Sinema, Parker, Gammill have first debate

All my life, people who appeared in political ads seemed like they were light years away from me — political titans you hear about, but never see.  That was about to change with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, Republican Vernon Parker and Libertarian Powell Gammill’s contest for the congressional seat in Arizona’s brand new 9th Congressional District.

I knew this race was going to be a big deal because of all the out-of-state money that sponsors most of the attack ads. Occasionally, one would see positive ads of the candidates pleading their cases, but direct debate between them has been scarce.

Last Thursday, that would change. Parker, Sinema and Gammill came to the Downtown campus to debate live on PBS Eight.

The debate was lively. Not just because of the two candidates, but because of the flamboyancy of the libertarian third candidate Gammill. Sinema and Parker argued the reforms they wanted to bring to the political system, while Gammill wanted to tear down the system altogether, calling it “evil.”

“Once again, you get to choose the lesser of two evils and choosing evil is still evil,” he said. He insisted that people shouldn’t vote.

Most of the debate focused on proper tax rates between the middle and upper classes. The candidates' positions matched the ideals of  other members in their respective parties. With regards to their personal backgrounds, I was a little surprised. In campaign ads, Parker was effective in showing off his middle-class roots and making voters aware of his personal struggles and journey. He didn't bring any of that to the debate.

For Sinema, the opposite happened. Her political ads focused on her record and contained virtually nothing on her background, but in the debate, she talked about her family's military background and her years living below the poverty line.

It’s always a red flag when candidates begin to dodge questions even just a little bit. When asked about whether or not they believed in global warming, Parker instead took a small swipe at Al Gore and expressed a general need to take care of the planet without answering "yes" or "no."

The final question was about energy solutions. Parker directly asked Sinema if she would be for or against more oil drilling in the U.S. The moderator cut them off abruptly to make room for the final statements. I wished that Sinema had adopted the moxie of our presidential candidates and fought the moderator just a little by quickly answering even if it were a simple "yes" or "no" question.


Reach the columnist at or follow him at @coltongavin


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