September 20, 2019 In the News

Today’s Herald-Havasu News: Senate candidate Mark Kelly meets Havasu residents, Democrats


Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate 2020 special election, Mark Kelly, was in Mohave County on Friday, starting his day in Lake Havasu City before heading north to Bullhead City and Kingman in the afternoon.

Kelly started the day in Lake Havasu City, where he spent 17 minutes speaking to a group of about 80 people at an event set up by the Havasu Democratic Party at the Quality Inn. Kelly’s speech focused on why he is running for office, his background in the U.S. Navy and as an astronaut, and what he experienced when his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head in 2011.

Some of the top issues Kelly focused on were healthcare and prescription drug prices, the need for campaign finance reform, climate change, and using science, data and facts to make informed decisions.

Following his speech, Kelly stuck around for about 40 minutes while he met one-on-one with many of the people in attendance.

Democrats Stu Starky and Delina DiSanto, both candidates to represent District 4 in the U.S. House of Representatives, were also in attendance and spoke at the event.

Following the meet and greet at Quality Inn, Kelly sat down with Today’s News-Herald to answer a wide range of questions.

Question: Is this your first time in Lake Havasu City?

Mark Kelly: It is.

Q: What are your initial impressions?

Kelly: I have always wanted to come here because I have heard so much about it. You know, it looks like a pretty special place with the lake out there. The folks I have met are incredibly enthusiastic. I have traveled to all of the corners of Arizona for far with my campaign for U.S. Senate and it is really great to see interesting and diverse places.

Q: You took some time to speak with a lot of the citizens at the meeting. What are some of the things that you heard here this morning?

Kelly: I would say the biggest theme here, as in other places, is that people are concerned about their healthcare. There were lots of questions about prescription drug prices too, but also what the future of healthcare in our country looks like.

Q: You were previously an independent and joined the Democratic Party last year. Why did you decide to become a democrat?

Kelly: I’ve watched the direction of our country and I see that Washington, D.C. is incredibly polarized and not looking to solve any of our countries problems. Members of the U.S. Senate are often more beholden to corporations than they are to the American people. So I decided that I could complain about it, or I could get in there and try to do something about it.

I will bring a background to Washington, D.C. as a public servant my entire life. Certainly while I was in the military and I also spent 15 years at NASA. I am someone who cares about science, data, and facts. My intention is to bring my experiences to the U.S. Senate to try to solve some of these hard problems.

Q: So you became a democrat to run for office then?

Kelly: Well I was an independent in December and I announced in February, so yes. And the values of the Democratic Party are consistent with my values.

Q: One of the big issues right now nationally is gun control. That is something that you have quite a bit of experience with through your work with the Giffords organization. What is your position on gun control and what are your goals if elected?

Kelly: I am a gun owner. I got my first gun early in my Navy career. When I got my wings my dad bought me a Glock 9mm that I used and I carried while I was in combat. That was the gun that I used instead of the gun that the Navy provided. I own probably about 10 firearms including a hunting rifle and a shotgun. I am a supporter of the second amendment.

Having said that, we have 150,000 people that get shot in our country every year – 30,000 of them are shot and killed – we have to do better.

There are common sense things that we can do to reduce gun violence. Things like background checks for all gun

Following his speech, Kelly stuck around for about 40 minutes while he met one-on-one with many of the people in attendance.

Democrats Stu Starky and Delina DiSanto, both candidates to represent District 4 in the U.S. House of Representatives, were also in attendance and spoke at the event.

Following the meet and greet at Quality Inn, Kelly sat down with Today’s News-Herald to answer a wide range of questions.

Question: Is this your first time in Lake Havasu City?

Mark Kelly: It is.

Q: What are your initial impressions?

Kelly: I have always wanted to come here because I have heard so much about it. You know, it looks like a pretty special place with the lake out there. The folks I have met are incredibly enthusiastic. I have traveled to all of the corners of Arizona for far with my campaign for U.S. Senate and it is really great to see interesting and diverse places.

Q: You took some time to speak with a lot of the citizens at the meeting. What are some of the things that you heard here this morning?

Kelly: I would say the biggest theme here, as in other places, is that people are concerned about their healthcare. There were lots of questions about prescription drug prices too, but also what the future of healthcare in our country looks like.

Q: You were previously an independent and joined the Democratic Party last year. Why did you decide to become a democrat?

