/ Modified aug 24, 2012 6:22 p.m.

The Congressional District 2 Republican Primary Forum

Health care reform and the border figure prominently for CD2 GOP candidates Martha McSally and Mark Koskiniemi - click for full transcript

Republicans Martha McSally and Mark Koskiniemi are seeking their party's nomination in the Congressional District 2 race.

Name: Mark Koskiniemi

Running for: U.S. House, District 2

Party: Republican

Website: koskiniemi4az8.com

Name: Martha McSally

Running for: U.S. House, District 2

Party: Republican

Website: mcsallyforcongress.com

About the district: Cochise County and about half of Pima County and Tucson. Includes Green Valley, Sahuarita, Catalina Foothills, Casas Adobes, Vail, Summerhaven. Population: 710,224,. Non-Hispanic whites, 64.4%; Hispanics, 25.8%; other minorities, 9.8%. Voter registration: 34.7% Republican; 34.2% Democrat; 31.1% other/independent.

Full transcript of the forum:

Christopher Conover: Welcome to an Arizona Public Media Your Vote 2012 special, the Congressional District 2 Republican 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. So let’s meet the candidates. First is retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally, next we have Mark Koskiniemi. Joining me for the question as always is Arizona Public Media’s Andrea Kelly and to both of our candidates, thank you so much for coming in.

Martha McSally: Good to see you again.

Mark Koskiniemi: Thank you.

Andrea Kelly: Well, Martha, you’ve been in the studio before. You were running in Congressional District 8. People may remember you, Air Force colonel, fighter pilot and lots of studies in national security but Mark we’d like to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to voters.

Mark Koskiniemi: Okay. I appreciate that. My name is Mark Koskiniemi and I’m running to represent folks in Congressional 2 of the U.S. House of Representatives. My Arizona story starts in 1972 when my family came here from Golden, Colorado. I attended the local schools, graduated from CDO high school. Went on to get my degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and went directly into the chemical industry, spent 22 years there in private sector, started as a salesperson on the front line working my way up through executive management becoming country manager in Australia and New Zealand for the company I worked for. Had a lot of experience working with departments like the Department of Labor, the EPA and the IRS so I know what the issues are that people are dealing with in small business and look forward to representing them as well as the rest of the district in the future.

Andrea Kelly: And Mark, this is your first run for public office, correct?

Mark Koskiniemi: That is correct.

Andrea Kelly: And Martha, second election in a year.

Martha McSally: Exactly.

Andrea Kelly: Anything else you want to add for people to remember who you are or as you go into your second cycle?

Martha McSally: Yeah, sure. Thank you. A retired Air Force colonel, fighter pilot as you mentioned, spent 26 years in uniform, served almost 10 years here at Davis Monthan Air Force Base flying the A10 closed air support aircraft. I graduated the Air Force Academy and I have one masters from Harvard in Public Policy and another from Anwar College in Strategic Studies and I worked for Senator Kyl for a year as a legislative fellow when I was a major. Also took on the Pentagon for making our women wear Muslim garb in Saudi Arabi and filed a lawsuit and then got legislation passed to overturn that. So I had a very interesting time in the CD8 election in a 68 day campaign and never imagined it would turn out this way but here we are again to represent the people of Southern Arizona in CD2.

Christopher Conover: So let’s get down to some issues now. Earlier today the shooting suspect in the Colorado theater shooting incident made his first appearance in court and we’re beginning to hear some conversations in light of that incident that we heard here in Tucson following our own January 8th shootings that it may be time to have a national conversation about some federal legislation regarding the limiting of large capacity magazines for the civilian world. Is this something that we need to have a national federal conversation about and Mark we’ll start with you and then Martha we’ll come to you.

Mark Koskiniemi: I think we can’t prejudge what the results should be at the end of them. Obviously our Second Amendment rights that we need to very carefully watch and protect. So we can have the conversation and see where it goes from there but let’s keep in mind that we do have a constitution that protects the rights of our citizens.

