ARW GOP Senate Forum

Bryan Hackbarth during the Ahwatukee Republican Women GOP Senatorial Candidate Breakfast Forum at the Grace Inn on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Republican candidates for Senate squared off in Ahwatukee at the Grace Inn on Tuesday, each answering questions about ways they would like to shrink the federal government.

Jeff Flake, Wil Cardon, Clair Van Steenwyk and Bryan Hackbarth were all present for the hour-long breakfast forum hosted by the Ahwatukee Republican Women. After opening statements candidates only answered three questions dealing with federal departments that should be eliminated, changes to the income tax system and Social Security.

The candidates agreed that many of the federal departments like the Department of Education, the Department of Energy or the Environmental Protection Agency should be defunded and shut down.

“It’s time to get rid of these federal agencies that are unconstitutional,” said Cardon, who stressed his business experience as his qualification for office. “We need to get rid of them and bring back state rights. How do we do that? Defund them. Cut off their money source right off the bat and take that money and start paying down the debt, or putting it back into Social Security. These are things that need to be done and we need serious people who are willing to do it.”

When it comes to Social Security Cardon and Flake both mentioned Paul Ryan’s plan to give current recipients the same amount and then recalculate benefits by prices rather than ages for those younger than 55. Hackbarth and Steenwyk especially stressed a need for privatized retirement plans.

“It is time we take things away from the federal government,” Hackbarth said. “They cannot manage a thing. Sixteen trillion dollars in debt and you want to trust them with your Social Security check the rest of your life? I don’t… I’d rather take my 15 percent and put it in an IRA, or whatever, and let me invest.”

Steenwyk said programs like Social Security are unconstitutional and his goal is to bring the constitution back to the foreground in Washington.

“I get Social Security now, finally, and I don’t want the age requirement lifted and raised, and raised,” Steenwyk said. “I know people that work their whole lives to get Social Security and three days after they retired, they die. There’s no guarantee between 65 and 70 you’re going to be here and there’s no reason for the federal government to continue to run this for anybody.”

When asked about taxes, all the candidates said they would like to see a flatter tax rate. Flake said that while he likes the idea of a flat tax versus income taxes, he’s under no illusion that it will happen anytime soon. What he sees as a priority is lowering the corporate tax rate.

“If you want to keep companies, like Intel, you have to lower the corporate tax rate,” Flake said. “Intel told me that this big plant they’re building in Chandler right now, the difference between building it in the United States and in Malasia over a 10-year period is a billion dollars just in the corporate tax rate… If we want to make sure companies like Intel stay in Arizona and here in this country we’ve got to lower the corporate tax rate, and we’ve got to make all these taxes lower and broader. We need more tax payers and lower tax rates.”

The candidates are each hoping to take the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The primary election will take place on Aug. 28, but early voting has already begun.

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