Kelly: I’ve watched the direction of our country and I see that Washington, D.C. is incredibly polarized and not looking to solve any of our countries problems. Members of the U.S. Senate are often more beholden to corporations than they are to the American people. So I decided that I could complain about it, or I could get in there and try to do something about it.

I will bring a background to Washington, D.C. as a public servant my entire life. Certainly while I was in the military and I also spent 15 years at NASA. I am someone who cares about science, data, and facts. My intention is to bring my experiences to the U.S. Senate to try to solve some of these hard problems.

Q: So you became a democrat to run for office then?

Kelly: Well I was an independent in December and I announced in February, so yes. And the values of the Democratic Party are consistent with my values.

Q: One of the big issues right now nationally is gun control. That is something that you have quite a bit of experience with through your work with the Giffords organization. What is your position on gun control and what are your goals if elected?

Kelly: I am a gun owner. I got my first gun early in my Navy career. When I got my wings my dad bought me a Glock 9mm that I used and I carried while I was in combat. That was the gun that I used instead of the gun that the Navy provided. I own probably about 10 firearms including a hunting rifle and a shotgun. I am a supporter of the second amendment.

Having said that, we have 150,000 people that get shot in our country every year – 30,000 of them are shot and killed – we have to do better.

There are common sense things that we can do to reduce gun violence. Things like background checks for all gun sales, red flag laws, stronger domestic violence legislation, and other things. If we take thoughtful steps that make it harder for felons, domestic abusers, criminals, suspected terrorists, people who are dangerously mentally ill to get firearms and we deal with what appears to be a mental health crisis at the same time, I think it is clear that we can bring down the number of people who are shot and killed. They often are kids.

It’s not the right thing to do nothing.

Q: You said you are for common sense gun laws. What would be some examples that wouldn’t be common sense? What is something that you would oppose?

Kelly: Maybe what former congressman Beto O’Rourke said the other day. I would not be in favor of that.

Q: What did he say?

Kelly: It was about confiscation. That’s just not who we are as a country. I think we need to make it harder for criminals, domestic abusers, and suspected terrorists. It is interesting, if you are a suspected terrorists you can legally pass a background check and buy a gun

A convicted felon can’t legally buy a firearm. They can do it at a gun show and get one because there is not background check. But someone who is a suspected terrorists can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer, pass the background check, and buy whatever firearm they want. They can’t get on an airplane, but they can buy a gun. It doesn’t make any sense. Who thinks that is a good idea?

Q: If elected, how would you represent the interests of rural Arizona?

Kelly: I have been spending the last six or seven months traveling in the more rural parts of our state to learn about the issues that they face. Healthcare issues are one thing, but you kind of hear of a theme of infrastructure problems. You see that on the Navajo and other reservations.

Rural communities have problems with having enough healthcare providers, primary care physicians, and hospitals and clinics remaining open. So it is a matter of improving healthcare with a focus on these communities.

With the infrastructure issue, a federal infrastructure bill that will affect our decaying roads and bridges is a serious, smart thing to do. I think that can improve the lives of folks in the remote parts of the state.

Q: I’m sure you are aware of the recent email that Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward sent out saying, “We will stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks.” What is your reaction to that?

Kelly: You know, it is politics and I am not a politician. I am now in this world of politics and she apparently thought that was a good thing to excite a group of people.

I hope those folks also realize that I am a gun owner and I am a supporter of the second amendment. I just think we have to be smart about it and we can never get to the point where we feel that this is just a normal thing to have kids killed in classrooms. It is not normal, and we can do something about it.

So I am not worried about the emails that she sends out. I’m worried about traveling across the state, listening to voters – democrats, republicans, independents – about the issues that they care about. And running a good race and not going down into that level.

Q: Another thing that affects Arizona specifically is immigration and border security. What are your views on that?

Kelly: We need strong border security. We need a border.

I don’t agree we need a 2,000 mile wall. We need barriers, including a wall, in certain places. When you go to cities like Douglas and Nogales physical barriers are very important.

If you were to ask the Tucson Border Patrol Sector Chief, he thinks what we need is more technology, some infrastructure improvements, and more people – more border patrol. Those are smart things to do.

One of the things that has surprised me, and I don’t think we could continue to do, is taking children away from their parents. That is not who we are as a country. That is not in accordance with our principles. We have got to figure out a way to deal with this issue.

Washington, D.C., to be honest, is kind of the opposite of Arizona and other border states like Texas. As somebody with my background as an engineer, pilot and commander of a space shuttle, when you have a complicated problem one of the best approaches is to look to the root cause of the problem.

