This early in the 2010 election year, it’s not unusual for the field of candidates to reach almost as far as the eye can see. Five of those hopefuls were in Payson Friday night for a forum.
Three of the more than 20 unofficial candidates for governor and two of the four seeking to represent Arizona District 1 in Congress faced an audience of about 82. The event was co-sponsored by the Payson Tea Party Sons and Daughters of Liberty and radio station KCMA.
Gubernatorial hopefuls in attendance were Hugh Kealer, Bruce Olsen and Steven Slaton. Ben Jankowski, another of the 20-plus people who have declared their intention to seek the office of governor, had confirmed with the sponsors he would attend, but was a no-show.
Declared congressional candidates at the forum were Bradley Beauchamp and Rusty Bowers.
Moderator Cindy Kofile, of KCMA, said incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick and possible challenger Paul Gosar both declined invitations to attend.
Candidates were given two minutes for introductory remarks and then asked a series of questions.
Kealer said he wants the state to be fiscally responsible, along with less government and taxes. The Arizona native and certified public accountant said, “I know we can solve our budget issues. I want to fix the budget and education and secure the border (with Mexico).”
Olsen, a resident of Overgaard, said he is a longtime Republican, but is running as a Libertarian because, “I believe we need to get third parties in the system.” His main concern is the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the state from Mexico and the burden they put on the state’s finances.
Slaton said he is running primarily to secure the border. “Six-thousand National Guard troops should be on the border.” Slaton wants to cut taxes, fix the budget and bring back prosperity through real estate.
Beauchamp, a former teacher, is also an Arizona native and an attorney. He said he is running because he believes the U.S. Constitution is under attack. “Ninety percent of the legislation passed (by Congress) is unconstitutional,” he said.
Bowers has served in both the Arizona House and Senate and is a fourth generation Arizonan. “As your congressman, I will work to restore the commonsense ideals that have made America great,” he said, adding that he is a conservative.
• The candidates were first asked what they felt was the most important issue facing the state.
Kealer said of all the critical issues — the budget, education, law enforcement and the border – illegal immigration is key to most of these. He said federal mandates are at the root of the problem with illegal immigration. To address the problem state sovereignty must be reasserted. “We need to stand up and tell the feds to get out and leave us alone,” he said.
Olsen said the No. 1 problem is debt. “We never will secure (our) debt until we can secure our border,” he said.
A member of the Minutemen, Olsen said the second day he is in office he will be on the border with the Department of Public Safety.
“If they won’t come with me, I will fire them.” He said the state must stop the crossings and drugs coming over the border.
Slaton said the most important issue is to secure the border from illegal aliens. He wants to “defederalize” the National Guard and activate the Arizona Rangers. He would fund the rangers by adding $2 to every water bill issued in the state.
“There are thousands of volunteers (in the rangers) who would be armed and authorized (by the governor) to fire when fired upon.”
Beauchamp said he believes the main issues include the fact that the Constitution is not being followed. “The power (of Congress) is derived from the consent of the governed. The governed should pull their consent through the electoral process. Those making the rules are not following the rules,” he said. He added the nation’s indebtedness and open borders are also critical issues.
Bowers said he feels the important issues are the financial burden being placed on this and future generations and the devaluation of the Constitution. “The values of the Founding Fathers have been forgotten.”
• The hot button issue of the evening was illegal immigration.
Kealer said illegal immigrants cost Arizona $2 billion per year. “We need to take away every benefit they have. Catch them. Lock them up and make them pay for it and get rid of them,” he said. He added that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be used to take away the loophole enjoyed by those responsible for “anchor babies.”
Olsen said the economic downturn has helped the illegal immigration problem. He said 30,000 illegal immigrants have left Phoenix since it started and 20,000 have left Tulsa County, Okla. (where he is from). He said not all illegal immigrants are Mexican nationals; many come from elsewhere around the world.
Slaton said 40 percent of the people in Arizona’s prison population are illegal immigrants. He said he would give them all (not convicted of violent crimes) one-way tickets to Mexico City.
He would also use Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to train every sheriff’s office in the state on how to use the methods the Maricopa County Sheriff uses against illegal immigrants.
Beauchamp said before the state (and nation) can use the available tools to get rid of illegal immigrants, the border must be secured. “We keep sending them back and they just keep walking back over the border,” he said.
Bowers said securing the borders is one of his main focuses. He said his brother, who has been a border patrol agent for many years, said between 1,500 and 3,000 illegals come across every night. “We must stop them by all means necessary.”
• All of the hopefuls were asked their position on a flat tax.
Beauchamp did not give his personal position, instead he said the problem is how a tax is used and how it is applied, adding there is always the possibility of loopholes being built into a tax. He said he wants accountability from those who are not paying their share.
Bowers did not share his personal position either, instead he said the concept of a flat tax is intriguing, but his focus will be to stop the profligate spending and appropriations and bring back appreciation for the hard-working people throughout the country.
Kealer said if a flat tax were fair then he would be in favor of it, especially if it is done on a percentage basis, which he thinks would be to both individuals and businesses.
Olsen is not in favor of a flat tax; he said he believes there should be a fair tax system that eliminates the Internal Revenue Service.
Slaton said he supports a 3 percent flat tax on adjusted income and a 5 percent flat tax on the net profits of businesses.