CD8 Democratic candidate Ron Barber answers viewers' questions

CD8 Democratic contender Ron Barber discusses the issues in the KGUN9 studios.

CD8 Democratic candidate Ron Barber answers viewers' questions

CREATED May 21, 2012

Web Producer: Sara Wright
Reporter: Jennifer Waddell 

CD8 Democratic congressional contender Ron Barber sat down with KGUN9 anchor Jennifer Waddell to discuss the issues.  Below is a transcript of that interview.

Jennifer Waddell: Good afternoon, as part of KGUN9 On Your Side's commitment to our project Red, White and Blue Special Election coverage, we are sitting down with the three Congressional District 8 candidates, and asking them the questions, the topics that you, our viewers told us were most important. So joining me now, is Democratic candidate Ron Barber. Ron thanks for being with us today. Let's get right to it. We're going to give you an opportunity to tell everyone about yourself. As someone who historically has been behind the scenes in district eight, what qualifies you to represent this district? 

Rob Barber: Well there are a number of reasons why I think I'm qualified and I hope the voters will agree. First of all, I've got deep roots in this community. I came here in 1959 with my family, my father was in the Air Force. I came here to Davis Monthan Air Force Base. I met my wife when we were sixteen years old and we're still married, we still live here with our children, our grandchildren. So we have very deep roots in this community. And then for 32 years, I worked on behalf of people with disabilities, trying to help them stay with their families, instead of being placed out of the home, and returning them to their families with support so they could actually have real lives and for adults to have jobs in the community, so through that time, I did a lot of problem solving with trying to make systems work for people and then I joined Congresswoman Gifford's staff in 2007 as her district director and during that five and a half years we worked together, I really got to know this district in depth, from the border to seniors who live in Oro Valley and Green Valley to the issues of FEMA trying to take away land in Marana to working with military families on the Air Force Base, the Fort in Sierra Vista, so I have a breadth of knowledge of this district which I think is one of the major reasons why I want to run and want to serve the community. I've been in this community a long time and I just want to continue my public service as a member of Congress. 

JW: People obviously have choices. What is it that sets you apart, maybe two things that set you apart from your opponents?

RB: Well, first of all, experience working and living here for as long as I have. I know this district better than I think either of my opponents could because they have not been here that long. And secondly, my ability and proven track record as a problem solver. As someone who tries to bring people together, to find common ground and solve problems. People are sick and tired of the divide, sick and tired of the bickering, they just want people to go to Congress, represent them and solve problems. And that's one of the things with my experiences and track records that I can bring to the office. 

JW: If you were to create a very short list of the biggest problems you think are facing Southern Arizona right now, what would those three critical issues be?

RB: Well, I've certainly listened to the people of Southern Arizona for five and a half years and most recently after I announced my candidacy and I went out to have specific meetings all over the district and here's what the community has told me, the people I've talked to. First of all, the middle class is being squeezed. Stagnant wages, unemployment, underemployment, foreclosure, we have to do something to help revive and rebuild the middle class because without a thriving middle class, we can not have a thriving America, so that's one. Secondly, people are very concerned, particularly seniors and soon-to-be seniors about Medicare and Social Security, the solvency of those programs, and I have made a commitment, a strong and firm promise, that I will not privatize Social Security, that I will find solutions to dealing with the solvency issue for both programs but privatization and turning them into voucher systems is not a plan that I would approve or could support. And then the third issue, particularly for those people living in Cochise County is the whole question of border security and their safety. Ranchers are fearful and rightfully so. One of their neighbors was killed two years ago. We had a border patrol agent killed near Rio Rico not too long ago. The border is being invaded by drug cartels and our district, this corridor is the most poorest part of the Mexico-United States border. We have to do something about border security and the safety of the people who live there and we have to everything we can to stop the drug cartels bringing their cargo into the United States. 

JW: Okay, we're going to get to your solutions for the border and the problems you mentioned in just a couple of minutes but let's just very quickly wrap up a little bit more about you. If you had a top priority, if you were to win this seat, what would your number one priority be?

RB: Well, I think it's a way of working that will help I hope resolve a number of issues. And that is a bi-partisan approach. An approach that says, Can we find issues on which we can agree and can we work on behalf of the community that way?' As we have done in the past. When Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall were representing this state in different ways. They found a way to put their political differences aside and work together for the betterment of Arizona. And that's an approach that I want to take to Congress on any number of issues. There are a lot of priority issues, but it's how we go about solving them that will make a difference. Right now, we're gridlocked and I want to be someone who makes a difference in solving problems, not just sustaining this gridlock that we've had for too long. 

JW: Alright, let's get to border security, which we were just talking about. We want to know whether you have actually been on the border with Mexico? 

RB: I've been on the border many times. Not only, because I've lived here many years and have travelled back and forth between the United States and Mexico. Our family loves to vacation in Mexico and we certainly have that relationship. When I was the director of Head Start, I was in charge of programs all across the border. When I was in charge of developmental disability services, I served people all across the border communities on this side of the border. But over the last five and a half years, I have spent countless hours on the border with ranchers, residents, other residents, business people, border patrol agents, law enforcement, so I know first hand what the concerns are and what the solutions are to the border security problem. 

JW: Let's talk about your solutions, what would you do? 

