More dodges, weaves than jabs in Az gov debate
What's likely to be the only live gubernatorial debate in Tucson had the three candidates sticking more to their talking points than trading punches Thursday night. Fred DuVal, Doug Ducey and Barry Hess answered questions for about 90 minutes, but none were caught against the ropes as they repeated their campaign pitches.
Ducey, the Republican State Treasurer who's seeking to move up to the governor's seat, repeated the line that his goal is to "kickstart Arizona's economy" so often that it left some wondering if he'd changed the URL of his campaign website to that of a crowdfunding site.
DuVal, the Democrat who is a former member of the Board of Regents, continued to hammer Ducey on education policies, returning again and again to a court-ordered increase in state schools funding that Ducey has said he would continue to appeal.
While both major party candidates issued press releases claiming victory, the biggest applause line of the night went to Libertarian candidate Barry Hess, who jokingly declined to ask another candidate a question.
"I already know what they're going to say," Hess said.
Indeed, beyond a gaffe or two from Ducey — who at one point defended his jobs plan and knocked DuVal's by saying he would "start with a minimum-wage job, which I don't think anyone wants" — both stuck with their game plans.
Ducey continued to talk up his business experience with Cold Stone Creamery, while DuVal pulled his punches by not mentioning a Wall Street Journal report last week that found the Republican's former company is near the top of the list for costing taxpayers the most from franchisees' defaulted SBA loans.
DuVal swung again and again on education, working "investing in K-12 education" into nearly every answer. Ducey didn't raise any questions about DuVal's votes as a regent to raise university tuition, likely because DuVal has a polished parry in having been backed into a corner by the Legislature.
The Democrat pledged that "a Dreamer will give the Pledge of Allegiance at my inauguration" and that he would, as his first act in office, reverse Gov. Jan Brewer's executive order to deny driver's licenses to those who've been approved for deferred action from deportation.
Ducey, saying that he has "a lot of compassion" and that there is "a lot of blame to go around," said he'd continue Brewer's policy until Arizona has "some kind of handle on border security."
Hess commented that "anybody driving should have a license and be able to get insurance."
"We've got to stop allowing politicians to divide us into groups — these are people, too," the Libertarian said.
"No politician, no government creates jobs," Ducey said. "What a governor can do is create an environment where small businesses are creating jobs."
"We are losing too many good middle class jobs," DuVal said. "Livable wage jobs are jobs that provide dignity. The cuts to our education are divesting our children's futures."
"That's nonsense in many ways ... as if people are some kind of cattle that we can herd," Hess said.
DuVal offered a policy proposal.
"You need to hear some specifics from us," he told the audience, proposing student loan relief for teachers who graduate in the top third of their class and take positions in Arizona.
"I'll handle the budget like a businessman ... go through it line-by-line," said Ducey, the sitting Treasurer.
"I'd hope you would have gone through the budget line-by-line already," DuVal said to a laugh from the audience. "I'm just a volunteer running for governor."
Ducey said he wants to increase child-support collections.
"If you're old enough to father a child, you're old enough to financially support it," he said.
DuVal said the reform measures imposed on Child Protective Services didn't go far enough to improve child support.
"Education lifts people out of poverty," he said, leading to a blast against Ducey for what he said is a Republican "war on women, war on minorities, war on gays."
Ducey stayed silent when challenged by DuVal to support the firing of controversial recalled state Sen. Russell Pearce from a Maricopa County treasurer's office job over remarks advocating sterilizing women on Medicaid.
The Republican accused DuVal of having a "mantra."
"Don't just sit there, spend something," he said the Democrat's position is. "I hear a lot of ideas that I think will cost quite a bit."
Ducey asked DuVal if he would commit to not raise taxes.
"Yes," the Democrat replied simply.
After a pause and laughter from the candidates and audience, he continued.
"Yes, yes, yes" he said, counting off his points on his fingers. "I will not raise taxes; we can put that one to bed."
"No new taxes; read my lips," he said.
DuVal turned the question to a blast against Ducey's proposal to cut taxes.
"This issue of a tax repeal — it's 40 percent of the state budget," he said. DuVal didn't push Ducey to indicate which parts of the budget he'd cut to accomplish the tax cut.
The debate wound up with another repetition of Ducey's "kickstart" line and him mentioning his business acumen, and DuVal's rendition of a tale about his father's experience helping raise money for the University of Arizona medical school.
For both, it all came down to money in the end.
For voters, there wasn't much new information to be had, and few in the audience of about 450 seem to have been swayed to change their minds — DuVal received the most applause throughout, while Hess got the most laughs.
There won't be many further chances to directly compare and contrast the two candidates. Ducey has not responded to many requests for sit-down interviews, and has declined debate invitations in Southern Arizona and Pinal County. The Republican said "scheduling conflicts" will keep him from participating in a debate scheduled for Sunday at the University of Arizona.