The Rim Country Take On The Presidential Debate

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Below, local representatives of the Gila County Democratic Party and the Gila County Republican Committee share their views on how the presidential candidates performed in Wednesday night's debate.

Payson Democrats critique candidates

by Kelly Crowley, Roundup staff reporter

Local Democrats who watched Wednesday night's debate said Senator John Kerry answered the questions posed to him while President George W. Bush not only evaded them, but appeared to think the issues were funny.

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Mark Reza

Mark Reza, chairman of Gila County Democratic Party, said Bush ducked the issues and appeared to think issues such as health care, homeland security and the economy were humorous.

"He had a cavalier approach to the issues," Reza said. "That smirk and clowning around strikes me as if he is not thinking about the obligations he has. He has our lives in his hands."

Local Democrat Ed Blair was impressed with Kerry's performance.

"He had a good command of the facts and was calm and assured -- he looked presidential," Blair said. "I'm a retired preacher and President Bush looked like an Evangelistic preacher up there pounding the pulpit."

Reza said Bush must have forgotten that in March of 2002, on video tape, he said that he was not concerned with terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Kerry reminded him.

Reza said Bush ducked the issue of the minimum wage and instead spoke of his No Child Left Behind program.

"That program was not funded," Reza said.

"Bush would segue into No Child Left Behind," Blair said. "He passed the program but then told the states to fund it. It's a classic case of taking the credit for something, but not funding it."

Reza agreed with Kerry's assertion that Bush reneged on many promises of funding for education and programs for children.

"It seems like Bush acts like he is just too busy to be bothered with these issues," Reza said. "The bottom line is that 30 million Americans have become indigent in the last four years and millions are three months away from being homeless if they were to lose their jobs today."

Reza said the Bush administration knew of a potential flu vaccine shortage two years ago and did nothing about it.

"He told Americans not to get a flu shot, yet we are looking at a pandemic of flu coming from the Far East," Reza said. "It's too late now to do anything about it."

Reza agrees with Kerry's statement that Bush has turned his back on wellness in America and it is shameful that this country is the only industrial nation to not have some form of socialized health care.

"When 5 million Americans have lost their health care in the past four years, it is a problem," Reza said. "Once you lose your health insurance, it makes health care costs go up because sick people end up at emergency rooms.

"The fact is that HMOs and insurance companies only want to insure healthy people so they have greater profits," Reza said. "But when is a profit too great a profit? Bush appeals to the greed in people."

Although Kerry said he will not raise taxes on those who make less than $200,000 a year, Reza said the working class will still be paying for the financial mismanagement during the Bush administration.

"Working people pay Social Security each paycheck," Reza said. "That money is being spent in Iraq."

The projected cost of the war in Iraq is between $160 billion to $300 billion and Reza said the ongoing conflict has over-extended the military, leaving our country vulnerable.

"The bottom line is that the National Guard and Reserve system was made to be part of our homeland defense," he said. "(The war) has eroded that."

Reza and Blair feel the issues confronting the nation are far too important to be apathetic about the presidential election.

"Kerry is working for the common people," Blair said. "He is very rich, but he is out there working for the common person."

"What voters need to do is move away from divisive issues and look at what we are preaching to America, What the Democrats preach is that we are the government -- a government of the people," Reza said. "We cannot take our possessions with us, all we leave is the future for our kids and their kids. It's not just for today, but for tomorrow and we need to think of that. America is in free fall and we've got to stop it now."

Local Republicans review contest

by Teresa McQuerrey, Roundup staff reporter

The last debate between George Bush and John Kerry was clearly won by Bush, according to Don Castleman, chairman of the Gila County Republican Committee.

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Don Castleman

"But I don't think it matters who wins the debate. It's the issues that are brought forward that are important to the citizens," Castleman said. He said the first debate was won by Kerry and the second one was a draw.

Judy Buettner, a registered Republican and vice mayor of Payson, said she has been very discouraged by both Bush and Kerry.

"They are concentrating on attacking each other and not discussing issues," she said. However, she felt both did well in the prior two debates.

"That was a good debate last night," Castleman said, when interviewed by the Roundup Thursday morning.

"This debate dwelled more on a lot of Arizona issues," he said. "They talked about the border more and talked to women's issues this time."

Castleman said he believes the big issue of the election year is national security.

"Clearly Bush has a good view of that and has done a good job for the country.

"Kerry just makes up plans. He flip-flops," he said.

"Kerry seemed much more on the defensive this time than in the other debates," Castleman said.

"Maybe he was taken by surprise by the questions. Kerry is a very good debater, very glib, but I think he was on the defensive. Bush was considerably more aggressive this time."

Castleman said he liked the way Bush addressed the illegal immigration situation. "I was encouraged by his plan to give worker permits. It's a serious problem, especially for our state. It's important that it be covered."

Buettner said she is probably more objective than some Republicans. "I've looked at Kerry's plans, especially for forest health and immigration. Most of it, on forest health, has already been done."

She said she would like to see both candidates exhibit honesty and address the issues.

"I couldn't believe Kerry blamed Bush for the flu vaccine contamination," Buettner said.

She said she felt Bush connected with the people, "They respect that he doesn't put himself above them."

Castleman said the election now rests with the swing states. Buettner is of the opinion the election is going to be even more polarizing. "It's been going that way for the last 10 years."

"The main thing is get out and vote," Buettner said.

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