RB: Well, there are a number of priorities that we have to take care of. First of all, and I think this is genuine concern, the people who live on the border, particularly those who live east of Douglas, in the ranching communities, say Why is it that the border patrol is five, ten, 15 miles back from the border? They should be on the border.' I agree, we need to have more boots on the ground on the actual border. We need forward operating bases so the agents who are there have an operating center, so that they can go out from there and do their work. We need more horse patrols in the rugged areas, particularly in that part of the district. We need mobile surveillance systems which are proven to be one of the best technological assets that the border patrol has ever brought to the problem. These are camera and radar equipped vehicles that can move around the border and in and of themselves are a deterrent, it can also help detect illegal traffic. We have a lot of ways we can solve this. But the other issue that has not been resolved adequately, is the flow of money south. The drug cartels can not survive if they don't get their profits back to Mexico. And what they are doing is their shipping their money in vehicles, in cash. Their also shipping their money in money cards, where they can go and load up hundreds of thousands of dollars on a money card, take it to Mexico, cash it and basically that's how they get their ill gotten profits. We need a law that requires the department of the treasury to crack down on the use of money cards for drug laundering, money laundering and that's one of the first bills that I hope to introduce as a member of Congress. 
JW: That's something that I think would peak interest here. Can you tell us anything more about that? That's not really a topic that's been widely discussed. 

RB: It's absolutely not, and I think we focus a lot on what can do to stop the cartels at the border and I agree that that's priority one, but unless we can break the flow of money and for that matter, guns, but money particularly, we will never really interrupt this huge commercial enterprise, called the drug cartels. They make millions and millions of dollars every month because they can ship money back from the United States to Mexico. They load up these cards, which are essentially like a credit card. Anyone can use them in the United States, people buy them all the time to be able to move money around, but when the drug cartels use them, they load them up with literally hundreds of thousands of dollars and we have the ability within the Department of the Treasury, to put regulations into place that require reporting by financial institutions so that those huge amounts of money being loaded on a money card are readily and early identified, so that we can track them and intercept them. So that's an issue that we have to resolve. When that bill was introduced previously, it didn't go anywhere in the Senate unfortunately. My goal is to make that one of the priority bills that I introduce when I go to Congress in June. 

JW: Alright, let's move on to talk about immigration. What changes would you make to our current immigration laws? Assuming you think there need to be changes. 

RB: Well, I think there's a consensus certainly in our country and I would argue in our state, that the immigration laws that we have are broken. That we have a broken immigration system and we have to resolve it. We can not, unfortunately, have that conversation unless people feel secure and safe in their homes, in their businesses, on the border. And the biggest issue for the people who live there and it should be a big issue for all of us who live in Tucson and beyond, is this illegal traffic and drugs. Because it really is a polluting aspect of our society, because it comes here, it feeds this monster, it also gives money back. But immigration reform, which is often set aside is something that increasingly, people are talking about. When you survey Arizona voters, for example and you ask them if they want comprehensive immigration reform, they typically say no. But then when you start breaking down the individual ingredients of immigration reform, an overwhelming majority say We believe in this.' I talked to ranchers and farmers in Cochise county and business people in Tucson for that matter who run hotels and restaurants and the like. They say, We would like a way for people to come from Mexico, legally, to be able to work in our businesses, and go back home.' And that's something that more and more businesses are stepping up and saying we have to do that. So that's an issue that I think has a broad consensus within the business community and I would submit, across the electorate. That is one area of immigration that I think we would have a lot of interest in pursuing. 

JW: OK, as far as amnesty is concerned, what's your take on that?

RB: Totally opposed to amnesty. Amnesty was what was done when President Reagan was in office, it didn't work. And it won't work again, and any suggestion that we are going in that direction is not the right thing for our community, for our country. People who came here legally, stood in line, waited their turn, should not be bypassed by people who have come here illegally. If we are ever to deal with the 12 million or more people who are here illegally, there has to be more stringent requirements placed on them to become first of all legal residents, and then perhaps citizens. But they certainly shouldn't go to the top of the line and in no way should we support amnesty. 

JW: Alright, let's move on to education and we have a question from a viewer. These are sprinkled in our interview here. Sally Chandler, this is her statement and question. She says, "I'm sick and tired of our children graduating from high school without knowing basic skills. No Child Left Behind has if anything, made things worse. Do you have plans for changing that, and how would you pay for it?"

RB: Well, first of all, the No Child Left Behind law which was a bi-partisan law passed and has been implemented across the country now for several years, by many critics, has proven to be a failure. It has not done what it was set out to do. I have two grandchildren in public schools, just two weeks ago, they were telling me on Sunday, when they came over for dinner as we do every Sunday as a family, "Papi, we're really stressed out." I said "Why?" "Because next week we're going to take the AIMS test, we have them all week long." I said, "You're going to do fine." It doesn't really make much sense to them because it really is a one moment test of a lifetime or at least of their short lifetime, of education. Teachers teach to the test, students are taught to the test and that's the way the system is essentially rolled out. And I don't think that's the way we increase educational quality. We certainly need to do more to fund schools adequately so they can have better class ratios with student to teacher ratios. Another example, from my own family. Three years ago, my grandchildren were in a class of 1 to 25 with an aide. Now they're in a class of 1 to 35 with an aide. No increase in funding, no increase in support. Obviously the quality of education gets watered down under those circumstances. I believe that we need to either revise or completely do away with No Child Left Behind and start over. And I think most parents, certainly many students and teachers would agree that the approach we've taken to bringing accountability into the schools is not really working. It's in fact a detriment to good education. 

JW: And so how would you suggest we pay for what you would like to see done?

