ARE CANDIDATES DEBBIE LESKO, A REPUBLICAN AND FORMER MEMBER OF THE STATE HOUSE AND SENATE, AND DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI, A DEMOCRAT AND FORMER EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR WHO IS NOW A CANCER RESEARCH ADVOCATE. EACH CANDIDATE WILL NOW GIVE A ONE-MINUTE OPENING STATEMENT, WITH THE ORDER DETERMINED BY RANDOM SELECTION. "CLOSING" STATEMENTS WILL LATER BE GIVEN IN REVERSE ORDER. WE BEGIN WITH DEBBIE LESKO.


DEBBIE LESKO: GOOD EVENING. I AM DEBBIE LESKO. I AM HAPPYILY MARRIED, HAVE TWO CHILDREN AND THREE GRANDCHILDREN. I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE WEST VALLEY FOR THE PAST 20 YEAR. I VOLUNTEERED WITH THE SCHOOLS, CITIES AND HELPED CONSTITUENTS WHILE SERVING IN THE ARIZONA SENATE IN HOUSE FOR THE LAST NINE YEARS. I HAVE GAINED A REPUTATION OF TAKING ON BIG ISSUES, WORKING WITH BOTH REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS AND GETTING THINGS DONE. I WANT TO IMPROVE EDUCATION, SECURE OUR BORDER, STRENGTHEN OUR MILITARY, PROTECT THE LUKE AIR FORCE BASE AND GROW OUR JOBS AND THE ECONOMY.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. NOW, THE OPENING STATEMENT FROM DR. TIPERNENI.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: HELLO, EVERYONE. THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY. NICE TO BE WITH YOU THIS EVENING. I'M PROUD TO BE RUNNING FOR CONGRESS IN THE WEST VALLEY OF ARIZONA, PHOENIX. WHAT WE KNOW IS THAT WASHINGTON IS BROKEN. IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE. WHILE THEY PLAY PARTISAN POLITICS THERE, FAMILIES ALL OVER THE WEST VALLEY STRUGGLE EVERYDAY WITH ISSUES OF HEALTHCARE COSTS, MAKING SURE THE KIDS GET STRONG PUBLIC EDUCATION, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND RETIREMENT SECURITY. I'M A PROBLEM SOLVER. I'M A WIFE, PROUD MOM OF THREE YOUNG ADULTS, E-R DOCTOR, CANCER ADVOCATE AND 21 YEAR RESIDENT OF THE WEST VALLEY. I'M COMMITTED TO WORKING ON THE ISSUES. I HAVE EXPERIENCE OF FOLLOWING THE FACTS. IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS AND I'M READY TO DO THAT FOR THE WEST VALLEY.

TED SIMONS: THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO YOU BOTH. THERE ARE A LOT OF LOCAL ISSUES WE CAN TALK ABOUT, BUT THE COUNTRY IS WATCHING THIS ELECTION BECAUSE OF REPUBLICANS AND DONALD TRUMP. YOUR ASSESSMENT AS A REPUBLICAN OF DONALD TRUMP AS PRESIDENT.

DEBBIE LESKO: I THINK DONALD TRUMP IS FOLLOWING THROUGH WITH THE PROMISES HE MADE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AND HE WAS ELECTED, SO HE IS WORKING TO SECURE THE BORDER. HE HAS GOTTEN RID OF BURDENSOME REGULATIONS DRAINING THE ECONOMY UNDER OBAMA; HE CUT TAXES BOOSTING THE ECONOMY, HELPED BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS KEEP MONEY IN THEIR POCKET. A LOT OF THE BUSINESSES ARE GIVING EMPLOYEES RAISES AND BONUSES. I THINK THAT'S ALL VERY GOOD.

