Two candidates who are running for the open U.s. Senate seat in Arizona faced-off in a debate today at Arizona Western College.
The candidates are Dr. Richard Carmona, a Democrat, and Congressman Jeff Flake, a Republican who has represented Arizona's sixth district for six terms. They are campaigning to take over the seat that Sen. Jon Kyl (R) will vacate.
The U.S. Senate currently has a Democratic majority, but Republicans now have it in their reach to take control of the Senate, making the Flake-Carmona race one that is closely watched.
At AWC today, both contenders said the economy and border security are major issues for the Desert Southwest.
"Jobs and the economy--by far," said Flake. "I mean, that's the issue that everybody is concerned about, particularly here--some of the highest unemployment levels in the entire country."
Carmona also said the economy is the most pertinent issue for people of southwest Arizona.
"Comprehensive immigration reform, which as I said, ties into the economy, it ties into jobs, it ties into a workforce that can go back and forth, so I will spend time on that."
Carmona said immigration reform will help boost commerce.
"It's an important thing, because without comprehensive immigration reform, comprehensive tax reform, our small businesses are going to continue to suffer," Carmona said.
The focus of the debate was on rural issues. One such issue affecting Yuma County is migrant workers. The moderators asked Flake and Carmona where they stood on guest-worker programs.
"We do need to revamp it," Flake said. "We simply don't have a program that's robust enough to take care of the needs that we have."
Carmona said comprehensive immigration reform should include visas, day-worker programs "that don't impede commerce but actually enhance commerce."
They both agreed that border security needs to be stepped up and better staffed.
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul was an issue of contention. Flake said he would vote to repeal the health care act because he said it inhibits small business owners from hiring more employees. Carmona, on the other hand, said there are a lot of good elements to Obama's health care reform, but he said he would encourage changes.
Congressman Flake will be in Yuma again for a town hall on Oct. 27, joined by Sen. John McCain, at the Booth Machinery from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.