Candidates split in enthusiasm for English as official language
Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

Gabrielle Giffords and Ron Drake are running for the U.S House of Representatives.
But it was a proposed change in state law that prompted a crowd of military veterans and their spouses to put the pair on the spot Tuesday
"Why can't you make a 10-word law? Ten words. English is the language of the United States of America," one woman asked, which brought a loud round of applause.
She wasn't the only one to raise the issue at a forum hosted by the Society of Military Widows and the Military Officers Association of America.
Giffords, a Democrat who is running against Republican Randy Graf in Congressional District 8, told them, "English is our official language, and we don't do enough to make sure people speak not just English, but proper English.
Why then, another speaker asked, "If we're really serious about English as our official language, why do we print everything in two languages?"
Giffords responded, "There are federal and state laws that dictate that. My biggest concern is that we are educating our kids so they can be productive, successful members of society."
Later she added: "But I agree that English needs to be spoken by every person living here."
Drake, a Republican running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, said "You're going to speak English in the boardroom — you better learn it going to the boardroom, or you'll never get there."
Drake supports declaring English the official language.
Neither Grijalva nor Graf could attend because they are in Washington.
In polling, most Americans say they would like to see such a law.
Arizona will vote this November on an referendum — Proposition 103 — that would declare English the official language of the state, restricting acts on the part of some governments to offer information in multiple languages.
Drake and Graf both have said they are in favor of it. A spokeswoman for Grijalva said the congressman feels there's no reason for the proposition.
In an interview after her appearance, Giffords said she needed to see the wording of the proposed Constitutional amendment before saying how she would vote. "I obviously believe every American has to speak English. My concern is to not be discriminatory. That's my biggest concern," she said.
● Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 807-7789 or