Incumbent Congressman Tom O’Halleran and challenger Eva Putzova will compete for Democratic votes in Congressional District 1 during the Arizona primary on Aug. 4.
But on Monday evening, the two Democrats will be fighting for attendance at two separate town hall events focused on health care.
The two health care town halls are both in Flagstaff, set at about the same time, and are about two miles away from each other.
O’Halleran’s will be located at the Weatherford Hotel in downtown Flagstaff while Putzova’s will occur at The Aspen Room on E. 7th Avenue in Sunnyside.
While it's not clear whether the events were organized this way by accident or design, they illustrate the split in the Democratic Party's approach to health care.
The town halls
The two candidates position themselves on opposing sides of the Democratic Party's spectrum.
Putzova often touts “the most progressive campaign for Congress in Arizona” on social media posts. Meanwhile, O’Halleran is a chair of the Blue Dog Coalition which is made up of Democrats pushing bipartisan policy solutions.
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Putzova told the Arizona Daily Sun her town will focus on Medicare for all and the failings of the current health care system.
“It is important that our town hall is not a ‘health care’ town hall. It is a ‘health care is a right’ town hall,” Putzova said. “I support Medicare for all; I support the idea that every single person in the country should receive health care and should never be subject to bankruptcy because they're stuck with medical bills. That’s nonsense in my opinion.”
Leading up to the primary, Putzova said she has encountered numerous people who have been failed by the current health care system.
Putzova added the town hall will feature three medical professionals from Flagstaff, Phoenix and California to explain issues within the current health care system and a potential future Medicare for all system.
O’Halleran’s town hall is organized by the group Advancing AZ, also called Honest Arizona. A spokesperson for the group said the event will be an opportunity for voters to raise concerns regarding health care and learn about the work being done on health care in Washington.
“For instance, [the] Lower Drug Costs Now act just passed the house and we have been working with members across the state who voted for that piece of legislation," the Advancing AZ spokesperson said via phone.
O’Halleran was one such supporter. In a statement, O'Halleran said the law is designed to lower the cost of prescription drugs by empowering Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug companies and then making those prices available to those with private insurance as well.
“I am committed to protecting the Affordable Care Act from attempts to weaken it or target those with pre-existing conditions,” O’Halleran said in a statement. “I support initiatives to expand the ACA, including empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, creating public options to spur more competition, letting those 55 plus buy into Medicare, and expanding Medicare coverage to include more prescription drug, dental, and vision options.”
O’Halleran’s town hall will also feature Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans and Arizona residents with stories of their experience with the healthcare system.
Updated for correction at 4:36 p.m. on February 2.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.