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Republican CD8 primary

Mantra of GOP candidate debate: Beat Giffords

Kelly, Paton, Miller and Goss try to put focus on defeating Rep. Giffords

All four Republicans vying to run against Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in CD8 gathered to debate at the University of Arizona on Thursday night.

Jesse Kelly, Jonathan Paton, Brian Miller and Andy Goss, each a self-identified conservative and combat veteran, met in front of a sparse crowd of about 30 students and a dozen or so political staffers, discussing border politics, taxation, health care and the nature of modern American conservatism.

Not surprisingly, the candidates were in agreement on most issues, especially concerns regarding Gabrielle Giffords' tenure as congresswoman and the Democratic majority in Congress.

"It's time to send her home...it's time to nail her. There's plenty to go after her on," said Jesse Kelly, who works for his family's contracting business. "We can, we will, we are going to win this year."

Added Jonathan Paton, who stepped down from the Arizona Senate to run, "Gabrielle Giffords, she needs to pack her bags, clean out her desk, and go hire herself a U-Haul trailer, because we're going to change this Congress, I guarantee it."

Each of the candidates spoke out in favor of the implementation of a flat tax, although Air Force Reservist Brian Miller also lauded the "fair tax" while noting its passage, requiring a repeal of the 16th Amendment, was a long shot.

The event was sponsored by the UA College Republicans and the Arizona chapter of conservative website Smart Girl Politics.

College Republicans Communications Director Katie Pavlich moderated the event.  Pavlich is a UA undergrad and appears as "U of A Katie" on 104.1 The Truth's Jon Justice Show in the weekly segment "What Katie Learned in College."

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The four candidates also largely agreed on immigration and border issues, each calling for increased resources to protect the border and stop the flow of illegal immigrants across vast swaths of the desert. There was some disagreement about how best to reach these goals.

Three of the four argued in favor of building a physical border fence, while Miller suggested that investing money toward creating a "market based immigration system" was the best way to solve the problem.

While each called for more law enforcement on the border, Andy Goss, who teaches intelligence techniques to members of the military, went a step further by calling for updates to Border Patrol rules of engagement that would allow agents to more readily confront suspected illegals.

While the conversation was largely congenial, Kelly and Paton, considered the front runners in the primary race due to their early success at piling up endorsements and campaign funds, did engage in some direct debate.

Midway through the evening, Paton confronted Kelly one-on-one about Kelly's lack of support for a Border Patrol checkpoint on I-19, suggesting that Kelly wasn't serious about actually stopping illegals from moving into Tucson.

Later, when the candidates were asked to distinguish themselves from each other, Kelly immediately went after Paton, criticizing his vote in favor of former Gov. Napolitano's 2008 state budget.

However, those minor skirmishes took a back seat to the Republican goal of ousting Giffords. Each candidate used his closing statement to pledge to work as a team with whomever wins the Aug. 24 primary election.

"I will work with whoever wins," said Goss. "One of us four will take her down. Stick a fork in Gabby Giffords; she's done."

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