Christopher Conover: Martha.

Martha McSally: Tucson knows like no other community what Colorado is going through right now and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those who have lost their lives and those who are injured. This is just a horrible, horrible tragedy by one individual committing a serious criminal act. We need to make sure that we address those criminal acts by individuals while still protecting everyone’s constitutional rights in the Second Amendment. And right now really the focus should be on our thoughts and prayers being with the families of the victims.

Andrea Kelly: Turning to a separate issue, the Affordable Care Act has obviously been a huge discussion in this district going back to 2009 even before the legislation was written, of course in 2010 there were hearings and lots of emotion in the district going on through now, we now have a ruling from the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the law and I would like to hear from both of you on what needs to happen next but Martha we’ll start with you. You’ve said that that act is costing Americans jobs. What do you mean by that?

Martha McSally: Well, what I mean is that it was defended as a tax even though it wasn’t defended as a tax when it was passed and this increase is going to be mostly on the middle class and so we’ve got small businesses here in southern Arizona and across the nation that are going to be now required to have to pay for these mandates that are coming out of the Affordable Care Act. So I believe it needs to be repealed but I also believe it needs to be replaced. We have got to have an honest conversation of this complex issue on how we bring the cost of healthcare down to make it affordable and make it available for individuals to be able to get healthcare. So it’s a very serious issue and if we do nothing about it it’s going to bankrupt Americans, it’s going to bankrupt our company. The solution is not a government run program. The solution is to come up with thoughtful ways to bring the cost of healthcare down to make it affordable and available. And so that’s what my focus will be. I think as Republicans we need to not just be talking about what we’re against but what we’re for and this is a very serious issue for Americans, for individuals who want to have healthcare coverage but can’t afford it and also for businesses who are being mandated now to carry those prices as the premiums keep going up. So initiatives to bring the cost down is where we need to focus and not on a government run program.

Andrea Kelly: Can you give some examples of those initiatives, some ways to actually do that.

Martha McSally: Sure. Yeah. I have spent a lot of time talking to experts on this which I said I would do to include doctors, to include hospital administrators and others and some initiatives that appear to be ones we need to follow up on our buying insurance across state lines, again anything that brings competition will bring down that cost, allowing for health insurance to be portable so it’s not just tied to your employer but you can actually bring it with you and have the opportunity to move to another employer but have that health insurance with you. There are several other initiatives that have been brought to my attention that I’m continuing to study to sit down with the experts but we’ve got to bring that cost down, we’ve got to somehow incentivize preventive care so that we’re healthier than we are right now. We pay 50% more than any other country for our healthcare but we’re not healthier for it and the prices keep going up. So the solution is not a tax on middle class Americans and on small businesses that are causing such uncertain right now, that they’re not hiring new employees. The solution is to move forward to really address this complex issue to bring the cost down. Just because something is constitutional doesn’t mean it’s good policy so we can address that at the polls in November.

Andrea Kelly: Okay. And Mark, the Affordable Care Act, you’ve also said that you would like to replace it and hoping to hear some specifics on what you would do with that, how you would still provide insurance or lower the costs.

Mark Koskiniemi: Right. I think Martha’s sit on several of the good points there. What I would really like to see our presidential candidate Mitt Romney say is, listen, yes, I put in a very similar program in the state of Massachusetts but that was for my state, we felt that’s what was appropriate for our state at that time, we never intended for this to become a federal program, again, each state having the opportunity to actually make the decisions that are best for them. So what we’re trying to do in our campaign is get people to focus again on the ever-expanding federal government that’s in play right now and this decision was one of those. The Supreme Court laid out very clearly for us that either you can have ever-expanding government without end that will tax you for doing something or doing nothing or you can get the peoples’ representatives and the peoples’ house in Congress to take control of this and make sure that we are protecting states’ rights and state sovereignty to make these decisions like this. But further to healthcare we really need to drive it down to the community level and that is something, that’s where healthcare really takes place. It’s not hiring 16,000 IRS agents to enforce the tax. So for example here in Pima County there’s a neat program that’s going on right now where there’s a nurse in the public library downtown and she goes to folks that may be hanging around in that area and asking them if they, is there any referrals that they need, are they taking the medications they need to get, are they having trouble. So she does a lot of intervention there, so again at the community level to address issues of our community health and well being.