RB: Well it's a matter of values and priorities. The majority of funding that comes to public schools either comes from the local tax base, the schools of course each have a tax on the value of our property and our taxes are paid into the schools that way. And then there is an amount of money, a significant amount of money that comes from the state legislature. Over the last several years, the legislature has cut deep into education funding. The federal government has a role to play for sure, but the majority of the funds that are really needed to have quality education are either locally generated through taxes or generated from the state level. And what we need to say to our legislature is if we want children to be competitive in the future in this job market, in this highly technological world, in this global economy, we have to invest in education. We cannot expect to be a competitive country if we don't invest in education. Particularly education around science and technology and engineering and math, the STEM education fields. We are falling behind other countries. So, I would say to the state legislature, please get your priorities in order. Please make sure that if you value education and the future of our children and our country. You put the right kind of priority on funding education. That way, we'll have a better educational system. 

JW: There are some who might say, if it's locally funded and the state funds it for the most part, and yet the federal government is giving us these mandates through for example No Child Left Behind, would you argue then that states need to take more control of the education system and the process?

RB: First of all, I think that the best decisions that are made about education are the closest to the voters. We elect school board members, they're accountable to us, every election time we can make changes on who we send there. And that is the best and most direct way for families, parents, the community to make sure that they people who are managing the educational system at the local level are accountable to the voters. So there's no question about that. It gets further removed when you go to the state legislature, although we also elect those people, we need to make them accountable for education. The department of education at the federal level though has had a long and important history in educational policies in our country. For example, when we look at the segregation over the years, it was a federally led process that made that happen across our country. We still have a long way to go, but we've made progress as a result of that. We also have money flowing from the Department of Education to promote sports for girls for example, which has allowed them to develop their skills in other ways as well. The federal Department of Education has an important role to play and I'm certainly in favor of its continuation, but the real answer ultimately is who do we send to school boards, who do we send to state legislatures and do they give priority to education. If we send the right people, we will have a better education system. 

JW: Do you think we've done that here in Tucson? 

RB: Well I think, in terms of our legislative representatives, I have to say I think we've fallen short. I understand that the state has been in a financial crisis as have all of the states over the last several years. However, as I said before, a budget is a statement of our values, it's really in a sense, a moral document. And I can't think of quite frankly, other than public safety, anything more important for the community than the education of its children. And the people we send to the state legislature who have cut deep into K-12 and into higher education as well, I don't believe are serving the state in the best way. And the interest of our children and our future, is tied up and what a priority we give to education funding. And I think, in that sense, the legislature has failed us. 

JW: And how about our school board leaders? We've had a lot of drama here in Tucson. 

RB: Yes we have. You know, I'm a product of the Tucson Unified School District Schools. Graduated from Rincon High School. My daughters went there to the same school. They went to other schools, of course elementary and middle schools. My grandchildren go to TUSD schools. I really am a strong supporter of public education and I really think we need to preserve it. The concern that I have as a parent or a grandparent now, as a citizen, looking at the largest school district, is the lack of unified purpose that I see with the board. There has been a lot of division, obviously, we need the people we send there to find middle ground, common ground, just like I want to find when I go to Congress. You can't solve the community's problems by taking sides, on either extreme, you have to find a way to come together. And I hope that we will see that increasingly happen in TUSD. Now, if you look at other school boards, in smaller districts for sure, we haven't nearly had the controversy we've seen in TUSD, it's a huge district, the second largest in the state. So maybe the problems are compounded obviously, but we have school boards in our community who have found a way to come together and I would hope that in the school district that gave me my education, and it was a great one, TUSD. 

JW: OK, Let's move on to the economy and some things that you think we could and should be doing to jump start things here. It seems like we might be moving in a better direction, but what three things would you do to try and create good jobs in Southern Arizona? 

RB: Well, first of all, I would build on the foundation that we already have here that is in some ways unique, certainly in the country, outside of Arizona, and that is the foundation of bioscience, high tech and solar industries that have really grown over the last few years, dramatically. We have an incredible University here with research and development capabilities that are almost second to none. And what we need to do to continue to use the Universities as incubators for new ideas and innovations, but once they've been developed, we need to find a way to quickly move them to market so that people in the community, business people, can invest and grow the jobs that we already have to start with. Just the other day I was up at Ventana Medical Systems up in Oro Valley. It's an remarkable campus. It started at the University of Arizona with a professor with an idea about how to improve cancer screenings and its now grown into a huge company worldwide that's providing some of the most modern technology to cancer screenings. It's helping advance improvements of cancer care while bringing really good paying jobs here. It's already at 1200 employees, and they're going to be adding several hundred more. That's the kind of clean, high paying jobs that we need more of in our community. So that's a huge area that we can capitalize on. And then there's a new area of development that we really have just begun to think about. And that is the port in Guaymas is really expanding. And because of its expansion, it's going to become a major port for products from all over the world. Where is the nearest community to that in the United States? Tucson, Arizona. What we need to do, is to really work with the country, Mexico and other countries to be able to increase the import-export capability. You know, Mexico is our largest exporter. We export the most to Mexico from Arizona than any country in the world. We can build on that, expand on that, now that we have this port which allows for access not just to Mexican markets, but markets all over the world and with commerce comes additional business chains along the way so those are some areas that we have some strong building potential. And lastly, because we've invested in technical parks, it goes back to the high-tech bioscience discussion, the University of Arizona has developed a tech park, Oro Valley has done an incredible job of attracting high tech businesses. More of that needs to be done so that we can bring companies from around the world and from around the country certainly, to our community so they can build a job base. Americans want to go back to work and this is one way that Tucson can lead the way. 

JW: Talking about bringing these big companies here, we have had some, Texas Instruments for example, big company comes here, settles in, this is great news lots of jobs, good jobs, and then they up and go. And we've heard various reasons for why some of these employers have left. Some of them being, the business atmosphere here, some of them being just the community, the economy. It's one thing to get them here, what do we have to do to keep them here? 

