Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and Jaime Vasquez are seeking the Republican nomination in Congressional District 3.

Name: Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer

Running for: U.S. House District 3

Party: Republican

Website: saucedomercer.com

Name: Jaime Vasquez

Running for: U.S. House District 3

Party: Republican

Website: jaimevasquezforcongress.com

About the district: All of Santa Cruz County, western part of Pima County, including central, downtown and west and south sides of Tucson, South Tucson, Avondale, Gila Bend, most of Yuma. Includes the Tohono O’odham Nation. Population: 710,224. Non-Hispanic whites, 29.1%; Hispanics, 60.6%; other minorities, 10.3%. Voter registration: 43.2% Democrat, 34.9% other/independents, 21.9% Republican.

Read the full transcript:

Christopher Conover: Welcome to an Arizona Public Media Your Vote 2012 Special, the Congressional District 3 Republic Primary Forum. I’m Christopher Conover. Over the next 30 minutes we’ll have a chance to hear from the two Republican candidates about where they stand on a variety of issues. Congressional District 3 covers the southern part of Arizona stretching from central Tucson to Yuma so we’re presenting this in conjunction with our friends at KAWC Colorado River Public Radio in Yuma. Let’s meet the candidates. First we have Gabriela Sauceda Mercer. Thank you so much for coming in. And next is Jamie Vasquez. Again, thank you for coming in. Joining me for the questioning is Arizona Public Media’s Andrea Kelly.

Andrea Kelly: Voter registration in Congressional District 3 is about 113,000 Democrats, about 60,000 Republicans and about 93,000 Independents and of course as you both know the incumbent in the district, Democrat Raul Grijalva, has been in office for about 10 years, so I’d like to hear from both of you how you plan to shift this district into voting for Republicans. And we’ll start with you, Miss Saucedo Mercer.

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, I’m focusing on reaching the Independent voters. Independents usually go 50/50, they can go either way. I am just focusing on reaching to them, I’m knocking on doors, getting my message out there and that’s what I need to do.

Andrea Kelly: And Mr. Vasquez, in a district dominated by Democrat voters, second in line are Independents and third Republicans, how do you plan to have voters in this district vote for you?

Jamie Vasquez: I’m doing the same thing. During the signature process I obtained like 99% of the signatures myself and I got to meet a lot of people and how they feel and you get a good feel of the demographics. There’s a lot of Hispanics out there that are very, they’re not satisfied with Mr. Grijalva, with what he’s done and what he hasn’t done. So I’m focusing on the Hispanic vote because that’s the vote that got him in last time.

Christopher Conover: Let me ask a question about that. You’re Hispanic, your opponent is Hispanic, Mr. Grijalva is Hispanic, everyone running in this race is Hispanic. Is it a requirement to win CD3 to be Hispanic?

Jamie Vasquez: Well, like, the way I see it is just like I said, the meat of the vote is down here in Tucson and Yuma and in Nogales so we have to reach that vote and of course the Independents. That’s almost automatic for a Republican nowadays.

Christopher Conover: Let me ask you, Miss Saucedo Mercer, is being Latino or Latina a requirement to run in this district?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: It shouldn’t be, but in this district it happens to be the case. For some reason, people look at the name and they vote the name because they feel like a Hispanic or Latino would be representing my interests better than an Anglo. It’s sad that that’s the way it is, but that’s the way it is.

Andrea Kelly: Let’s talk about a little bit of current events. The accused shooter in the Colorado theater shooting was formally charged in court today with that shooting and the attempted murder charges as well. So this brings up a discussion that we’ve been having in southern Arizona, in fact all of Arizona since the January 8th shootings, and I would like to ask you, is it time to revisit a conversation about or have a conversation about large capacity magazines and guns? And again we’ll start with you, Miss Saucedo Mercer.

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: The Second Amendment in the Constitution gives us the right to bear and own arms and we are not going to stop any bad person or a mentally ill person from going and doing what that crazy guy in Colorado did. Gun control is not the answer in my opinion.

Andrea Kelly: What about the large capacity magazines, though, not the actual guns used?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Anything that has been used… anything that is used by a bad person or a mentally unstable person is going to happen. Gun control, again, is not the answer. I don’t care how big of a gun or how small of a gun, I want to be protected, I want to have… I want to preserve the right to own a gun and be able to defend myself. If there was people armed in that theater, they could have stopped that deranged individual and sadly it wasn’t the case.

Andrea Kelly: Mr. Vasquez, is it time to talk about high capacity magazines in gun use?