TED SIMONS: YOUR ASSESSMENTS OF THE DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENCY.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: WELL, I DON'T -- I'M NOT A REAL BIG FAN OF THE SIGNIFICANT PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION HAS PASSED, THE TAX BILL. IT WAS A HUGE TAX CUT FOR CORPORATIONS AND THE WEALTHY IN OUR COUNTRY. I'M FOR CUTTING TAXES, BUT WE SHOULD CUT TAXES FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS THE WORKING CLASS FAMILIES IN THE WEST VALLEY. THIS BILL DID NOT DO THAT. THEY ARE GOING TO PAY A $1.5 TRILLION DEFICIT THEY CREATED ON THE BACKS OF THE EARNED BENEFITS OF MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY. I DO NOT THINK THE ONE MAIN PIECE OF LEGISLATION PASSED WAS OF VALUE. IT'S CERTAINLY DONE HARM.

TED SIMONS: RESPOND, PLEASE.

DEBBIE LESKO: I MET, ACTUALLY EARLIER TODAY WITH MASONRY. THEY ARE A FAMILY OWNED BASIS. THEY SAID THEY WERE ABLE TO PAY BONUSES TO THEIR EMPLOYEES AND GIVE PAY RAISES TO THEIR EMPLOYEES. THE TAX CUT PASSED BY THE REPUBLICANS AND PRESIDENT TRUMP HELPED THE MIDDLE CLASS BECAUSE AFTER ALL, BUSINESSES EMPLOYEE THE PEOPLE THAT WORK HERE IN OUR STATE AND DISTRICT. ALSO, IT DIRECTLY GAVE A TAX CUT TO THE MIDDLE CLASS. I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE THOSE TAX CUTS PERMANENT.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: THE ISSUE IS, AS FAR AS THE CORPORATIONS HAVING THE MONEY FUNNEL DOWN TO THE WORKER, WE KNOW THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY TRUE CONSISTENTLY. THE CORPORATIONS THEMSELVES TOLD US THE MONEY IS NOT GOING TO TRICKLE DOWN. IT IS GONE TO BUYING BACK STOCK, IT HAS GONE TO SHAREHOLDERS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE MONEY HASN'T GONE TO WORKERS. THE AMOUNT THAT HAS COME TO MIDDLE CLASS FOLKS, GREAT. I AM THRILLED WITH THAT, BUT COMPARED TO THE BILLIONS GIVEN TO THE CORPORATIONS, IT PALES IN COMPARISON. IF YOUR PRIORITY IS THE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY OF THE WEST VALLEY AND THOSE BUSINESSES THAT SHOULD BE THE PRIORITY.

TED SIMONS: THE QUESTION ASSESSING DONALD TRUMP'S PRESIDENCY, YOU MENTIONED TAX CUTS AND THE WHOLE NINE YARDS. LET US TALK ABOUT THE PRESIDENT'S PERSONALITY. DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT TRUMP ACTS, CONDUCTS HIMSELF IN A PRESIDENTIAL MANNER?

DEBBIE LESKO: I'M NOT HERE TONIGHT TO TALK ABOUT PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL MANNER. I WOULD PREFER TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO MY CONSTITUENTS. THE PEOPLE ELECTED HIM. WAS HE A CONVENTIONAL CANDIDATE AND PRESIDENT? NO. DO I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING HE DOES, NO, BUT I AGREE WITH A LOT OF POLICIES HE HAS DONE FOR AMERICA. I THINK THEY ARE BOOSTING THE ECONOMY, AND HE IS DOING A GOOD JOB OVER ALL.

TED SIMONS: SO HIS PERSONALITY, THE WAY HE CONDUCTS HIMSELF IS SECONDARY TO WHAT HE DOES?

DEBBIE LESKO: YES. JUST BECAUSE I DO NOT DO THE SAME THINGS HE DOES OR IN THE MANNER HE DOES. DOES NOT MEAN HE DOES NOT GET THINGS DONE. HE IS FOLLOWING THROUGH ON THE PROMISES HE IS MADE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. I THINK THAT IS A GOOD THING. HE GOT ELECTED ON WHAT HE SAID AND NOW HE'S FOLLOWING THROUGH.

