The long, detailed interview with front-running senate Democrat Rodney Glassman went a little sideways when Bill Roehr stuck his head into the room.
Roehr, an official with the local Republican club, said he’d heard “the Democrat” was doing an interview.
U.S. Senate hopeful Rodney Glassman, brightened immediately — and set about trying to make another convert.
“What kind of a job do you think Sen. McCain has done, after 28 years?” asked Glassman.
Roehr frowned. “I’m not that happy with him – nor with (Republican primary challenger J.D.) Hayworth either,” said Roehr.
“Now you have a choice,” Glassman beamed, sensing an open door in this discontent, even among stalwart Republicans. Roehr looked dubious.
“When did McCain lose you?’ asked Glassman. “When he came out for amnesty for illegal aliens,” said Roehr.
That was the sound of the door thudding shut, though you couldn’t tell it from Glassman’s expression.
Roehr was referring to McCain’s since withdrawn support for comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform that included tougher border enforcement, sanctions for employers who hire illegals, a new guest worker program and some means to allow many of the 12 million undocumented workers who have lived in this country for years to apply for naturalization.
Faced with a bitter primary challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Tea Party Activist Jim Deakin, McCain has hardened his position on immigration — calling for the dispatch of troops to the border and opposing any hint of “amnesty” for people here illegally.
Unfortunately for Glassman when it comes to winning over Roehr, the Democrat favors reforms much like the very McCain position that alienated Roehr.
Still, before they parted, Glassman had promised to come back and talk to the Rim County Republican Club if they’ll have him, in his relentless effort to win over the discontented Republicans and frustrated independents who hold the key to the race.
Glassman also got in his digs at the well-funded incumbent, depicting McCain’s two bids for president as evidence that he’s more interested in the national spotlight than in hometown projects.
Glassman brought his flashy bus and his genial hard sell to Payson as he barnstormed the state attempting to win the Democratic nomination.
Glassman, 32, focused most of his fire on McCain, ignoring his three Democratic primary opponents. Other contenders for the Democratic nomination include John Dougherty, a former New Times investigative journalist; former state lawmaker Cathy Eden who has stressed the economy and jobs; and former community organizer, sheriff’s deputy and lawyer Randy Parraz, who entered the campaign in part to protest Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 that authorized local police to arrest people suspected of violation federal immigration laws.
Glassman has amassed a big financial edge over his Democratic challengers, although none of the candidates have amassed much name recognition in state polls. The former Tucson vice mayor and Air Force Reserve JAG attorney, also has a PhD in arid lands sciences and a MBA, both from the University of Arizona. He maintains Arizona needs a pragmatic senator devoted to making sure the state get’s its full share of federal funds and champions local projects like forest restoration and the sale of federal land for a college campus in Payson.
“Part of being a U.S. Senator is to be the concierge and the plunger — to be able to serve cities and towns,” said Glassman.
Glassman touts his diverse local government experience and says he’s good at building coalitions, developing consensus and finding solutions that reach across party lines.
He takes an open-ended, pragmatic approach to even contentious issues, but so far his positions have come down on the traditional Democratic side of most issues.
For instance, he faults McCain for often voting against various expanded benefits for veterans and touts his own military service – but also advocates pulling U.S. troops out of both Afghanistan and Iraq as quickly as safely possible.
On immigration reform, he supports big increases for the Border Patrol instead of dispatching the National Guard and opposes SB 1070 on constitutional grounds. He favors tougher border enforcement and enforcement of sanctions against employers, but also favors some means by which undocumented workers who have a clean record and a steady job can win the right to stay here legally, after paying fines and back taxes.
He faults McCain’s long battle against earmarks, saying a U.S. Senator must fight hard to make sure that his state gets its fair share of federal funding. Glassman maintains that on average, states get $45 per resident in federal projects. But Arizona gets just $15 per resident.
“We have a U.S. senator who prides himself on not brining our tax dollars back into the state,” said Glassman. “We’re not talking about pork barrel, we’re talking about things like funding for an ASU Campus in Payson,” said Glassman. “Senators are elected to be advocates for their states. Arizonans are out of work, but Sen. McCain just calls those projects pork.”
He also faulted McCain for saying he would vote against Proposition 100, a temporary one-cent sales tax increase intended to prevent deep state spending cuts that passed recently by a two-thirds margin.