By Kent Larsen
Will Salmon Run for Arizona Governor?
PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Maverick LDS Republican Matt Salmon is considering a run
for Arizona Governor. Salmon is best known for keeping his 1994 term limit
promise and didn't run for re-election to the U.S. Congress and for leading
the 1998 revolt that cost Newt Gingrich his position as Speaker of the U.S.
House of Representatives. But Salmon, who admits he is considering the race,
will face tough competition from a popular Democrat and because his views
place him farther to the right than other potential Republican candidates.
While Salmon is clearly a committed LDS Church member, he has a
freewheeling, open streak that made him approachable to Democrats and
political opponents and has led him to dress less traditionally. Known to
occasionally sport a goatee, Salmon once appeared on the decidedly
non-traditional political talk show "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher"
dressed in a long black leather coat. The Arizona Republic even calls him
"unusually hip for a conservative Mormon."
Salmon's revolt against Gingrich began in a Mi Amigos fast food restaurant
in Tempe, Arizona. Salmon had become fed up with Gingrich's leadership and
lack of results. "We became the Seinfeld Congress - we were about nothing"
Salmon said. "We spent our time naming bridges. ... I thought I had signed
up for a tour of duty that was really going to mean something." At lunch
that day with his staffers, Salmon decided to lead a revolt.
Since he was already in his self-imposed last term, Salmon had an
independence that long-time representatives often don't have -- he had
little to loose. The Republican party had also lost enough seats in the
House that just seven Republican votes could make the difference. But
Salmon also knew he had to move fast, or Gingrich would be able to put
enough pressure on Republicans to keep them from leaving his camp.
When he returned to his office after that day, Salmon started working the
phones and making calls. Within hours he had six other Republicans on board.
He then appeared on Larry King Live that night and announced he had enough
votes to kick Gingrich out of the Speakership. The next morning he said the
same thing on the Today show and made the New York Times with the same
story. By that evening, Gingrich had resigned.
Now, having kept his term limit promise, in spite of the opportunities that
leading the revolt gave him in Congress, Salmon is setting up a Phoenix
office for the public affairs and lobbying firm APCO Worldwide. He is also
considering a run for the Governor's office in 2002, when current Governor
Jane Hull's last term ends.
Salmon believes that the opportunity is there, "I'm very seriously
considering a run for governor. I don't see a clear vision for Arizona right
now. What I've seen is brush-fire management." And he believes he has the
popularity to put up a good fight. "I can't go into a supermarket, a church,
anywhere without people bugging me to run for governor. A lot of people like
my maverick style."
The Arizona Republic also says that Salmon is in the driver's seat for this
election, since it is his decision whether or not to run that will determine
the candidates in the race. Fellow Republican Grant Woods, a former Arizona
Attorney General, has publicly said he will not seek the office if Salmon is
But Democrats actually hope that Salmon runs because Woods is more moderate
and more likely to take away Democratic votes. Should Salmon run, his
opponent will most likely be current Arizona Attorney General Janet
Napolitano, an extremely popular lawyer who once represented Anita Hill in
the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. If he doesn't run, the Republican
candidate is most likely Woods, who also has hinted at being a spoiler for
if for any other Republican candidate by running as an independent.
Salmon does have some negatives. In addition to his conservative views,
Salmon has also been tied to the alternative fuels controversy that cost
then-state House Speaker Jeff Groscost (also an LDS Church member) his seat.
Groscost was a proponent of having the state pay for converting some private
cars from gasoline to natural gas. However, when the public got wind of the
program, its estimated cost soared from $10 million to more than $680 million.
But Salmon laughs off the connection as nothing. "If that's the big extent
of the dirt they have on me, this will be a great campaign," Salmon said.
Posturing starts in race for governor
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 4Feb01 T2
By Chip Scutari: The Arizona Republic
Salmon cleaned House, then returned home
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 3Feb01 T2
By Jerry Kammer: Republic Washington Bureau