Andrea Kelly: If you’re going on a state by state where each state might have a different healthcare program, how do you ensure that those are comparable or equitable in terms of cost and what services are offered?

Mark Koskiniemi: Well, that’s up to the folks in the state. Now opening it up to maybe allowing people to purchase across state lines, I have one concern because originally people were saying that this healthcare law was going to be shown to be unconstitutional based on the commerce clause. If we start opening things up across state lines, then we may kind of negate that argument. But still, if we’ve got a good system of programs around each state, maybe we can then open it up and say, well, hey, you can purchase into another state’s plan. Of course doctors would have to go along with that as well.

Christopher Conover: Other than regulation and again Martha we’ll start with you and we’ll come to Mark. Other than regulation is there a role for government in healthcare, be it supplying money to communities for community based programs like Mark was talking about or should this really be handled on a state level, a community level and a private level?

Martha McSally: I think primarily it’s a state and community level. The federal government is overreached in many different ways. I do think we need to go back as we’re trying to deal with the overreach of the federal government and ask ourselves foundationally what our founding fathers meant for the role of the federal government which is again at the consent of the people with very small powers. And so in that case, when it comes to the healthcare issue, primarily I think it should be driven down to the state and community levels. I’d be interested to listen to people about what they think is an appropriate federal level response and I would study that very carefully to make sure that it’s not a federal government overreach.

Mark Koskiniemi: Similarly when the question is asked about maybe providing grants or something to folks, I think that, what you’re saying is we’re now taking money up to the federal level so we can redistribute it down to the state levels. If we were to not have the federal money, money being drawn from taxpayers to the federal level only to be redistributed again, those resources would be available locally. I think we’re got too big a federal government, too much money going that direction that’s going to be rerouted back to us. Let’s keep it in our taxpayers’ and citizens’ pockets and be able to support the programs locally that are important to them.

Andrea Kelly: We’ll move on to another issue here and this time we’ll start with you Mark. Immigration has always been a big issue in this district even if it’s come and gone from the top issue to maybe the number two issue over the years. You say you’d like more fencing and you’d like to…

Mark Koskiniemi: I don’t know that I’ve said…

Andrea Kelly: I thought your website said that. Fence in District 2.

Mark Koskiniemi: No, I don’t think so.

Andrea Kelly: Okay. I’m glad you corrected me. Let’s just have you say what is your stance on immigration policy, border policy for Congressional District 2 and also how to accomplish that at a national level.

Mark Koskiniemi: First, we do need to secure the borders and when people talk about fencing or multiple fences and things like that, I really like to point out that if you were protecting your home, you can put a fence around it and as we’ve seen people can go over it, under it or through it. If you want to be able to protect your home adequately, what are you going to do? You’re probably going to have someone on guard there watching it. You’re going to have eyes, ears and intelligence that are protecting your house and that’s going to be more effective than just having a passive defense in the form of a fence. So that’s what I would like to see. We have lots of border protection and Border Patrol resources in our area, we need to check how they’re being deployed and we need to make sure that they are… have the proper rules of engagement and that they are deployed in a way that effectively secures our border and protects our citizens in this district. Right now there’s too much that’s being controlled by forces that are not friendly to the United States and the drug traffickers, the human traffickers, they have taken the high ground and we need to reclaim the high ground and make sure that we are in control of our border. In terms of immigration, I often get asked the question, well, how do you feel about illegal immigration and I respond with, well, what’s the first word you just said. If it’s illegal, we need to make sure that it’s stopped and we need to take folks that are here not properly and get them returned to where they go. I was really disappointed that Janet Napolitano in a recent hearing just this week was asked the question, if we the Congress were to give you more resources specifically targeted for deportation prosecutions would your policy change and she said no. The current administration is committed to their form of the Dream Act and for me it stands for Don’t Really Expect Anyone’s Movin’. So we really do need to enforce the laws that we have. This is one of the things that is a concern of folks in our district, District 2, because the land along the border is not under federal control, it’s controlled by the cities or the towns or the ranchers in those areas and they want a coordinated response that includes cooperation by the federal government. The Supreme Court said as much in the SB1070 ruling, they expect the federal government to cooperate with the states, not run in the other direction, not ignore them, not not take their phone calls, things like that. So we need to get it pulled together federally and not having representation from that district for the period of time that we did I think has really allowed the administration to kind of ignore the issue. Having a strong voice there will bring that issue back to the fore with them and make sure we get some results.

