I arrived at the school early, because I wasn't sure whether or not there would be a lot of people in attendance. At Congressman Jeff Flake's town hall back in August, 2009, so many people attended that they were not all allowed inside the gymnasium where it was held. I stood outside for an hour or so until they let more people in. This time though, I was by far the first person there and no one else showed up until about 9am. The meeting was held in the school's media center, a place I remember well as a member of the inaugural class of kids there back in 1996-97.
Instead of waiting outside, I "snuck" in and talked with the campaign staffers for a while. Pretty soon, the room filled up with what I would estimate as about 100 people. There were also members of the press there - a reporter from a local paper, a man from a TV station with a camera, and a man from the St. Petersburg (Florida!) Times. I was also asked to write myself down as "press" because I introduced myself as a local blogger. Cool.
At 10am, Senator McCain was introduced into the room by Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, who represents this district. I helped out on his and Congressman Flake's campaigns back in 2008 as some of my longer readers might remember. I still think the guy does a good job at the legislature, and I'm looking forward to voting for him again as soon as my mail-in ballot comes. Also in attendance was LD-19 Representative Rich Crandall, whom I mentioned in an earlier post as one of the people I'd contacted about helping him with his campaign signs. He's running (now) unopposed in LD-19 for the State Senate, now that his opponent James Molina has backed out of the race.
Senator McCain began the one-hour town hall with about 15 minutes of introductory information about the state of various projects in the Senate and in Arizona, including the fact that the budget deficit at the federal level is projected to be $1.4 trillion dollars. The two ways to decrease this, according to the Senator, are to firstly repeal Obamacare and to amend the Constitution to say that the federal budget must be balanced every fiscal year. This "Balanced Budget Amendment" would, in theory, work on the same principle as the Arizona legislative requirement to have a balanced budget. As he was explaining this, however, I couldn't help but wonder how they'd get around the problem that Arizona has had these last two or three years where the legislature borrows money from future debts to pay for current debts - the "rollover" system. For example, to pay for FY2010 expenditures like public schools and jails and healthcare (AHCCCS), the legislature borrows money from FY2011. Thus, FY2010 is paid for while FY2011 has double expenditures. Confusing....
The senator also mentioned that the F-35 fighter jet and associated training programs will be coming to Luke Air Force Base, creating 8,000 jobs out there and bringing a $2.2 billion "economic input" for Arizona.
In addition, to combat the problem of overspending in government, Senator McCain got really fired up talking about how he and Senator Jon Kyl would not support any legislation in the Senate that is not paid for. The recent proposal to bring troops and resources to the Arizona border was passed by Congress but was not paid for by Congress, even though the McCain plan for this resources package would have paid for it with excess stimulus funds and not placed the burden on the state. In the near future, he said, also be on the lookout for a McCain-Coburn (that's Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma - the same one who wanted to get of rid of political science funding in a blog post I did in October, 2009).
After this (which took about 15 minutes), Senator McCain opened up the room for questions, acknowledging a veteran in uniform by allowing him to ask the first one (he declined except to thank McCain for his service). Here are the more interesting questions and responses (paraphrased for length):
Phil from Gold Canyon: The biggest threat to the USA is big government. In the near future, not only will government be spending themselves to death, but it will also be perpetrating voter fraud and intimidation. How do we stop this from happening?
Senator McCain: Big government is indeed a threat to the country. That's why the Tea Party is important - Tea Party activists, and other concerned members of the community should be present at every polling location on Election Day reporting any instances of voter fraud or voter intimidation.
Dean: How do you respond to television ads running recently that attack your record on immigration reform, specifically that you are for amnesty?
Senator McCain: I don't support amnesty. Amnesty is granting someone a free pass, when in reality we should be penalizing those who broke the law. We need to secure the borders FIRST, though, before anything else. The problem is only being compounded by the rise of violence on the border thanks to violent drug cartels. Because of all this, Arizona's SB1070 is really a symptom of the broken border, not the cause.
Ron: Thanks for your pristine record on anti-abortion bills. How much money do we give annually to the UN, and couldn't that be better spent?
Senator McCain: I'm proud to be a pro-life member of Congress. As for the UN, President Bush stopped giving them money for a while, but President Obama's administration has reinstated that policy. I'm not sure how much exactly, but it's a lot.
After those questions, two older gentlemen talked about their unemployment (one of them even handed the Senator a copy of his resume) and the lack of jobs for qualified individuals. Senator McCain responded to them by saying he was sorry about their unemployment status (and promised to pass around the guy's resume for him!) and discussed the need for reduced taxes on small businesses to stimulate them to hire more people. Specifically a "payroll-tax holiday" or a straight up reduction of those taxes would incentivize hiring.
At this point, I felt I needed to speak up for the younger generation - these were all people in their 40s or greater - so I said this to Senator McCain as my comment/question: "I'm Andrew Meeusen, live just up the road, and I'm sorry to have to jump on the bandwagon here, but I've also been jobless for two years right out of college into the worst recession in my lifetime. I want to work, but there just aren't many jobs right now for entry level workers. I've contacted your offices, Speaker Adams' office, and talked to Rich Crandall. What proposals are out there right now to protect jobs for entry level workers?"
Senator McCain responded with more information about small businesses hiring entry level workers, because that industry is the one which hires most entry level staff. He also let Speaker Adams answer the question on the state level to me. Speaker Adams referred me to look at the Arizona Economy and Job Recovery Act (H.B. 2250) which does the following according to http://www.azleg.gov/:
HB 2250 establishes a new Arizona Job Training Program (AJTP), the Arizona Opportunity Fund (AOF), and the Arizona Quality Jobs Program (AQJP); restructures Enterprise Zones into a statewide Arizona Enterprise Development Program (AEDP) and expands the type of businesses that qualify for tax incentives under the AEDP; reduces the Class 1 property assessment ratio from 20% to 15% over five years beginning in TY 2012; phases out the state equalization assistance property tax over three years beginning in TY 2011; decreases the corporate income tax rate from 6.968% to 5% over four years beginning in TY 2011; increases the corporate sales factor from 80% to 100% over two years beginning in TY 2015; and lowers the individual income tax rate by 10% over four years beginning in TY 2011.I'm planning on reading it in depth later - I haven't done more than a cursory read of it thus far, so I'll get back with my take on it at a later date.
After a couple other questions, the event ended and I was able to get an autograph from Senator McCain on a 2009 Topps Chrome Heritage card featuring him smiling at an election party. It's a nice looking card and may be the only one out there which has his signature! I also exchanged information with a few people also looking to network, and talked to some people about my resume for future prospective job opportunities. I don't know if a lot will ultimately come out of it, but it's definitely good for getting out there and seeing what's what.
All-in-all, it was nice to speak to Speaker Adams again, and it was very good to hear Senator McCain speak. I've never been to one of his events before, save for his election night concession speech back in 2008. He's much more likeable in person than the few soundbites that the news gives of him. I count myself still on the fence about whom to vote for in the primaries, but having more information from Senator McCain certainly helps. I have now met all the Republican Senate candidates for this primary election.
More to come in the near future about the primaries. 'Til then.