RB: There are several things that bring people here and ultimately keep people here. Companies that's for sure. When a company is looking to relocate now, they're not just looking for a business-friendly community, although we absolutely have to have that. They're looking at schools, they're looking at the environment, they're looking at the culture of the community, the cultural activities, and we have some of these things in abundance. We're beginning to do a better job of marketing them. Certainly Trio is an organization here that is telling the world about why it's attractive to come to our community. But it goes back to education. If companies can't be assured that they're going to have a strong and competent work force, well into the future, they're going to have questions about coming. And when Arizona now ranks near the bottom in its funding of education, companies say Why should we invest in this state that doesn't invest in education. So we have to flip it around, we have to bring our educational expenditures and funding up, so that people outside of Arizona will know that we mean business. But we have a lot to offer, never the less. One of the things that we've done here in southern arizona, is that we've really had good public policy around preserving the environment around our community. It's not a green belt but it's a desert belt that will still allow you to enjoy the open spaces. The Pima County plan to preserve open space has been one of the best in the country and it has been commended for that. People who want to come to a new environment, they want to know if it's going to stay that way. When people come here and they want to live in a desert community, if it's going to be disappearing tomorrow because of development, they're going to be questioning whether it's a good idea. We also have to remind people about the wonderful diversity of our community, the cultural aspects of our community which are abundant and growing all the time. WE have a great musician community here, we have a great art community here. These are selling points to any company that wants to bring their employees here but in the end it comes back to education, and sustained support for education and workforce development and it comes back to whether or not we have a business friendly city, county that allows businesses to come in here and cut away the red tape so they can actually get the job done. 

JW: Earlier in our conversation you were talking about the middle class and really working to unite a strong middle class here, how would you fight for the middle class, because it's a battle? 

RB: It is a battle and I think one of the things that most people who are in the middle class and everyone will define themselves in or out of that group, but let me tell you what I mean by middle class. When I look at my daughters and my sons-in-law, and what they have to do to keep their families together financially. I look at both families having two jobs, and They're not alone. In many families, its three or four jobs to keep things going, to keep the mortgage paid and the food bills paid and all the rest, so working americans in the middle class have been saying for a long time, we're playing by the rules, we want everybody to play by the rules. It's not fair that we play by the rules and then others have breaks that are not ours and that goes to the question about how our tax policy has been developed in our country. When middle class americans feel that people at the highest end, of the income bracket get breaks that they don't get they say why is that? I'm working hard, I'm doing everything I can to be a good citizen and to play by the rules and yet I'm getting further behind. When you look at the wage gap between the people who run companies and the people who work in companies, it's gotten bigger and bigger and bigger every single year to the point where people are saying that's not right. And I think what we have to do is have tax policy and public policy across a lot of areas that really favor the middle class, because as I said before, the middle class are really the group in our society that make our country prosperous and they along with small businesses, really drive the economy, so when you talk about middle class opportunities, you have to talk about education and not just K-12 but advanced education. When we have universities being cut, in terms of funding, and they have to raise tuition i order to allow students in, that deters a lot of families from even saying I can send my child to a university. So we have to deal with the funding and the availability of it. But middle class Americans really feel that they're not being treated fairly and one of the things that I want to do as a member of congress is to fight for policies that favor middle class americans and against policies that really detract from their well-being, and that's the difference I think between myself and my opponent, one of the many differences between us. 

JW: We have another viewer question. Keisha Richardson: "If elected, would you vote for HB416, sponsored by Congressman Raul Grijalva which aims to keep the Cherrybell mail processing center in Tucson open"? 

RB: Absolutley. Let me talk about the position I took when I was still on Congressman Giffords' staff before she resigned. The issue was brought to us by people who were businesses, and regular post office users, as well as staff from the post office. The post office held a public hearing to talk about the Cherrybell closure. my criticism was to full, first of all they held it between Christmas and New Year, in a time in  place where very few people could attend. They held it at a very small venue downtown. i said to the post office officials that night, if you had held it at a time when many people were here and not engaged with family, at a place that had a larger capacity. This place would have been teaming with thousands of Tusconians who would have been protesting Cherrybell's closure. but apart from that procedural mistake i believe there's the issue of what the Cherrybell closure will do to people who use the postal service here in Southern Arizona. First of all if Cherrybell is closed, and all of our mail is processed through Phoenix, it will delay mail by at least a day if not two. This has a serious impact on medications on medications that are being sent through the mail through seniors and others. It has a very deleterious effect on businesses, who right now can take there mail to the Cherrybell facility, and because they deliver it themselves, get a discount. If Cherrybell is closed and moved to phoenix, those businesses will either have to send their stuff to Phoenix, to get the discount or they will loose the discount. And then what happens if they take their business to Phoenix and perhaps have it processed there or printed there, small who are printing here will loose business as well. It's a bad idea across the board let alone the fact we're going to loose 500 good jobs from this community at a time when were just emerging from this economic down turn. I am totally opposed to the Cherrybell closure, for a community of a million strong and growing, to loose a mail processing facility is a ridiculous idea and cannot allow to happen, and I certainly  will support any legislation that will delay and hopefully prevent that from happening.

JW: Do you think that, you mentioned that Tucson, the size that it is, a million plus and growing. Do you think though that the government is looking at Tucson, and maybe the people who've left Southern Arizona for one reason or another and say, it's not really growing, and how do we know it's going to?