TED SIMONS: HE GOT ELECTED WITH THE HELP OF A DISTRICT LIKE YOU ARE RUNNING FOR NOW. CAN YOU REPRESENT THE CONCERNS OF THE DISTRICT CONSIDERING IT IS A PRO TRUMP AND HEAVILY REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED DISTRICT?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: I ABSOLUTELY CAN. I WOULD LIKE TO RESPOND TO WHAT DEBBIE SAID. INTEGRITY AND CHARACTER ARE IMPORTANT. THOSE ARE NOT SMALL THINGS. IT IS NOT OKAY TO TURN A BLIND EYE TO OTHER THINGS BECAUSE WE THINK HE'S DOING A FEW GOOD THINGS, WHICH I ARGUE HAVEN'T NECESSARILY OCCURED OUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING. LEADERS ARE ROLE MODELS. TRUST, HONESTY, AND INTEGRITY, THAT IS SOMETHING THAT MEANS SOMETHING. IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT TO SEE THAT IN OUR LEADERS. WITH THE QUESTION YOU ASKED ABOUT BEING ABLE TO REPRESENT MY DISTRICT, I LIVED HERE 21 YEARS. I AM A PROUD RESIDENT OF THE WEST VALLEY. I SERVE PROFESSIONALLY AND AS A VOLUNTEER. MY KIDS GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOL HERE. THIS IS WHERE OUR ROOTS ARE. I KNOW THE FAMILIES ARE CONCERNED ABOUT PUBLIC EDUCATION BEING FURTHER ERODED BY THE BILL DEBBIE PUT FORTH TO EXPAND VOUCHERS TAKING MONEY OUT OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. THEY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT RETIREMENT SECURITY AND MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY, WHICH DEBBIE MADE CLEAR SHE WOULD MAKE DEEP CUTS INTO THE EARNED BENEFITS. HEALTHCARE COSTS ARE SKYROCKETING.THESE ARE VERY REAL ISUES. I AM THE ONE OUT THERE AND I AM TALKING ABOUT THEM EVERY DAY.

TED SIMONS: SHE MENTIONED YOUR TENURE AT THE STATE HOUSE. TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES SHE BROUGHT UP AND WHY YOU SUPPORTED THEM.

DEBBIE LESKO: SURE. WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT FIRST, SHE SAYS SHE WOULD DO WELL IN OUR DISTRICT. I DO NOT THINK SHE FITS FOR THE VALUES OF OUR DISTRICT.FRANKLY; SHE IS FOR THIS SOCIALIZED BERNIE SANDERS MEDICARE FOR ALL. THAT IS NOT WHAT OUR CONSTITUENTS WANT. BOTH SIDES SAID THAT IT IS GOING TO COST TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS, AND I READ UP. THIS WAS A BIPARTISAN ANALYSIS THAT SAID IT WOULD BE A 20% PAYROLL TAX. SHE DOES NOT AGREE WITH THE BORDER WALL. SHE DOES NOT THINK ANY MONEY SHOULD GO TO THE BORDER WALL. IN FACT I THINK IT WAS WITH DENNIS WELCH YOU SAID YOU WANTED THE MONEY TO GO TO HIGH-SPEED RAIL. THAT IS NOT WHAT OUR DISTRICT IS ASKING FOR. I DISAGREE. I THINK YOU WOULD BE BETTER AT ANOTHER MORE LIBERAL DISTRICT.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE STICK TO THE FACTS. I WANT TO BE ACCURATE. I DO NOT WANT PEOPLE TO MISCHARACTERIZE WHAT I SAID IN MY PLAN. WHICH I MADE VERY CLEAR. WHAT I PROPOSE FOR HEALTHCARE, I AM A PHYSICIAN. I UNDERSTAND HEALTHCARE POLICY WELL. IT IS NOT SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. SOCIALIZED MEDICINE IS WHEN THE GOVERNMENT OWNS THE HOSPITALS AND RUNS THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. THIS IS NOT THAT. I AM NOT PROPOSING MEDICARE FOR ALL. I AM PROPOSING A PLAN TO GET US TO UNIVERSAL COVERAGE, WHICH IS THE GOAL. WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT MEDICARE FOR ALL THAT IS THE WAY YOU PAY FOR HEALTHCARE. MY PLAN TURNS INTO THE PUBLIC OPTION AND WE ENHANCE COMPETITION, ENCOURAGE FREE MARKET FACTORS AND FORCES TO TAKE PLACE THAT DRIVE DOWN COSTS AND HELP DELIVER THE BEST PRODUCT FOR ALL AMERICANS TO GET QUALITY AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE.

