Ruben Gallego and Jeff Zink: US House rivals discuss abortion, inflation

The Arizona Republic asked 3rd Congressional District candidates Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Republican Jeff Zink questions on policy issues such as water rights and the war in Ukraine, to district needs and what distinguished the candidate from their opponent(s).

Below are answers from Gallego and Zink. The piece has been updated to include Zink, who initially did not respond. 

Arizona is facing massive cuts in its water rights from the Colorado River after decades of drought. What, if anything, should Congress do to manage this issue for the state?

Gallego: Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act championed by House and Senate Democrats, Arizona is set to receive over $4 billion for drought mitigation efforts — and that’s on top of more than $8 billion that Congress passed for Western Water Infrastructure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. But there’s more to be done. I have authored legislation to provide funding for drought-smart water conservation technology that would help Arizona meet future conservation targets and support universities like ASU as they develop cutting-edge water conservation technology.

But the challenge of preserving water in the southwest is not Arizona’s alone. That’s why I have called on other basin states — especially California — that have not been as pragmatic as Arizona in conserving water to come to the table and finally shoulder their share of these reductions. I will continue to weigh in with the Department of Interior and work with state and local water authorities to make sure that we both protect Lake Mead for generations to come and ensure that Arizonans have access to their fair share of Colorado River water.

Zink: The great state of Arizona should look into the 500-year water supply that is under Arizona. The state should be taking care of its people and looking to the resources that are available in that state.

Governor's from neighboring states should work together so that both states can employ more people from each and every state.

What are two things you most want Congress to do to impact immigration or border security in the U.S.?

Gallego: There aren’t just “two things” Congress should do to magically fix things at the border. Democrats and Republicans both know that our immigration system is broken, but I have been disappointed that during my time in Congress, both sides haven’t been able to come to the table to develop what our country really needs to fix this problem: comprehensive immigration reform.

For my part, I have championed immigration solutions that grow our economy, treat immigrants humanely, and make smart, 21st-century upgrades to our border security. That means leading legislation to allow Dreamers to join our military and access higher education, identifying a path to citizenship for immigrants that have boosted our economy, grown our food, and provided our health care - especially during a global pandemic, ensuring we have a functioning asylum process, and giving federal agencies the tools they need to crack down on the drug trade and work with border communities, including Tribal border communities in Arizona, to protect against bad actors.

Zink: I think that congress should send money to build the wall. People should only be let in after they have been vetted.

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What is your district’s biggest unmet need? What would you do to address it? 

Gallego: Our district, like much of Phoenix, is in the midst of a housing crisis. Apartment rents increased 29% in 2021, and 30% of renters in our Congressional District are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs. It’s also gotten more difficult to become a homeowner. In the Second Quarter of 2022, only 22% of houses sold in the Phoenix area were considered affordable for families earning the area median income, making the Phoenix metro area one of the least affordable housing markets in the country.

In Congress, I am working on policies to combat this crisis, including: supporting a $10 billion down payment assistance program to help first-generation, first-time home buyers, cracking down on predatory private equity firms that are crowding middle-class families out of the housing market, ending the rental assistance backlog, so all eligible Americans get the help they need, and jump-starting affordable home construction by expanding and strengthening the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

In addition to championing policy solutions to these issues, I am also working to secure millions of dollars for specific housing projects in AZ-07. I have already successfully secured $1.5 million to house and support homeless veterans in the District and $1.3 million to support veterans, domestic abuse survivors, and low-income families seeking affordable housing in Vista Village on E Van Buren St. I’m now working to bring home an additional $8.5 million to AZ-07 to build a 110-bed transitional housing facility for people experiencing homelessness in South Phoenix, a 48-unit affordable housing community in Midtown Phoenix, 35 tiny homes in South Phoenix for homeless veterans, and a secure storage facility near Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) for homeless individuals to store personal items while they seek services or look for employment.

Zink: There are no manufacturing companies in CD3. I will bring manufacturing back to Arizona so that there will be good paying jobs in congressional district 3.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights, what, if anything, should Congress do on this issue?

Gallego: The U.S. Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and roll back 50 years of women’s rights is outrageous, and it has already harmed Arizonans. The #1 thing that must be done to protect the right to choose in the wake of this decision is that the Senate must abolish the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. I already voted to support the Women’s Health Protection Act when it passed the House. This legislation would codify women’s right to access reproductive care, including abortion care, without interference from the government.

There are other steps Congress can and should take to protect people’s access to reproductive care. My office has worked with local health care providers, hospitals, and pharmacies to ensure that the types of reproductive care that remain legal are accessible to Arizonans. I have also voted to codify a right to birth control for all Americans, cosponsored legislation to create a national abortion fund to help women travel to states where they can receive a safe and legal abortion, and called for improved data privacy protections, so women are less likely to be surveilled and harassed in states where abortion is illegal.