Andrea Kelly: One example of, you said you’d like to see the resources potentially deployed differently. Can you give us one example?

Mark Koskiniemi: One example is we have a lot of Border Patrol personnel that are in offices up here in the Tucson area. We need to get more people down actually on the border.

Andrea Kelly: Thank you. And Martha McSally, immigration enforcement, how to solve what a lot of people say is a broken system.

Martha McSally: Yeah. The federal government has just absolutely failed in many ways on this issue. They have failed to secure the border, they have failed to secure this community from transnational criminal organizations that are trafficking weapons and drugs and money and slaves into our neighborhoods, they’ve failed to do real legal immigration reform that makes sense to meet the demands of our nation on a number of different levels. They’ve just failed. So I’m running for the U.S. House of Representatives to show that more courage and leadership to have the federal government address this issue. It’s the congresswoman from this district that needs to lead that effort because we’ve been disproportionally affected by it. I’ve talked before on your show about it. Securing the border is not difficult it just has been an issue of political will. We have to use a combination of barriers and fences, vehicle barriers, as appropriate in the right places plus a combination of manpower, other technologies to include sensors and airborne assets as appropriate in order to be able to detect, monitor and intercept illegal activity based on intelligence driven operations. It is not that hard. I have done this in a parallel way in the military before. It’s not rocket science, it’s a matter of political will and being smart with the resources you have so that you actually, the barriers are delaying that illegal activity but if you’re not actually monitoring and able to detect and intercept it, then all you’re doing is delaying the activity. I’ve spent a lot of time with the ranchers down on the border and hearing their frustrations as this is their property, these are their ranches, it’s their cattle, it’s their safety that is at stake here and just those simple things of using the combination of the barriers, the sensors, the manpower at the border and airborne assets as appropriate to secure and be able to detect and deal with that illegal activity. Similarly we need to show the political will at the federal level to do legal immigration reform. It’s so outdated, it’s a hot potato, no one wants to touch it but we have to do it. It’s our responsibility as a representative government to do those hard things in Washington, DC and I’m running in order to provide that leadership. I’ve shown that I’ll do the right thing in complex issues and show moral courage and we need to do that in order to address this issue. We also need to enforce the laws on the books and it’s a federal government responsibility. It should not be left to local law enforcement to have to clean up where the federal government has failed.

Christopher Conover: If you’re just joining us, this is the Congressional District 2 Republic Primary Forum. Our two candidates are Mark Koskiniemi and Martha McSally. Let’s go ahead and stay on immigration and the border for a moment. In June Congress passed a bill saying the Departments of Agriculture and Interior cannot restrict customs and border protection officers as they enforce immigration laws and that includes building roads and things like that. The bill waived a number of environmental protection laws and it really in many ways illustrates the complexity of this border issue. So if one of you was wearing the badge, the pin of a member of Congress at that time, how would you have voted on that and Martha we’ll go ahead and start with you.

