- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Republican Andy Tobin and Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick found common ground during a 1st Congressional District debate on protecting the A-10 military jet the Air Force wants to mothball and agreed that Social Security benefits must be protected.

The candidates met Tuesday night in Marana, the southernmost outpost of the sprawling district that runs from Flagstaff to the east and then south to take in much of Pinal County.

Tobin linked Kirkpatrick with President Barack Obama. Kirkpatrick hammered Tobin for living outside the district and implied that he didn’t understand the district.

The Arizona Daily Star reports (https://bit.ly/11nOF1S ) that neither candidate vowed never to raise taxes. Tobin said he had backed a temporary state boost in the sales tax while serving as House speaker during the recession, and Kirkpatrick said she would back higher taxes on the rich.

Both said they support Obama’s decision to launch air strikes on Islamic State militants, but they think Congress should vote on escalating the fight. Both also said they support flight restrictions and increased screening as part of an effort to fight Ebola.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff reported that the two candidates appear unlikely to debate in northern Arizona. The candidates are still talking about how to organize a debate somewhere in the northern part of the state, but nothing has been finalized, Kirkpatrick spokesman D.B. Mitchell said.

Both candidates are working to increase support on the Navajo Nation, seen as key to winning the election.

The pair participated in a televised Sept. 24 debate on Horizon, the Arizona PBS public affairs show. That video is available online at https://bit.ly/1sMXg9J .

The 1st Congressional District is one of the most competitive districts in the country, and it is drawing big spending from both Democratic and Republican national organizations.

Tobin beat two Republican challengers in the August primary, but he raised just $600,000 in all for his election effort. He is being backed by more than $7 million in spending by the National Republican Congressional Committee and other Republican-aligned groups.

Kirkpatrick won the 1st District seat in 2008, lost it in the 2010 tea party wave and then prevailed by less than 10,000 votes in 2012. She’s been a prolific fundraiser, bringing in about $2.1 million so far this election cycle. She’s also benefiting from $$4.8 million in spending by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other outside Democratic-aligned groups.

Other issues covered in Tuesday’s debate included:

-Education

Tobin said the U.S. Department of Education should fund block grants directly to school districts. “Let’s clear up all the bureaucracy,” he said. He also supports vocational education school districts, known as JTEDs.

Kirkpatrick said the district’s large public landholding mean there isn’t enough property-tax revenue available for schools. “That is why federal dollars for Head Start, Impact Aid, Secure Rural Schools and Payment In Lieu of Taxes are so critical,” she said. State and federal leaders need to work on more K-12 education funding and research grants to Arizona universities, she said.

-Highways

The candidates were asked about the federal government’s role in funding highway projects in Arizona.

Kirkpatrick serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “We all know the highway trust fund is about to go broke, and we’ve got to figure this out,” she said. For every $1 the public spends on transportation, the public gets a $2 return, she said. Kirkpatrick is on a panel backing funding for a new Interstate 11, which would connect Arizona to Nevada.

Tobin said, “Arizona is not getting its fair share of transportation dollars. . At the same time as you’re saying we’re going to pass I-11, we’re leaving holes in bridges and we leave our roads in disrepair.” Tobin said he supports special taxing districts in which service fees could be charged to help pay for roads and overpasses.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, https://www.azstarnet.com

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