Comprehensive immigration reform dominated the candidate forum at South Mountain Community College last week -- and no wonder, considering that voters in Arizona's Seventh Congressional District are overwhelmingly Democratic Latinos.
And here's a shocker: All of the candidates at the forum -- a politician, a preacher, an attorney and a teacher -- support immigration reform that includes halting deportations and a path to citizenship.
But when it comes to legalizing pot in Arizona, only Mary Rose Wilcox, former Maricopa County supervisor, voices her opposition.
See also: -Ruben Gallego Ahead of Mary Rose Wilcox in Congressional Race, Poll Says -Ed Pastor to Retire After 23 Years in Congress -Democrat Ruben Gallego Introduces Arizona Marijuana-Legalization Bill
Reverend Jarrett Maupin, Randy Camacho, a teacher, and Attorney Jose Penalosa, an Independent, share essentially the same talking points on the economy, on the Veterans Administration's failures, and education. (Ruben Gallego, another CD7 candidate, was on a plane heading back from meetings and fundraisers in Washington, D.C. and missed the forum, which was co-moderated by Mary Robago, a former Univision anchor, and Joe Garcia, of Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University. The forum was organized by the Raul H. Castro Institute of Phoenix College and One Arizona, a non-partisan partnership dedicated to voter registration.
The candidate's comments on legalizing pot:
I think it should be legalized because as long as we have a broken VA, if our veterans want to smoke some weed so they don't have some psychotropic crisis ... they should be able to. I'm for it because you can tax it, and taxes put more money in our coffers. I'm for it because you can regulate it. And another reason I'm for it is because somebody in your family uses it ... And the main reason I want to legalize and regulate it so we keep our young people who are pulled over with something on them out of prison. You should not go to jail for five years for having a baggie of something in your car. Let's get real.
We are headed toward legalization. I myself favor it as well. It's time, and we do need to regulate it.
Medical marijuana law did pass and we are looking at the results of it. And it has been a relief for many people with chronic pain ... (but) no, I don't support legalizing marijuana for everyone. I do not."
It's a natural plant ... but what happens, it's been abused by people.
With candidates so closely aligned in many of their political positions, Wilcox emphasized that she was the lone Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and had the experience her challengers lacked.
Maupin focused on closing the wealth gap, his multicultural background with one foot in the African-American community and one in the Latino community.
Penalosa highlighted his decades of work with undocumented immigrants, and his independence of the Democratic party lines that contribute to the gridlock in Congress.
And Camacho kept circling back to his Arizona Resident Immigrant Act, his proposal for addressing immigration reform in this state that would grant residency to undocumented immigrants, and thus driver's licenses and in-state tuition.
Penalosa drew gasps from some audience members when he slammed Democrats collectively, and Wilcox and Gallego specifically, for failing to deliver on immigration reform.
"Since Mary Rose has been a watchdog for immigration you realize that a thousand people have been deported every day since she announced her candidacy," he said. "And yet, she has yet to denounce Obama. With Mr. Gallego, it's the same thing ... and that's from the same party that wants to bring you immigration reform. They had their chance in 2009 ... and it still didn't get done before it wasn't a priority for them. And now, you and I are paying the consequences in this community. The same Democratic party and the same Democratic candidates want to tell you they're going to get it done. You really believe them?! Absolutely not. They won't get it done. Because you and I are getting played as a soccer ball, and that what we are right now.
Other notable quotes of the evening:
"Of course, heads need to roll and those people need to be prosecuted." --Wilcox on the VA scandal
"Gridlock is caused by both parties, and that's why we're here today. This is why we need a new voice in Washington. We need a rise in the Independents. Independents comprise 40 percent of this district and yet we're precluded from voting, we're left out of the primaries. We're discouraged from voting in the general elections." --Penalosa
"I'd like to paraphrase a quote from Harry Potter: It takes courage to stand up to your enemies, but it takes even more courage to stand up to your friends. That's what I'm asking you to do today. I didn't ask for my supporters to come here today. I came alone with my daughter and my son-in-law. I'm asking for your courage because our campaign is about courage. I'd like you to at least consider Randy Camacho for Congress." --Camacho
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"You need a fighter in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and that's why I'm running. ... Latinos run the gamut, we come in every color, every kind, every shape and every shade. It's important to put those coalitions together in Washington. It's going to take someone to move the Congressional Black caucus, it's going to take someone to move the Hispanic caucus. But one thing it's not going to take is another typical Latino politician. And I'm not a typical Latino politician. --Maupin, whose mother is a Latina
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