PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It's the longtime lawmaker versus the emergency department doctor in the race for CD 6.
The district includes parts of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Cave Creek, and Fountain Hills. While Republican Congressman David Schweikert has held that seat since 2013, the Democratic party hopes Dr. Hiral Tipirneni will turn the historically red district blue.
I recently spent some time with each of the candidates to get to know them personally and professionally.
On the trail with Rep. David Schweikert
Schweikert starts his mornings with a quick hike in Fountain Hills with his daughter, Olivia. She's almost 5 years old. "Being an older dad, and my wife's exactly my age, having a little person is the greatest blessing of our lives," Schweikert said.
Olivia was adopted, as was Schweikert and many members of his family.
He says family is important to him, especially as he splits time between Arizona and Washington. "You're gone a lot, so you have to make the moment count," he said. "It's the stresses of life for all of us."
He says the stresses of life are plentiful for Arizona families as we face a global pandemic and job loss. The Republican incumbent says he has three main goals next session should he be re-elected.
- Retirement security
- Medicare protection
- Economic growth for our community
"We're going to have to come up with retirement security, Schweikert said. "With our demographic bubbles, we have so many people moving into retirement and could have real problems."
Schweikert has faced some problems of his own lately, paying out a $50,000 fine after admitting to 11 counts of campaign finance violations, including misuse of money. "What's frustrating is if you go over all the years, it was $550 over an 8-year-period. But I had staff that apparently had access saying, 'Well, it's easier to just pay for it this way,' and that's the frustration because we always kept money in the desk to pay for things. I wish they had just reached in there and grabbed it. That would have solved the issue."
"So, the staff did it," I asked.
"No, no. It's my responsibility. Make it very, very clear," he answered. "The rules are the rules, but I think there's also a misunderstanding of some of the scales."
He says he understands trust mighty be broken with some Arizona voters and hopes his past work for the district means they will grant him forgiveness at the polls.
"I think it's actually the success we've delivered for our neighborhoods. If you look at everything from the businesses we've recruited here to protecting the community," he said.
It's a community Schweikert says he loves, and his roots go back decades. He was the mascot for Saguaro High School -- the sabercat -- in the '70s. "We had a game at Chaparral and the horrible pom poms, they stole my tail," he recalled.
In the kitchen with Dr. Hiral Tipirneni
Tipirneni says her family won't settle for less than what they call the world's greatest chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is from a 25-year-old cookbook Tipirneni bought when she first got married. The former emergency department doctor is raising three college-age kids who still love mom's homemade cookies. She often sends them home with a tin. What she wants to take home is a congressional win in November.
"I'm running for Congress because we are in a state of crisis," she explained, saying that families are struggling across the district and the nation. Her top priority is health care.
"Primarily, the concern is accessibility, affordability," she said. "We still have millions of Americans who are under or uninsured, and, look, my background is medicine, right?"
Tipirneni says she wants affordable quality healthcare for every American. She also said that while many Americans do have insurance, some cannot afford to use it.
"They can't pay their deductible. They can't afford their copays," she said. " It's really about looking at the health care system, and now more than ever -- certainly in this pandemic -- it's a real existential concern. And one of the things that has exacerbated this is the high rate of unemployment now."
Tipirneni's goals should she be elected include more opportunities and economic growth. She believes Washington needs fresh blood.
"Folks are incredibly upset about the depths of corruption in Washington," she said. "They're so frustrated by the constant lies."
This is not the first time Tipirneni has run for Congress. She lost the 2018 special election to Republican Debbie Lesko. But she's running in a different district this time, one in which she doesn't live.
"These are communities I know well," she said. "I've lived in Arizona for over 24 years. I live on the border. I've cared for families all across Maricopa County."
Now she feels the time is right to serve her community in a new way -- in office.
Both Schweikert and Tipirneni talked about the importance of supporting small businesses during this global pandemic and making sure people have a path to rebuild after this economic downturn.
During our interviews, both stressed their love of their family and of Arizona.