The Arizona Governor’s Debate was on July 31st – watch it here. The following is a special feature on Kelly Fryer’s performance and why CDA is endorsing her as governor of Arizona by Justin Anderson, CDA contributor and co-host of our podcast, “What Would Jesus Pod?”

We are so proud of our Values Endorsed Candidate, Kelly Fryer for her performance in the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Debate last night on PBS AZ.  She destroyed the unfair and irresponsible NARRATIVE about what is happening at our borders.  This was the defining moment in her campaign.  After months of being shunned by the local and state media, she got her chance to show this state who she is, how she cares, and her refreshing honesty about what the problems actually are in this state and this country.  Among the many things that stood out to me, was her ambition to serve the people and one of the most important points was to change the way we talk about the border.  Her performance in this type of spotlight was honest, controversial, and it wholly encapsulated her values of mercy as well as her problem-solving abilities.
The question comes up about whether or not to abolish ICE.  Kelly answers last.  Both of her opponents give a “safe” answer about having something in place that operates similarly to ICE and blaming the current administration.  Kelly goes a slightly different route.  She opposes ICE.  She has for years, and the attack ads prove it.  She says, “Here’s the truth.  The people that are calling for border security aren’t really interested in keeping us safe.  They want to keep us afraid.  Because when we’re afraid, then we’ll spend millions and billions of tax dollars to lock people up: even if those people are children.”
Now, that is a strong statement.  It reveals intent, and implies corruption by those operating these institutions, those messaging for the institutions to be used, and those holding the purse strings to get it done.  It is a ball dropping on the floor. But I would argue that the moderators barely even get it and move on.  Kelly, on a rebuttal, starts, and she ain’t letting this go:
“You know, I actually just want to REJECT this whole line of questioning.  I think we are losing sight of the fact that there is a massive migration crisis happening around the globe.  Right now, on our border, there are people, moms and dads, who literally dropped everything they had, picked up everything that they could carry, strapped their kids to their back, and came running to our border to ask for help.  This immigration crisis is a humanitarian crisis and we need to respond in a humane way. Not in a military way.”
With this statement, she literally sets a whole new tone for the rest of the debate.  Her heart is now on display, and her plan remains a firm one.  The difference between hers and, lets just say certain Republicans, is that hers displays the righteousness of her values.  With these words, and the ones that follow, she is telling Arizona (and indeed the United States) that the people coming to our borders are not something to be feared, rejected, tossed aside, deported and left to their own devices, and, in fact, should not be talked about in those terms.  She knows that these seeds have been sown for a long time now, and it will be a thing trying to un-ring this huge fear bell.  Still she does not deter from what is right to do what might be popular, or in politics, electable.  She knows that this is right, and to talk about it any other way is less than honest, and would be an abomination to God! It would weigh on her heart.
Still, the “seasoned veterans” of this debate (in this case I’m speaking of moderators, rather than candidates) decide she needs an “out” so they lob this as a follow-up:
“Along with this humanitarian crisis, though, come real public safety concerns and these are concerns that ranchers, and families living along the border have experiences for many years.  How would you use your position as governor, then to address border security and illegal immigration concerns?”  Now, this moderator was clearly fishing for some statement of being “tough on illegals”, and to be fair, it is probably what she expected to hear, because it is a national narrative and is perpetuated by our President, the Governor of Arizona, in the local campaign commercials, all major media outlets, and so on.  So, it was kind of an “out” question so that Kelly would have the opportunity to say “Oh, you mean ILLEGAL immigrants? Well, heck ya! Lock Them UP!” . . . But she didn’t.  She didn’t even come close.  She moved exactly ZERO into that discussion.  She wouldn’t bite at all, in fact, her response was:
“Again, I want to say, I reject this line of questioning. (sidebar, if you have seen any of my tweets lately, you may have noticed the #ISeeKelly, that is because the local media has “forgotten” to write about her, and #IRejectThatLineOfQuestioning because of these very answers she gave!  Feel free to support our endorsed candidate by TRENDING these hashtags!! OK, back to the story!) What we are talking about, for the most part, are people who are here, in our country, without the right paperwork.  That’s the extent of what they have done.  Now I understand, that there are people in our country who are afraid. But they are afraid because of the narrative that’s being told by people like our current president and our current governor.  And it’s a narrative that is painting a whole group of people as, somehow, dangerous, because of the language they speak, because of the color they are, because of where they come from.  I think that this line of questioning needs to shift to focus on our responsibility as the United States of America, as the State of Arizona, to address these issues from a framework of basic human rights.”