Martha McSally: Again, I’m focusing on the future and what I would vote for when I do get to Congress and I understand the intent of that legislation which is we need to secure our border and we should give those that have that responsibility the resources that they need in order to do that job so they’re not having to be hamstrung in certain areas that they can’t get access as they’re dealing with transnational criminal organizations. We also do need to make sure we’re good stewards of the environment that we’re given and have that right balance. I’ve sat in rancher meeting with the Border Patrol when they’ve had to work through different issues of activity on their own properties and just being good stewards of that on private property and so they’re working through those issues even at the local level to make sure that as Border Patrol is protecting the border that they are being the best stewards that they can be of private property and of the environment. It is the right thing to do to make sure that they do have access to do their job while making sure that it’s not to the point that it’s destroying everything that we have out here. So I think that’s certainly the right balance to give them the access that they need to do their job to secure that border as our primary function for securing the citizens of CD2.

Christopher Conover: And Mark, how would you have voted on this if you were the member?

Mark Koskiniemi: I would have voted in favor of it in order to give the Border Patrol and the folks in border protection the opportunity to not on an equal footing but hopefully on a superior footing to get in there and address the issues of people coming across the border. Right now there’s a lot of movement of individuals, and this is primarily something that we’re seeing in the federally managed lands obviously, that is streaming up towards the Phoenix area. There is a huge environmental impact that’s going on as a result of this and if we are able to get our folks in on, like I say, not equal but superior footing down there in order to stem that tide, we actually will have better environmental results because we won’t have this 70 plus mile trail going through the desert of people impacting the environment. So I’d like people to look at it and really consider what will be the net end result as opposed to a reactionary kind of view of it to say, well, the Border Patrol is going to go in there and tear everything up because I don’t believe they will. I believe they’re going to act responsibly as well and we can stem the tide closer to the border and reduce that impact.

Andrea Kelly: Everyone running for office in the entire country right now is talking about the economy and I’m sure you’re both also concerned about that. So I would like to ask you and we’ll start with Mark on this one, how does Congress create jobs or work our way out of this if the goal is something other than job creation? Go ahead, Mark.

Mark Koskiniemi: The goal is job creation but Congress isn’t going to be going about creating jobs. Jobs are created by businesses, small business, big businesses, businesses nonetheless, individuals being entrepreneurial and deciding that they want to get into business. There was a recent survey that said the State of Arizona was ranked number one for entrepreneurial activity and that’s something that we can be proud of but it’s something that we did on our own, it’s not something the federal government did for us. We need to make sure the federal government is not consuming resources, is not wasting resources. We have an administration in place right now that seems to be trying to beat up on business and since we have a successful business environment here they’re even more interested in beating up on Arizona for a whole number of reasons we’ve seen in a whole vast array of areas. Congress needs to make sure that one, as far as the economy is concerned we are dealing with the deficit and the debt and right now there are precious few solutions being put out there that are going to really address the deficit and the debt. The President’s budget was put in and it’s got $600 billion deficits for as far as the eye can see. Paul Ryan put in his budget which did pass the House but probably has no chance in the Senate. That only starts to address the debt in about 2040. I’ve been and on my website promoting the Simpson-Boles approach which starts addressing the debt in 2035 but we need to squeeze it harder. We need to make sure that we are addressing the deficit and the debt sooner than that for the sake of our citizens to make sure that we release resources back into the economy rather than consuming them as a government and making those available for people to generate growth and jobs. Companies add jobs when their capacity has been outstripped by the demand that they have or they choose to innovate in order to draw in new customers and right now companies are sitting on cash and consumers are not wanting to part with their money because they don’t know what the future is going to bring and this goes back to things like the Affordable Health Care Act and everything else that the government is doing. When the President says, you didn’t build that, we know that we’ve got someone in office who does not get the free market system. I do with more than 21 years in the private sector helping to build a business, helping to demonstrate innovation and creativity in order to get people to work and I want to see that happen.

Andrea Kelly: Martha McSally.

