An undeclared contender for the U.S. Senate nomination on the Democratic side hit Payson Friday and Saturday to counterpunch incumbent Sen. John McCain, offering a vigorous, challenging analysis of the national ills at his very first town hall.
But Ron Glassman made his pitch on Saturday morning to just 30 individuals in the meeting room of Tiny’s Restaurant as McCain opened his town hall just down the street to a crowd that grew to 500.
Glassman said McCain has so dominated the senate race for the past 20 years that Arizonans have never had a real choice. But in that time, McCain has pursued fame and national stature while largely ignoring the nitty gritty needs of Arizona residents, said Glassman.
Glassman said he hopes to pull off the same sort of long-shot challenge of an out-of-touch incumbent that put both Barry Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini in Congress.
Glassman is a lawyer in the Air Force Reserve and a former small-business owner who has a master’s degree in business administration and public administration and a Ph.D. in arid lands studies. He said he’s the only candidate in the race with experience making a payroll, including during the period he managed an ice rink in Tucson. But the clincher, he joked, is that “I’m the only candidate in the race who has ever driven a Zamboni,” a machine to clean the ice.
He said the campaign should focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but instead predicted all the attention would focus on the Republican primary race between McCain and radio talk show host J.D. Hayworth. “Do you think they’ll be talking about jobs? No. They’ll be talking about who is the most conservative.”
“We’ll only have one chance to do this,” said Glassman. “there never will be a senator who has been there longer, done less and is less popular.”
Glassman challenged his audience of many frustrated Democrats to focus on “what we have in common” rather than the bitter issues that currently divide the two parties as he fielded a wide range of questions.
Whenever a questioner complained about what “the Republicans” think, Glassman jumped in to redefine the question.
Glassman said the gridlock and lack of results stems from a flawed and confrontational approach in Washington.
“How many of you are thrilled with the health care bill and the process?” he asked, drawing groans and eye rolls, even in this Democratic bastion.
Glassman said he favors a “Medicare for all” approach, but said such a comprehensive plan was untenable at the moment.
Instead, he said President Obama and leaders in Congress should focus on “where we agree — not on where we differ.”
“So you sit down with both sides at the table and you say, ‘I don’t think it’s fair that someone with a pre-existing condition can’t buy insurance at the same rate as other 55 year olds. So let’s change that. It’s the fair thing to do.’ So then we vote on that. We take it off the table.”
“So then you say: ‘don’t you think that people shouldn’t have to file bankruptcy if they get sick? Is that fair?’ Then you make a deal to provide catastrophic coverage protection in the cases of medical bankruptcy.”
Next, said Glassman, you get both sides together and say “corporations can deduct health care costs, but individuals can’t. How many of you think that’s fair? So you vote on it — you take that off the table.
“So what if those three things were all President Obama had accomplished this year on health care. Would we be better off now than trying to pass a watered-down reform package for which we no longer have the votes?”
Glassman urged his audience to focus on ideas that unite people rather than on the divisions.
“We have to start getting to the things we agree on first, because right now we’re not getting anything done. If you talk about ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat,’ we lose Payson. There are more Republicans than Democrats in Payson. What’s the bottom line? How many of you think that McCain in Washington is doing a great job?” challenged Glassman.
“But the Democrats blew it,” fumed one frustrated Democrat.
“I would say ‘a pox on both their houses,’” said Glassman.