Jamie Vasquez: I agree with Gabriela because it doesn’t matter how much ammunition you’re carrying. A nut is a nut and you have to be able to protect yourself. I live in Three Points and it’s on an almost… this time of year with monsoons it’s a little bit cooler and we’re getting a lot of people that come right down my front yard and sometimes I don’t… you don’t know if they’re terrorists or whoever they are or drug dealers and those days… and then you see more than one person. Those days, I don’t mind having a magazine full of bullets, 'cause I was in Nam and I went through that stuff and I know what it’s like. You have to protect yourself and there’s no way that… I have no problem with people having a lot of ammunition, no problem at all.

Christopher Conover: Let’s talk about something actually again that you just brought up. Drug dealers and drugs coming across our southern border which of course this district has a lot of, the southern border. We hear about the Border Patrol all the time making marijuana busts and methamphetamine busts and other drugs, so in light of that, what changes need to be made to this country’s drug policy to better accomplish border security, if any changes at all? And we’ll start with you, Mr. Vasquez.

Jamie Vasquez: Drug policy is… it doesn’t matter how much you change it or whatever, whatever you’re going to do with it. You’re going to have your users and whatever people are going to use the drugs for. What we have to do a little bit to stop that problem is to secure our border and at least try to control it a little bit because people are just coming, just walking in. And then, I was, I forget who I was speaking to but I was… like in Nam we used to… this is like the old basic, basic system of an alarm system of people coming through our perimeters. We used to use our old beer cans that we used to tie them together and you could hear somebody coming over, they rattled the cans but now we have technology here. What do they call it, cyber technology and boots on the ground and believe me, nobody will get through and you can save money on building the border fence and all that stuff. I’m kind of cutting my own throat because I’m in the… we’re negotiating to get business on the border so I’m going to have to turn that job down.

Christopher Conover: The same question, Miss Saucedo Mercer. What needs to change, if anything, in our drug policy to deal with border security?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, the problem with drugs is supply and demand. We’ll never stop the problem with drug addiction until there’s no more demand. The drugs are going to keep coming in. How do we stop those drugs from coming in is to secure the border. Securing our… the southern borders of our nation is not just about stopping the drugs. It’s about stopping the illegal influx of people that shouldn’t be here because they haven’t gone through the process of coming here legally, so we have a huge problem with human trafficking. Where are the human rights people crying about that issue? And then we have the problem with security. People that are coming across our borders illegally are not just people that are looking for jobs anymore. We have terrorists, like Jamie mentioned. Last year alone, there was 250,000 people that were detained and they were categorized as “other than Mexicans” and we know that not only Mexicans come across the border through Mexico. It is sad that a lot of them, they have to pay $5,000 to $10,000, and the only way that they’re going to be able to accomplish that is by bringing drugs across the border, they call them mules. They bring the drugs on backpacks. We have the problem with the tunnels. How are we going to stop all of those things? Technology and securing the border, that’s the main thing.

Andrea Kelly: I’d like to ask for some specifics on border security now. We’ve talked about drugs and drugs policy but as we all hear, the Yuma sector of the Border Patrol is a fairly successful sector. There’s not as many people crossing and there’s not as many drugs coming across. The Tucson sector on the other hand is one of the busiest in the country for apprehensions. We hear week after week about drugs coming through also and being stopped by Border Patrol. So I’d like to ask you each for some specifics on how do you go about securing the border. We’ll start with you, Gabriela.

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, I will adapt the same thing that former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter from San Diego [did]. When the border allocation or the money was set aside to build the border, to secure our border all along the United States with Mexico, the money was set aside but Congress didn’t act upon it. Duncan L. Hunter said, “Hey, the money’s there, I’m going to build the border.” They did, in the San Diego sector, the two-layer border with boots on the ground meaning Border Patrol is patrolling. Every few miles they have patrol. Their crime and the influx of illegal drugs and people was cut by 95 percent. It works. Building the fence works. There’s a lot of argument here that, oh, the terrain is not suitable to building the fence. I like to say, the Chinese built the Great Wall of China.

Andrea Kelly: So how do you pay for it in this time of economic cutbacks?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, we need to find the money somewhere and like I said, it was in 1986 when Reagan gave amnesty to 12 million people, one of the promises was, we have the money to build the border fence and we are going to do it and again, Congress fell through except Duncan Hunter.

Andrea Kelly: And Mr. Vasquez, we started with the question being that the Yuma sector of Border Patrol is a very successful sector in stopping people and drugs from crossing, the Tucson sector not so much. So how do you make that Tucson sector more successful?