Martha McSally: Small businesses are the engine of growth. Seven out of ten jobs are created by small businesses. Congress’s responsibility is to take the uncertainty out of the economic situation which we have right now that’s causing people to not spend money and causing businesses to not hire. There’s uncertainty on so many levels, whether it’s again the onerous tax that’s coming with the execution of the Affordable Care Act if it’s not repealed, the tax again that we’re seeing, that’s coming here at the end of the year if all the tax cuts expire, the sequester that will be kicking in for massive cuts in government spending to include defense. All of those things are creating an uncertainty of what’s going to be happening so that people are not hiring. So we’ve got a lot of “uns” going on. People are unemployed, people are underemployed, they’re undervalued and we’ve got this uncertainty. So it’s the role of the federal government and for those in Congress to bring some certainty and hope back to the situation so that the free market can flourish so that businesses can start hiring again and that’s going to be the way we grow out of this situation. So we have to bring that certainty in the tax environment, in the regulatory environment and in the debt, the uncertainty into whether we’re seriously going to address our debt or whether we’re going to continue on the glide path to Greece and other countries in Europe that we’re seeing is also adding to that people holding onto their capital and businesses holding onto their capital and not hiring new employees. So it’s our responsibility in Congress to bring some certainty to the economic situation so that the free market can flourish and businesses start hiring again and putting people back to work.

Mark Koskiniemi: It’s not just a series of temporary fixes like we’ve seen. I think one of the reasons why the State of Arizona is in such good shape as far as attracting business is because for the first time the State Legislature actually did look at budgeting for the next three years, start to give people visibility. What is the future going to look like, what is the environment going to look like? We need to do that on a federal national level so people can see what’s coming and have confidence that it’s actually going to happen and that the results that are going to be delivered are going to be positive.

Christopher Conover: We only have about two minutes left so what I want to talk with both of you about is neither of you have run campaigns before this cycle. Martha obviously you ran in CD8, Mark this is the first time you’ve run. How do you get your names out? Mark, we do campaign finance research. You haven’t raised a lot of money. Martha, you had to take a break during the CD8 general. So how do you get your names out there and meet the voters? Mark, we’ll start with you and Martha then we’ll come to you.

Mark Koskiniemi: I think the voters in this district have a really good opportunity because they have two fresh new faces from the beginning of this year if you will that have come into the political system. And what I really would encourage voters to do is to make sure that you look, do some research and learn about the candidates. A lot of people didn’t even know who was running throughout this cycle. There were kind of the big names that they all recognized but then you have some new faces and that’s really important to do that. We’ve been doing the grassroots stuff. Having been a part of this community for 40 years, I’ve got friends and family who are getting the word out. I know small business owners in this community all throughout the district and basically with all of the excitement around the CD8 race, the people who were managing other campaigns certainly generated a lot of exposure and enthusiasm among their faithful and we’re just trying to tap into those networks and say, give us a look and see what happens. So we’re not out there spending huge sums of money on various media but really trying to do a grassroots person to person.

Christopher Conover: Martha, we have less than a minute left. So how do you get your name out there?

Martha McSally: Well, the people of southern Arizona have already seen me through the CD8 election for sure and they decided that they want Ron Barber to serve them for six months in order to serve out Gabby Giffords’ term and we need to respect that. November is about the future, the special election was about the past and so I had the opportunity to meet many people in the first 68 day campaign and we will continue to get our messages out by pounding the pavement, working tirelessly to get out to all the voters but also we’ve got to raise money so let’s be serious about it. In order to compete with an incumbent you have to raise money. As of today, we’ve raised over $174,000 and you help get your message out by mailings, TV and radio by raising that money. You are not going to be a serious contender without that fundraising and people being willing to invest in you and we are very much focused on that right now so we can win this race.

Christopher Conover: All right. We have run out of time. Thank you so much both of you for coming in. Remember, early ballots go out August 2nd. It’s almost time for the primary. In the coming weeks we’ll hear more from the Democrats in this race and the candidates vying for their party’s nominations in both sides in a number of congressional races. If you want to watch this or listen to this forum again or get information on a variety of races affecting southern Arizona, be sure to visit the Your Vote 2012 portion of our website at azpm.org. Thanks for joining us.

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