DEBBIE LESKO: HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR THIS? A BIPARTISAN STUDY SAID TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS AT 20% PAYROLL TAX. MEDICARE IS ALREADY GOING BANKRUPT. IT IS IRRESPONSIBLE, PHYSICALLY IRRESPONSIBLE. YOU CANNOT JUST SAY I WANT TO GIVE FREE THINGS TO EVERYBODY AND NOT HAVE A WAY TO PAY FOR IT.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: NOWHERE DID I SAY FREE. I REALLY LIKE TO STICK TO THE FACTS. I SAID PEOPLE WOULD BUY INTO MEDICARE. IT IS A PUBLIC OPTION PEOPLE PAY FOR.

DEBBIE LESKO: IT IS ALREADY GOING BANKRUPT, LIKE 11 YEARS PART A IS GOING TO BE BANKRUPT.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: IF WE NEED TO REASSESS THE STRUCTURE, IT CAN BE DONE. ANY BIG PROGRAM THAT HAS BEEN IN OUR COUNTRY, LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY, IT'S HAS BEEN TWEAKED DOWN THE ROAD. THIS IS A CHANCE TO COMPETE WITH PRIVATE CARRIERS. IT WILL ENHANCE COMPETITION AND CHOICE AND DRIVE DOWN COSTS.

TED SIMONS: BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POINT. DO YOU BELIEVE IN YOUR PARTICULAR DISTRICT, MOST OF YOUR CONSTITUENTS WANT THAT? WANT THAT APPROACH? WANT THE WHOLE NINE YARDS?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: I THINK IN MY DISTRICT THEY WANT AFFORDABLE QUALITY HEALTHCARE. THERE IS NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. WHAT WE KNOW RIGHT NOW HEALTHCARE IS IN A CRISIS, PREMIUMS ARE GOING UP, PEOPLE ARE LOSING INSURANCE OR ARE UNINSURED. THERE ARE HIGHER VOLUME IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS. I AM AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN. I HAVE PRACTICED TEN YEARS. I UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION WELL. I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE ARE NOT INSURED. IT IS ABUSE OF THE SYSTEM. THEY GET WORSE CARE. PEOPLE ARE SICKER AND HAVE WORSE OUTCOMES. THAT RAISES COSTS FOR ALL OF US. THIS IS A FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE PLAN. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT USES THE FREE MARKET FORCES WHILE MAKING SURE EVERY AMERICAN IS COVERED.

TED SIMONS: IS THAT SOCIALISM? IS WHAT SHE SAID SOCIALISM?

DEBBIE LESKO: SHE'S USING SEMANTICS, SAYING SHE WANTS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE BUT DOESN'T WANT HEALTHCARE FOR ALL. SHE WANTS GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY WITH NO WAY TO PAY FOR IT. IT'S NOT WHAT OUR CONSTITUENTS WANT IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 8. THEY DON'T WANT OBAMA CARE. THEY WANT TO REPEAL IT. IT'S TOO EXPENSIVE. THE PREMIUMS ARE OUTRAGEOUS. THERE IS NOTHING LEFT. THERE IS NO CHOICE. GOVERNMENT RUN THINGS ARE NOT BETTER.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: THIS IS AGAIN NOT A GOVERNMENT RUN PROGRAM. WE HAVE TO STICK TO THE FACTS. THIS IS WHERE THE PUBLIC OPTION COMPETES WITH THE PRIVATE INSURANCE CARRIERS. LETS REMEMBER THE REASON THERE ARE ISSUES WITH THE ACA IS BECAUSE OF THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION AND GOP CONTROLLED CONGRESS AND SENATE PLAYED PARTISAN POLITICS WITH THE SYSTEM AND DRIVEN UP PREMIUMS. WHEN YOU DESTABILIZE THE MARKET, BY NOT INSURING BY COST SHARING PREMIUMS. ITS CAUSES PREMIUMS TO GO UP, DEBBIE. I KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND THAT. THAT IS WHERE YOU SABOTAGE THE PLAN AND SAY LOOK HOW BAD THE PLAN IS. THIS IS NOT SEMANTICS. THESE ARE ACCURATE TERMS WE ARE USING.

