February 21, 2008

Welcome Back To The Fight

Earlier this week, I signed an open letter to Rep. John Shadegg along with a number of other conservatives asking the Arizona Republican to reconsider his decision to retire. A few minutes ago, I received the following statement from Shadegg's office:

Ten days ago, when I announced my intention to leave Congress at the end of my current term, I said serving in the United States Congress on behalf of the people of Arizona is the single greatest privilege in my professional life. I have been blessed to follow in the tradition of the heroes of my childhood: Barry Goldwater, Paul Fannin, John Rhodes, Eldon Rudd, and others. Deciding not to run again was very difficult. My decision was based on my devotion to my family and my obligations to help them achieve their dreams and aspirations. Representing the people of Arizona in the U.S. Congress is a huge honor and privilege and one I did not want to give up, but I felt I should.

I expected my decision would elicit little reaction here in Arizona, and less in Washington. The events of the last week have, to say the least, stunned and deeply humbled me.

My decision was made after deep reflection and consultation with my family. It was entirely a personal decision between me and my family. The reactions of my constituents and my friends now suggest there were implications far broader than we had contemplated.

In the week following my announcement, thousands of people have contacted my office to encourage me to reconsider my decision. Dozens of old friends, some of whom I hadn’t spoken with in years, called my home urging me to reconsider.

One event I will never forget, epitomizes their messages to me. Last weekend, returning to Phoenix from Washington, I was trudging through Sky Harbor at 5:30 in the morning, having spent four hours sleeping at the Las Vegas airport awaiting a delayed flight. As I walked toward the baggage claim, an airport security worker was walking the opposite direction down the corridor, presumably on his way to work. We exchanged tired glances as we each headed on our separate ways, but just as we passed, he said “Run again!” Shocked, I simply said, “Thanks.” I did not know him, and we exchanged no other words. But he, like thousands of my constituents, just wanted me to know what he thought.

Ten days ago, I noted that as a nation we face “huge challenges” and that “my passion for the cause of freedom is as strong as ever.” One consistent theme runs through the messages and phone calls we have received from constituents since that announcement -- precisely because of the challenges we face, now is not the time for me to leave Congress.

In 1994, I ran for office because I was compelled to serve the people of Arizona and my country in the United States House of Representatives. I believed then, as I do now, that Washington must change the way it works. My colleagues and I have fought to lower taxes, cut spending, and make government more transparent and accountable. That is a fight to which I am unwaveringly committed just as deeply today as I was in 1994.

I, also, have never been one to walk away from a fight. I have devoted most of my life and energy to serving Arizona in the ongoing struggle for freedom. I will never abandon that cause because I believe in people and the greatness of America. In deciding to leave Congress, I felt I could serve my country and continue to wage the battle for conservative principles just as effectively in private life. It turns out many others believe that would be a mistake.

Last Thursday, 146 of my colleagues in the U.S. House signed a letter asking me to reconsider, an unprecedented event. Yesterday I received a letter signed by the leaders of 33 different Conservative organizations from across America also urging me to reverse my announced intentions.

The letter signed by my colleagues in the U.S. House emphasized my hard work and expertise in health care reform. I have fought for patient-centered health care reform since my arrival in Congress. I fear we may be on the brink of dramatically damaging the delivery of health care in America -- making it worse, not better. We all recognize the current system doesn't work well for millions of Americans. Health care decisions are being made by third parties, such as insurance adjustors, employer personnel departments, and health care plans, not patients and their families. Many of the changes being promoted by some would make a bad situation even worse. They would move further away from patient choice, personal responsibility, and individual control and toward government run, bureaucrat-controlled health care.

The letter from Conservative leaders also noted the grave challenges confronting our nation today. The attacks of 9/11 demonstrated to the world the deadly threat radical Islam poses to civilization. It is my firm belief that we must confront this danger, without hesitation, if we are to keep it from destroying our society and the freedoms we hold dear. This is another threat I highlighted ten days ago.

The personal factors which led to my initial decision are very real and very important. My family has encouraged and supported my public service and they have sacrificed to allow me to serve the state and nation we all love. In discussing the reaction of my constituents to my decision, we have determined as a family that we are willing to continue to make these sacrifices because the cause is so worthwhile.

Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, when asked why he circulated the letter amongst my colleagues urging me to reconsider, quoted President Abraham Lincoln who when asked why he kept General Ulysses S. Grant responded: “I cannot spare the man, he fights.” Frankly, my family has encouraged me, over the last week to reconsider my decision and is willing to continue to sacrifice so I may continue to fight.

Serving the people of Arizona in the Congress is a tremendous honor and privilege. With the support of my wife, Shirley, my children, Courtney and Stephen, and with the support of the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in November, I will continue to fight for them and to uphold Conservative principles in United States House of Representatives. Therefore, I will campaign for re-election and will continue to fight in Congress for economic prosperity, human rights, personal freedom, and individual responsibility.

I'm reminded of Victor Lazlo's last words to Rick as he leaves Casablanca. "Welcome back to the fight. This time, I know we'll win." At least we know we'll have Shadegg's reliable conservative voice in the House caucus in 2009.

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