Ted Simons: Former Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema recently quit the legislature to run for Arizona's new ninth congressional district. Today the Maricopa county board of supervisors named former state lawmaker David Lujan to fill out the rest of Sinema’s term. Here to talk about her decision to run for Congress is Kyrsten Sinema. Good to see you again and thanks for joining us.
Kyrsten Sinema: Good to be back.
Ted Simons: Why are you running?
Kyrsten Sinema: Well, I think that the real reason is that Washington just doesn't get it. Meanwhile, here in Arizona, people are losing their homes, jobs are scarce, and folks are seeing this happen, and worry if they are next. Congress is not doing anything to help it. In the midst of the biggest jobs crisis in my life's history, they didn't pass a jobs bill last year. I think that people are just angry, and upset that Washington is not doing anything to help them.
Ted Simons: What can Washington do to help them? Especially in this divided environment? What can you, what can you realistically do back there?
Kyrsten Sinema: The first thing that can be done is to end that division. I have a record of doing that in my seven years in the state legislature. I even wrote a book about it, about how to work with people across party lines and get things done, so that is step one, but step two is to find common sense, practical solutions to the problems we face, and investing in education, technology, and helping create jobs, and that's what needs to happen. Not the partisan bickering and fighting we are seeing now.
Ted Simons: What will you offer, though, that other democrats play not be able to offer and Republicans, who are not quite sure what's going to happen there, but this is a lively district. There is going to be good competition. What can you offer? What's different about you?
Kyrsten Sinema: I think that the first thing I offer is my experience. Not only have I served for seven years in this state fighting for Arizona families, but my own history as someone who has lived through tough times, helped me to understand and relate to the tough times that Arizonans are going through right now. The second thing is my ability, my, as the Arizona Republic calls it, remarkable ability to reach across the aisle and work with democrats and Republicans to solve problems.
Ted Simons: And any qualms about running for a seat, winning the seat, and then resigning from that seat? Not filling out that seat not finishing out the term? Because you have been criticized in some quarters for that. How do you respond?
Kyrsten Sinema: It was a difficult decision to leave the state Senate. I've been serving the residents of district 15 for seven years, and I mean, these people are part of my family. Very difficult to, to resign that seat. But I believe that if you are going to do something, you have to go 100% and give it all your heart and work. And I didn't feel like it would be fair to the residents of district 15 if I was both serving them and trying to run for another office at the same time. The honorable thing to do is to allow someone who can fill that need full time, and I think that person is David Lujan.
Ted Simons: Well, he's got the gig. And you mentioned Washington doesn't get it. Creating jobs. Helping families keep their homes. You also mentioned education and how Congress can help education. In a different way, I want to ask, how can Congress do all of these things? Because a lot of people right now say that there is too much of Congress trying to do some of these thing, and that's the problem. What do you say?
Kyrsten Sinema: Well, last year's Congress was the most ineffective Congress of my lifetime. And the truth is, that we do know that Congress can solve these problems because they have done it in the past. And this particular Congress has chosen to fight over petty issues instead of solve problems. And that could be solved if we simply got problem solvers into Congress. If people like myself on both sides of the aisle are serving in Congress, I feel pretty confident that we can solve these problems and move forward.
Ted Simons: The Republicans have come out saying that all you are going to be is a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama and any ideas the administration might have? How do you respond?
Kyrsten Sinema: Those who know me know I'm not a rubber stamp for anyone ever. The truth is that I have an independent nature, and you could see that through my history over the last seven years. I want to do what's right for Arizonans, and if that means joining with the Republicans to solve those problems, I will do it. If it means joining the democrats, I will do that, too.
Ted Simons: You agree with the Obama administration, plans for health care reform, the ideas for health care reform? You took part in that discussion. And I would imagine you think of the stimulus, was a wise thing, correct?
Kyrsten Sinema: Right, and the health care plan is not perfect by any means, but I go head-to-head to tell anyone about what the benefits are offered, so those individuals who want to repeal the law, I would ask them, what do you tell them, moms and dads of kids with autism who have health coverage today and not before. So I think what we have to realize is that while laws aren't perfect, it's our job to perfect those laws over time.
Ted Simons: So, ok, how do you respond to those who say that, that Obama's policy, the President's policies have crushed the middle class. That it's a complete failure. The debt is rising. And we're not a heck of a lot better, certainly not where we should be at this point after the great recession. What would you say?
Kyrsten Sinema: I would say it's very true that middle class families are being crushed and can't make it. And I would put the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of Congress. They had an opportunity to pass a jobs bill in 2011, and instead, they nearly, nearly brought us to the brink of default several times. Instead of working together, putting aside party ideology and solving problems.
Ted Simons: The idea of the stimulus, was that a good idea? Was it not enough stimulus? Was it too much stimulus? What did you think?
Kyrsten Sinema: I think we have to differentiate between the Wall Street bailout and the bank bailout, and the stimulus. So, I think that most of us would agree that these bailouts are bad because the bailouts allowed, you know, those who are already rich to get richer and did not do anything to help the middle class families. Stimulus, however, made a difference here in Arizona. For instance, we saved several billion of cuts to public education because of the stimulus dollars. So, we have to make sure that we understand those are two separate things.
Ted Simons: But, as far as the separate, not the bailout but the stimulus is concerned, wise policy?
Kyrsten Sinema: Absolutely. If we had not done that, Arizona's education system would have surveyed $3 billion more in cuts. Bad enough that we had $2 billion of cuts.
Ted Simons: Last question, Republican, national committee came out and said your record is too extreme for this particular congressional district. How do you respond?
Kyrsten Sinema: Well, I am happy to put my record up against anybody's record in this district. I've been a strong advocate for families, and for supporting middle class individuals in this district. And I will continue to do that as we run this campaign.
Ted Simons: It's good to see you. And thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Kyrsten Sinema: My pleasure.