The election for Arizona's 2nd Congressional District is heating up as Democratic Representative Ron Barber faced Republican challenger Martha McSally for their first debate. Along with the issue of gun control, immigration was a hot point of contention between the two. Between conservatives who want stricter border control, and Democrats frustrated with inaction with comprehensive reform, the immigration issue may be the deciding factor in next months elections.
In an article from The Guardian, cattle veterinarian Gary Thrasher has switched sides, after voting for Barber in the last election, he now supports McSally. The southern Arizona resident has seen the tragic consequences of the current immigration policy first hand.
Thrasher said he and other ranchers have stumbled across migrant bodies in the desert. But Thrasher has changed his support of Barber, now appearing on TV ads for McSally, stating, “Ron Barber just isn't getting the job done.”Thrasher said many of the ranchers want some type of immigration reform. Some employ undocumented migrants on their farms, and would prefer the workers to be able to get some form of legal status. Yet they want border security stepped up, where stretches of 15 foot high fences often give way to simple waist-high barbed wire.
This change exemplifies the challenges for moderate Democrats along the southern border. Hispanic voters are frustrated by the lack of congressional action, and warn Democrats not to take their votes for granted. While other Democratic supporters want stricter border control, especially in light of the recent influx of Central American minor migrants.
Many Republicans do not appear to face the same pressures from both side, comfortably leaning right in the immigration debate. In the race for the Arizona Governor's office, Republican Candidate Doug Ducey has focused on the issue of immigration policy and border security. As a central theme to his campaign, Ducey has said that immigration security, “begins with securing the border.”
But for some Republicans, they find it best to say nothing when it comes to immigration debate, worried about further alienating the growing block of Hispanic voters. Republicans have indicated the need to reach out to Hispanic voters, but their strong stance on immigration has done little to soften their image. When Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey recently came to Arizona to campaign for Ducey he dodged questions on immigration and border security, failing to comment on Ducey's statements.
Arizona's first congressional district is also a hotly contested seat. Democratic incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick faces stiff competition from Andy Tobin, the Republican candidate and fervent supporter of SB 1070, widely viewed as one of the country's harshest anti-immigration policies. Tobin has made border security a priority in his campaign. During the height of the unaccompanied minor influx, Tobin even made a comment suggesting the migrant children could be carrying Ebola, a remark he later said used the wrong word.
Frustration with both parties has been a growing trend, especially where it relates to immigration reform. We recently commented on a report finding neither party represents their voters' interests when it comes to immigration. And now, the largest block of Arizona voters identify as neither Republican nor Democrat, but as Independents, comprising almost 35% of registered voters. Next month, if the immigration debate is enough to upset two Arizona congressional seats up for election.