Democrats hold the governorship in Arizona at the moment, but Janet Napolitano won’t rest easily tonight after seeing who just tossed his hat in the ring for her job in 2006. Don Goldwater, the nephew of legendary Republican conservative and Arizona statesman Barry Goldwater, has decided to run for Napolitano’s job:
Republican Party activist Don Goldwater announced his candidacy Tuesday for governor in 2006, sounding some of the same conservative themes once heard from his uncle, 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
“The state is headed in the wrong direction,” said the 50-year-old candidate. “We must return to the basic principles of limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom.”
Goldwater said he would push for tax cuts and school choice and combat illegal immigration. He said he would fully enforce a voter-approved immigration law, including its requirement that voters produce identification at polling places.
He called illegal immigration destructive to the state’s health care industry, a burden on public schools and a threat to public safety.
Napolitano has managed to keep on top of Arizona polling by presenting a more moderate approach to politics than the Mad How antics of the DNC chief. In fact, on Howard Dean’s last visit to Phoenix, Napolitano would not meet with Dean, preferring to disassociate herself from the radical and irrational direction of current Democratic leadership. She has kept herself from making the big mistakes that would sink her career in a blue state that has twice gone for George Bush, the last time by eleven points.
That may not suffice in 2006. For one thing, Arizonans have become increasingly disenchanted with moderate approaches to illegal immigration, a common theme among the border states. In 2004, Arizona passed a referendum requiring photo-ID verification at all polling places by twelve points, despite the opposition outspending the initiative’s supporters by a 5-1 margin. Napolitano opposed the measure (as did John McCain), and voters have little confidence that she will enforce it. Goldwater plans on making that an issue in this election, along with other illegal immigration issues. As his primary opponents all appear to be moderates, he has a good chance to rise above the field.
More than that, however, Goldwater brings the name and, the GOP hopes, the magic along with it. It may be possible to overestimate Barry Goldwater’s impact on Arizonans, but it isn’t easy. Goldwater fought to preserve and extend the conservatism of the American West when the intelligentsia roundly ridiculed it and Nelson Rockefeller-style politics dominated GOP circles.
Forget John McCain; Goldwater was the true maverick, a man who followed his own principles even when the press ridiculed him for it. He didn’t have any interest in sucking up to the media, nor did he sell out for his backers or his own financial interest. Goldwater didn’t always hew to the GOP party line, either. When asked about his position on gays in the military during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate in the 1990s, Goldwater famously declared that the only criteria he demanded was that a soldier shoot straight.
Now his nephew has decided to step into the legend’s shoes, and at the age of 50 could have plenty of time to transform himself into a presidential contender for 2012 or 2016. If he can knock Napolitano out of the governor’s house, it also opens up some interesting possibilities for the Bush White House in 2007. Rather than get stuck with McCain as its perpetual gadfly in the Senate, Bush can find some irresistable appointment for the press diva, allowing a Governor Goldwater to appoint someone more reliable for his Senate seat. Expect Karl Rove to take considerable interest in this race.
The GOP has to love the possibilities in Phoenix. In Arizona, never bet against a Goldwater.
UPDATE: Nephew, not son, which I knew before I started typing this post. I was keeping an eye on the news on TV and for some reason rearranged the Goldwater family tree. Thanks to The Texas Times Dude for the correction.