Jamie Vasquez: Well, we can’t be as efficient as Yuma because they’ve got the Marine Corps air station there and that’s a big help. And the Border Patrol and the sheriff’s department out there, they work really well together. And they do the same thing out here but here we have the problem with Sells, with the reservation and they’re their own little country and every day if you read the Sells paper or the Roadrunner, you’ll see they list their crime statistics and just one crosser after the other getting caught. And I agree with Gabriela on building the fence, but the money is a problem.

Andrea Kelly: So how do you pay for it?

Jamie Vasquez: Because it’s a federal problem, it’s got to come through Congress because it is a federal problem so it’s going to come from us in other words. And that’s one of my big reasons is with modern technology you can get a lot more done than boots on the ground because that’s… I think it’s more efficient right now but if we ever get the money, we can build walls. But it’ll run about… cause I bid on the wall one time a couple years ago and it was close to a million dollars for less, for about less than a mile and that’s because of the terrain and the equipment that you have to use in order to even build a little section of the fence. So it’s a very expensive process.

Christopher Conover: For those of you just tuning in, this is the Congressional District 3 Republican Forum. I’m Christopher Conover. Joining me in the questioning is Andrea Kelly and our two guests this evening are Jamie Vasquez and Gabriela Saucedo Mercer. Thank you both for coming in. Again, kind of current events if you will, the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer held up parts of the Affordable Healthcare Act. I think I know the answer to this question but I’m going to ask it anyway. If you were a member of Congress right now, would you vote to repeal that? And we’ll start with you, Miss Saucedo Mercer.

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Absolutely, absolutely. Socialized medicine does not work. I come from Mexico, born and raised in Mexico, used socialized medicine. It doesn’t work. We don’t want socialized medicine in this country where we have the best healthcare available for people. We do need to reform and I hate that word, we do need to look up ways of fixing the not necessarily accessibility because everybody in this country has healthcare accessible to them. We cannot discriminate against anybody whether they are going to be able to pay the bill or not. You go to emergency room, emergency hospital and they’ll take care of you. So that’s not the problem. The problem is allow people to have choices. I don’t want the government or a bureaucratic body to decide what is the healthcare that I need or that I want. We live in America, land of the free, we shouldn’t have the government run our healthcare.

Christopher Conover: Mr. Vasquez, if you were a member of Congress right now, would you vote to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act?

Jamie Vasquez: I would definitely vote to repeal it. It’s a very expensive tax bill number one and it’s going to hurt all small businesses. We’re going to… you’re going to see a lot more people in the long run uninsured and like Gabby says, there are better plans for healthcare but there are so many out there right now. But we really need to sit down and hash things out because the Obamacare is going to break us. It really is going to break us and it’s going to cost like trillions of dollars more in the long run and Obama and his cronies say that we’re going to be better off but there’s no way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we’re in trouble and we’re going to get deeper into trouble.

Andrea Kelly: Just a follow on that. One of the reasons people were supporting the Affordable Care Act, those who did support it, was that it would require everyone to get coverage and ultimately result in lower insurance rates and premiums for people. So if as you both support repealing it how do you then deal with those costs associated with healthcare if not everyone is covered? And we’ll start with you.

Jamie Vasquez: One way is, like I’ve said I’ve heard different methods and one is like a tax credit system and to tell you the truth I really don’t know. You really have to study it because we, in my company we have to deal with that stuff and if… I think if we were allowed to shop around and eliminate a lot of the restrictions for buying insurance for our employees it would be a lot easier on us as far as business owners and anyone. Like Gabriela said, anyone should be able to walk into if they’re sick into any medical healthcare service or whatever it is, a hospital, and be taken care of and have good quality care. I can give you a good example of socialized medicine. I hate to say, not be thankful for what I have but as a disabled veteran I use the VA for my medical needs and you have to wait two, three months sometimes if you’re ailing with something and that’s socialized medicine and it is exactly what Gabby’s saying, it’s not good.

Andrea Kelly: And Miss Saucedo Mercer, to follow on the same question, if not everybody is covered, if you repeal the Affordable Care Act and not everybody is covered, how do you deal with the rising costs of healthcare to pay for those uninsured?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, again, go back to what I said earlier, everybody is covered, not necessarily by your own health insurance. I purchase my own health insurance. Again, anybody in this country, if you are ill and you don’t have health insurance, you go to an emergency room and they will take care of you. So that’s not the issue. The issue is that this Obamacare is a monstrosity. They lied to us. It’s not about giving health insurance to everybody. Why would they cut half a billion dollars on Medicare which is the programs that we have for people that need health insurance. The elderly and then it goes by state, California it’s called MediCal, in Arizona we call it AHCCCS. Those programs have been cut and so this Affordable Healthcare Act is not going to cover everybody. It is a lie and that’s what most people are not looking into it. That’s what the president has told us. Oh, it’s not a new tax. Well, it turns out that the Supreme Court said, oh, it is a tax, guess what and who’s paying the bill, we are. It’s not going to be cheaper, everybody is not going to be covered, that’s the bottom line.

