Arizona Republic Endorses Tom O'Halleran

Originally Published on azcentral.com: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2018/11/02/wendy-rogers-tom-ohalleran-congressional-district-1-candidates/1826842002/

Wendy Rogers or Tom O'Halleran? This congressional race has stark differences

Opinion: The Congressional District 1 race pits a non-flashy Democratic incumbent against a fiery pro-Trump Republican.

Arizona’s 1st Congressional District is a big land mass, covering nearly two-thirds of the state. It is also vast in the diversity it encompasses – from the urban interests in Flagstaff and the suburbs north of Tucson to wide swaths of rural Arizona. It takes in tribal lands, including the Navajo Nation and Hopi reservations.

Democrats have a slight voter registration edge, with Republicans and independents nearly even in number. CD 1 went for Trump in 2016.

The district is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a first-term congressman seeking re-election. He is challenged by Republican Wendy Rogers in her fourth bid for Congress.

Who are the candidates?

O’Halleran is a former homicide detective with the Chicago Police Department who served in the Arizona Legislature from 2001 to 2009 as a Republican. He was elected to CD 1 in 2016 as a Democrat.

He’s a moderate and member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group working for a more cooperative Congress. He says even nettlesome national problems – like immigration reform and gun legislation – can be tackled by looking for common ground on which to begin a discussion.

Rogers is a retired Air Force pilot. She did not respond to multiple requests to meet with The Arizona Republic editorial board. She also declined an invitation to meet with The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Nor did she respond to multiple written and telephone requests for an interview with Cronkite News, which wanted to talk about her candidacy.

She was recently quoted in an Associated Press story, saying: “This is not about me  . . . This is about maintaining the House of Representatives in Republican hands.” On her Twitter account, Rogers describes herself as a “Conservative America First Pro-Trump Republican.”

How would they represent the district?

Rogers’ reluctance to interact with the media does not automatically disqualify her. In fact, many Trump supporters would see it as a plus. 

But consider what it means in a larger context.

It suggests this candidate is uncomfortable explaining or defending her ideas. That should be a warning bell in CD 1, where the range of interests assures there will be conflicting viewpoints. The district deserves a representative who can and will communicate well and reach out to all.

What’s more, Rogers has run an aggressive campaign suggesting “mob rule” and assorted other negative consequences if Democrats take over Congress, and tweeting that “the left is violent.”

Congress doesn’t need another rock-throwing partisan – from either the right or the left. Heaping on the white-hot rhetoric will not fix Washington's dysfunction.

O’Halleran has demonstrated his willingness to look for consensus and to compromise. These are not weaknesses. In today’s political climate, they are downright daring. These days, it takes courage to acknowledge that our national challenges are best met by using the good ideas from both sides of the aisle.

He recognizes the need for jobs in the rural areas of the district, and points to school dropout rates and teacher shortages as problems that need to be addressed for the sake of students and the businesses that need skilled workers.

O'Halleran says the federal government has a role in education, which means funding. The goal should be “to find out where we can cut efficiently elsewhere” to come up with the needed resources for cash-strapped rural schools, he says.

O’Halleran is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare, programs he says should be seen as “obligations” not “entitlements.” He also wants to work on needed improvements to the Affordable Care Act to reduce costs while maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions.  

So, who's the best choice?

O’Halleran is a solid, thoughtful moderate who has his feet firmly on the ground. There isn’t a lot of flash here. But there is stability.

His background in law enforcement gave him an up-close look at some of the worst humankind can do. It appears to have left him wiser and kinder, not cynical.

He is the kind of representative who can balance the needs of this sprawling district while continuing to restore civility to Congress.

Tom O’Halleran deserves re-election.

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Tom O'Halleran for Congress