Parker and Sinema face off

October 18, 2012
Arizona Republic
Rebekah L. Sanders

Republican Vernon Parker, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Libertarian Powell Gammill squared off for the first time in a brief and spirited debate Thursday over taxes, health care and entitlements in the U.S. House race for District 9.

It was the only scheduled debate in the hotly contested race for the toss-up seat, which represents parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale. The candidates appeared for less than half an hour on the local public-television news show “Horizon.”

Sinema, a former state legislator from Phoenix, and Parker, a former Paradise Valley mayor, have been hammering one another for weeks on television and in mailers, claiming to be the moderate choice over an extreme opponent.

To win, the candidates must attract support from the district’s many independents and swing voters.

Gammill has kept a low profile and on Thursday simply urged voters to stay home on Election Day.

The Republican and Democratic parties, as well as outside groups, have been pouring money into the race, trying to increase their numbers in Congress. Arizona recently gained the ninth congressional seat after once-a-decade redistricting.

Parker and Sinema promised to work in a bipartisan way.

“Right now, we have a Congress that gets nothing done because they’re more concerned about pinning the tale on the donkey or trying to lasso the elephant,” Parker said. “I will work hard to make sure that we keep the prosperity of this country and that we work to ensure for future generations that they have a future.”

“Back in the day, Arizona was known for its pragmatic, commonsense solutions. And we can be known for that again,” Sinema said. “I’m the only candidate that has a history of working across the aisle to solve problems. And I promise to do the same for you if you send me to Washington, D.C.”

The two candidates also agreed on several priorities: helping middle-class families squeezed by the bad economy, protecting Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and improving the nation’s health- care system.

But they drew stark lines in how they proposed to do so.

To get the economy going again, Sinema said she would keep taxes low for families earning less than $250,000 but raise taxes on wealthier people, who need to “pay their fair share.”

Keeping rates low for the wealthy would add to the nation’s debt, she said.

Sinema also advocated lowering the corporate income tax but closing loopholes like tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.

Parker said he would also lower the corporate income tax, as well as spur jobs by cutting government spending and keeping the George W. Bush tax cuts for all earners.

He accused Sinema of hurting small-business owners if the tax breaks expire.

“If they are going to be taxed at that rate, they will not have the resources to invest in our communities,” Parker warned.

Sinema said after the debate that she would add an exemption for business owners filing as individuals.

Parker criticized Sinema’s support of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul.

“It robs Medicare of $716 billion. ... We are going to have bureaucrats destroying the doctor-patient relationship. ... (And) it will destroy small business,” he said.

He called instead for buying health insurance across state lines and tort reform so doctors don’t order unnecessary tests as defensive medicine.

Sinema called Parker’s Medicare claim a “lie.”

Fact-check organizations have called it misleading because the law does not cut direct services to seniors but cuts $716 billion from Medicare by lowering payments to doctors and health-care providers.

Sinema agreed that changes need to be made, like offering greater subsidies to help small businesses afford insurance for employees.

She accused Parker of supporting the Romney-Ryan plan that would turn a portion of Medicare into a voucher system, which Parker denied.

The Sinema campaign has said Parker is afraid to accept more debates.

The Parker campaign has said the faceoff was sufficient because C-SPAN planned to broadcast it.

At the end of the debate, Parker seemed disappointed.

“Shucks, we were just having fun,” he chided.

Afterward, The Republic asked Parker if he would debate again since he had a good time. “Who knows?” he said.

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