Republican candidate Jesse Kelly tells Newsmax TV that Democrats are “trying to buy” the special election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, formerly held by Gabrielle Giffords.
During an exclusive interview, Kelly said “if they [Democrats] are able to win this seat, Barack Obama will use it as a big stepping stool for his presidential campaign.”
This special election is getting national attention — and hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups outside Arizona — because the winner’s party leadership will point to this race as a bellwether for the general election in November.
Watch the exclusive interview here. Story continues below video.
“It’s a swing district. It’s one of those districts that can go either way, and it’s why both parties are sinking so much money into it,” Kelly said.
Kelly, an Iraq War veteran, is running against Democrat Ron Barber to replace Giffords. She stepped down to focus on her recovery from severe gunshot wounds suffered in January 2011. A gunman wounded Giffords and killed six others at a public event in Tucson. Barber, a Giffords staffer at the time, and 16 others were wounded.
Kelly lost to Giffords in 2010 by less than 5,000 votes. When asked about her decision to step down, Kelly said he is just focusing on the future.
“The election is all about jobs and the economy. Right now people don’t have a job, and if they do have a job they can’t afford the gasoline to get to work.”
Both candidates are courting military families and seniors. The 8th District covers a large part of southern Arizona and includes Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army post. It’s also a district popular with retirees.
“Right now we actually have the smallest percentage of veterans we’ve had in a long time in Congress. And what you get when you get a veteran in there, someone who has actually fought for this country — whatever their ideology may be — you know they love this country.
“I love the United States more than anything and I would die for it. And it’s bringing that love of country back there, that I think Congress can really use right now,” Kelly said.
In a campaign commercial, Barber claimed Kelly plans to “phase out” or “privatize” Medicare and Social Security. When asked about the commercial, Kelly said that Barber has “lied through his teeth since this race began.”
“What we talked about when it comes to entitlements is protecting the benefits that seniors have earned. Protecting the seniors who are currently on it and giving future generations choices,” Kelly said.
He said expanding America’s energy resources is “the only thing that can create the jobs we need, bring in the revenue we need for the government.”
“If we can get the EPA out of the way, get the government regulations out of the way, and let our oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, let all of these other things free — then we can bring in the revenue we need to fund these programs,” Kelly said.
Early voting has already started. The election concludes next month. The winner will serve out the remainder of Giffords' term, which ends on Jan. 3.
© 2016 Newsmax. All rights reserved.