RB: Well, I don't think there's any evidence it's not going to rebound, it's already beginning to come back. Even though economic growth in our state is slow, we have to look at where we are compared with other states. For example in the last year Arizona is tied for eighth place in the country with the fastest economic recovery of any state. We're coming back. In Tucson for example, the unemployment rate is below 7.5 percent, and that's a huge change compared to last year, so people are coming back work is beginning to occur we need to get our construction industry underway, we certainly need to increase the hospitality industry, people are coming back to Southern Arizona just as they are to Arizona generally, it's still one of the fastest growing states in the country. I don't think that the Postal Service has really examined this objectively. The Tucson processing center at the current level of residents is the 15th largest and most active processing center in the whole country. We're going to close the 15th most active processing center in the country? Makes no sense. 

JW: Why would they make that decision?
RB: That's a good question. We've asked the postal service through the Congressional office when I was there, and that night when I presented my point of view at the public hearing, show us the data that tell us this is a good idea, and the truth of the matter is they can't. Maybe it's there and they don't want to show us, but the criteria in which their making these decisions are not known to the public, we don't have that type of transparency and accountability for these decisions that we need. 

JW: Let's move to health care, we have another viewer question, this is from David Jones. He says, "What is your opinion of Obamacare, and if elected would you vote to repel it?"

RB: Well first of all, the bill is far from perfect. It was an attempt to bring forty seven million members Americans under health care, which they don't have, and it was passed with a slim majority in the House and then the Senate and signed by the President, as far as repeal is concerned I think the question that first has to be resolved is the constitutionality of the bill which is in front of the Supreme Court now, and probably within the next month or so, probably by the end of June we'll know the answer to that. Let's assume it's Constitutional, and it's still on the books. What I would like to do than seek a repeal of a bill that does some good things, is to move in and revise it and conform it to make it a better bill. The things that I don't want to lose site of that the bill has done, is closing the donut hole for seniors so that they don't have to pay that much for their medications, is making sure that children who can now stay on their parents insurance until 26 can remain on there. I wish that was available to us as parents, when our daughter was going to nursing school, she couldn't stay on our health care plan path to a certain age. So we had to dig deep and find the money to buy her health insurance so she would be covered. Now parents can cover their kids until 26, makes sense to me. It also makes sense to me that we would remove the lifetime cap on medical care. Another example when Sierra Vista, when we had a health care town hall when Congresswoman Giffords was in office, we had a man stand up, a Republican, a retired fire fighter, wife was a nurse, they were a middle class family. She had a very serious neurological disease. There cap was exceeded or met, and the health plan cut off services to her. If it hadn't been for the family borrowing money, their church helping them out, two things would have happened; one, she wouldn't have gotten the care she needed, and two they would have gone into bankruptcy. So many American in this country are on the verge of bankruptcy because of catastrophic illnesses that are not covered. That is something that we need to keep and hold onto. And then one other very important one is that under the bill currently children that have pre-existing medical conditions cannot be denied insurance coverage by a new insurer, that crucial, because a child has a illness now, and because their parents change employment, they move to a new health plan, they should be cut off from health care. First of all it makes no sense from the point of view for humanity and what's right for those children. It makes no sense economically, because when we force people not to have insurance where do they end up? In the emergency room, the most expensive place to get health care. So those, some of the things that I think that the health care  bill was right. But there are many things that need to be changed. One of those for example is that we need to back into the Medicare section of the law, and say to the federal government, you can negotiate the price of medications just like the va does, they get a better deal for the customer or consumer, and a better deal for the federal government. That's a no brainier to me, that we would try to make sure to negotiate the health prices of medication. these are some of the changes that I believe are necessary to change the bill, to revise it, to make it better, and some of the things we need to keep. 

JW: With regards to social security how do you view that system? Do you think we should do away with it? What do we do with social security?

RB: We should absolutely not do away with it, Let's think about what it would mean. I know that one of my opponents has said that he thinks it's a Ponzi scheme, it should be privatized, he's wrong on both counts. First of all it's not a Ponzi scheme,  and secondly if we were to privatize it, we would put seniors at the mercy of a very volatile stock market. I was with 500 seniors the day the stock market collapsed, and one trillion dollars in investments were lost that day, if Social Security had been privatized and in the stock market, it would have wiped out, as it did for many 401ks the retirement security people should have. Look, people paid into Social Security and Medicare all of their lives so they would have some assurances when they got to be a retirement age that they would have health care, that would have a least a basic income. It's not a gift, they paid into it. They deserve that payment back. We have to keep our end of the deal, and I would never support a privatization plan because it's wrong headed , and would take away the security needed that people need in their senior years, and lets not forget that a significant amount of seniors, in this country have only one source of income when they retire, that's social security. Without that insurance we would have many more seniors in poverty, and that's wrong we just shouldn't let that happen.

JW: What about the future, what about the folks like me who are paying into it, what's going to be there, are we going to continue to pay into something that's not going to exist?

RB: Well first of all, I'm not an alarmist about the solvency of social security. If you look at the trustees statements, and there was one just issued about a week ago, where the actual studies have been done too look at how long social security is solvent. They have now said it's solvent through 2033, now that's twenty years away, it's not an eternity by any means, but we have made adjustments to Social Security in the past to make it solvent, and I believe we can make those adjustments again, but privatization is not the way to go. 

JW: Okay lets talk a little bit about your stance and ideas on foreign policy, and the military, lets first of all get your position on this plan from the President to withdraw our combat troops and announcing that we're going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, do you support that?

