COTTONWOOD - Four Democratic candidates who hope to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi took the stage Sunday to seek votes from a crowd that packed a conference room.
Ann Kirkpatrick, Jeffrey Brown, Howard Shanker and Mary Kim Titla represent the Democratic slate seeking to return the seat to their party.
The 1st Congressional District has more voters registered as Democrats than Republicans, but Democrats have not held the seat in recent years. Five Republicans and an Independent candidate also are seeking the job.
The crowd included members of two Democratic organizations, Democrats of the Red Rocks (DORR) and Democrats of the Verde Valley (DOVV). Other attendees included state and county Democratic officials.
Moderator Jim Ledbetter said the organization hopes to send a Democrat to Washington "who is not under indictment." He referred to Renzi's 35-count federal indictment on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and insurance fraud.
Questions included how candidates would approach health insurance needs.
No one should have "less health care than Congress," Shanker said. Titla cited the bankruptcy that often results from a medical crisis and pointed to the case of Cottonwood's Juliana Rojas, who was the beneficiary of a car wash this past week to help raise money to pay for her medical care from a rare blood disease.
Brown, who has lived in Western Europe, says some countries consider "health care a right rather than a privilege for a few" as in the United States. Kirkpatrick decried the Bush veto of the SCHIP insurance money for families with children and called for universal health care.
Ledbetter said that during a 2006 election forum, Renzi could not recall his Flagstaff address where he lists his primary residence. Ledbetter said he has visited the Congressman's home in Virginia. He asked if the candidates intended to have their primary residence within the district.
Titla says her primary residence is in San Carlos where she always has lived, but she also has a home in Chandler.
Shanker, who says he does "almost 100 percent of his legal business in the 1st District," has a home in the Ahwatukee Foothills.
Kirkpatrick is from Flagstaff and Brown from nearby Munds Park.
All the candidates agreed that energy policies are important.
"Arizona should be the solar capital of the United States," Brown said.
Kirkpatrick criticized the Bush Administration's moratorium on solar energy projects on public lands. She hailed the development of a stand-alone wind generator system developed by Flagstaff's Southwest Windpower.
Shanker says the U.S. needs to make "dramatic steps to get away from a carbon based economy."
Titla wants a national strategy for energy "similar to Germany and Japan." She hailed her San Carlos Apache reservation for its incentive to grow sugar cane for ethanol.
All four candidates said they support the Supreme Court's decision to end the ban on handguns in the District of Columbia.
Closing statements showed the differences between the two attorneys. Kirkpatrick said people are "empowered by dispute resolution."
She said she is not a prosecutor, and she has closed her practice. Shanker said the people need a "fighter." The district "can't afford a politician to toe the party line," but rather needs someone "to stand up for the issues."
The forum was shorter than planned because Titla had to leave for a party for her son who is returning from military service. Other candidates mutually agreed to shorten the program in respect for Titla's situation.
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