PHOENIX — Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters sought to distance himself on Thursday from his earlier statements that abortions should be illegal nationwide.
But Masters acknowledged he wants national law on the matter, one that would ban the procedure after 15 weeks — even if states want to let women end their pregnancies later.
And he accused Democrat Mark Kelly of supporting abortion rights until birth, a claim the incumbent senator has not exactly denied. Instead, Kelly said Congress should enshrine what the standard was under the now overturned Roe v. Wade.
Libertarian Marc Victor said both were wrong. If there are to be restrictions on abortion, they should be enacted at the most local level possible, Victor said. And Victor said that whatever laws are passed, there should always be exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
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The debate also featured the candidates trading barbs on border security and inflation.
Masters said Kelly is actually a political clone of President Joe Biden, supporting an open border philosophy.
Kelly, for his part, said he parted ways with the president and other Democrats, advocating for more Border Patrol agents and physical barriers where they make sense. And he criticized Masters for his stance that there should never be a path to citizenship for “dreamers” who came to this country as children.
“I think that’s mean and fundamentally un-American,” Kelly said, calling the tens of thousands of dreamers in Arizona “as American as my two kids.”
Masters, however, said if Kelly was as interested in border security as he claims — and willing to fight with his own party — he could have withheld his votes for Biden’s Senate agendas 50-50 until ’til he got what he wanted, including 18,000 more Border Patrol agents.
“Biden should have secured the border,” Masters said. Instead, he said, Kelly is “the most inefficient and worst senator ever.”
Kelly said he introduced legislation to increase both the number and pay of Border Patrol agents. Masters, however, preferred to focus on Kelly’s vote for a bill to hire 87,000 more officers for the Internal Revenue Service.
Kelly said they are needed.
“We need people in government to take on big business and the wealthiest Americans who are trying to cheat on their taxes, who have armies of accountants and lawyers,” he said.
“If we can’t collect taxes from the richest Americans and the biggest corporations who cheat on their taxes, you know who pays?” Kelly continued. “Middle-class Americans are paying.”
Masters said he didn’t believe it.
“They’re not just going after billionaires,” he said. “They’re going to audit you, they’re going to audit your small businesses this time next year.”
But some of the most heated discussions have taken place on the issue of abortion.
The issue took on new emphasis in Arizona following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
This sent the decision back to the states. And Attorney General Mark Brnovich has had a Pima County judge rule that authorizes prosecutors to enforce a territorial-era law banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Prior to the decision, Masters had said Roe should be repealed and that abortion was “a religious sacrifice for these people, I think it’s demonic.”
And his campaign website that he was “100% pro-life” and supported a “federal personality law (ideally a constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings who cannot be killed”.
Those comments have now disappeared from his website, with Masters dodging host Ted Simons’ questions about whether he had “scoured” him.
Now Masters has said he’s still pro-life. But he also said he supports exceptions and limits. And that means, he said, he supports a 15-week ban, similar to what state lawmakers approved earlier this year, even though the Pima County ruling said that it did not replace the law of the territorial era.
But Masters went further, saying he now wants that 15-week limit made nationwide, saying it would prevent later abortions that are now allowed in other states.
It would also limit any efforts in Arizona to return the law to what it was before the Supreme Court overturned Roe and her constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy to the point of viability, considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks.
The masters, however, preferred to focus on the fact that it would also prevent abortion until the moment of birth, which he said Kelly had supported.
Kelly called it “nonsense”, saying he only supported abortions authorized by Roe v. Wade.
This decision, however, said that only states cannot regulate pre-viability abortions.
It allowed individual states to regulate and license abortions beyond that point if doctors are willing to perform them, as some states have done. And Kelly didn’t disavow wanting to keep it legal.
“Abortion only happens very late in pregnancy when there are serious problems,” he said.
“And folks, it’s heartbreaking when that happens,” Kelly continued. “And often the child is wanted.”
Simons got Masters to admit that Biden is the rightful president — something other statewide GOP candidates have refused to admit — and there’s no evidence of voter fraud insofar as it would have affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential race. But Masters said the outcome could have been affected by other forces.
“The FBI forced Facebook, pressured Facebook and other big tech companies to censor truthful information about Hunter Biden’s crime in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election,” he said, referring to the report. assertion that the president and his son were involved in illegal activities. deal with Ukraine. None of this has been proven.
Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has reported since 1970 and has covered state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at @azcapmedia or email [email protected]