Boom.  In case you didn’t feel it right there, that was a progressive leader, taking on an issue head on and at its core.  The truth of all the issues we are having at the border doesn’t live in the economics of human rights, it isn’t because there is a huge crime wave happening, in fact most of those seeking help are fleeing from crime and would gladly follow any rule set forth as long as they were given opportunities and safety.  She is proclaiming, in no uncertain terms that these are people and should be treated like it.  She is also saying that we haven’t been treating them like people, and that we haven’t even been talking about them like they are people.  This is the second time she said it.  The moderators were still confused, so they asked a follow-up: “Very quickly, define border security.”
Now that this was the third time she was asked about border security, a term which she had firmly rejected now, twice, she decided to. . . still not engage it.  Expertly defying to play this game, which I agree would take her down a road she clearly did not want to be on, one that ended with what we already have at our border, she defines instead, what it means to BE SECURE.  It really is an amazing piece of debate, right here.  She is saying to these moderators, to us, to her future constituents, and to the faces of our current federal administration, that what they are “doing” is not security, but what they are missing at home is.  It is brilliant because it is true.  I’ll quote her again…
“You know, here is what makes people safe.  Having good housing.  Having enough food to eat.  Having a good school for their kids to go to.  What keeps people safe is living in a community where neighbors look out for each other and care for each other.  That’s security.”  She doesn’t mince words here.  Security is security.  We all should strive to have it.
In reality, either of these comments are enough to turn heads, both in politics and in the media.  But put together, back to back, become a powerful and resonating force and reinforcement of her actual stance, which is now clearly defined as we are in the position to take care of people, and we should.
The moderators shift over to Senator Farley, who jumps right in to the idea that there are real border security risks.  He begins down this path, the same path we have all been lead down too many times now, about how scary it is that there are new people around that you may not know.  Sort of “the others are out there and you should be afraid” narrative again, which to be fair has a track record of working.  Fear has been a great factor in the recent trend for Republicans in the country, most definitely.  But, here, again, something AMAZING happens. Sen. Farley talks about drug smugglers.  He paints a grim picture of armed guards patrolling areas with AK-47s and binoculars, and tells us that it is too big of a political tool for this problem to be solved.  But he looks forward to solving it.  Without waiting for permission, Kelly is back on her microphone:
“I, I can I just interrupt here?  I just, I’m just having a really hard time, Steve, with the way that you’re  tying into this narrative.  The words that you’re using are frightening to people.  And I think we need to stop being so afraid.  We’re Americans.  We are Arizonans.  We live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.  And frankly our policies have helped create the crisis that is happening around this globe.  We need to take 12 steps back and rebuild our approach to immigration from a human rights framework.”
THAT is commanding the room.  Literally she spoke out of turn, she was technically out of the rules of this debate, but she was allowed to say what needed to be said.  Her point was allowed, even though the moderators continuously cut off the others while speaking.  It wasn’t some random politi-speak.  It wasn’t a dig at anyone else.  You know what it was?  It was a challenge.  It was Kelly Fryer challenging each person, to defend treating people poorly.  It was Kelly Fryer asking every American, and Arizonan, if this was right, if it was just, if it was merciful, and if the answer to that is no, then it was a challenge issued to every Arizonan to do something about it.  That something is to elect a leader, who is able to define the real problem, and bring a plan to that table that is executable, just, merciful, righteous, and dignified.
In order to execute such a plan, you simply begin treating the crisis differently, not as a military problem.  We already have more weapons and personnel on our borders than ever, and what we have ended up with is a huge stain on America as a world leader in humanitarian work.  Just, in that, inherent in its reasoning and objective would be the righteous treatment of asylum seekers and those just trying to achieve more.  Merciful in the consideration, and even in the event of deportation, human rights are kept at a sacred reverence level.  Righteous, because Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger – He Himself was a refugee.  And dignified because those who uphold human rights live a life beyond reproach, in that there is no scandal in treating others with decency, respecting their rights, and granting them humanity, no matter their background.
Kelly Fryer has lived her life in this way and you, too, can know her by her fruits.  For her fruits are on display, here in this debate, and all around this state.  She knocks on doors and has left thousands behind with big beaming smiles.  We are proud of our Values Endorsed Candidate, no matter the outcome of this race, because she has already put her values on display here, on this stage.  She did so with dignity and respect, she did so by proving she was in this to serve the people: the people of Arizona, the people of the United States, and the people seeking better for themselves and their children.  Her ambition to serve is evident, and I couldn’t be more happy to have Kelly Fryer as a friend and as a Values Endorsed Candidate for CDA.
Justin Anderson is a CDA contributor and co-host of What Would Jesus Pod. Follow him at @newman4life