RB: Yes I do. First of all, our men and women have serve us in the military are some of the most courageous and patriotic people you will ever meet. I grew up in a military family, my father was in the Air Force. We came here when I was a child to Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and we traveled as most air force families do from mission to mission around the country and around the world. I have a strong commitment to out military, and I want to make sure that when we send them on a mission, we have a clearly defined outcome in mind. We cannot have an undefined mission, now some people say we shouldn't set a deadline, but the truth of the matter is unless you set deadlines, you don't ever get there. One of the groups that we have to get busy about their own security is the Afghan people and the Afghan government. It's a government that's been plagued by corruption, and yet it is trying I believe to ramp up its own military, and it's own police force without some kind of a deadline that we are not going to need with you forever. What is the incentive for the Afghan government to do it's own work, and to get busy solving its own problems, defending its own country. We're in Afghanistan to help democratize the country, we're in Afghanistan to help them build schools and hospitals and all the rest so they can have stability. That's great but we have a lot of building to do at home, we have a lot of needs here, and I want our troops to come home, and safely and as quickly as possible, so we can get to work building and rebuilding American and American middle class, and I think the American people have invested both people and treasure in two conflicts now, two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. We're getting out of Iraq, we're almost all gone and we will soon be out of Afghanistan, and I think that's a good thing.

JW: Lets talk about our role, the Unites States' role, in preventing in what we deemed to be hostile nations from getting nuclear weapons?

RB: Well, it's a very dangerous world that we live in terms of now that we have a potential proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have Iran of course that is playing cat and mouse with us and the rest of the world on their nuclear capability, we have other countries that say we have the bomb or we don't have the bomb, North Korea for example, Pakistan, and the potential for the proliferation of nuclear weapons but only to states and countries in the middles east and else where but also to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and others is a very frightening prospect, and I think we need to take every measure within our power, to prevent that proliferation. We need to do economic sanctions we need to have a worldwide commitment to stopping this develop these developments, we need to make it clear like governments like Koran, that all options are all the table to prevent them from developing nuclear capability. The thought of Iran for example having a nuclear weapon in the Middle East as volatile as that part of the world already is a very scary proposition. We cannot let that happen. We not only have to contain it, as we did during the cold war, we need to stop it before it gets to that point. In the old cold war days mutual nuclear destruction was a thing that kept us from firing off the missiles, but a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist group, a dirty bomb that could be smuggled into our country, and any other place, that's a whole different story, and we have a much bigger commitment to protect the American people from that kind of proliferation, as well as to make sure the middle east doesn't engulf itself into this incredible potential war that can come about

JW You have talked a lot about veteran issues supporting of our trends. Let's talk a little bit about your service record, with regards to our military.
RB: Well first of all, for me, it's been an issue of public service, I was registered for the during the sixties, my lottery number never came up, and I was ready to go if it did, but it didn't come up. But I have tried to serve my country in other ways. I served it in state government as Director of Services for People with Disabilities. I served it with Congressmen Gifford's as her District Director, and I also served it by looking after military families and veterans. When people put on the uniform and we have an all volunteer army now unlike back when I was young, when people put on the uniform, we make a commitment to them as they make a commitment to us. There going to do their duty by us and we're going to do their duty by them. We have to make sure their families are taken care of when they are away and deployed. We have to make sure their not deployed multiple times extending deployments 16 months at a time. We need to make sure when they come home and they leave active duty or even if they don't that have care for issues such as post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. One of the great potential catastrophes facing this country is the undiagnosed lack of treatment given to veterans, when we look at the numbers their absolutely mind blowing. There's a projection that says as many 500,000 veterans will be dealing with post traumatic stress disorder by the time we pull out of Afghanistan. Couldn't be bigger, an one of the problems we have today is that when veterans come home or active duty members come home and are demobilized, there given a choice, do you want the psychological battery of test, or do you want to go home to your family. It's a no brainer they're going to go home to their family, and then the problems emerge of domestic violence, substance abuse, sometimes and often suicides. This is an intolerable situation. People who have served their country coming home with diagnoses or serious health issues, not getting treatment, it can't go on, and so one of the other bills that I want to do is when I go to Congress is a bill that requires the Veterans Administration to make sure wherever a veteran is living, he has access to immediate attention to mental health issues. We just had an officer inspector general report on the VA saying that it is months behind, on even giving people an evaluation let alone services. We have in our state wide spread very competent behavioral health system that is run by a number of community agencies that are serving the general population. If you can't serve the veteran who's living in Wilcox, if you can't serve him with mental issues in between 24 to 48 hours; you need a contact out for that service. You cannot wait forever to get that kind of help if a problem surfaces. So these are my concerns on my military personnel and out veterans, and that why I dedicated so much of my time during the last 45 years

JW: You were mentioning that you registered for the draft but your number didn't come up. Do you ever look back and wish that you would have been able to serve?     

RB: I think many times when I look back at what happened during that war, absolutely, you know, I was in ROTC but that's not the same thing as being in the service. I applied for OCS but didn't get picked and then was waiting for the lottery to come around. But I do but the war was already a divisive war as you know it's released by looking at history, it divided a nation, it brought down a president essentially, and another president got us out of there. When we look back at the reasons we got in, we look for example at the secretary of defense McNamara's biography I guess you would call it and the regrets he had as the person who sent our military over there, knowing full well we were going to withdraw in sending thousand of troops over there who were ultimately killed or injured. There were a lot of mistakes made in the administration with that war and I regret that happened and it certainly should have been changed, the policy in many ways was wrongheaded and I think most Americans today would agree so,
JW: Budget issues, the Ryan Budget that passed the house recently, would you have voted for that?
RB: No. That's the simplest answer to the question, no. I wouldn't have voted for it for a number of reasons. The Ryan budget would end Medicare as we know it. It would give seniors a voucher so they could go into the open market and purchase health care, without regards to the rising cost of health care. Whether or not that voucher was going to meet their needs long term. That's wrong. We cannot do that to people who paid into the system, we cannot do that to the insurance of health care when you're a senior, that you ought to be able to have, that's definitely wrong. I also don't agree with kind of tax policies included in the bill. Where were going to give tax breaks to the highest wages in our country, while we really don't give fair treatment to people in the middle class, that's wrong. So there are a lot of pieces of that legislation as I read it and as I understand it not being something that I support a vote for. I think we need to have a different kind of budget proposal, hopefully one that isn't by partisan budget that we can find not only in agreement with the congress, but acceptance across the American people."

