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For week ended October 24, 1999 Posted 24 Oct 1999

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Salmon won't sacrifice principles for politics

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Salmon won't sacrifice principles for politics
Washington Times Insight on the News, page 36 18Oct99 N2
By Stephen Goode

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When Rep. Matt Salmon, (R-Ariz.) ran for Congress from the 1st District of Arizona in 1994, he promised his constituents that he'd be in office for three terms, if they wanted him that long, and then he'd be gone. Salmon is keeping that term-limit pledge, which strikes many observers as very unusual in Washington D. C., where campaign promises often seem to be forgotten 10 minutes after they're made.

Matt, an active church member and a devout, aggressive conservative, takes on all comers regardless of their party if they a proposing legislation or opposing changes that go against his core values. He is noted for his calling for the resignation of Speaker Gingrich and the sponsoring of Aimee's Law, (Also known as the No Second Chances for Murderers, Rapists or Child Molesters Act), his legislation that both houses of Congress passed in June.

In his final year in Congress, Salmon who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, hopes to help initiate dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders. He's also thinking about running for governor after his term expires.

He is also very critical about the political scene in Washington. He says the system in Washington is based on seniority and is a really dumb idea.

"I come from a private-sector background," Matt says. "It's always seemed to me that you look for the people with the most talent in a given area and put them forward on those issues. But in this city everything is based on how you play the game, how much seniority you have and how long you live."

Continuing, Rep. Salmon says, "That's the way it is, and it's a bad system. It may be better than anything else in the world, but it's a system that could be improved. If you were running the NBA with this philosophy, you'd have a bunch of fat old men starting every basketball game."

Matt would like to continue one being a Representative but it goes against his core values. He says, "I've had second thoughts. But having made the campaign promise, I plan to keep it. The reason I made the term-limit pledge to begin with is that I believe the process we have now is built on career politicians, and it needs to go. I think our Founding Fathers intended political office to be a service, not a career."

He also noted that he limited his terms to six years, "because that's what my state passed, [the Arizona legislators]. I submitted to the laws of my state at the time I was elected."

"There still is music left in me," he comments. "There still are things I could accomplish if I had another term. But I gave my word and that's more important."

In commenting on the career politician, Matt says, "I think that the longer someone is here, the more their party affiliation becomes indistinguishable from that of any other person who has been here a long time. Generally speaking, you give me a Republican who's been here 20 years and a Democrat who's been here 20 years and you won't see a lot of difference between their votes."

"This place is locked in concrete!" Salmon continues. "It's not just the lobbyists, it's the people within Congress who just don't want to change. People tend to become unbalanced when they come to Congress. They define their whole being by what they do here. There are people around here for whom ŽI am a congressmanŪ means everything. It scares me."

In his five years in Washington, Matt has learned some surprising positive things. "One of the things that surprised me is how much influence a representative can have who is willing to stand up and be counted. Most people want to go along to get along. I think if you have a compass, (core moral values), and dare to be bold, you can win some upset victories."

"A lot of times around here it's just a game of chicken, and if you call them on it and say, ŽI'm not going to move,Ū you still can get something done. There are a lot of school-yard bullies here, and my dad taught me that when you poke a schoolyard bully in the nose he backs down." Matt commented.

Continuing, "I remember the very first time I stood up before the [House Republican] Conference and openly took on the speaker. I got booed; I got jeered. I was lifting weights at the time and there weren't a lot of people around I would have asked to be my spotter. But then others grab on. I got a lot more support as I toughed it out."

Rep. Matt Salmon was born in 1958 in Salt Lake City. He has a wife, Nancy and four children. Because of a mission, he is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He has a B.A. from Arizona State University; an M.A., from Brigham Young University and by profession is a communications company executive; he also served as a state senator before his US House term. He currently on the House Education and the Workforce committees (subcommittees on Early Childhood, Youth and Families and Employer/Employee Relations), and International Relations (subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific and International Operations and Human Rights).

His favorite quotation is: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," (Edmund Burke.)

When giving speeches, his favorite opening salvo is " I'm not a lawyer and I have other virtues, too."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information