Arizona Republic reporter asks a reader’s question about climate change during Senate debate

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema: “I do believe that climate change is real.” Republican Martha McSally: “I can’t believe this is the last question.”

A question from a member of the public prompted debate moderator Maria Polletta, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, to ask Arizona's Senate candidates for their views on climate change. At an October 15 debate hosted by the Republic and Arizona PBS, Polletta asked Rep. Martha McSally (R) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) whether they believe climate change is a human-caused problem and how they plan to combat it -- specifically its water impacts on the state. Sinema said, “I do believe that climate change is real,” and talked about the importance of regional water planning. McSally expressed disbelief that the question was asked and changed the subject to the military, veterans, and her opponent’s antiwar activism.

Media Matters is tracking debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races and encouraging moderators to ask candidates questions about climate change. So far, only 6 of 37 debates analyzed nationwide have included a climate-related question. See our scorecard.

From the October 15 Arizona Senate debate:

Video file

MARIA POLLETTA: Congresswoman Sinema, this comes from one of our readers, viewers. With climate change, number one: Do you believe it is a manmade problem, caused by humans? Number two: What are your plans in terms of combating climate change, particularly with regard to water and possible water shortages?

KYRSTEN SINEMA: Why, I do believe that climate change is real. And I think it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to spend time debating how we got to the place that we are today. What does make sense is for individuals who have the ability to make a difference moving forward to work together to make that difference. And here in Arizona, water is of grave concern to our state. As a United States senator, I’ll hope to work with Sen. Jon Kyl, who’s been a leader on the issue of water during his time in the United States Senate. It’s our duty to not only preserve our own water supply for the next 100 years, but to partner with states in the region -- Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and California -- to ensure that we have a regional strategy to move forward and protect our state in future years. It’s working together -- Republicans and Democrats from these states across the region -- that’s how we’ll find the solution to these challenges.

But I firmly believe that as Arizonans, as Americans, we have the resources, we have the tools, we have the skills, and we have the knowledge. We can address issues of climate change together, and do so without harming our business prospects and without harming what makes Arizona so amazing. You know, folks know this about me, but I’m an outdoor enthusiast. So, every morning, I get up and I go outside to either run, hike, bike, swim, every day. And I want to make sure that we can protect that beauty, why we all love Arizona so much, for our future generations.

MARTHA McSALLY (R): Ted and Maria, I can’t believe this is the last question. I mean, we do have to address the issues of climate, and water is so important for Arizona; it’s our lifeline. But I worked for Sen. Jon Kyl when I was a legislative fellow as a major, and it’s so important that we follow his lead -- and he is my mentor -- to be able to move forward to address these really important issues. But we have to talk about the military. We have to talk about our veterans.

TED SIMONS (MODERATOR): Quickly, please.

McSALLY: We haven’t had any opportunity.

SIMONS: You have it right now.

McSALLY: That’s what brought me to Arizona, like 500,000 of our veterans, for our national security treasures that are here. I fought for to make sure that the A-10 was preserved, that we fight for Luke Air Force Base. My opponent advocated to shut down Luke Air Force Base. While we were in harm’s way, she was protesting our troops in a pink tutu. And I’ll tell you what, if these are not disqualifying enough, Kyrsten, what came out last week, CNN reported that in 2003, when she was on the radio, you said it was OK for Americans to join the Taliban to fight against us. You said you had no problem with that. Kyrsten, I want to ask right now whether you’re going to apologize to the veterans and me for saying it’s OK to commit treason, Kyrsten?