Zink: Nothing, the federal government needs to get out of the healthcare business. The states should be in control of what goes on with abortion.

What can Congress do now to help Arizona’s economy and Arizonans struggling economically?  

Gallego: The two things Congress must do now to help jumpstart our economy are lower costs and support families. Fortunately, Democrats just passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is specifically targeted at lowering Arizonans’ energy bills and reducing the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs and health insurance. The IRA also includes a historic investment in clean energy technologies like solar power. As the sunniest state in the country, Arizona is poised to not only increase the number of households relying on cheaper, renewable solar energy by 150,000 but to add thousands of jobs in the state as investments flow to solar technology manufacturing happening right here in Arizona.

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Despite the historic nature of the IRA, it alone is not enough to ensure that every Arizona family has a fair shot at achieving the American dream. That’s why I will continue to work to overcome Republican opposition to passing a permanent Child Tax Credit to support families with up to $250 per child over six and $300 per child under six each month. I will also continue to fight in Congress for other policies proven to boost our economy and support families, including guaranteeing that all employees have up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child or sick loved one and lowering the cost of child care.

Zink: Bring manufacturing back to Arizona and put them to work, instead of giving them free stuff. Let's make sure that each family has a good paying job with benefits and let the families decide what is best for them. Government needs to stop taxing people to the point that they can't afford to live and that is what we have right now.

Are you in favor of continued U.S. support of Ukraine in its war with Russia? Why or why not?

Gallego: Yes. The United States has always stood up for democracy against tyranny, and supporting our friends in Ukraine is no different. If we don’t stand up to bullies like Vladimir Putin, he will not stop with Ukraine. That’s why I have and will continue to support sending economic, humanitarian, and military aid and weapons to President Zelenskyy and freedom fighters in Ukraine — aid that also helps secure the world food and energy market. That is also why, as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the House Baltic Caucus, I have led efforts to ensure the U.S. stands with our European and NATO allies against Russian aggression and for freedom.

Zink: No, Ukraine needs to take care of it's self. We need to start taking care of the American people. We have homeless, needy, and veterans that are being ignored that really need help.

The FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s residence after he repeatedly failed to turn over hundreds of pages of government documents, including top-secret information. What should happen as a result of this?

Gallego: As Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, I know the seriousness of removing compartmentalized classified information from its designated secure area — not to mention keeping it from the FBI in non-secure conditions. This sort of treatment of classified information is not only a crime, it endangers our national security and the lives of American servicemembers carrying out their duties across the world. No one is above the law when it comes to protecting our country’s secrets and our servicemen and women — including former President Trump.

Zink: The FBI needs to be dismantled never in the history of our country has a sitting president organized and approved a raid on another former President and possible run on the Presidential election in 2024. This needs to stop.

What policy issue OR what personally distinguishes you most from your opponent?

Gallego: Unlike my opponent, I believe in the democratic process and free and fair elections, not conspiracy theories. The only thing we have in common is that we were both present at the Capitol on January 6th, but he was trying to violently overthrow democracy while I was fighting to save it.

The Phoenix area has been a hot spot for inflation in the U.S. and Arizonans have felt the effects of rapidly rising prices for more than a year. What specific steps by Congress do you think would be most effective in bringing down inflation?

Gallego: This year, I have worked with Democrats in the House and Senate to deliver relief from high prices to Arizonans on everything from energy to health care to car prices. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, we are set to lower how much my constituents with Medicare pay for their prescriptions each year by $25 million. The IRA will also lower people’s energy bills, reduce the cost of fuel, and keep insurance companies from hiking up premiums. To lower the cost of new and used cars as well as other technology that requires semiconductor chips, I also championed the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act. This bill will ease the shortage of semiconductor chips, which has been contributing to rising prices, and will make the prices of American goods less dependent on foreign supply chains, especially in China.

Despite Democrats’ historic successes in passing these new laws to bring down costs, there’s more to be done. That’s why I have championed legislation to crack down on oil company price gouging at the pump, which passed the House without any Republican support. I have also supported legislation to make the agricultural and meat processing supply chain more resilient and reduce inflationary pressures on food prices.

And thanks to my efforts and outreach to the IRS, the revenue service increased the 2022 standard mileage rate used to deduct the cost of operating an automobile for business purposes to 62.5 cents a mile, up from 58.5 cents — putting money back into the pockets of small business owners, sole proprietors, and rideshare drivers.

Zink: First, have the government stop spending money. Inflation is cause directly for government overspending. Arizonans need to start voting out representatives that just keep spending money for no reason. Sending money to another country is not the answer to stopping inflation.

Tara Kavaler is a politics reporter at The Arizona Republic. She can be reached by email at tara.kavaler@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter @kavalertara.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Ruben Gallego and Jeff Zink, 3rd District rivals, talk inflation, abortion