By Mike Huston
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Comedian Lewis Black used to say that in America, voters have two choices: We have Republicans, the party of bad ideas, and Democrats, the party of no ideas. When it comes to the Arizona governor's race in 2006, these roles appear reversed.
After barely edging out current state Republican Party Chairman Matt Salmon in 2001, Janet Napolitano's four years in office have apparently left voters satisfied, but have produced little real results for Arizona.
Although Napolitano's record as governor should make her a relatively weak candidate for re-election, her strong approval ratings will make her tough to beat in 2006.
And if the Republicans want to have any real chance of winning this election, they must find a candidate who is strong enough to effectively challenge the giant on the ninth floor, a crucial campaign element they are currently lacking.
As governor, Napolitano is unworthy of the high popularity she enjoys. She has used the veto power more times than any other governor in Arizona's history, and she has consistently used it to overrule the decisions of the people's democratically elected representatives on purely ideological grounds.
Despite her promise to Arizonans that she will address the massive, wildly out-of-control problem of illegal immigration, she has vetoed almost all the bills passed by our state Legislature that would have helped address the issue. It's no wonder, then, that voters felt the need to take matters into their own hands with the Proposition 200 ballot initiative last year.
Reublicans must find a candidate strong enough to challenge the giant on the ninth floor, something they currently lack.
Napolitano also tries to paint herself as a moderate on social issues, but her consistent veto of legitimate restrictions on abortion, like parental notification for minors and a ban on partial-birth abortion, prove her to be much further to the left than most Arizonans can tolerate.
This abuse of the gubernatorial veto power has done a disservice to Arizona citizens, but so has the media's failure to create informed discussion about her actions. Most Arizonans are satisfied with Gov. Napolitano merely because they don't think they have any reason to be unsatisfied.
However, a legitimate review of her record would make the truth of the matter at once clear; that Napolitano has dropped the ball on the issues that really matter in Arizona.
Having established the Democrats as possessing a "bad" candidate for Arizona in Napolitano, Republicans complete Black's picture in reverse by offering no real candidates.
To be more correct, there are currently two major Republican candidates for governor that I am aware of: Don Goldwater, nephew of Barry Goldwater, and John Greene, former state Senate president and a lawyer from Phoenix.
There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these candidates, as they each bring certain strengths to the table and a series of admirable policy goals.
But both men lack the sort of universal popularity or instant name recognition that is required if one is to mount a successful campaign for governor in a state with as much land and diversity of culture as Arizona. This is especially true given Napolitano's strength in the polls over the last year.
Several prominent Arizona Republicans have considered running, but each one has disappointed conservative hopefuls by passing on the chance. With the election less than a year away, things are beginning to look dim.
To be fair, this alone may be a testament to the overwhelming dominance of Napolitano in the election. That is to say, if a political giant like J.D. Hayworth isn't sure he could beat her, then she may well be the people's preference to lead the state over the next four years.
But even if the Republicans have decided to concede the office to Napolitano, the election should still be seen as an important opportunity for the Republican Party to present and promote its agenda.
If Arizona Republicans want to have any chance of winning the gubernatorial election in 2006 or of making any significant difference in Arizona policy, they must present an effective candidate and they must do it soon.
Bad ideas always trump no ideas.
Michael Huston is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.