RESULT: Gabrielle Giffords (D) 55% – Tim Bee (R) 43%
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, defeated former state Senator Randy Graf in 2006. The race was frequently referenced in the national media as a gauge of voters’ feelings toward immigration. According to The Cook Report, “This is a district that is not comfortable at the extreme edge of any issue.” Giffords’ victory suggested that Americans were not as extreme in their anti-immigration viewpoints as Graf, an enforcement-only candidate. [Cook Report, accessed 8/18/08] The Republican running against Giffords in 2008, Tim Bee, “stayed out of his party’s primary two years ago after 11-term Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe announced his retirement. He then rose to power in the state Senate.” [The Tucson Citizen, 8/18/08] The race between Giffords and Tim Bee is “one of the nation’s most watched congressional races,” according to the Arizona Daily Star. Republican Tim Bee has attacked Giffords on immigration, Iraq and energy. [Arizona Daily Star, 8/16/08] The 8th Congressional District includes all of Tucson except the west side [Almanac of American Politics, accessed 9/2/08], and is often considered to be “ground zero” in the immigration debate. In 2006, over 390,000 immigrants were arrested for crossing the border there.
The Giffords Position:
COMPREHENSIVE REFORMER. On the campaign trail, Giffords has touted her comprehensive approach to immigration reform. “Giffords said that if she’s re-elected, she will continue pushing for a comprehensive bill one that includes a border security measure coupled with a guest-worker plan and a citizenship plan.” [Arizona Daily Star, 8/11/08] In advocating for comprehensive reform, Giffords has painted herself as a strong opponent of the status quo and an advocate for federal action. “Our immigration laws need to be overhauled. In Southern Arizona, we’re in the thick of things,” she said in an interview. “We’ve paid a heavy price for Washington’s inability to update our laws.” [Arizona Daily Star, 8/11/08] On her website, Giffords advocates for increased border security, tougher employer sanctions, and an effective guest worker program. In a list of her first-term accomplishments, Giffords points to “75 floor speeches with 19 on immigration” and her various forums and teleconferences on immigration. [Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ Website, accessed 5/1/08] After Arizona began implementing a law requiring businesses to use a flawed federal program to verify an employee’s work authorization in 2008, Giffords testified before Congress about the need to improve the accuracy of the federal government’s database, and said that comprehensive reform is needed to truly fix the system.
The Bee Position:
ENFORCEMENT PLUS. Bee was a co-sponsor of Arizona’s landmark employer sanctions bill that took effect in 2008. Although his campaign website lists no immigration position, news reports suggest that he is inclined to support piecemeal legislation rather than the comprehensive overhaul that Giffords advocates. While Bee supports stronger enforcement in the workplace and at the border, he also supports a guest worker program to relieve some of the pressure caused by illegal immigration, “so we can focus on the criminal traffic that is coming across the border.” This is in clear contrast to former Republican candidate Graf’s staunch enforcement-only posture. When it comes to dealing with the 12 million undocumented workers in the country, Bee says that “illegal immigrants should have to return to their country of origin in order to apply for citizenship,” illustrating one of the key policy differences between him and Giffords, who supports requiring undocumented workers to obtain legal status from within the United States if they pay fines and clear additional hurdles. [Arizona Daily Star, 8/11/08]