Three men and one woman are running in the Republican primary to replace two-term Republican Martha McSally in Congressional District 2.
In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 28 primary, Tucson Hispanic Chamber CEO Lea Márquez Peterson, former Army intelligence professional Brandon Martin, former Peace Corps staffer Casey Welch and former Douglas Vice Mayor Daniel “DJ” Morales Jr. have been meeting with various groups and taken to social media to promote themselves.
Each is vocally supportive of President Trump on the campaign trail and his vision for a secure border, including a massive border wall.
Márquez Peterson was the first Republican to jump into the CD2 race — a full month before McSally announced she would not be running for re-election.
Márquez Peterson represents businesses throughout CD2, with offices in Sierra Vista, Douglas, and Tucson. The fourth Hispanic chamber is in Nogales, which is in Congressional District 3.
“I’ve spent a lot more time with ranchers and folks on the border,” she said.
She wants more resources along the U.S.-Mexico border, including adding miles of a new wall where it makes sense, she said.
But she is careful to note that trade is also vital to Southern Arizona.
“The relationship we have with Mexico is complex,” she said in an interview with the Star. “A number of businesses talk to me about trade and expressed concerns on tariffs.”
This includes the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We need to find a solution for NAFTA,” she said, “110,000 jobs in Arizona rely on NAFTA.”
Welch has crisscrossed the globe in service to the country.
He studied in Egypt, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua and then worked in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia for the U.S. government.
Welch jumped in to the race when he learned McSally was going to run for Jeff Flake’s seat in the Senate.
Fresh from a tour of the Southern Arizona border, Welch says Trump’s proposed border wall is vital for CD2 voters. And he supports it, where it makes sense.
“The wall is very important in populated areas,” he said, noting that the Border Patrol may have only seconds or a few minutes to apprehend someone who has illegally crossed before they are able to hide in populated areas.
But in more desolate areas, he argues that the Border Patrol can rely on a myriad of technical and physical barriers to apprehend people. What they need more are roads, especially in an emergency, he argues, where the lack of roads can slow down a response from medical personnel.
Republicans should also be working on more foreign aid to Latin America, he says, noting it can help stem the tide of immigrants pouring in across the southern border.
Morales says he knows the backroads of Cochise County well, spending time driving on the often rough, rural areas as a Cochise County sheriff’s deputy.
“I know how porous it is,” he said. “I’ve taken calls where the narcos have taken a torch to blowtorch through the fence.”
He is supportive of the Trump administration and its policies, including the wall.
As a Douglas resident, Morales says security has gotten better over the years as the federal government has increased the number of sensors, installed a two-tiered fence and increased the number of Border Patrol agents .
But there is more to be done, he said.
Morales quit his position on the Douglas City Council to work on the campaign full-time.
A significant issue for CD2, he said, is the lack of quality jobs.
Lack of opportunities for high school graduates, for example, has led to an exodus out of cities and town, Morales said.
A former Army intelligence professional stationed at Fort Huachuca, Martin also quit his job to run for Congress.
A top issue for Martin is the wall, saying it is a hot-button topic when he talks to voters in the district.
“Voters back Trump because he promised them a wall, and I believe a wall will be effective,” he said.
But for Martin, security goes beyond the wall.
Martin would like to end so-called chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program, replacing them with a merit-based system.
Martin also supports a stronger approach to securing the border, openly suggesting that active-duty Army personnel could be positioned along the border — possibly even stationed at Fort Huachuca — to help secure the border.
He says such a mission would not violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the use of the military in domestic law enforcement roles.
The Aug. 28 primary will narrow the race of 11 candidates — seven Democrats and four Republicans — to two. Early voting begins Aug. 1.
The Democrats vying to replace McSally are former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, emergency room physician Matt Heinz, former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, businessman Billy Kovacs, former rancher Barbara Sherry, attorney Yahya Yuksel and retired Assistant Secretary of the Army Mary Matiella.