Christopher Conover: The big issue in the presidential race or one of the big issues is the economy. No great secret, the economy is slow right now to put it gently. Miss Saucedo Mercer, your website says that you want to promote free enterprise but we keep hearing that businesses now have money, have cash reserves but they don’t want to spend them. So how does Congress encourage business to get back out there and spend money be it through hiring or purchasing for their own businesses? How does Congress do that?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Well, right now the problem that businesses are looking into is the regulations. The government has their hands on… they’re not allowing corporations or companies, even small businesses to thrive and yes, people are afraid to invest or do certain things but the main thing is for instance, and I know this is at a local level, but I was talking to a small business owner here in Tucson. She owns a little restaurant. It took her 18 months to go through the process of getting her permits. That is insane, that is insane. The government needs to get their hands off of businesses that are trying to create jobs. Another huge example is Rosemont Copper Mine. Five years they have gone through the process of trying to get the permits to start digging for the copper and still it hasn’t happened. Why? Because of government intervention. If we don’t let the businesses do the free enterprise flow, we’re never going to have jobs available for people. Government does not create jobs, government creates bureaucracies and that’s the big problem that we have.

Christopher Conover: Mr. Vasquez, how does Congress create a job?

Jamie Vasquez: I’ll tell you how I would create one. My plan for Arizona to create jobs would be to build a nuclear power plant here in Tucson, one in Yuma and a water desalination plant in Yuma with Yuma being the main distribution plant pulling water out of the ocean. This way it would help, the water would restore the water that we use and it would help agriculture. And like a nuclear power plant is the cleanest, safest source of energy today. The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant took me on a tour about a month ago and they really educated me on the entire system. The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, they’ve got the safest… the best safety record in the entire United States, I think even the world. And a nuclear power plant would create thousands of jobs and make millions of dollars for the economy here in Arizona and in Yuma. Then we could supply water to all of Arizona. Like the problem they had in…

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: California.

Jamie Vasquez: Everywhere, in Tombstone. I think that would solve a lot of problems and the reason I know about the energy side of the coin is because I was brought up in the energy business. I worked for Salt River Project in Phoenix for 16 years and I started at the bottom of the ladder and ended up supervising maintenance on all the dams from Roosevelt Dam all the way down to Morgan Flat Dam and I know about the power industry and I know it promotes money and jobs, long term quality jobs.

Andrea Kelly: You’ve brought up the energy industry and I wanted to ask each of you, we’ll start with you Mr. Vasquez on this, who should be responsible for leading the way on energy production? Is it the government, is it private industry, what do you think on that?

Christopher Conover: And let me just caution you both, we need to keep our answers shorter, we have less than two minutes left.

Jamie Vasquez: The government, out the door and the regulations.

Andrea Kelly: That’s what I was going to ask.

Jamie Vasquez: The private sector can do this.

Andrea Kelly: So do you eliminate all regulations on all energy production?

Jamie Vasquez: Oh, you can’t do that. You have to have some regulations but not these outrageous regulations that we deal with every day. As minimal government intervention as possible.

Andrea Kelly: Okay. And one minute left. Yes, Miss Saucedo Mercer, same question, who should lead the way on energy production, private, public?

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer: Free Enterprise, corporations they… If you want to start a business, you should go and look for investors and do it that way. The government should never, ever put their hands in. Look what happened to Solyndra and all of a sudden they go bankrupt. Where’s our money? That’s our taxpayer money. That should never happen. That’s why government should not be running any business, except the business of protecting us and infrastructure, that’s it.

Christopher Conover: All right. Well, thank both of you so much for coming in. We’ve reached the end of our time. I promised it would go quickly for both of you and again thanks so much for coming in. Andrea, thank you for joining us for questioning. In the coming weeks we’ll hear more from the Democrats in the CD3 race. If you want to watch or listen to this forum again or get more information on a variety of races affecting Southern Arizona, be sure to visit our website in the Your Vote portion. That’s azpm.org. To our friends listening in on KAWC Colorado River Public Radio in Yuma and those of you who tuned in on Arizona Public Media, thanks so much for joining us. For Andrea Kelly, I’m Christopher Conover, Arizona Public Media.