Voters In Ariz. Respond To Candidates' Stands On Death Penalty, Abortion
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene at member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Ariz. We are here as part of our Divided States series because Arizona is a more closely watched state in this election season and we are here meeting voters here to get their reaction to the vice presidential debate last night. We have voters from across the state here in the studio with me this morning. We met them all yesterday on the program and they were willing to come back and talk more. Lanny Lahr is a retired businessman and philanthropist who is supporting Hillary Clinton, Mary Graham is a Latina Catholic voter, she's in her 20s, Majerle Lister is a Native American voter from Flagstaff and Eileen Eagar is a real estate agent in Tucson in the southern part of Arizona who is supporting Donald Trump. Welcome to all of you.
MARY GRAHAM: Thank you.
LANNY LAHR: Thanks.
EILEEN EAGAR: Thanks for having us.
GREENE: Alright I wanted to spend a little time now listening to the answers both candidates, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine, gave to a question about how they've balanced public policy with their personal faith. And we should say both men come from Catholic traditions, though Pence now attends an Evangelical church. This is the Democratic Senator Tim Kaine answering this question.
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TIM KAINE: For me, the hardest struggle in my faith life was the Catholic church is against the death penalty and so am I. But I was governor of a state, and the state law said that there was a death penalty for crimes if the jury determined them to be heinous. And so I had to grapple with that. When I was running for governor, I was attacked pretty strongly because of my position on the death penalty, but I looked the voters of Virginia in the eye and said, look, this is my religion. I'm not going to change my religious practice to get one vote.
GREENE: Majerle Lister, what do you make of Tim Kaine working through that?
MAJERLE LISTER: For me, it's something that plays a big part in my belief is just the separation between church and state. And, you know, regardless of his beliefs, he's still going to do his job as a public-elected official. You know, that's something he is going to do.
GREENE: And this is important because you told us on the program yesterday if you're going to vote for someone you want them to be solid on their positions.
GREENE: And you're (unintelligible) about Hillary Clinton. This - you make an exception when it comes to faith and...
LISTER: Not really an exception in this case. It's more towards their public policy. With Hillary Clinton, she seems to flip flop between what she's going to do in her public policy. When it comes to someone's policy and how it affects me, that's where I'm starting to get worried about. Like, Tim Kaine said no matter what, I am going to uphold this regardless of my belief. It's not him flip flopping. For me, there's no signs of him, you know, one day supporting pro-choice, and then the next day saying, no, pro-life.
GREENE: Mary Graham, you are pretty devout Catholic. Here's Tim Kaine saying I don't believe in the death penalty, but as a governor I had to support it. What's your reaction to that?
GRAHAM: A major red flag.
GRAHAM: Just because I think Mike Pence said it great when he's like, my faith informs my life, and I get weary of somebody who is saying in the same sentence I'm a devout Catholic. At the same time saying, but I don't - but that doesn't penetrate the rest of my life. Like, those are so contrary.
GREENE: That's a red flag for you then?
GRAHAM: Like, how could you even say those in the same sentence? You're not - yeah.
GREENE: You're nodding your head over here, Eileen.
EAGAR: It's hypocritical.
GRAHAM: Yeah. If you value something so deeply and then you can so quickly shut that down, that's a...
GREENE: That bothers you.
GRAHAM: Yeah. That's a major red flag.
GREENE: That bothers you, Eileen, you call it hypocritical. Lanny, where are you on this?
LAHR: I'm with Majerle all the way. I believe that there is a separation of church and state. I think that Tim Kaine expressed it perfectly. He was elected to an office in the law of the land or the law in his state at the time. It favored the death penalty.
GREENE: OK. Well, let's listen to a little more here because it was actually interesting. Republican Mike Pence asked the same question, but decided not to focus on his own life. He focused on another issue that his opponent Tim Kaine has really grappled with.
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MIKE PENCE: And I know, Senator Kaine, you hold pro-life views personally, but the very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me, and I cannot - I can't conscience about a party that supports that or that - I know you've historically opposed taxpayer funding of abortion. But Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the longstanding provision in the law where we said we wouldn't use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. So for me, my faith informs my life. I try and spend a little time on my knees every day.
GREENE: And we should say Mike Pence - they're talking about Tim Kaine who has said that he is pro-life but would support abortion rights in public office. Eileen, what were you thinking when you listened to that last night?
EAGAR: Well, first of all, my relationship with God comes first, and the law of the land is a whole other thing. I don't believe that he did the right thing.
GREENE: Tim Kaine?
EAGAR: Yes, exactly.
EAGAR: And I was very proud of Pence and the way that he stood up against the partial birth abortion because for me - I sat there saying I really wanted him to say the word murder. I really did because this is a life that you're taking.
GREENE: Mary, did you want him - did you want Pence to use the word murder?
GRAHAM: Yeah. I think it would have kind of driven the point home. And, again, that just whole - my faith informs my life, so it's just hard to even, like...
GREENE: You struggle with this issue a lot because this - I mean, this issue alone is enough that you would rule out voting for Hillary Clinton. Is that right?
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I don't mean it to be like I'm a one-issue voter because in that same breath that does not mean that I think that in any way that Donald Trump upholds the dignity of human life which I kind of - we talked about this yesterday of it's important to just - to yes, like - be a focus on life at the beginning stages, as well as all throughout.
GREENE: Majerle, what do you think? I mean, you're sitting next to Mary. She's talking about this issue of abortion being incredibly important to her when she thinks about her vote.
LISTER: For me, it's - one thing that I see an issue with is when it comes to the pro-life aspect is usually that argument stops when they're born and then after that, you know, the needs of that child are usually neglected - like education is usually cut. So that's my aspect with it.
GREENE: Lanny, you told me when we met at your house that you are pro-life, so I wonder how you've reacted to what we've been listening?
LAHR: Oh, I reacted towards Tim Kaine that I think he's right. I thought that Mike Pence was totally wrong. It goes back, again, for me, to separation of church and state. I don't want someone to come into office and put their religious views on me. And I understand Mary's opinion and how she feels about Hillary Clinton. What I don't understand is that Mary could - and I find it hard to believe she will vote for Trump - who I believe is a completely immoral human being in every possible way shape or form.
GREENE: Mary, I'll give you the final word here since Lanny brought you up.
GRAHAM: Yeah. I totally agree with that last part of your statement. Again, it's - the thing for me is that I really respect his decision to bring Mike Pence on. The way he talked last night, what he talked about, what he said was important to him. Really, I resonated with...
GREENE: Getting to know Pence last night got you closer to voting for Donald Trump.
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah.
GREENE: OK. Listening to voters as part of our Divided States project. We're in Phoenix in member station KJZZ on Morning Edition for NPR News.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Previous versions of this story and the online introduction described both Tim Kaine and Mike Pence as devout Catholics. Kaine is Catholic, but while Pence grew up Catholic, he is now an evangelical Christian.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.