By Paul Carter
Republican Salmon Swims Against Strengthening Democratic Current
SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA -- The politics of Arizona seem to be changing and the
outcome in the State's race for Governor may give a clear indication of just
how much changes has already occurred.
Matt Salmon, who recently retired as a House Representative for Arizona, has
stated that he will run for Governor. Arizona Democrats believe they have a
strong chance to beat him if he does in fact become the Republican
candidate. Salmon's political record is consistently conservative. Even his
House leadership challenge of Newt Gingrich, one of the pillars of the
Republican party, is looked upon as a strong stand for conservative principles.
But in a state long considered to be conservative, due to significant
demographic changes in recent years, the questions that are open for
discussion in the Arizona Governor's race are, "Can a conservative still
win?" and "Is Arizona now a moderate's state?"
There are other Republican candidates who are considering running for
Governor. Former Vice President Dan Quayle who has moved to Arizona is one
who is weighing his options. In previous election cycles in Arizona, with a
candidate of the stature of Mr. Salmon the Republican Party might be
considered almost unstoppable. But massive population changes in the State
have Democrats very optimistic about this race.
The 2000 census lists Arizona's population at 5.1 million, a 40 percent
increase in residents since 1990. This increase in population was enough to
give Arizona two new representatives in Congress. This flow of new residents
has also brought increased societal pressures and calls for expanded
government services--traditionally sources of increased support for
Democratic candidates. A large number of Arizona's new residents are
Hispanic who tend to vote Democratic.
"I like our chances," says State Democratic Chairman Jim Peterson. The
reason: Matt Salmon is considered a solid conservative. With a Democratic
portrayal of Mr. Salmon as "staunchly conservative" to a population with
increasing independent and liberal leanings, the Democrats hope for a win in
the Governor's mansion.
Arizona has long been considered a bastion of Conservatism. It is the state
that brought Barry Goldwater to national politics as its Senator. Goldwater
ran a solidly conservative campaign and lost to incumbent President Lyndon
Johnson in 1964 in what was then the largest landslide in a presidential
election ever. Contrast Senator Goldwater to current Arizona Senator John
McCain, who is presented by media sources as the essence of moderation among
Republicans, and perhaps in this comparison one sees an example of the
change that has occurred in the state.
But Arizonans are known for voting their mind. While that mind at one time
was well-known to be conservative, now an observer can't quite be so sure.
The outcome of 1996 elections in Arizona offers more evidence that changes
have occurred. A majority of Arizona voters voted for moderate Republican
Jane Hull for Governor (she cannot run again due to term limits), strong
conservative Steve Forbes in the Presidential Primaries, and to re-elect
Democrats hope that the result of the coming election for Governor will be
an event marking a sea change in Arizona politics.
The primaries are still 14 months away. By law in Arizona, state elected
officials cannot announce their candidacy to a different office without
first having resigned their present position. For this reason, a number of
potential Democratic candidates have yet to formally announce their plans.
One name that is often mentioned is that of Janet Napolitano who is
currently State Attorney General. But no polls have been taken to determine
who voters might favor at this early stage of the race for governor.
Matt Salmon expects that Democrats will try to paint him with an extreme
conservative brush. His stance: ''People in this state aren't really
partisan. They tend to be more mavericks. If you tell them to go a certain
way they'll go another way." Salmon stands on his record and expects that
Democratic attempts to portray his career as partisan will have negative
results. "People are getting tired of political bickering and not getting
anything done," he affirms. ''I'm a Republican, and I'm running as a
Arizona Governor's Race May Show Shift by Voters
New York Times pg14 29Jun01 T2
By Michael Janofsky