District 8 Arizona Congress Candidates

A crowded field gets ready to battle in the Aug. 4 primary election.

While other congressional races have little competition, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one West Valley district has a healthy field of candidates.

The primary election will have three Democrat candidates for the 8th Congressional District.

 Rep. Debbie Lesko was the only Republican to file in District 8, which includes parts of Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Waddell, Glendale and Peoria.

The three Democrats on the primary ballot for the 8th Congressional District: Michael Muscato of Peoria, Bob Musselwhite of Litchfield Park and Bob Olsen of Surprise.

Kyle Martin of Glendale filed as a write-in candidate.

The West Valley View emailed the candidates questions about their backgrounds, priorities and styles.

Here are the answers of those who responded:

 

Please briefly describe your background including any relevant education and work history.

Debbie Lesko

I have served as the U.S. congresswoman for Arizona’s Congressional District 8 for over two years.  I serve on the Rules, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Michael Muscato

I’m born and raised here in CD8. I attended Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale and Glendale Community College, where I was drafted to play professional baseball by the New York Yankees. I played a few seasons of professional baseball and hold a bachelor’s degree. For the past decade I have held a professional career as a director and crew chief in the entertainment industry overseeing multimillion-dollar entertainment projects working alongside major music artists on their world concert tours. I have also owned a small business here in Glendale for the past almost eight years.

Bob Musselwhite

B.A. Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Masters in Public Administration, West Virginia University, Morgantown. County administrator, Upshur County, West Virginia. Town administrator, Biltmore Forest, North Carolina. City manager, Litchfield Park. Hold airline transport pilot rating. Chief pilot for a small company in the Southeast working in the forest industry.  High school social studies teacher Glendale Union High School District for 14 years.

Bob Olsen

I’ve spent my entire adult life serving the public. Coming from a blue-collar family of mostly loggers and longshoremen, I am the first in my family to graduate college, ultimately earning a law degree. I’ve held several overlapping positions throughout my professional career. I am a retired military veteran with 10 years active duty and 22 years in the Reserve, recalled to active duty twice following 9/11. I retired as a fire captain/training officer after more than 20 years and was heavily involved in labor issues for 25-plus years as a union vice president, negotiator and shop steward.

I continue to serve my community here in Arizona on the volunteer Sun City West Posse as a dispatcher and patrol officer. 

My education includes a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia College and a juris doctorate from Northwest School of Law.

I’ve been married to my wife, Linda, for nearly 32 years. We have two beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and I am very proud of all of them.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and for how long have you lived there?

Bob Musselwhite

I have lived in Litchfield Park in the same house for 30 years.

Michael Muscato

I’m born and raised here in this district. I live in Peoria.

Bob Olsen

Sun City West for four years.

Debbie Lesko

I live in Peoria west of 67th Avenue between Cactus and Thunderbird roads for the last eight years.

 

Why did you choose to live here?

Michael Muscato

I chose to live here because, to me, where you come from means something. I believe that our hometown and our country are always worth fighting for.

Bob Olsen

My father and aunt retired to Arizona in 1979. While I was stationed and working in the San Francisco area and Portland, I would travel to visit them several times a year. I fell in love with the wide open spaces and the history of Arizona. Once I retired, my wife and I fulfilled our dream of moving to Arizona. This is now our home.

Debbie Lesko

It’s a semi-rural area  with no sidewalks or street lights surrounded by urban areas. We have flood irrigation, so we have plenty of grass and fruit trees in our back yard along with pet chickens. 

Bob Musselwhite

I like the weather, I like the opportunity and I like the independent attitude of the people. It is also a very interesting state in terms of its history and the diversity of its people.

 

What are the three biggest issues of this local election?

Bob Musselwhite

I think people are very concerned that we have governments that are not in touch with the needs of the people because our government is in someone’s pocket. There is also a concern that people are in government to further their own personal interests and not the interests of those they represent. This is an opinion that is held regardless of political affiliation.

Social Security and its continuation, along with other insurance programs such as Medicare, are a big concern. People pay into these what is in effect insurance programs for decades, and they are concerned that the benefit they paid for will be there when and after they reach retirement age.

Health care is a big concern.

Bob Olsen

COVID-19, national security and Social Security/Medicare.

Debbie Lesko

Growing jobs and our economy; providing quality education and tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Michael Muscato

The three biggest issues locally are health care, immigration reform and recovering our economy.

 

What experience do you have with managing spending?

Debbie Lesko

In my position as the Arizona state Senate Appropriations chairman, I helped guide the development of Arizona’s $11 billion budget. In my current role in the U.S. House of Representatives Rules Committee, I have an informed voting role on all budget bills in the U.S. Congress.

Michael Muscato

For the past decade I have overseen multimillion-dollar entertainment projects that require performance and delivery standards to be met. As a small-business owner, I work on daily, weekly, monthly and annual budgets.

Bob Musselwhite

I was county administrator of Upshur County, West Virginia, where I managed large capital improvements for the county such as the building remodeling of the county detention facility, a large regional library, a large county recreational complex built in conjunction with the county schools, the extension of water lines into the county, preparations to build a new county airport, and other public projects built in cooperation with the federal government.

As town administrator of Biltmore Forest, putting the budget together and implementing the budget were my responsibility, including property tax collection. This was done while seeing to the reforms that the mayor and town commission were elected to accomplish in public safety services.