I think the root cause is that we have a problem with too many asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala – way too many.

Q: If elected what would your first order of business be?

Kelly: Well that is 13 months away. I have a long time before we get to that. I’ve got to build a winning campaign. Part of that process is learning about what are the issues that folks in Arizona care most about, and also which ones are the ones that the Federal Government can do something about?

I’m starting to hear now a theme about healthcare. But I have a long time to come up with a plan. I will figure that out in time.

Q: You’ve mentioned healthcare. What would you say are your top priority issues at this point?

Kelly: I think that our country should be able to provide everybody with good healthcare that they can afford. They shouldn’t have to pay crazy premiums or really high deductibles, and it covers their needs. Not something that they are going to get kicked off of because they hit some arbitrary cap that some health insurance executive put in there.

They need health insurance that they can get if they have a preexisting condition. It used to be that if you didn’t have healthcare, you had a preexisting condition, and you went to get it you weren’t going to get covered. Two to three million Arizonans have preexisting conditions. There have been moves in the United States Congress to gut those protections. If successful two to three million people would have been in jeopardy of losing their health insurance just in our state. We can’t have that.

My opponent voted four times to remove those protections for preexisting conditions.

We also need to address the rising cost of prescription medication.

Our country kind of subsidizes the development of prescription drugs essentially for the world. We pay much higher prices. We shouldn’t be paying much higher prices. We can figure out a system where pharmaceutical companies have the resources to do research and development, and get pharmaceuticals through the FDA approval process but at the same time lower the prices closer to what they pay in other countries.

One of the ways that we can do that is with generic drugs. When a patent expires on a medication you allow a generic drug manufacturer, at the appropriate time, to put their product on the market. There are ways that big pharmaceutical companies stifle that competition. One of the things that they do is to change the product a little bit to delay the process. They also put tons of patents on a single drug to make it harder, and they often pay off the generic drug company. They wind up in a negotiation and they pay them to keep their product off the market. That just drives up costs, especially for seniors.

Thirty percent of prescription drugs’ costs are through Medicare. Medicare pays higher than Medicaid or the VA for the same drug and that means seniors have to pay more.

HHS should be allowed should be allowed make rules for the pharmaceutical companies, but they are currently not able to.

The next question would be, well why can’t they do that? Well I think it is because of the corporate money in the political system. Big Pharma writes campaign checks, through their Political Action Committees, to members of the United States Senate. That means that certain Senators are beholden to these pharmaceutical companies. It is true in other industries as well. So we need strong campaign finance reform. Which is something John McCain tried to put out, somewhat successfully. I know he wanted to do more – I had one specific conversation with him about it. We have got to get the corporate money and the dark money out of politics. That would make all of these issues easier to solve.

My opponent voted four times to remove those protections for preexisting conditions.

We also need to address the rising cost of prescription medication.

Our country kind of subsidizes the development of prescription drugs essentially for the world. We pay much higher prices. We shouldn’t be paying much higher prices. We can figure out a system where pharmaceutical companies have the resources to do research and development, and get pharmaceuticals through the FDA approval process but at the same time lower the prices closer to what they pay in other countries.

One of the ways that we can do that is with generic drugs. When a patent expires on a medication you allow a generic drug manufacturer, at the appropriate time, to put their product on the market. There are ways that big pharmaceutical companies stifle that competition. One of the things that they do is to change the product a little bit to delay the process. They also put tons of patents on a single drug to make it harder, and they often pay off the generic drug company. They wind up in a negotiation and they pay them to keep their product off the market. That just drives up costs, especially for seniors.

Thirty percent of prescription drugs’ costs are through Medicare. Medicare pays higher than Medicaid or the VA for the same drug and that means seniors have to pay more.

HHS should be allowed should be allowed make rules for the pharmaceutical companies, but they are currently not able to.

The next question would be, well why can’t they do that? Well I think it is because of the corporate money in the political system. Big Pharma writes campaign checks, through their Political Action Committees, to members of the United States Senate. That means that certain Senators are beholden to these pharmaceutical companies. It is true in other industries as well. So we need strong campaign finance reform. Which is something John McCain tried to put out, somewhat successfully. I know he wanted to do more – I had one specific conversation with him about it. We have got to get the corporate money and the dark money out of politics. That would make all of these issues easier to solve.

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