TED SIMONS: LET US MOVE ON HERE. YOU REFERRED TO BUILDING A WALL. DO YOU THINK THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BUILD A WALL BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO?

DEBBIE LESKO: I THINK WE NEED TO SECURE THE BORDER. PART OF THAT IS BUILDING A PHYSICAL WALL WHERE IT MAKES SENSE. THIS HAS BEEN DONE IN SAN DIEGO. THEY HAVE MULTIPLE WALLS OR FENCES, AND IT IS WORKING THERE. IT IS DOING A GOOD JOB. THIS IS WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP PROMISED TO THE PEOPLE THAT ELECTED HIM. WE NEED TO FOLLOW THROUGH. THAT'S PART OF THE THING THAT I LIKED ABOUT THE MOST RECENT BUDGET IS NOT ONLY DID IT INCREASE FUNDING FOR THE MILITARY AND GIVE A RAISE TO OUR TROOPS, BUT IT GAVE SOME MONEY TO BUILD THE WALL. CONSTITUENTS IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 8 AND PART OF IT I REPRESENTED NINE YEARS IN THE SENATE AND HOUSE, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE IN OUR AREA. THEY WANT TO KNOW WHO IS CROSSING THE BORDER. THEY WANT TO STOP ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. I THINK PART OF IT IS BUILDING A WALL. PART OF IT IS ADDING BORDER AGENTS. PART OF IT IS INCREASED TECHNOLOGY. I HAVE BEEN DOWN TO THE BORDER. I HAVE SEEN ALL OF THE DRUGS THAT HAVE COME OVER THE BORDER. THIS IS A BAD SITUATION, NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED. I AM CONCERNED BECAUSE HIRAL WANTS NO MONEY FOR THE BORDER WALL AND WANTS TO SPEND IT ON HIGH SPEED RAIL.

TED SIMONS: THAT IS THE SECOND TIME I HEARD THAT. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: SO WHAT I SAID IS THE BORDER WALL IS EXPECTED TO COST $26 BILLION. AND EVEN SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN STATED HE DOESN'T THINK THE BORDER WALL IS EFFICIENT OR AN APPROPRIATE ALLOCATION OF THAT TYPE OF MONEY. I SAID THERE ARE OTHER AREAS TO USE THAT MONEY PARTIALLY FOR BORDER SECURITY AND OTHER THINGS,WHICH I MENTION EDUCATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, THINGS LIKE THAT.

DEBBIE LESKO: YOU SAID HIGH SPEED RAIL.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: I DID MENTION THAT. I THINK TRANSPORTATION IS A GREAT THING FOR THE WEST VALLEY. BACK TO THE BORDER WALL, IT IS IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW THE FACTS NOT JUST IDEOLOGY AND FEAR MONGERING. I UNDERSTAND THE IDEA OF THE WALL MAKES PEOPLE FEEL SAFER, BUT THE FACTS TELL US AS FAR AS MOST OF THE DRUGS THAT COME IN COME THROUGH PORTS OF ENTRY, TED. THEY DO NOT COME IN THROUGH THE PEOPLE RUNNING OVER THE BORDER. WE HAVE TO ENHANCE SECURITY AT THE PORT OF ENTRY. IF WE REALLY WANT TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS, THE BORDER WALL DOES NOTHING FOR THAT. THE OTHER ISSUES SHE BRINGS UP ABOUT UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS, THE LARGEST GROWING PERCENTAGE OF THAT RIGHT NOW ARE FOLKS FLYING INTO THE COUNTRY WITH A VISA AND OVERSTAYING THE VISA. A WALL DOES NOTHING FOR THAT.

TED SIMONS: WE NEED A RESPONSE.

DEBBIE LESKO: SURE, I THINK WE NEED TO SECURE THE BORDER.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? WHEN DO WE KNOW WHEN THE BORDER IS SECURE?