JW: You were talking about how you see a budget on reflection of values, in order to make things come together to get in the black, cuts have to be made, there's over spending, what specific programs or services would you cut in order to balance the budget? 

RB: Well I think there has already been proposals made where we had the President's Bipartisan Commission on Budget and Deficit, and that's a place to start, they struggled hard, it was pretty much equally divided  between Republicans and Democrats, leaders in both houses with former members of congress serving as chairs, for all practical purposes that document has been ignored, we spent months and months of really good research, public meetings, really serious discussions about how we could drill down on the budget in terms of budget reductions as well as revenue enhancements or revenue increases, and none if it's really been accepted. The next thing that happened was that the President sat down with the Speaker of the House and they came up with a very serious proposal for budget reduction as well as increase revenues, and it looked like they had an agreement. Wow, a bipartisan agreement on something that important! Speaker Boehner unfortunately could not sell it to his own caucus where he was held hostage, by a group of people who were not willing to except compromise. These are two vehicles that we can go back to, and begin to look at what we propose, and see what we can find acceptance on. It's not going to happen until we get a congress that's willing to solve problems, instead of throwing bombs at each other if you will. It's not going to happen as soon as we have ideal logical hold outs who say my way or the highway, no compromise. That's not the way our country was built that's not the way the constitution was developed that's not how we solve problems all these many years, and its certainly not the way to solve problems with the country going forward. I want to be part of a problem solving congress and that's hopefully what I'll get to do.

JW: So as far as cuts go would you support cuts to infrastructure? Would you support cuts to defense? Would you support cuts to health care? Where would you favor making some major cuts?

RB: I think it has to be balanced, the budget that Boehner and the President worked out, nobody was happy with it, which probably was the reason that we should have moved forward with it. It made cuts in domestic spending programs, it proposed cuts in the military, and it also proposed increases in taxes. That was a budget no one was happy with, but everyone thought had a chance, and then it went south, and the speaker could not sell it to his caucus, a significant minority within his caucus I believe. It's been said that there are no moderate republicans anymore, I don't agree with that, earlier today I had a meeting with many republican leaders, elected officials, business people,, who are supporting my cadency Why are they doing it? Because they want someone who going to go to congress regardless of party label to try and find middle ground. And I think that defecate re-budget bill would have made something happen that was realistic and doable for our country, but it failed by lack of bipartisanship, within the two sides of the congress or the house. We need to change that attitude, we need to find compromise it's not a dirty word. It's something that can get us out of this fixit we're in.

JW: I'm going to nail you down on this and make sure I got you straight. So you would support then cuts to that bill the President and Boehner  had agreed on that provide cuts to domestic spending to the military, that you would support.

RB: Well, generally speaking I think it was a great start, and I think what should have happened next was that the House should have had an opportunity to debate or amend it on the floor. It never even got to the floor. I'm not saying that I would sit here and accept everything in it, but if I had been a member of Congress and given the opportunity debate it on the floor, and introduce amendments and specific aspects of it I think that was a working proposition but you cant move anything forward unless you bring a bill to the floor. That's when you have amendments that move it forward. It never even got a hearing, and that's part of the problem, unless it's a bill that is agreeable to a small majority party it never gets a hearing. That's wrong. I don't think American people want that.

JW: Second Amendment; let's talk about the right to bear arms. Something that I would imagine hits close to home for you after January 8th. We've got the right to bear arms versus what somebody would say the right of unstable people to bear arms, I'd like for you to argue your stance on the second amendment, and whether you think there should be a better system in place to make sure guns are kept out of the hands of wrong people. 
RB: Well, there absolutely should be a better system, and I've had an opportunity to participate in the beginning work of a task force, on that very topic. One of the things is most people don't know about our state is we have reporting systems for people who are committed to mental health issues. When you are committed, you are committed to a secure facility for psychiatric treatment, and the reason you're committed is done through a due process with a judge and a defending attorney and prosecuting attorney. You're committed because you're potentially a possible danger to yourself or others. Now what's wrong with our current system is not that people aren't being committed, because they are and new to due process, but  there's absolutely no consistency in reporting  so a person that might be in this county committed for those reasons, a persons committed in another county one may get reported and the other may not. This task force that I addressed that I addressed in their first meeting several weeks ago has brought together representatives from legal systems from across the state and they're trying to handle out an agreement on standardized reporting requirements to make sure that everybody who was committed for those reasons is reported so they can when the time comes for background checks be seen to be unstable inappropriate to carry a gun and prevent it from doing so. The issue is no so much that we don't have commitments that should prohibit people from having weapons, if that we don't have a way of bringing it all together, so that when a background check is done it's an accurate record. That's an issue that I think is on its way to being resolved at least in Arizona.

