If you wanna enjoy politics, you gotta have the right attitude. Think of it as an episode of “American Gladiator” — or maybe “Survivor,” where we get to vote them off the island. Then it’s kind of fun. Whatever you do, don’t think of it as a contest that will determine who will run the country, restore the economy and decide whether to nuke foreigners.
Consider for a moment the disconcerting primaries for the Congressional District 4, which represents Rim Country, and the U.S. Senate race, which represents all of Arizona.
In the struggle for the U.S. Senate seat, Congressman Jeff Flake faces Mesa businessman Wil Cardon, who has poured millions of his own money into a bare-knuckle campaign based on the curious contention that Flake isn’t conservative enough. Yeah. Funny. We’re talking Jeff Flake, who made such a point of honor about opposing earmarks that he wouldn’t even play the pork barrel game for his district. But Cardon insists that Flake’s too “liberal” because he was once a registered lobbyist for an African mining company and once advocated comprehensive immigration reforms more complicated than setting up a 2,500-mile-long fence with machine gun towers.
Come to think of it — that’s the same tactic Ron Gould’s using in his effort to unseat Rep. Paul Gosar, a Flagstaff dentist who beat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick two years ago with the backing of the Tea Party. Gosar has railed against the Obama administration, opposed almost all government spending, supported a budget that would all but gut federal government spending and opposed all tax increases, anytime, anywhere. But he also voted to raise the debt ceiling this year, part of a deal supported by the Republican leadership that extracted billions in cuts in return for not defaulting on the nation’s debts.
The Republican civil war in Congressional District 4, which now includes Rim Country and most of northern Arizona, probably don’t mean much. The Republican nominee would have to do something outrageous — maybe molest farm animals or say something kind about Mexicans — to lose that contest in the general election. The voter registration breaks down to 42 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic and 33 percent Independent, which puts Democrats on the endangered species list — right up there with the Mexican Spotted Owl.
The Republican race for the honor of representing you folks in Congress also includes Ricky Murphy, a third-generation Arizonan who says he’s a Lake Havasu City businessman, not a politician. Murphy hasn’t made much of a splash, but Gosar can at least hope that he’ll split the Lake Havasu City vote with Gould. Gosar moved to Prescott from Flagstaff when he decided not to risk a rematch with Kirkpatrick, who seems to have a good chance of winning in the toss-up in District 1, which still includes most of southern Gila County.
On the Democratic side, a pair of Democrats has decided to tilt the windmill in District 4. That includes comedian and activist Mikel Weisser and Johnnie Robinson. But they would seem to have little chance in the general election against either Gosar or Gould, given the district’s demographics.
Gould’s attack on Gosar for lack of ideological purity demonstrates just how far you have to go to qualify as “conservative” in the Arizona Republican Party these days.
Gould did provoke a brief spasm of national publicity when he aired a TV ad featuring him using a gun to blast away at a copy of the a printout of the Affordable Health Care Act. Please note, Gould also pushed for the bill that would require schools to allow professors and students to carry guns on campus.
But Gould has focused criticism on Gosar’s decision to vote in favor of raising the ceiling on the national debt. The Republican House Speaker and President Obama negotiated the increase in the debt limit to avoid a default on the nation’s debt. In return for Republican votes, Democrats agreed to set up a super committee to try to come up with a deficit-reduction deal. That committee never came close to success, so now an alternative set of automatic cuts are about to crash into the tottering economy like a blind, rabid pit bull. The automatic cuts will slash both defense and domestic spending and trigger tax increases — the worst of both worlds for both sides.
Gould has picked up some endorsements from fellow state lawmakers, including our own Sen. Sylvia Allen. Gosar has countered with his own endorsements, including Sarah Palin and both senators Jon Kyl and John McCain.
Still, a line of attack that depicts Gosar as some bleeding heart liberal makes almost as much sense as accusing Jeff Flake of catering to special interests and spending recklessly.
So, naturally — that’s exactly what Cardon’s doing.
And it’s working — more or less. When Cardon started his campaign, he had about 7 percent in the polls. He has tripled that in the latest poll, which shows Flake at 45 percent and Cardon at 23 percent.
But unlike the Gosar-Gould congressional mud-wrestle, in the U.S. Senate race there’s a strong Democrat likely to benefit from the civil war on the right. That’s especially true since Flake had to abandon his once-moderate and comprehensive approach to immigration reform to survive the primary. In the general, he will face one of the strongest Hispanic candidates in the country, in a state with a rising Hispanic voter block.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, a decorated war hero and trauma surgeon, has spent his unopposed Democratic primary raising money and positioning himself in the broad middle. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the elements of the Affordable Health Care Act (aka ObamaCare), Carmona managed to welcome the ruling, but also criticize the reform’s lack of mechanism to contain the spiraling cost of health care. He even got national headlines when a guy hired by the Republicans to tape everything Carmona said in hopes of documenting a gaff developed a painful bump on his leg. Carmona, 62, examined the bump, pronounced it a hematoma and urged his stalker to get it drained.
Now, you gotta admit: That would make a great bit on “Survivor” right before a commercial break. Might have nothing to do with running the actual country, but hey. This is politics: It’s a blood sport.