Fife Symington isn’t getting back into the gubernatorial arena. Instead, he said, the former governor is running vicariously through his friend John Munger.
Symington on Oct. 8 announced that he is endorsing Munger, who recently filed to run for the Republican nomination for governor. The former two-term governor touted Munger’s pro-business credentials and said the Tucson attorney can solve Arizona’s fiscal disaster and lead the state to a brighter future.
“The next governor of this state has to lead during very difficult economic times. John Munger’s approach, I believe, is the right approach. Lighten the load on families and business. Cut taxes. Reshape and reform government,” Symington said at a campaign event at the University Club in Phoenix. “It’s clear to me that John’s our guy.”
Symington said he was “itching to run” and in September he said he was considering challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in the 2010 primary. But after Munger announced his candidacy, Symington said, he and his wife talked it over and he called his old friend to tell him, “Rather you than me.”
“(My wife and I) kind of looked at each other and just said, you know, it would be unimaginable that I would be in a fight with John Munger. I couldn’t do it,” Symington told reporters after his endorsement speech. “I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing him run after all these years.”
Munger and Symington’s relationship goes back decades. Symington served as Munger’s finance chair while the Tucsonan was Arizona Republican Party chairman in the early 80s, and Munger chaired both of Symington’s Pima County gubernatorial campaigns. In 1992, Symington appointed Munger to the Arizona Board of Regents.
Munger praised Symington as a “marvelous governor” who cut taxes, implemented regulatory reform and knew how to create jobs from his years in the private sector. He made it clear that he wants to follow a similar track if elected.
Among Munger’s proposals are the abolition of Arizona’s corporate income tax and property taxes on business equipment, an overhaul of the state’s regulatory structure and the elimination of the state’s capital gains tax. He also pledged to never raise taxes, in contrast to Brewer, whose unpopularity with many Republicans stems from her push for a temporary 1-cent increase in Arizona’s sales tax.
“A Munger administration will start by never raising taxes in a misguided attempt to create prosperity,” Munger said during his speech.
In addition to his tax and regulatory ideas, Munger proposed “fundamental education reform” that would include higher pay for quality teachers, decentralizing school districts and empowering principals to make more budget and personnel decisions. He also said students who are seriously disruptive in school should lose their driver’s licenses until they turn 18.
In backing merit pay for teachers, Munger said the best teachers in the state should be getting six-figure salaries. “Great teachers deserve great pay,” he said.
Munger spent much of his speech hammering on one of his main campaign themes, that he, unlike most of the other candidates in the race, is not a professional politician, has never run for public office and has not drawn a government salary since he served in the U.S. Army. Munger rebutted another candidate’s claim that he was an “ultimate insider,” saying he would match his private-sector experience with anyone.
“All the people that are telling you that are people who have all drawn their salaries previously from government. I’ve not drawn a government salary since my time serving on the DMZ in Korea,” he said.