What does a U.S. Senate candidate have to say to a bunch of Republicans in a closed meeting that cannot be said on the record in front of a newspaper reporter?
The Roundup was made aware in late June of a July 3 meeting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Congresswoman Martha McSally wanted to have with Rim Republicans and members of the board of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Roundup is a member of the chamber, its general manager, Gary Tackett, is on its board of directors. He was sent the invitation and forwarded it to the editorial department.
The invitation from Gila County Republican chairman Gary Morris did not indicate it was a closed meeting. It said, “U.S. Senate Candidate Martha McSally will be in Payson on July 3rd and has requested to conduct a round table with business leadership and elected officials. She asked me to extend invitations to the Chamber to see if there are members of the Chambers Board of Directors that may want to attend. I’ve already extended an invitation to County and local elected officials.”
Not all the public, but a lot of the public and not officially “closed.”
Immediately after I introduced myself to the Congresswoman, McSally went to one of her staff and then spoke to Morris. Morris in turn came to me and said McSally wanted me to leave. It was a closed meeting.
I pointed out the chamber had sent an email blast about the meeting. Morris said the Republicans had wanted chamber members to attend. I told him the Roundup is a member of the chamber. Morris still asked me to leave.
Later, McSally’s communications manager called the Roundup and said the candidate could “give” me a few minutes at 9 a.m. I rejected the offer and told the staffer if the congresswoman didn’t want coverage of a meeting with the public (select as it was), I was not interested in interviewing her.
If a candidate wants to let the public — all the area’s voters — know about them and what they represent, it seems they would welcome any opportunity to have press coverage.
However, McSally faces a potentially delicate political dance in her effort to win the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, who decided not to run again in the midst of high-profile disagreements with President Donald Trump about the budget and about immigration reform.
As a congresswoman, McSally supported Flake’s efforts to win “comprehensive immigration reform,” which included things like a guest worker program, legalizing the status of “dreamers” brought to the country as children and raised here, as well as tougher enforcement at the border and at workplaces employing undocumented workers.
However, she removed most references to comprehensive immigration reform from her website after deciding to run, when Flake decided not to seek re-election.
In the Republican primary, McSally faces Dr. Kelli Ward, a former state lawmaker and outspoken Trump supporter and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who Trump pardoned after Arpaio’s conviction on contempt of court charges in ignoring federal court orders designed to prevent racial profiling. They’re both fiercely conservative and identified strongly with Trump — particularly on immigration.
However, political analysts say positions taken to woo voters in the Republican primary may prove problematic in the general election.
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema has a commanding lead in the Democratic race — while McSally leads on the Republican side, according to a recent poll by CBS News/YouGov.
Sinema leads all the Republican candidates among all voters by big margins. She has a 41 to 34 percent lead over McSally, a 43 to 35 percent lead of Ward and a Arpaio by 45 to 28 percent.
This counts as a strong showing for a Democrat, in a state where all the statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats are held by Republicans.
However, the poll also showed 11 to 27 percent of voters saying they were undecided, planned to vote for a third-party candidate or don’t plan to vote at all.
McSally in May went to the House floor to ask to remove her name from a bill that would provide legal status and a eventual path to citizenship to some children of undocumented immigrants — the “dreamers.” Sen. Flake has strongly championed legislation to legalize the status of dreamers and McSally was one of 34 Republicans to cosponsor the bill — along with Sinema.
Another recent poll showed 76 percent of Americans support protections for DACA youth, including 63 percent of Republicans.