Like many Republicans, Rick Renzi may have been tainted by the War in Iraq, difficult economy and other baggage the Grand Old Party is carrying this year but still leads in the polls for Congressional District 1. A recent poll by the Social Research Laboratory at NAU placed Rick Renzi 13 percentage points ahead of Democrat Ellen Simon.
It is significant that, for the first time, George Bush attended a breakfast campaign fundraiser this week for Renzi, who holds the Arizona Congressional District 1 seat and hopes to be re-elected for a third term. Unfortunately, the event was staged in Paradise Valley in Congressional District 3. He did not attend the League of Women Voters Candidate's Wednesday night, perhaps the only Verde Valley venue for voters to compare the candidates before the General Election.
Many political watchers believe Republicans could lose power this mid-term election, dropping as many as six seats in Congress. In Arizona, some believe Ellen Simon may have the financial backing and the civil rights legal background to make a dent in Renzi's strength and possibly topple the Republican powerhouse.
Libertarian David Schlosser has not climbed the polls, but has a voice that resonates with voters.
Citizens asked many of the same gnawing questions at the forum.
War in Iraq
Republicans have insisted Iraq was the central front in the campaign to snuff out terror globally. Rick Renzi has supported the continued effort in Iraq.
"Al-Qaeda is a cancer," Renzi said. "It needs to be carved out ... taking the fight to them works."
Renzi voted to federalize rules for driver's licenses to hinder terrorists, to continue military recruitment on college campuses and to support a new position for Director of National Intelligence.
He also voted to adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and for $78 billion dollars in emergency funding for the War in Iraq and for Afghanistan.
Ellen Simon told the gathering at Cottonwood's Public Safety building Wednesday that "this president is in a state of denial, as Bob Woodward has said, and I think he is out of touch with reality in respect to the War in Iraq. I would have voted against the war.
"Yesterday, before the Arizona Editorial Board, Rick Renzi stated that he believes we are winning the war in Iraq. It is not just president Bush that is in a state of denial."
As a Libertarian David Schlosser says, "I believe our government should not initiate force against a sovereign state or nation. When we went to war, I was not a supporter. I am obligated to bring our troops home as quickly as possible. But, I think we have an obligation to the people in Iraq, the people in the U.S. since we are now in Iraq, we need to get enough stability that we do not have a failed state especially because of its oil wealth."
"I believe that Iraq should become three confederated states, Sunni, Shi'a and Kurd. The way that we keep them united is to offer each individual in Iraq the hope they would share of the Iraq oil wealth."
Health Care, Medicare and Social Security
"Social Security is a Ponzi scheme," Schlosser believes. "It is a pyramid scheme that has no financial stability over the long term. The truth is that Social Security is a fatally broken system. I want you to keep getting your social security checks. The federal government made this commitment and need to live up to its obligation. But, we need to be honest that Social Security and Medicare don't work over the long term. Older Americans will still be covered by Social Security, but if you are younger 45 or 47 then that it is your responsibility to save for your own retirement."
Simon says she is unconditionally committed to protecting Social Security "I don't believe the stories and fabrications about Social Security being broken. It is really a situation of where in America do we want to spend our money."
Simon believes that the Bush tax plan has drained our government of billions and billions of dollars in revenues. "The people at the top of the pyramid are not paying their fair share in taxes and we are simply not collecting the money to give the program longevity. We must make sure that we have the money for Social Security. It is one of the best pieces of legislation ever created by Congress and it would be a disaster to privatize Social Security."
Similarly, Simon believes that, "it is a moral issueŠthat there must be health care for all Americans. The doughnut hole provided by Medicare Part D, she calls a "black hole" and worries that people will die if they can't buy medications they need.
Rick Renzi addresses the Three Cs of health care on his Web site.
"I voted to give American seniors access to cheaper imported prescription drugs from FDA approved countries, and I will continue to fight for future reforms to our Medicare law."
"We need to make health insurance more accessible for low-income families in rural Arizona by giving small businesses the ability to join together for better health insurance rates. I voted for The Small Business Health Fairness Act to give local employers this capability and receive access to the same health benefits packages provided by larger corporations, and I support other legislation that will allow people to compare health insurance providers online as they can with mortgage lenders and realtors."
Congressman Renzi has been a strong advocate of secure border. He proposed the use of unmanned drone aircraft and other 21st Century technologies to keep better tabs on the border and alert Border Patrol officers to illegal entries, part of what he calls "The Red Zone Defense."
David Schlosser says the debate on immigration is missing an important point.
"All of the policies of the federal government is talking aboutŠwalls and blimps, etc is like deckchairs on the Titanic, because it does not take into account the supply and demand issues of immigration. We have an unmet demand for labor and people outside who want to meet that demand. What we need to do with immigration is allow people who want to become law-abiding productive American citizens to come to America, prove your identity, acknowledge that you are not going to get public services from the Federal government and come in. Because now we have turned over our immigration to drug dealers and coyotes and document forgers. We need to acknowledge the condition of immigration and welcome the people that are contributing so much to our economy."
Simon says it is a "fundamental issue and that is protecting our borders, a matter of safety and security. People want to work, but they want to be lawful, not illegal. Employers want to hire people legally, not illegally. We need to have some sort of guest worker program or legislation. There should be a legal system to do this and not have a whole underground illegal system. We need to eliminate the coyotes and separate the wheat from the chaff."