Ted Simons: Time now for Southern exposure, our monthly check of what's happening in Tucson and other areas south of the Gila. Joining us is Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson Weekly. Good to see you again.
Jim Nintzel: Glad to be back.
Ted Simons: Thanks for making the trip up, I know it can be grueling at times. But you got here.
Jim Nintzel: Delightful drive.
Ted Simons: Yes, let's start with politics, let's start with that big race, congressional district two, Ron Barber, challenger Martha McSally, how is that shaping up? Because boy, it sounds like it's already rock 'em sock 'em down there.
Jim Nintzel: It absolutely is. They're already going after each other. Martha McSally who narrowly lost to Ron Barber two years ago, is back in the game. She does have two primary opponents, but they're poorly known, and poorly funded. So she's very likely to be the GOP candidate. And she is going after Ron Barber already on a whole host of issues, including the A-10, which she's a former A-10 pilot and one of the big things she's talking about is that Ron Barber has not done enough to protect the A-10 fighter jet, and that is a key part of the Tucson economy because the training is all based at the Air Force base.
Ted Simons: Talk to us more about the A-10, its future, and how big a deal that is down in Tucson.
Jim Nintzel: It's a huge deal in Tucson. The base is a huge part of the Tucson economy and losing that mission would be very damaging. Probably put the base on one of these possible closure lists in the future. And right now it seems as though the Air Force would like to divest itself of the A-10, they're looking ahead to a new jet, the F-35, which is going to be based up here in the Phoenix area. And they're looking to retire the A-10.The Congress on the other hand has other ideas, and in fact this week the armed services committee was debating it initially, the chairman of the armed services committee Buck McKeon, said that the A-10 should be placed into mothballs and storage down there in Tucson, ready to come back and Ron Barber actually pushed through a successful amendment with the help of Republicans and Democrats on that committee to actually make sure that it keeps flying at least for the next fiscal year.
Ted Simons: Last point on this strictly from political viewpoint, can Barber do anything against a former A-10 pilot to win that particular part of the debate?
Jim Nintzel: Well, he has been very successful in pulling together members of the community to say hey, Ron Barber is doing a great job fighting for this jet. He's got the Chamber of Commerce behind him on that, a group called the DM-50 that works to help DM out in the community. They are saying Ron Barber has been there to help out. So I think he's got folks behind him on that one.
Ted Simons: I notice he voted for the Benghazi probe?
Jim Nintzel: Yeah. That's another very interesting thing. One of a handful of democrats in Congress who actually went with the Republicans to vote on that, and that’s not unusual Ron Barber has voted alongside Republicans on a number of the Obamacare votes, on a number of other things, border issues, for example, and I think that's part of his ability – well his interest in portraying himself as more of a moderate democrat, because this is a district that is really split right down the middle. One-third democrat, one-third Republican, one-third independent. So he's forged a trail that has leaned pretty close to the center, and we'll see whether that keeps him in office next year.
Ted Simons: And one last issue that they're fussing and fighting over down there as far as pay for women. What women earn. What's that all about?
Jim Nintzel: Well this was something that came up, he wrote an op Ed in favor of the fair pay act, which would help ensure that women are paid the same as men in the workplace. Eliminate some of the legal barriers to filing lawsuits and discrimination cases basically. And immediately the national Republican congressional committee came out and said, he's not actually following the rules that he laid down, and crunched some numbers in his office, he came back and said, my three top highest paid people here are women, they're in key positions, we pay them better, he says the RNC fiddled with the numbers, so they're going back and forth on these numbers. But it's clear he has one of the most female friendly offices, more women than men working there, and higher ranks.
Ted Simons: It also seems clear at least from a distance that's RNC is paying very close attention to this race. They must think McSally has a pretty good shot.
Jim Nintzel: They do, they just took her up to something called young gun status, they raised her to the top of that, it makes it easier for them to assist her without making it look like they're playing favorites, by saying that she’s achieved certain benchmarks. And she’s one of the top fund-raisers in the country. She's outraised Barber in the last three reporting cycles. She’s got a lot of money, he’s got a lot of money, they are both going to have a lot of money and it’s actually going to be dwarfed by the amount of outside money that’s going to come pouring in. So we’re looking at an avalanche of campaign ads, mailers, phone calls and all the rest down there in southern Arizona.
