VERDE VALLEY - Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick has Republican U.S. Senator John McCain's 30-year senate seat in her sights. While making a stop in Camp Verde July 26, she shared her reasons as to why:
Kirkpatrick's lifelong Arizona roots
"I was born and raised on the White Mountain Apache Nation. My dad's family ran a general store and my mother was a teacher. Her family were Republican ranchers and my dad's family were Democratic business people," said Kirkpatrick. "It's so much a part of who I am, that ability to debate issues but at the end of the day to find that common ground to get things done."
Kirkpatrick earned a law degree from the University of Arizona and went-on to become the first woman Deputy County Attorney in Coconino County and later Sedona's City Attorney. She was elected to the State House in 2005 and to Congress in 2009 and 2012, where she currently serves as Arizona's District 1 representative.
Three biggest differences from her opponent
According to Kirkpatrick, the three biggest differences between her and her opponent have to do with local jobs, immigration and mining.
"We are still losing jobs. I think that's a big distinction, Arizona first for jobs and the economy," she said. "I want to be sure we have an educational system so we can train workers for the Twentieth Century."
Kirkpatrick also draws a distinction on immigration policies.
"I've been a consistent supporter of the DREAM act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors)," adding that McCain "has been a little bit all over the board."
Also, she sees the handling of mining as another point of departure between her and McCain.
"I'm opposed to uranium mining in the Grand Canyon while John McCain supports it," she said.
Speaking to local issues
Kirkpatrick has served-on the Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure and Veteran's Affairs committees, saying that she did so "in order to build a strong, diverse economy in Arizona."
"I grew-up in a timber community when I was a kid and then the industry collapsed and it plunged into poverty," said Kirkpatrick.
She says her seat on the Agriculture Committee has served the Verde Valley well.
"We've helped a lot of wineries apply for grants. We really want to see our small businesses thrive," she said.
"On the Transportation Committee, we've been pushing for expansion of highway 260. We've really been fighting to keep the roundabouts because those have an economic impact," said Kirkpatrick.
Her time on Veteran's Affair's has not been without controversy. While she acknowledged that "a lot of veterans still don't get the benefits they deserve, especially in rural and tribal areas," she added, "I was the first one to call for an investigation in Phoenix. I also introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers."
Kirkpatrick also shared her view on the Sedona Verde Valley Red Rock National Monument.
"I support putting that area into protection. It's been difficult to get a consensus about how to do that," she said. Kirkpatrick also voiced concern about protecting the Verde River, which "supports 75 percent of Arizona's biodiversity."
Where the candidates differ
The voting record of Kirkpatrick and McCain diverge on many issues. In her Verde Independent interview, Kirkpatrick said, "I'm supporting Hillary Clinton and have since last year," while McCain said in his previous interview "I'll back the Republican nominee," acknowledging it would be Donald Trump if so nominated.
Kirkpatrick is on-record opposing McCain's support of the Ryan Budget (she criticized "its harmful priorities"), the "Wall Street Bailout" and NAFTA (saying she "only supports trade agreements that have strong labor and environmental protections") as well as privatization of Social Security (saying she "will fight to protect these programs").
She did vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act and "Iran Nuclear Deal" (the purchase of "heavy water" from its weapons program) whereas McCain voted against these bills.
When Kirkpatrick was asked if she was concerned about the pullout of insurers such as Health Choice, Humana, United Healthcare and - - in some counties - - Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Health Net at the heels of "Obamacare," she stated that "it's not been perfect" but "people who were not covered before are covered now." She added that she has contacted the Administration "to give us a plan to be sure we have enough carriers in rural areas."
In gender issues, Kirkpatrick is pro-choice and is supported by Planned Parenthood while McCain is pro-life and supported by National Right to Life.
Where they agree
As divided on major issues as the two candidates appear to be, their voting record shows some common ground..
For example, both Kirkpatrick and McCain are on-record as being gun owners and in favor of backing the Second Amendment. Both are campaigning on securing the Arizona-Mexico border while enacting the DREAM act (although McCain voted against a standalone bill in 2010, seeking instead to tie-it-in with border security). They also voted alike on a bill opening Oak Flat to mining - - an area defended as sacred by San Carlos Apache Nation Chairman Terry Rambler (although Kirkpatrick voted against a uranium mining bill that McCain favored).
Explaining her "yay" vote on Oak Flat mining, Kirkpatrick said "I wanted to be at the table. I wanted the environmental protections in place. I wanted government-to-government conversations with the tribe," which she said were lacking in previous versions of the bill.
What the polls say
As of publication date, polls are showing Kirkpatrick has a single-digit lead over McCain. She acknowledged that the race "has been neck-to-neck" and that "people have made it clear to me that they want real change."
Asked about McCain's endorsement of presidential candidate Donald Trump, Kirkpatrick said "That's a big issue for a lot of people, especially with the Latino community. Building a wall on the border is not good for Arizona business and economy. Deporting 11 million people - - that gets personal for a lot of Arizonans."