The bruising battle for the open congressional seat that includes Rim Country touched down briefly in Payson, with the Republican candidate defending her career as a mining company lobbyist as a struggle to provide jobs for rural areas.
Former mining association lobbyist Sydney Hay, who gained broad political experience backing initiatives to make it harder to raise taxes and promoting charter and private schools, made an impassioned defense of her record last week before a lunch forum sponsored in part by Rim Country Chamber of Commerce.
Hay criticized her Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, for allegedly canceling joint appearances and challenged her to a joint appearance debate in Payson before the election.
Hay reacted to the Democratic Party’s bare-knuckle attacks on her attempts to protect the mining industry from federal environmental regulations by saying that she was really just defending the industries that provide jobs — like mining and logging.
“I had the audacity to sue the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I’d sue them again,” she said. “They needed suing…to protect jobs in Congressional District 1.”
She continued, “We used to have a timber industry, we used to have lumber mills,” but federal bureaucrats and environmentalists had shut down mining and timber operations throughout the district.
Independent Brent Maupin, an engineer, architect and contractor, also showed up at the forum. A longtime Republican, he said, “What we need is independent thinking. Congress is dysfunctional. It no longer solves the needs of this country.”
He said he would bring “outside the box” thinking and an independent, pragmatic, nonpartisan approach to problems.
Democratic nominee Ann Kirkpatrick, a former prosecutor and state legislator representing a Flagstaff-based district, did not attend the forum — but her campaign sent a representative to read a statement.
Reached by phone later, Kirkpatrick said she didn’t know of any joint appearances with Hay that had been cancelled and said she would be open to scheduling a joint appearance in Payson sometime prior to the November election, if the schedule can be adjusted.
The Democratic Party is reportedly pumping $1-2 million into the race. The DNC has already unleashed a torrent of TV and radio ads harshly criticizing Hay for her work on behalf of the mining industry. Kirkpatrick’s ads have largely avoided negative attacks.
However, she said in the phone interview that Hay “has represented Phelps Dodge, which has been identified as one of the worst polluters in the country — and that’s a fact. I think voters should know that. But at the end of the day, the conversation is not about me and her — it’s about issues of the struggling working families in our district. We need jobs, we need healthcare, we need good schools — just to afford the gasoline to get to those jobs. It’s one of the worst economic situations I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
The resignation of Republican incumbent Rick Renzi after his indictment for allegedly trying to help his business partner profit for a federal land trade left the first congressional seat wide open. The district has a narrow Republican registration edge and sprawls from the Navajo Reservation to Casa Grande, including Flagstaff and Rim Country.
Hay and Kirkpatrick both won hard-fought primaries, although Kirkpatrick entered the general election with a lot more money in the bank.
The Democratic and Republican candidates disagree on a wide range of issues, including gun control, banning gay marriage and abortion rights — plus an array of economic and political issues.
Hay said, “I’m running for Congress, but I’m really running against Congress.”
She derided Kirkpatrick for votes in the legislature that would allow various restrictions on gun owners and quipped, “I have a Colt Python and I know how to shoot it.”
Hay emphasized her work on various statewide ballot measures in the past decade, including a 1992 measure that required a two-thirds majority in the legislature to impose any new taxes, a 1994 measure that repealed a tax on livestock and several measures that provided taxpayer money to charter and private schools.