Democrat Don Bivens was in Kingman Thursday afternoon to talk about his run for U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl's seat.
He didn't break any new ground, following a script that could have been written by President Obama.
Bivens is running against one other Democrat, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona. Four Republicans, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, real estate investor Wil Cardon, Youngtown Mayor Bryan Hackbarth and conservative radio host Clair Van Steenwyk, are in the race.
Bivens sat down with a group of Mohave County Democrats at Sirens' Café to get a feel for the community and answer questions about his campaign.
Despite Republicans having an edge in registered voters in the state, Bivens said that the Democrats have a good chance at the Senate seat.
"I think it's going to be an interesting year for Democrats," he said.
Bivens said he grew up in New Mexico and has been a life-long member of the Democratic Party. He attended Yale University and received a law degree from the University of Texas. He moved to Arizona in 1977 and started working in business law.
"I'm used to solving disputes both in and out of the courtroom," he said.
Bivens also served as the chairman of the Arizona Bar, on the Board of Planned Parenthood and as chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.
"I'm running because I believe in the middle-class," he said. The middle-class is what makes the country run, but recently only those in the top 1 to 2 percent of the income bracket have received any benefit from the economy, Bivens said, everyone else has seen their income stagnate or go down.
"It's time to stand up for everyone else," he said.
Bivens said when it comes to the federal budget, he will not sign any pledges.
"Everything is on the table," he said, including the defense budget.
"What I really want to know is, what can the federal government do to help you," he asked the handful of people who attended the event.
Resident Mark Shaver asked why there was such an imbalance in income levels in the U.S.
Bivens said it was because of the unfair tax system, where some people are charged a lower rate even thought they make more money because of a loophole.
"The Bush tax cuts have only contributed to the deficit," he said. "The middle-class is paying a disproportionate share."
Bivens also explained his plan for getting businesses to move back to the U.S. The key is to stop giving them tax incentives to move overseas and instead give them tax credits for hiring in the U.S.
At the same time, the U.S. needs to look into becoming more innovative in its businesses. There's no way the U.S. can beat countries like China for the cheapest labor, but what the U.S. can do is be the most innovative country, he said. For example, technology-related jobs can't be easily exported.
The U.S. has some of the best intellectual property rights laws in the world, Bivens said. We should be touting that to the inventors of the world, he said.
Bivens also spoke about the illegal immigration problem that Arizona and the U.S. faces.
"There needs to be comprehensive reform," he said. "The border needs to be secured first, then we need a guest worker program. We have got to have something to bring these people who have been living, working and paying taxes here for years out of the shadows."
Bivens said he was not talking about amnesty, but a way to put those people who immigrated illegally to the U.S. in line to become legal residents or citizens of the U.S.
He's also in favor of the Development, Relief and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide conditional legal residency to people of good moral character who were brought into the U.S. as minors, have graduated high school and lived in the U.S. for the last five years.
It would allow some people who have lived in Arizona all of their lives, but are not legal citizens, to attend Arizona colleges and universities at in-state prices, Bivens said. That would give these people a chance to get a good paying job and contribute to the society they were raised in.
Without the DREAM Act, these people don't have the money to attend school and they aren't eligible for many scholarships. At the same time, their immigration status prevents them from getting a job.
"Their futures would be at a dead end," Bivens said.
Local educator Michael Weisser asked if there was anything Bivens could do to reduce the cuts in funding for education.
Bivens said that if there was only one dollar left in the U.S. budget, he would spend it on education.
The chances of a child succeeding in this world without the right education and the tools to provide it are very slim, he said. Which means the government has to build more prisons to house those who turn to crime because they don't have the skills to get a decent job. It's much cheaper to educate a child properly than to build a new prison, Bivens said.
Another person at the meeting asked Bivens what he would do about the troops stationed overseas.
"We've got a lot of nation building that we need to do here at home," he said.
The best model for engagement in a foreign country was how President Obama handled the situation in Libya, Bivens said. The U.S. was part of a group of nations instead of being the dominant actor in the situation. The situation was handled quickly and efficiently and no U.S. soldiers were hurt.
Defense spending needs to be reduced and the military needs to become more mobile, he said.
"We've got to be smarter with our money," Bivens said.
For more information on Bivens, visit www.bivensforsenate.com