Arizona Democratic congressional candidate Greg Stanton repeatedly dodged questions on Tuesday about whether he would support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) for speaker if Democrats take back control of the House.
Stanton, the former mayor of Phoenix, was asked multiple questions about his support for Pelosi during his first debate with Republican opponent Steve Ferrara.
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"Who would you support as your party boss in the House?" debate moderator Yvonne Wingett Sanchez asked.
"Well, I’m running for Congress right now and I’m running one heck of a strong race, a grassroots, people-powered campaign. That is my complete focus. I’ve actually not had a single conversation with anyone about leadership, nor should I," Stanton said. "The people who are supporting me, the thousands of people that have come out to walk door-to-door for me or make phone calls to win this in a grassroots way, they want me to be their advocate."
"So I actually haven’t had a single conversation with anyone about that issue," Stanton later repeated.
Ted Simons, who also moderated the debate, followed up by saying constituents in Arizona's 9th Congressional District will associate him with other members of Congress, including the current minority leader. He asked Stanton whether he would support Pelosi remaining in leadership.
"Well, I am running a grassroots campaign, a people-oriented campaign. I’ve not had a single conversation with anyone about that issue," Stanton repeated. "So I am not taking a position on that, only because I haven’t had a single conversation, nor should I."
"You’ve got a question right now about the issue. What do you think?" Simons asked.
"Well, after the election, when I win this election, I’m going to find out who the candidates are and I’m going to pick the best candidate that is best for the state of Arizona and our district," Stanton said.
Wingett Sanchez, a political reporter for Arizona Republic newspaper, noted Stanton's response was a "dodge" and asked Ferrara to weigh in on the issue.
"Yeah, that’s a big-time dodge," the Republican candidate said. "Because one of the people who came out to support Greg’s campaign – and I imagine he spoke with her – was Nancy Pelosi. She’s already been to Phoenix and done a fundraiser. So I think Greg’s vote is sewn up. Nancy wants that gavel, and Greg is another vote."
Pelosi contributed $2,000 to Stanton's campaign committee on December 29, 2017 and her leadership PAC, PAC to the Future, contributed $5,000 on the same day, according to the Federal Election Commission. Pelosi also hosted a private fundraiser for Stanton back in August, which led to his campaign raising over $25,000 the day of and after the fundraiser.
"This is why people are tired of career politicians. That was the biggest smokescreen ever, and it’s insulting to the viewers that you couldn’t answer that question," Ferrara added.
A National Republican Congressional Committee said the Democratic candidate is "afraid" to voice his support for Pelosi, an indication of "her toxic approval and agenda."
"Greg Stanton isn’t even in Washington yet and he’s already talking out of both sides of his mouth. If Greg is willing to accept Nancy Pelosi’s money, he’ll support her for Speaker – that he’s afraid to say it out loud speaks volumes about her toxic approval and agenda," NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol said.
Stanton and Ferrara are running for the seat left open by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), who is currently running for Senate against Republican Rep. Martha McSally (Ariz.).