Harry Teague and Ed Tinsley went mano a mano against each other at the Firehouse in Mesquite on Tuesday evening, with a couple of tense moments as members of the audience argued with one another over a comment from a woman in the audience about "No Child Left Behind" directed at Harry Teague.
The fireworks at the firehouse started near the end of the debate when a woman in the audience propped her child ( maybe 7 or 8 years old) up on a chair and attacked Teague for asserting, moments before, that the No Child Left Behind Act was a failure. "If it weren't for No Child Left Behind my child, who has special needs, would never have gotten the care he needs," (or words to that effect) she shouted. At that point members of the audience, joined by Arturo Uribe (whose organizations sponsored the event) asked if she had a question to ask. She then turned on him, angrily, and, pointing to the McCain T-Shirt she had on, said that just because she was wearing "this t-shirt" didn't mean she should not be allowed to speak. Some members of the audience kept asking if she had a question and for a moment lines were clearly drawn as Teague and Tinsley supporters waited to see what would happen next.
At that point Teague stood up and asked members of the audience for a show of hands about the success of the No Child Left Behind Act, and about ten arms went up. The next speaker, a resident of Mesquite, gesturing at the woman with the child, asserted that he had taken care of a special needs person for 18 years without any help from the No Child Left Behind Act.
Moments earlier sparks flew when Teague, criticized by Tinsley for some of his attacks on the Republican candidate, shot back that he, Tinsley, had attacked him insinuating that his lack of formal education disqualified him from being a Congressman.
For most of the debate the discourse was civil as candidates fielded questions about gun control, immigration policy, environmental policy, health care, taxation policy, and other issues. Teague defended his position on gun control, the subject of a negative ad against him, by saying he had spoken sarcastically years ago when he said he was "not a gun fan," adding on that occasion that he "only" owned 7 or 8 guns. On the subject of immigration, Tinsley reiterated his position that he was against granting citizenship for unauthorized workers, but was in favor of permits to legalize the temporary entry of workers in certain areas such as farm work. Teague, on the other hand, reiterated his position that workers who come to the U.S. should have access to citizenship provided they pay fines they might owe for violating migration law and comply with regulations for attaining citizenship.
Both candidates admitted they knew little about the environmental issues surrounding the chemical plant in Mesquite or the land-fill situation in Sunland Park. Both of these issues have caused widespread concern in the South Valley. Teague said his philosophy in dealing with environmental problems was to bring "all of the parties" to the table to work toward a common solution; Tinsley vowed to learn about the problems and to offer "transparency" in solving them.
Both candidates had their share of vocal advocates at the debate, waving placards in the air and applauding strategically. It was clear that Teague supporters outnumbered Tinsley supporters, perhaps not surprising, given the relative strength of Democrats in the South Valley.