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Kirkpatrick, an endangered moderate, deserves 2nd chance

  • Updated
  • 7

You wouldn't know it by all those screaming fliers in your mailbox, but there's actually a moderate running for Congress this year in Arizona.

She is Ann Kirkpatrick and she is running in our very own First Congressional District, which stretches from Flagstaff and the Rez down through the White Mountains to Casa Grande and the northern suburbs of Tucson.

Kirkpatrick is a Flagstaff Democrat, attorney and former prosecutor and state lawmaker who grew up on tribal lands in the White Mountains. She served in Congress in 2009-10, but her votes were hardly in lockstep with her party.

-- She voted for Obamacare and the federal stimulus, but not for the auto bailout, Dodd-Frank financial reform or cap-and-trade energy credits to address global warming.

-- She supports guns in national parks but not in college classrooms.

-- She's for raising taxes on those earning more than $500,000 but also for reining in Medicare spending.

-- She opposes mining for uranium in the Grand Canyon watershed but backs mining for copper outside Superior.

In other words, she incorporates parts of both the conservative and liberal agendas that make up the sprawling First District, a difficult balancing act that gives party hard-liners on both sides of the aisle fits.

NOT THE USUAL TARGET

For the Republican attack ad machine, Kirkpatrick doesn't present the usual liberal Democratic target. They've imported the same distorted national ad they use against anyone who voted for Obamacare as threatening Medicare and patient rights -- an ad thoroughly debunked by FactCheck.org. And they've focused on her office payroll, not exactly a defining issue in Campaign 2012.

For the Pelosi Democrats of northern Arizona and even some independents, Kirkpatrick's pragmatism makes her almost an exotic species that they don't know how to handle. They learned their lesson the hard way in 2010 when they stayed home instead of turning out for her election against Paul Gosar, a tea party Republican from Doney Park, and it cost the Democrats a seat in Congress.

But this year, with Gosar running in a different district and the Republicans fielding a candidate from the Tucson suburbs who has ignored northern Arizona, Kirkpatrick should have the field almost to herself. The fact that she can gain no traction with newspaper editorial boards in the southern half of the district says as much about their unfamiliarity with the district as it does about Kirkpatrick.

CONSISTENTLY RIGHT WING

Her opponent, Republican Jonathan Paton, is a career lobbyist and politician who voted consistently with the right wing of the Republican Party during his terms in the Legislature. He voted for SB1070 and has refused to commit to comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secured according to benchmarks that he won't specify.

Kirkpatrick wants a secure border, too, but is willing to move forward on temporary work visas and Dream Act exemptions.

Paton says he is for quality education, but he opposed even putting the 1-cent sales tax for schools on the ballot, much less supported it.

Kirkpatrick wants full funding for Head Start and the federal Title I school programs for poor children.

Paton opposes Obamacare and any mandatory insurance plan, but he won't say how the U.S. healthcare system can reduce the number of uninsured other than to open up health insurance to interstate competition and back away from the fee-for-service health care model.

Kirkpatrick is open to amending Obamacare's payment schedules for physicians and strengthening incentives to get family doctors into rural areas.

Paton blames much of the economy's current ills on federal overregulation and intrusion into the free market.

Kirkpatrick says the government can and should play a role in stimulating emerging sectors like renewable energy and biotech.

BIG ISSUES IN TENSION

In short, Paton strikes us as another rigid, free-market conservative who will not work across the aisle in Congress, where gridlock in the face of the looming fiscal cliff is no longer an acceptable option. The three big issues that Congress must face directly -- a growing federal debt, slack economic demand that is frustrating an entire generation of new college graduates, and the growing inequality between the haves and the have-nots -- are in tension with each other. They won't be solved without a mix of higher, targeted tax revenues, strategic spending cuts and government investment in areas that will prime the middle-class pump.

Ann Kirkpatrick has shown the courage and intelligence to weigh those competing priorities and support pragmatic solutions. That's good for a congressional district as diverse as CD1 and it is good for the country. We urge voters to return her to Congress on Nov. 6.

Serving this week on the Daily Sun's Editorial Advisory Board were Publisher Don Rowley, Editor Randy Wilson and citizen members John Lauc, Joyce R. Browning, Becky Daggett and Scott Kuhr.

Our View: CD1 needs an intelligent and pragmatic representative who embodies its diversity and will help to break the gridlock in Congress.

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