As city manager of Litchfield Park, I was handed a fiscal problem that quickly would have resulted in the insolvency of the town had fundamental changes in the way things were being done had not been changed. Namely almost all of the city functions had been placed on private contracts. Since the mayor and city council had hired me for my experience and they realized the problem, they gave me free reign to do what needed to be done to bring the city back into the black. That was accomplished by bringing most services back “in house.” Within the year, the budget that I recommended to the mayor and council and the town back in the black and we were getting reports of vastly improved services to the community. Since that time, a surplus has been built and the yearly budget has been rarely overspent. All of the initial calculations and the first budget were my work. I supervised the finance officer from there every year.

Bob Olsen

While in the military I was heavily involved with developing budget requests and allocating the funds received to best support our mission. As fire captain and training officer I submitted detailed requests for funding of my training and safety programs, and I maintained accurate ongoing spending records and planning to ensure the budget allocated covered the costs of running the training and safety programs. Frequent reevaluation of spending priorities occurred as unforeseen challenges arose during the fiscal year requiring me to adapt to maintain the maximum level of training possible.

While at JPAC, as part of the mission recommendation process, I would develop a budget to fund all anticipated costs of searching for and recovering our missing service members. The budget had to consider numerous operational challenges in dealing with foreign countries, their citizens and unanticipated costs of the mission. 

 

What new ideas do you have?

Bob Olsen

I will fight to improve the efficiency and capabilities of federal government. By combining three of the largest federal health plans (Tricare, Federal Employee Health Benefit and Medicare), each of which use the same contracted medical providers, into a single organization we can reduce the administrative costs and bureaucracy.

I would revamp the funding mechanism of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) by requiring the PTO receive a payment 1% on the sale of protected merchandise. By eliminating PTO fees to the patent and trademark process, anyone with an idea or product would be able to obtain protection without cost. This would allow the office to fund expanded support of inventors and creators in getting their products to market.

The federal government invests billions in the development of new products and materials without any return on the investment. When the federal government funds research resulting in new medicines or invests in the development of military equipment, the government should receive a payment equivalent to 1% of the sale of each of these items or the items protected by patent and trademark.

Beyond this, there is tremendous room for consolidation and increased efficiency throughout the federal government, and I have other great ideas on how to achieve this.

Michael Muscato

My platform lays out proposals to address immigration reform; health care reform; and provides Arizona specifically with an opportunity to drive thousands of high-paying jobs in energy production, infrastructure and environmental reform.

Bob Musselwhite

I believe the “new” ideas that I have are actually old ideas of honest service to the public that were held up high during the progressive era that followed the last Gilded Age. The success of the government is not and should not be judged by how much money those in power make for themselves using the power the people have on loan to them. Honest public service in an old idea that might sound quaint, but it needs to be brought back.

Debbie Lesko

I continue to work with my congressional colleagues on legislation to help get people back to work, save small businesses, help people that are out of work because of the coronavirus crisis, increase funding for health care and protective equipment related to the coronavirus, and get students back to school in a safe fashion. 

In addition, I am introducing legislation to crack down on criminals and mobs that are destroying and defacing our national monuments.

 

What is your track record and style of responding to questions from the public?

Michael Muscato

I believe that accountability and availability to constituents is the duty of being a representative. I was proud to host three public in-person town halls prior to COVID-19 taking place, and I am regularly available via Zoom town halls and Facebook Live to answer unscreened questions on the spot. 

Debbie Lesko

My No. 1 priority is helping my constituents. Constituents have told me that they are very pleased with my office’s outreach and responsiveness to their concerns and needs.  

Bob Olsen

My style is to listen first to what the public is asking or demanding, and then respond in an open and honest way. If I don’t have the answer at the time of the question, I will research it and contact the person or organization with the best answer I can deliver. Most of my adult life has involved interacting with the public. As a police officer and firefighter, I was often asked about safety and the accountability of myself and my organization. 

Bob Musselwhite

As a city manager, my first priority each day was to talk directly to the citizens who had the complaints. I asked that complaints be directed straight to me. That is the key to public service, and it is where the answers can be found as to the effectiveness of the effort the organization is making. Such an attitude is also a signal to all those employed that the citizen comes first. I was taught in public administration school that the press is the fourth pillar of the government, and I believe the public deserves to know what is being done, and that is best accomplished with honest answers. Our press is an institution of democracy and should be treated that way.

 

What current elected official do you most admire?

Bob Musselwhite

I admire elected officials that have courage to speak for the needs of the public without hesitation or regard for their own political life. Mayor Kate Gallego comes to mind here in Maricopa County. Sheriff Paul Penzone is an impressive public servant. Sen. Chuck Schumer is impressive to me because he articulates well and he has not added up a personal fortune during his long time in the U. S. Senate.

Michael Muscato

At this point, I’ll take the side of any elected official who makes decisions based on guardianship not partisanship. Time for new people in office.

Debbie Lesko 

I most admire all elected officials that have served in our U.S. military to serve our country and are now continuing their service to our community and nation.

Bob Olsen

I admire Adam Schiff because of his willingness to perform his duties, even in the face of aggressive attacks from the president and Republicans.

 

What historic elected official do you most admire?

Bob Olsen

John F. Kennedy, because he was an optimist for our country, seeing things like civil rights and scientific advancement not as possibilities but as imperatives. His ideas and inspiration during his short time as our president set the stage for many of the societal and scientific improvements we have realized since his death.

Debbie Lesko

Abraham Lincoln.

Michael Muscato

I grew up listening to the words of JFK and Ronald Reagan.

Bob Musselwhite

I think Abraham Lincoln showed incredible insight into the American character, and his vision of what  we could be is very hard to match. I admire the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, and I believe that Franklin Roosevelt was an incredible leader who understood the ideals of our country and trusted good people to carry out what needed to be done. Harry Truman was pretty plain spoken, and Jimmy Carter was very honest and remains true to himself to this day.