Ted Simons: We are also looking at a big congressional district in CD-1, stretches all the way to southern Arizona. How big a race is that down there and how is that shaping up? I know Andy Tobin got Mitt Romney to support him. Is that play in that district down there?
Jim Nintzel: I think it plays more in other parts of the district, but it plays across the district. This is a large district, it includes southern Arizona but also eastern rural Arizona and Flagstaff, Native American reservations, Grand Canyon, just an enormous amount of real estate. So a lot of different interest groups in there. Andy Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona house is one of the Republicans in the district, there are two others running in there, state rep Adam Kwasman and a newcomer, this rancher named Gary Kiehne is an interesting character who's got some very colorful language on the stump and he's a rodeo cowboy, has photos of himself roping calves I think that will play well in the rural areas of that district. At least in the Republican primary.
Ted Simons: Real quickly, sounded like Tobin, some of his fund-raising material mentioned Benghazi, this was after someone of national prominence in the Republican Party said don't do that, this is not the time or place for that kind of issue to be used in fund-raising. Will that play in that district at all do you think?
Jim Nintzel: Gary Kiehne, the rancher, is making an issue of it. He's saying that Andy Tobin should not be raising money in this fashion. You shouldn't raise money off the backs of murdered Americans. Tobin has doubled down and is continuing to do it and he says there's nothing wrong with it.
Ted Simons: That’s an interesting equation, because if you're if the Republican side you got to get out of that primary, but it sounds like another district that could swing either way. Obviously he's being represented by a democrat right now.
Jim Nintzel: Right, Ann Kirkpatrick represents that and she has a lot of money, and all three of these candidates, Republican candidates are having trouble raising money right now. They have not been able to match up with what Kirkpatrick has raised and they have a tough primary fight ahead of them, all three of them.
Ted Simons: We’ll keep an eye on that. The south side Presbyterian Church in Tucson was known at one time for basically starting the sanctuary movement with Central American war refugees. It sounds like they're kind of back at it now with the Mexican national family. Talk to us about that.
Jim Nintzel: Yeah very similar situation. In the 1980’s they did as you said, pushed the sanctuary movement where they were assisting folks fleeing political persecution in central America. This is a different situation this, is somebody who has been in America for about 14 years now, his name is Daniel Ruiz and he's been working here as a construction worker, he stayed out of trouble with the law, he's married to someone else who is not in the country legally, and they have a young child here. And he got pulled over, turned over to border patrol, they cited him for being in the country illegally, said he had a certain amount of time to leave the country, that time is now up, and he has moved into the church with his family, in an attempt to try to stop this from happening. He has legal representation, they're trying to get the INS to reverse that decision.
Ted Simons: Compare the reaction in Tucson to what happened in the early 80’s, and this particular situation.
Jim Nintzel: Well, I think in the early 80’s there was a great deal of sympathy in terms of these folks who were really in danger of losing their lives, should they be sent back to their home countries. This situation is a little bit different, but I think it also reflects the frustrations that people have with the failure to actually get any kind of comprehensive immigration reform accomplished. Congress has the U.S. senate did pass a bill that provided a path to legalization for people who are now in the country last year, this year, last year. And it has sat in Congress not going anywhere, and may not go anywhere though there's talk they're going to try to resurrect it.
Ted Simons: We've got to wonder how it's going to be resolved. He’s got a family, he’s got a 13-year-old son born in the United States, United States citizen, how is this going to be resolved?
Jim Nintzel: That's a very good question, and the attorneys are hoping that INS will reverse their decision and just say you're not on the list of people we're going to prosecute. But I don't know they'll step back having already issued that order. Most of the time when they're looking to deport people, they're generally people who have some kind of criminal records, or some other problem. But this is a very tricky area of the law.
Ted Simons: Well Jim, sounds like things are a little happening down there. We'll look forward to speaking with you again next month on Southern Exposure. Good to see you again.
Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure to be here, Ted.