Border, stolen election claims dominate GOP debate for Tucson-area congressional district

By Ronald J. Hansen | Arizona Republic

Four Republicans seeking their party’s nomination in a congressional district on Arizona’s southern border promised varying crackdowns on immigration Monday, but all agreed on the baseless claim of widespread election fraud in 2020.

The contenders — notably lacking the GOP field’s clear financial frontrunner, Juan Ciscomani — sought to cast themselves as the most serious about border control in the district that spans southeastern Arizona during a televised candidate debate on Arizona PBS. 

Their pointed rhetoric on the border and an extended embrace of discredited conspiracies over the last federal election reflected the continued primacy of both issues in Republican politics even in a district expected to be competitive in November.

The new 6th Congressional District includes much of the area represented by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., who is retiring. 

Brandon Martin, the 2020 GOP nominee, combined both issues in an attack on President Joe Biden.

“We know that the Biden administration is encouraging illegals to cross in droves. … They’re turning on a big neon ‘Welcome’ sign that says, ‘Come to America. Cross our borders,'” Martin said. “The Biden administration is working on the next voting bloc of Democratic voters.” 

When pressed whether his view reflects the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory that is growing in popularity on the political right and is seen as driving last week’s massacre in a Black grocery store in Buffalo, Martin wouldn’t reject it.  

Young Mayberry, a farmer and former member of the Air Force, said the idea of a Democratic plan to replace “those who are ‘not us'” is “partially it.”

Congressional candidate Kathleen Winn participates in a Republican debate on Arizona PBS on Monday, May 16, 2022.

Kathleen Winn, a member of the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board, launched into a separate conspiracy theory.

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