The three Republican contenders for the state House and Senate seats representing Rim Country launched a full-throated call to wage figurative war on the federal government at a joint appearance last week before the Payson Tea Party.
Incumbent state representatives Chester Crandell, running now for the Senate, and Rep. Brenda Barton and Flagstaff Tea Party Chairman Bob Thorpe, both running for the state House, all support a constitutional amendment to revoke the terms of Arizona’s statehood so the state Legislature could take control of federal lands in Arizona.
The crusade against federal authority dominated the discussion before more than 100 Tea Party backers at Tiny’s Restaurant.
“It’s time ‘we the people’ stepped up … we will take over the management of the land, of the water, of the air” from the federal government, said Rep. Crandell, the lone Republican running for the District 4 Senate seat, which includes northern Gila County, Camp Verde and Flagstaff.
Rep. Barton, who shifted her official address to Payson to run in the newly configured District 6, repeatedly quoted the Declaration of Independence’s justification of rebellion against England more than 200 years ago, saying a government can exist only with the consent of the governed.
“I really want to withdraw my consent,” she said. “This is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. If it were a democracy, all the wolves would decide which lambs they want to have for dinner. Right now in the Valley they’re calling us ‘kooks,’ they’re working very, very hard to ‘dekookify’ the Legislature. They want to get rid of anyone who wants to live under the constitution.”
Thorpe focused his remarks largely on a call for the states to convene a constitutional convention to revoke many of the laws passed by Congress and limit the ability of the executive branch to impose regulations.
“It’s time for another shot heard ’round the world,” said Thorpe. “Let’s make Arizona an example of how we reclaim our liberties, which we have slowly allowed to erode. Liberty-loving patriots will lose a battle or two, but what we’re concerned about is whether we win the war or not — and we’re at war with the federal government.”
The three Republican candidates are assured of heading into the November general election match-up with three Democrats running unopposed in their primary.
The reconfigured District 6 has a population of 214,000, but only about 12 percent of the residents live in northern Gila County. The boundaries stop just short of Globe, but include the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Williams, Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Flagstaff, Holbrook, Snowflake and Heber.
The district’s voting registration breakdown is 38 percent Republican, 29 percent Democratic and 33 percent “other.”
In the Senate race, State Representative Tom Chabin will face Crandell, a longtime Heber resident and former board member for a regional vocational education district.
Chabin, a former school board member and county supervisor, has called for a multi-year effort to close income and sales tax loopholes to raise enough money to slash college tuition and boost Arizona’s per-student spending in K-12 schools from 48th nationally to 25th.
Barton worked for the City of Safford before she retired, and Thorpe has for years crusaded for a federal balanced budget amendment. They will face Sedona businesswoman, juvenile probation worker and political activist Angela Lefevre and Doug Ballard, chair of the Coconino County Democratic Party, who spent 31 years in public service, much of it with the City of Chandler.
The three Republicans focused on the push for a constitutional amendment to allow Arizona to assume control of most federal land in the state. They noted that in the 11 western states, only 11 to 25 percent of the land ended up privately owned. By contrast, in the eastern states, about 80 percent of the land remains in private hands.
Many legal experts say the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn any such provision. Many southern states relied on similar arguments concerning the right of states to nullify federal actions in the lead-up to the Civil War.
However, all three candidates said the defiance of federal authority remains the only way to maintain individual freedoms and protect state’s rights.
“As the ‘governed,’ it’s important that we continue to have a country we love,” said Barton. “We need to maintain our rights and our country, because a lot of people are taking it away from us,” said Barton. “This country was not created because of a war against another country — we were created because we separated from a king who was a terrorist.
Thorpe, who led off with a plug for his book “Reclaimed Liberty,” decried the “bribes and coercion” through which the federal government has imposed its policies on the states, from educational reform programs to the provisions of the Clean Air Act.
“If the federal government wants to take over the health care system, I say they can do it, but they have to go through the constitutional amendment process. If the government wants to control education, they could create a constitutional amendment to do it,” he said.
As an example of federal tyranny, he cited the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to not renew the 50-year lease for a mobile home park on the shores of Roosevelt Lake used mostly by weekenders.
Thorpe also objected to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that made the U.S. Senate directly elected by the voters of each state rather than appointed by the Legislature.
“The Founders didn’t want the election of senators — the Senate was elected by the states to represent the states,” said Thorpe.
Each state gets two U.S. senators, so the 34 million residents of California have the same clout in the Senate as the 568,000 residents of Wyoming. Moreover, the Senate has interpreted its own rules in recent years to require a 60 percent majority to enact most major laws.
Thorpe said a constitutional convention convened by the states could repeal the direct election of senators and perhaps revoke the power of the federal government to borrow money to finance a budget deficit.
“It’s time the states reminded the federal government it was the states that created the federal government — federalism is a relationship between the states and the central government. The Founders were afraid of democracy and a powerful federal government — and that’s exactly what we have today.”
Crandell also insisted the state Legislature must take over management of federal lands. He said the state could then reduce the fire danger in the forests by authorizing the large-scale return of logging and grazing.
“We have a tremendous amount of public resources that are just wasted, totally wasted. If we used those resources, then we wouldn’t have to raise taxes,” said Crandell. “If you don’t use it — you’re going to lose it.”
Studies by researchers from Northern Arizona University and elsewhere have concluded that overgrazing followed by fire suppression turned a fire-resistant, old-growth forest into a tree-choked tinderbox in the past century. Lawsuits by conservation groups coupled with the shortage of remaining big trees in recent decades has all but shut down logging in much of Arizona. The U.S. Forest Service recently awarded a new, large-scale logging contract intended to thin the forest dramatically, make commercial use of the abundance of small trees and restore fire to its natural, less destructive role in the system. However, that approach will take decades to cover the millions of acres that have become choked with trees and which now face critical danger from devastating crown fires.