Tucson, Ariz.—Attention all moderates, centrists and anyone to the left (if only slightly) of Attila the Hun in the Arizona Republican Party: Your party has alienated you! However, all is not lost; the Democratic Party is welcoming you with open arms.
After the Sept. 10 primary, two things became very clear. The Democrats overwhelmingly chose the most moderate candidates on their ballots and the Republican Party has been hijacked by the far right.
Possibly the most disturbing result was the Republican nominee for superintendent of public instruction. While former Tucson state Sen. Keith Bee carried Pima County, Tom Horne managed to defeat both Bee and incumbent Jaime Molera statewide. Horne ran his campaign largely on issues that do not pertain to the office of superintendent. The Arizona Daily Star reported Thursday that one of Horne’s top issues, school discipline, is something the superintendent has little — if any — control over. The only other issue Horne seemed able to articulate was vehement opposition to bilingual education and unfounded claims that Molera was not enforcing the voter-approved requirement for English immersion. He failed to back up his claims and clearly chose to play the race card rather than focus on issues the superintendent can actually influence. In a recent editorial, the Star correctly labeled Horne’s victory “a blatant nod to racism.”
Horne’s Web site also points out that he “voted for every tax cut that came to the floor” while he was in the state Legislature. He also displays a graph showing how property taxes were dramatically lowered while he was on the Paradise Valley School Board. At least he doesn’t hide the fact that students would not be his first priority.
The news doesn’t get much better for the Republicans. An angry and grim Andrew Thomas managed to secure the nomination for attorney general. Although the attorney general is required to uphold the law, he advertised the fact that he was the only candidate who was anti-choice, not to mention intolerant of people who hold different social values.
Finally, Republicans made the unfortunate choice of Matt Salmon as their gubernatorial nominee. While the press has been unbelievably friendly to Salmon, anyone who has followed the race must realize he represents the extreme right wing of his party. I have already taken the opportunity to inform the University of Arizona community that he has made statements indicating his intolerance for non-Christian religions.
Secretary of State Betsey Bayless and State Treasurer Carol Springer were hardly impressive candidates, but at least they didn’t abandon moderates within their own party. Bayless recognized the dire situation for our schools, while Salmon seems to think the problem will fix itself if we continue cutting funding.
There is little doubt that a great deal of Arizona Republicans will head to the polls in November and cast their ballots for the nominees selected to represent their party, no matter how repugnant they find those candidates. Hopefully ,enough Republicans will send a resounding message to their party and to the state that — while the far right has proven itself capable of hijacking the Republican Party — it cannot overtake the state government.
The Democratic nominees are not only moderate, but strong. This is actually the first time since Bruce Babbitt won the governorship that the Arizona Democratic Party has produced viable candidates for nearly every statewide office.
Tom Horne will face current state Sen. Jay Blanchard, a centrist Democrat from Gilbert. Blanchard puts children first, and has a proven record in the state Senate of making education a top priority.
Andrew Thomas will face former mayor of Phoenix Terry Goddard. A successful attorney and a long-standing advocate of civil rights, Goddard should have been elected governor when he ran against Symington, and stands a good chance of winning the attorney general’s race.
Finally, and most importantly, Salmon will not creep into the governor’s office without a valiant fight from current Attorney General Janet Napolitano, who has a proven record as an advocate for children, seniors and the environment in the Attorney General’s Office.
For any Republicans unsure as to whether or not the Democrats are really a viable and reasonable option for saving the state from the extremists, Napolitano said it best on primary night, “It’s time to let us have a turn at the wheel and dig us out of this hole the Republicans got us into.”