Handicapping Arizonas 8th Congressional District Race
By Larry Sakin
Back in November, 2006, residents of Arizonas 8th Congressional District anxiously awaited Congressman Jim Kolbes plans on his rumored retirement. When the announcement came in mid-December that Kolbe would indeed retire, an influx of candidates announced for this influential seat which represents nearly 650,000 Southern Arizonans.
Because there are so many strong issues for Democrats to campaign on this year, Ive framed my opinions of the candidates based upon the candidates own statements on those issues on their public websites. After all, this is where a number of people are going to look for candidate positions because interviews, commercials, and forums often muddy a candidates beliefs rather than brings light to them. The Democratic candidates are as follows: former Arizona State Senator Gabrielle Giffords, airline pilot and Gulf War veteran Jeff Latas, ex-grocery chain executive Dwight Leister, politician and retired military officer Alex Rodriguez, retired federal employee Francine Schacter, ex-Congressional staffer Tim Sultan and ex-TV anchor Patty Weiss. Please note that my evaluations on the candidates are based solely on the issues they have announced on their websites. Popularity, financing, or personal affiliations do not come into play.
Gabrielle Giffords (www.gabriellegiffords.com) Giffords is the owner of a property management firm in Tucson centrist Democrat. She has received a lot of notice from the national party apparatchiks including the DCCC, and the DLC. She recently received an endorsement from former Senate majority leader Tom Harkins. However, Giffords is extremely vague on the issues. She says bringing the troops home from Iraq is a top priority, but she doesnt say exactly how shell accomplish this, how long it will take, and what she feels needs to be done to before the troops can be brought home. She doesnt address many issues important to Americans, including the economy, global trade, and security. She does support a better Medicare Part D program, but doesnt say what that would be. She also supports increasing enforcement of the United States border with Mexico, and developing a legal arrangement to supply the workers Arizona needs for its growing economy. Giffords seems pretty vague on the issues, so I give her a grade of C.
Dwight Leister (www.dwightleister4congress2006.com) Leister mentions some of his political priorities, but doesnt address any of them specifically. He supports a law and order stance on immigration, and has several links to both Arizona Governor Janet Napolitanos immigration plan and the joint Arizona/Utah Immigration Initiative on his website. And besides supporting an increase of the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, thats about as specific as he gets. Other initiatives Leister expresses an interest in are: campaign finance reform, criminal justice issues, free speech, and anti-terrorism measures. While I like the idea of the increased minimum wage, I have an idea he supports it mostly because he thinks it will make jobs that undocumented workers take more attractive to Americans. I dont know, just a hunch. But because he doesnt address very much, he gets a grade of D.
Alex Rodriguez (www.alexrodriguezforcongress.com) Rodriguezs site is reminiscent of Latas, long on personal history and short on issues and solutions. In fact, issues are non-existent here. Rodriguez seems to be running on his political shops, sporting pictures of himself with former President Bill Clinton and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, but at the end of the day his ability to get photo ops with bigwigs doesnt tell me what hes going to do if elected. Grade D.
Patty Weiss (www.patty2006.com) Well Ill be damned! Someone from the Congressional 8th actually addresses some issues and has revealed a few solutions. Weiss is for Universal Health care, pro guest worker and legalizing immigrants already working in the country, pro publicly funded congressional elections, and for getting the soldiers out of Iraq as quickly as possible and giving over control of Iraq to Iraqis. Weiss gets the high grade for the evening. Grade B.
Francine Schacter (www.francineschacterforcongress.com) Another Democrat whos long on personal history. Shes got a whole list of issues but doesnt give us a clue about her ideas to solve the fundamental problems facing the nation. Okay, I lied. She doesnt even have much of a personal history written here. Grade D.
Tim Sultan (www.timsultanforcongress.com) Sultan, like Rodriguez has gets a lot of nice photo ops with Clinton and DNC Chairman and former Presidential candidate Howard Dean. But when you click on the issues button on his website, it puts up a window that tells you youre unauthorized to view this information. I looked around for a membership button, thinking I could enter into the inner sanctum as a team player. Alas, there was none. Sorry Tim, but for keeping your issues locked in the vault you get a failing grade. Grade F.
It will be interesting to see who makes it through the primary race. Whoever it is, theyd better be tough because the most likely winner on the Republican side will be former State Senator Randy Graf, who is a bit of a right wing-nut, but has a huge sway with Republicans in the outlying areas of the Congressional 8th on border issues. Graf supports the Minutemen patrols on the border and making immigration illegal. Hes also a tough opponent. So Democrats running in the Congressional 8th better sharpen their nails and get ready for bloody and bruising battle.
Larry Sakin is a former music executive and medical non-profit administrator. He has published a number of articles in both fields and is currently writing a book about coping with loss. More of his work can be found on www.blogcritics.org, www.changeforamerica.com, and Charlottes Other Web.