Earlier this week businessman Buz Mills suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor of Arizona. It cost the communications and firearms training entrepreneur some $3 million, mostly his own money, to learn that this campaign had come to revolve around immigration and border security. Mills was about reducing the state’s debt, cutting expenditures, stimulating the economy and balancing the budget.
Prior to the SB 1070 brouhaha, Arizona’s $20 billion deficit and 10 percent unemployment rate were issues that gave the relatively unknown and first-time candidate Mills a good shot at defeating Janet Brewer, the low-polling incumbent. Formerly Arizona’s secretary of state, Brewer was in trouble 15 months after assuming the governor’s office when Janet Napolitano resigned to become director of the Department of Homeland Security.
Brewer was losing support for failing to rein in government spending and an increasing debt that includes future pension and benefit expenses for state employees. Like fedzilla in Washington, D.C., Arizona’s government is a growing, money hungry entity that can only result in unsustainable costs for taxpayers. The one-cent sales tax increase Brewer promoted was approved in a March special election only 34 percent of the state’s voters participated in. Those opposed to the allegedly temporary, but more than likely permanent new tax, view it as a punishment on the state’s taxpayers for government’s fiscal irresponsibility.
Mills, unlike most politicians, proposed a business approach to controlling costs and growth, tax cuts to stimulate the economy and incentives to attract businesses and jobs to Arizona. Enthusiastically received wherever he spoke, Mills laid out a proven strategy for economic growth. Cut taxes and government interference and let business create private-sector jobs was just what voters wanted to hear.
He would have faced the challenge of a hostile state Senate and House resistant to change from politics-as-usual, but we’ll never know how effective a governor Mills might have been. Brewer’s poll numbers surged after SB 1070, the illegal immigration enforcement law she signed in April, focused national attention on Arizona and the governor.
The attention also brought a Department of Justice lawsuit, protests and boycotts that blew the state’s underlying economic crisis right off the radar. There was little philosophic difference between the incumbent and the challenger on illegal immigration, smuggling, state rights and the rule of law.
When the law suits are done and SB 1070 has been either upheld or declared unconstitutional, Arizona will still have one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the country, high unemployment and a growing debt—and the same elected officials who got the state into a financial hole and failed to fix the problems. Seems as if the right candidate came along at the wrong time.