Candidates for U.S. Congress in Arizona's District 3 took sides on federal spending, border security issues and more in a debate in Rio Rico on Thursday.

The debate included all six candidates running for the office: incumbent Raúl Grijalva, Democrat challengers Amanda Aguirre and Manny Arreguin, Republicans Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and Jaime Vasquez, and Libertarian Blanca Guerra.

Although 43 percent of voters in District 3 live in Pima County, the newly redrawn district also includes parts of Santa Cruz, Maricopa, Yuma and Pinal counties.


Grijalva said he didn't support the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission budget reform plan because it would have cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. It also would have done nothing to deal with the tax rate or close tax loopholes for corporations, he said.

Saucedo Mercer and Vasquez said they are opposed to tax increases in the plan and would push for spending cuts.

"I read that bill and they make it look really pretty, but we're going to pay for it at the gas pump and at the grocery store," Vasquez said.

The others said the plan was primarily valuable because the commission was bipartisan.

"I gotta give them an 'A' for effort," Guerra said. Party politics and an unwillingness to compromise defeated the effort, she added.


Grijalva called a bill that would allow Homeland Security agencies to bypass almost all environmental laws within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border "a bad piece of legislation."

"This legislation has nothing to do with border security and everything to do with deregulating very vital, necessary environmental laws," he said.

Aguirre, Arreguin, Guerra, Vasquez and also oppose the bill.

"You have to ask the people who live along the border, who live within that zone that's being affected," Arreguin said. "Unless you're living here on the border and you see the implications of that, then it's very hard to understand."

Saucedo Mercer differed, saying the bill's intent was to allow Border Patrol agents to enforce laws in wilderness areas "where there's rampant human smuggling and drug smuggling. ... It is insane that we don't have law enforcement allowed to go into those areas."

• All of the candidates agreed the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 should not be made permanent, but mobile checkpoints are acceptable.

• The candidates also agreed the cameras at the I-19 checkpoint are invasive but necessary for security reasons.


• All of the candidates except Grijalva support the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine.

Grijalva said he is opposed to the plan because "this project will turn some of the most beautiful public land into a waste pile" and no royalties will be paid to taxpayers.

• Aguirre and Saucedo Mercer said they would support a proposed oil refinery near Yuma. Guerra said she would support it if taxpayer money isn't used.

"Unfortunately the funding wasn't there and we haven't seen it get built," Aguirre said, "but it really raised a lot of hope for people out there, for bringing jobs to a community that has right now 29 percent unemployment."

Grijalva and Vasquez said they are opposed to the plan because it doesn't seem financially viable. Vasquez said he would instead support a nuclear power plant and a desalinization plant near Yuma.

Arreguin said he is opposed to the proposal for environmental reasons.

On StarNet: Find a breakdown of Tucson-area races and candidates, plus voter resources and links to recent political coverage, at

CD3 Debate

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.