Grijalva And Pierson Face Off On Identity Politics During Congressional Debate

By Claire Caulfield
Capitol Media Services
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 10:21am
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 11:40am
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Incumbent Congressman Raul Grijalva, left, and challenger Nick Pierson, right.

Republican candidate Nick Pierson challenged incumbent Rep. Raul Grijalva on identity politics during the hour-long debate Tuesday night.

“He's not a good example of a Mexican, not a good example of a Mexican-American, and he's not a good example of an American,” Pierson said.

Pierson’s parents were Mexican citizens, and he said he’s the better option to represent the border-district, which is 62 percent Hispanic.

Grijalva firmly responded to the comments.

"My heritage, my Mexican-ness, is not something that I put up for sale or barter in any political election,” he said. "That's part of my being.”

Grijalva also said all the positions he takes in Congress are based on his beliefs.

After the debate he told Capitol Media Services that the Republican's idea of a good Hispanic "is a docile one.”

Pierson also said Grijalva has done little in his time in Congress to help the community.

"Wages have not kept kept up,” he said. “Our district has high pockets of unemployment and underemployment.”

1070

Pierson pointed to Grivalva’s support of the protests over SB 1070. In 2010, the legislature approved the measure designed to give state and local police more power to detain and question people they suspect might be in the country illegally.

Opponents, including Grijalva, said this was racial-profiling, and called for businesses and conventions to avoid Arizona in protest.

While parts of the law were voided by the U.S. Supreme Court, key elements remain in effect.

The result of Grijalva's “anti-business attitudes,” said Pierson, is that the economy of Pima County is highly dependent on government jobs.

"Mr. Economic Genius over here expects a magic wand,” Pierson said.

"It's not magic,” he continued. "It's getting down into the communities, working with the people, working with the financing sector, working with the businesses, working with the educational institutions."

In response, Grijalva said the problem is the Trump administration and Republicans who have run state government. He wants the government to focus on public education and community investment instead of lowering taxes and cutting regulations.

Border Issues

The issue of immigration and border enforcement also weighed heavily in the debate.

Grijalva, who at one point said he was in favor of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Tuesday the key is to finally review the whole Department of Homeland Security, where ICE resides, which was formed in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"It's the largest law enforcement agency in the country,” he said. "It's time to look at accountability, look at the mission.”

And that, Grijalva said, includes making sure the agency protects the civil liberties of all.

Pierson said that's another example of what he called "fear mongering” by Grijalva.

"He keeps his community in fear,” he said, suggesting that ICE is conducting widespread raids in residential areas when that hasn't been the case.

But Grijalva said the issues go beyond just ICE.

He lashed out at Trump for dissolving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Obama's executive order allowing those who arrived illegally in this country as children to stay and work. Trump's action has for the time being been blocked by federal courts.

"He could have solved the DACA issue,” Grijalva said. Pierson said the president did make an offer but it was not one acceptable to Congress.

"Mainstream" Solutions

Pierson's attacks on the incumbent went beyond his congressional record.

"He's not a role model for our children,” Pierson said, referring to the U.S. House paying $48,000 to a staffer to settle her claim that Grijalva was frequently drunk and created a hostile work environment. "And that needs to change.”

Grijalva did not deny the payment but said it was to settle an "employment matter,” with the details sealed because of a nondisclosure agreement. After the debate, he told Capitol Media Services he has never been drunk while on the job.

The congressman also brushed aside a question of whether he and his views are "too far left" for the district.

He said voters believe climate change "is real and something has to be done." And he said the majority also favors more regulation of Wall Street and is coming around on the issue of Medicare for all as a solution — and possible replacement — to the Affordable Care Act.

"Those ideas, maybe 10 years ago, were seen as 'out there," he said. "Now they're seen as mainstream."

Early ballots go out on October 10 and the election is November 6. The winner will represent Yuma, Nogales and the western edge of Phoenix.

of Phoenix.

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