IT CERTAINLY MEANS WHEN THE T.V. CAMERAS ARE WATCHING HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE EVERYDAY WITHOUT ANYONE BEING THERE. I HAVE BEEN TO THE BORDER. I HAVE BEEN WITH THE BORDER PATROL. I WENT TO VISIT WITH THE RANCHERS. I MET WITH THE FAMILY WHOSE FATHER WAS KILLED AT THE BORDER, A RANCHER. THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM. WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO LET AMNESTY GO ON. THAT IS WHY I SUPPORT PART OF THE SOLUTION IS BUILDING THE WALL. IS IT THE ENTIRE SOLUTION? OF COURSE NOT. OF COURSE WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT VISAS ARE NOT OVERSTAYED AND THAT TYPE OF THING. I CAN TELL YOU, I HAVE BEEN DOWN AT THE BORDER, AND I HAVE TALKED TO BORDER AGENTS. PEOPLE CARRY ON THEIR BACK BIG BUNDLES OF MARIJUANA AND DRUGS. THIS IS NOT ALL COMING FROM THE PORT OF ENTRY.

THAT MIGHT BE THE CASE. I AM NOT DENYING IT. WE NEED SECURE BORDER, BUT THERE ARE BETTER, MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO DO IT. IF THAT INCLUDES REINFORCING AREAS WE KNOW ARE VULNERABLE. ABOSULTLY.

DEBBIE LESKO: HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE BORDER?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: I HAVE BEEN TO THE BORDER, DEBBIE. WHAT I WOULD SAY IS LOOK, THE VAST MAJORITY OF DRUGS, PORTS OF ENTRY. DO SOME POINTS OF THE ACTUAL BORDER IMPLICATE THAT? I SAID I AM ALL FOR, AND WE AGREE ON ENHANCED SECURITY MEASURES, MORE DRONES, USE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION. LET US TALK TO THE BORDER PATROL FORCES TO ASK THEM WHAT WE CAN DO TO MAKE THEIR JOBS EFFECTIVE. PRESIDENT TRUMP PROMISED THE WALL AND THAT MEXICO WOULD PAY FOR IT. THAT HAS NOT PANNED OUT. WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT HOW TO USE $26 BILLION IN THIS COUNTRY. THAT IS A VERY BIG PRICE TAG FOR SOMETHING WE KNOW IS NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING.

TED SIMONS: LET'S TALK ABOUT DREAMERS? WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT DA-CA RECIPIENTS? SHOULD THERE BE A PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP? SHOULD THEY HAVE DRIVERS LICENSES?

DEBBIE LESKO: I FEEL COMPASSION FOR MAYBE ADULTS NOW OR CHILDREN THAT CAME AS CHILDREN, NO FAULT AS THEIR OWN; THEY ARE GOING TO SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITIES HERE. I THINK SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS RECOMMENDED THAT WE HAVE SOME TYPE OF DEAL. UNFORTUNATELY, THE DEMOCRATS AND THE U.S. CONGRESS WILL NOT TOUCH IT. I THOUGHT IT WAS A GENEROUS, MORE GENEROUS THAN I THINK I WOULD HAVE DONE. HE SAID, LISTEN, WE CAN GIVE DACA RECIPIENTS SOME TYPE OF LEGAL STATUS. HE SAID PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP, ACTUALLY. I THINK LEGAL STATUS, CONSTITUENTS WOULD PREFER THAT MORE. IF WE ARE GOING TO DO THAT, WE NEED MORE MONEY FOR THE BORDER WALL, MORE BORDER AGENTS, AND MORE TECHNOLOGY. HE MADE A GOOD OFFER. THE DEMOCRATS WOULD NOT EVEN BUDGE.

TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATS DID NOT BUDGE ON THE DEAL THE PRESIDENT OFFERED.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: LET'S REMEMBER THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HIMSELF SAID HE WANTED TO DEAL WITH THE DREAMERS WITH HEART. HE IS THE ONE THAT SAID I HOPE WE COME TO A DEAL THAT ADDRESSES THE DREAMERS. I WANT TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE TREATED WITH HEART. THIS IS SOMETHING I FEEL A PERSONAL CONNECTION. MY PARENTS CAME IN THE '70S. I'M A FIRST GENERATION IMMIGRANT. THE IDEA THAT THESE KIDS WOULD BE TORN APART FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND THE ONLY HOME THEY HAVE EVER KNOWN AND THE ONLY PLACE THEY HAVE GROWN UP AND THE LANGUAGE THEY SPEAK. IT'S HEARTBREAKING. THEREFORE, I BELIEVE THE YOUNG PEOPLE THAT CAME HEREBY NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN DESERVE A CLEAN PASS, A CLEAN DREAM ACT AND AN ABILITY TO PATH TO CITIZENSHIP, WHICH PRESIDENT TRUMP AGREED ON.

TED SIMONS: YOU JUST SAID A CLEAN DREAM ACT. NO STRING ATTACHED? NO DEAL?

DEBBIE LESKO: I MEAN I THOUGHT YOU WOULD NEGOTIATE.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: LET US REMEMBER THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HIMSELF PROPOSED IT INITIALLY. IF THERE IS A NEED TO ADDRESS OTHER BORDER SECURITY ISSUE, WE HAVE TO FUND THAT, BUT LET US REMEMBER PRESIDENT TRUMP HIMSELF WANTED TO ADDRESS THE DREAMERS, WANTED TO DEAL WITH THEM WITH COMPASSION AND FELT THEY DESERVED A CLEAN PATH TO CITIZENSHIP. HE INITIATED THE DIALOGUE.

TED SIMONS: WHY NOT A CLEAN APPROACH TO DREAMERS? WE CAN WORRY ABOUT THE WALL AND OTHER STUFF LATER. WHY THE DEAL? WHY THE BARGAINING?

DEBBIE LESKO: WHAT WAS CLEAR IS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP DID WANT TO NEGOTIATE. HE OFFERED A GOOD PLAN, WHICH I THINK EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE GONE ONBOARD. IT WOULD HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM. WHAT YOU SAID IN YOUR OPENING STATEMENT IS THAT WASHINGTON IS BROKEN. THERE IS A GRIDLOCK TOO MUCH BI-PARTISAN. WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS YOU DEMAND THIS. YOU DO NOT EVEN WANT TO NEGOTIATE. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE DEMOCRATS DID. THE PRESIDENT WANTED TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. THE DEMOCRATS IN THE U.S. CONGRESS WERE LIKE, NO, WE WANT THIS OR WE ARE NOT BUDGING AT ALL. THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. YOU WANT A CLEAR PLAN. YOU DO NOT WANT TO NEGOTIATE.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: THAT IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE SITUATION. WE NEGOTIATED AND WE KNOW PRESIDENT TRUMP WAS NOT INTEGRAL IN PART OF THE NEGOTIATIONS. IT WAS THE G.O.P. CONGRESS AND SENATE THAT HELD A HARD LINE. LET US REMEMBER THAT DEBBIE WANTS TO BE PART OF THE FREEDOM CAUCUS AND REMEMBER THAT'S ONE OF THE MOST DIVISIVE OBSTRUCTIONIST PARTS OF CONGRESS DIFFICULT TO DEAL WITH IN THEIR OWN PARTY. THAT IS AN ISSUE.

DEBBIE LESKO: WHAT?

TED SIMONS: WE HAVE TO STOP, WE HAVE TO STOP. YOU CAN RESPOND TO THAT ON THE CLOSING STATEMENT, BUT WE HAVE TO GET TO CLOSING STATEMENTS. WE START WITH DR. TIPIRNENI.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: THANK YOU, TED FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY. DEBBIE, IT HAS BEEN NICE TO BE HERE WITH YOU. I AM SO PROUD TO REPRESENT MY WEST VALLEY NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS AROUND THE DISTRICT. IT IS AN HONOR TO MEET SO MANY FOLKS WHEN I AM KNOCKING ON DOORS AND MAKING PHONE CALLS. I KNOW THE ISSUES AT THE HEART OF THE VALLEY. WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS REPEATEDLY. AFFORDABLE QUALITY HEALTHCARE, GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR YOUR CHILDREN, SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICAID YOU CAN COUNT ON BECAUSE YOU WORKED FOR YEARS TO INVEST IN THAT. THESE ARE THE ISSUES I AM COMMITTED TO WORKING HARD FOR. IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE. WE NEED TO NOT HAVE POLITICIANS CONNECTED TO CORPORATE LOBBYISTS AND SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS. I'LL WORK FOR THE CONSTITUENTS OF THE WEST VALLEY.

