Originally Published: July 14, 2012 10:01 p.m.
PRESCOTT - A hard line on illegal immigration, support for more energy development and calls to scrap the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emerged as views Republican candidates for U.S. Senate aired Friday at a GOP forum.
Wil Cardon of Mesa, Bryan Hackbarth of Youngtown and Clair Van Steenwyk of Buckeye took a tough stand on illegal immigration during the hourlong forum at Las Fuentes. A capacity crowd of about 135 people attended the forum, which Jan Hilton, GOP precinct captain for Las Fuentes, sponsored and Yavapai County Republican Chairman Mal Barrett Jr. moderated.
"No to amnesty and no the DREAM Act," said Hackbarth, who married a Mexican national who became a U.S. citizen. The DREAM Act would provide permanent residency for illegal immigrants who arrived with their parents as children and graduated from high school.
Cardon, a businessman, called for stationing troops on the border, building a fence there and giving local law enforcement agencies the tools to deal with illegal immigration.
All four candidates expressed support for more energy development, with Hackbarth going a step further by calling for shutting down the EPA and turning over the responsibilities of the EPA and U.S. Department of Education to the states. He is the former mayor of Youngtown.
By contrast, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake of Mesa took a softer stand on both illegal immigration and environmental protection. He said youths who came to this country as minors should not be punished for the actions of their parents. However, he also said he opposed President Barack Obama's decision to allow some undocumented Americans to stay in this country, saying Obama should have consulted Congress first.
Flake also took a softer line on the environment, saying, "We are concerned about the environment. We've got to realize that the best thing about the environment is prosperity.
Flake, Cardon, Hackbarth and Van Steenwyk are vying in the Aug. 28 primary to replace Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who is retiring after three six-year terms in the Senate. Whoever wins the primary faces Democrat Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general, during the general election Nov. 6.
The candidates' positions on the issues were part of the themes that they expressed at the forum. They gave opening and closing statements, and answered three questions from the audience.
Cardon, Hackbarth and Van Steenwyk positioned themselves to the right of libertarian-leaning Flake.
Cardon took a jab at Flake by indicating the Senate needs someone who has worked in the private sector.
"Don't send people (to Congress) who have never held a job in the private sector," Cardon told the crowd.
Flake, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000, cited his top ranking for eight years of 535 members of Congress from the National Taxpayers Union. He also earned the endorsements of Arizona's senators, Kyl and John McCain.
Flake's insider status and support from the Republican Party establishment drew criticism during the forum from the other candidates.
Cardon said he does not seek endorsements from long-term politicians.
Van Steenwyk, a political talk show host from Buckeye, said, "I have never been a RHINO (Republican in Name Only) or a progressive Republican."
He continued, "I have no respect for Mr. McCain and Mr. Kyl. I have never voted for them."
Van Steenwyk and Hackbarth also spoke about their Christian belief systems. Van Steenwyk, who placed a Bible on his campaign table at the forum, called for restoring a "constitutional Republic."
Hackbarth said he will adhere to the Constitution and Holy Bible.
Contacted after the forum, Roger French, a retired high school teacher and track coach who lives in Prescott, said, "I'm confused because they are all good (candidates)."
A self-styled "tea party" Republican, French said all four candidates would be "satisfactory to me."
Prescott homeowner Linda Wilhelmsen said she supports Van Steenwyk based on his presentation.
"He's a constitutionalist who wants to return our country to the values set forth by our Founding Fathers," Wilhelmsen said.