U.S. House candidates J.D. Hayworth and Harry Mitchell outlined their contrasting positions on the national debt, immigration and other topics during a feisty debate Monday in Scottsdale.
Hayworth, the six-term Republican incumbent, often shook his finger at Mitchell as he made his points during the event that was presented by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
At one point, when Hayworth said Mitchell would raise taxes, the challenger chuckled behind his podium on the other side of the stage in a meeting room at Scottsdale Hilton Resort & Villas.
Hayworth and Mitchell are running to represent Congressional District 5, which takes in Scottsdale, Tempe, Fountain Hills, Ahwatukee Foothills and Rio Verde, plus parts of Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix.
Mitchell, a former Tempe mayor and state senator, said Hayworth has failed to honor the pledge he made when he initially took office to cut the federal debt.
The current debt is estimated to be $8.5 trillion, which comes to more than $28,500 for every person in the United States.
The debt is growing at $42 million an hour, Mitchell said.
“What’s interesting is this, in 1995 Congressman Hayworth said this, ‘How can someone who is willing to suffocate our kids with our debt pretend to represent them? It’s immoral,’ he said, ‘to leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt.’ Interest on our debt is the fastestgrowing item in our budget,” Mitchell said.
The Democrat argued that since the bulk of the U.S. debt is being purchased by Chinese and other foreign interests, it has become a national security issue.
The United States government is scheduled to pay $116 billion to foreign interests to pay down the debt, he said. “This is dangerous,” Mitchell said.
Hayworth countered that Mitchell’s analysis contained several glaring omissions, including the repercussions of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We’re a nation at war,” Hayworth said.
“I will absolutely tell you that if given a choice of passing on to my daughter in the audience in adulthood the challenge of dealing with effective ways to deal with the deficit, but to live in freedom with a protected nation, I will gladly ensure that she and my other children, and my opponents’ grandchildren, will live in freedom,” he said.
On immigration, Hayworth stood firmly behind his border-enforcement-first policy. The Republican took credit for prompting President Bush’s presence in Paradise Valley on Oct. 4 to approve the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which included funding for portions of a border fence.
Mitchell said the United States should embrace Bush’s objectives of strengthening the border while also creating a temporary worker program and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants already living in the United States.
The debate is scheduled to be broadcast on KAET-TV (Channel 8) at 7 p.m., Wednesday.