TED SIMONS: THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND NOW CLOSING STATEMENTS FROM DEBBIE LESKO.

DEBBIE LESKO: WASHINGTON IS BROKEN. THEY ARE IN A GRIDLOCK. WHILE I SERVED IN THE STATE SENATE AND STATE HOUSE, I BUILT A REPUTATION OF TAKING ON BIG ISSUES, WORKING WITH BOTH REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS AND GETTING THINGS DONE LIKE PENSION REFORM FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE. I SPENT A YEAR AND A HALF NEGOTIATING THAT. IT SAVED THE SYSTEM, SAVED THE STATE OF ARIZONA HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. THIS IS THE TYPE OF THING THAT WE NEED IN WASHINGTON D.C... I WANT TO HELP CONTINUE MY CONSTITUENTS CONTINUE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. I WOULD BE HONORED TO HAVE YOUR VOTE.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. GOOD DEBATE. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON THIS SPECIAL ELECTION 2018 EDITION OF "ARIZONA HORIZON." YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Eighth Congressional District candidates Republican Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni debate their goals and what they have to offer to the West Valley.

The debate began with each candidate’s view on how well Donald Trump has done as president. Lesko shares common ideologies with the president, including building a wall and ending some regulations that were passed by President Obama. Tipirneni supports universal healthcare and investing in improving infrastructure and transportation in the area.

“I think Donald Trump is following through with the promises he made to the American people and he was elected,” Lesko says. “He’s working to secure the border, he’s gotten rid of some burdensome regulations that really were draining our economy under President Obama, he cut taxes which boosted the economy, helped businesses and helped individuals keep more money in their pocket.”

On the other hand, Tipirneni is not a fan of the “only significant piece of legislation the Trump administration has passed, the tax bill.” The doctor says it was a tax cut for the rich, and it didn’t do anything for the middle and working class families. Lesko argues that she has talked to family-owned businesses in the West Valley, and they have said the tax cut has helped them.

Tipirneni says that as a 21 year resident of the area, she knows the issues of the people. “They’re concerned about public education being further eroded by the bill that Debbie put forth to expand vouchers,” Tipirneni says. “That takes money right out of public schools. They’re concerned about their retirement security space, specifically Medicare and Social Security… These are real issues, and I’m the one talking about them every day.”

Lesko argues that despite these points, Tipirneni doesn’t “fit for the values of our district.” She disagrees on the Democrat’s stance of Medicare for all, something that Lesko says is basically socialism.

On the question of whether to build a border wall, “I think we need to secure the border and part of that is building a physical wall where it makes sense,” Lesko says. “It’s what President Trump promised to the people that elected him. We need to follow through. Part of thing that I liked about the most recent budget is that it not only increased funding for the military and give a raise to our troops, but it also at least gave some money to build the wall.” In contrast, Tipirneni proposes spending the estimated $26 billion allotted for a border wall on stronger border security, education and infrastructure.

The candidates also discussed the future of DACA recipients. Lesko says nothing will be done if Democrats don’t agree to negotiate on a deal. She brings up the plan proposed by Trump that would give Dreamers legal status, claiming that the plan was ignored by Democrats.

“This is something that I feel a personal connection with,” Tipirneni says. “My parents came in the ’70s. I’m a first generation immigrant. The idea that these kids would be torn apart from their families and the only home they’ve ever known… It’s heartbreaking. I think those young people deserve a clean path. That means a clean Dream Act and an ability to that path of citizenship which President Trump agrees with.”

The special election will be held on April 24.

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In this segment:

Debbie Lesko: (R) C.D. 8 Candidate
Hiral Tipirneni: (D) C.D. 8 Candidate

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