JW: We have had every candidate in one way shape or form we're going to bridge the gap, we're going to try to bring the two sides of the aisle together. I would like to know more specifics not generalities if you will on how you would handle intense debates on the issues and why the voters should think above you and anyone else would be able to accomplish that.
RB: Well, I think it has to do with, anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that the way I go about my work whether it was the Division of Developmental Disabilities or as Congresswoman Giffords' District Director, I go about it by looking for places where we could agree, and if we have a disagreement it's not about demonizing the other person or personalizing the issue, it's about talking about the differences that we have, and how we can resolve them. For example, when it comes to this election, I've been in commitment I'm not going to have any personal attacks on the individuals who are my opponents. But I will be very strong in clarifying the differences between us in matters of policy and legislation. That's what the public needs, and that's what I want to deliver.  It's not about having a robust debate some people say oh this idea servility is some kind of a mask for not wanting to have discussion on difficult topics on the contrary, its not about that all it's about how we go about it when we make fun other make up information basically to tell lies about somebody else, we've seen plenty of that in electoral process, all we do is push people further apart, but we really need and the American people really want is a debate of the issues that affect them, and the issues that I talked about even today. Social Security and Medicare, the disappearing middle class, veterans'  benefits, as well as border security. That's what people want to hear about, they don't want to hear that my opponent has horns that you cannot see. Whatever the statement that might be that's inaccurate or just personalizing, and we saw so much of that in 2010, I really think we're ready as a community for something different. Something happened to us not only on January 8th, 2011, but right afterwards, this community came together in one of the most incredible showing of unity, support,, compassion, and caring for those of us who were there that day, and those who lost loved ones, in fact the healing of the whole community because everyone was attracted by this know matter who you were, and because of that coming together I think we're in a fairly unique position. Not to have these vitriolic attacks that we've seen in the past in the campaign, but really focus on the issues and that's my commitment going forward and then hopefully as a member of congress to tale that same approach to the floor of the house and to do what's right for the American people and the people of Arizona they don't want anymore of the shouting and the bickering they want us to get the job done.

JW: We're going to role play for a minute we know that the power of persuasion is strong, especially in politics. Let's say I'm a lobbyist, and I really want your support for this bill that I want to try and get passed, and it is to protect the Mount Graham Red Squirrel. And I really need a big chunk of money to support a program that would protect this species here in our area. And I want to hear how you're either going to tell me, there is no way in Mount Graham we're going to set aside funding for this, or that yes you would support it.
RB: Well, I'm sure there will be many people who come with their hand out, or money from their pet project. I don't know that red squirrels are pets but their project. I think what you have to do is as a member of Congress is, no what your convictions are and no what your priorities are, and to me the most important thing I can do as a member of Congress is be true to the term Representative. Representative is not just a job title, it's a job description, you have to be in tune with the people that you serve, and know what's important to them so, clearly you need to be centered there. I like squirrels myself but there are a lot of issues and certainly back in the day when you as a lobbyist, that red squirrel initiative might have to me and said we want money for a project. There might have been a possibility of an earmark back there. But that's no longer the case, earmarks have been taken out of the system and I think that probably really good thing actually that we don't have that kind of "I'm coming for you for money for my project ad I'm going to make sure you're taken care of" for your election campaign. There has to be a separation between what you vote on, and how you're supported. And I think earmarks while they were in play, you had to make sure your state was not left by the weight side, but now that there no longer in play; I support that policy that they've been abolished. There's no longer a way I'm going to say to you, no matter how much I love red squirrels, that I'm going to be able to get you money for that project. You're going to have to go to the committee of jurisdiction and I may not be on it to make your case to that committee. That this is an important consideration. Or to the department of government, be it state or federal. It has some sort of control over that issue to try and plead your case there. It's not always the member of congress that going to get the job done particularly now that the error of earmarks is behind us there's no way I can help you no matter how much I like red squirrels. 

JW: As almost everybody knows, you and your family created the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, you had said during an interview with the Arizona public media that running a civil campaign means focusing on the issues, you said the same thing to us, and not personal attacks, on the night of the special election primary, you issued a statement saying, "Kelly's priorities are the wrong priorities for southern Arizona middle class their families and seniors, do you think that this campaign can stay civil and still focused on the issues?
RB: Absolutely. Because the differences in me and Mr. Kelly is the other obviously primary candidate in this race. Not to anyway diminish the Green Party but, he is my main opponent clearly. On issues related to Medicare and Social Security, minimum wage, tax policy, issue after issue, we disagree. We have different views my job as candidate as I see it, is not to make statements about him that are inaccurate or untrue. But simply to say he believes this I believe that, and voters will get to make a decision on some very stark differences between ourselves, their couldn't be a bigger contrast I believe in any election, that we've had in a long time between myself and Mr. Kelly on the issues that are important to southern Arizona. Personally I believe his beliefs will be harmful to the middle class, harmful to seniors and may other groups in our community, and I'm going to draw attention to those differences between us what I would do as opposed to what he would do. And the voters will hopefully make up their mind, and if they think I'm the best person for the job then they'll hire me.

JW: Finally do you have anything else you would like to say to the voters and Congressional District 8?
RB: Well, first of all what I've learned in the last five and a half years is that in order to be a good representative, you need to be a good listener. And I'm very grateful to the people who I've met with since the campaign started and also the people I serve in the Congresswoman's District Office. I've learned so much from them. From the ranchers from the seniors, from the veterans from the people who are promoting renewable energy, all the rest that's where I'm going to place my trust that they know better than anybody what's important to them and their part in the community or their interest, and as I listen to them, and if I act on their behalf I think I'll do a good job for them and hope they'll see that too. 
JW: All right that, will do it. Ron Barber thank you for you time, certainly appreciate it.
The Special Election to fill the congressional District 8 seat vacated by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is June 17th.