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Goddard cautious as campaign season nears

Though he has essentially wrapped up the Democratic nomination without even officially announcing his candidacy, Attorney General Terry Goddard isn’t acting like a candidate just yet.

Goddard declined to comment when asked for his thoughts on the ongoing budget crisis, or the temporary sales tax increase Brewer has proposed as a solution. The attorney general is expected to embark on his third run for governor next year.

“If and when I become a candidate for governor I will weigh in on that 
subject, but as attorney general I’m focused on the AG’s budget,” Goddard told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Goddard has been critical of funding cuts that have dropped his office’s staffing down to 1995 levels at a time when myriad lawsuits filed over the Legislature’s budget solutions have increased his workload dramatically. He said 18 lawsuits have been filed over fund sweeps and other actions by the Legislature.

Brewer recently asked all agency heads to submit reports outlining the impact of 15 percent cuts to their budgets. Goddard’s report for his agency didn’t propose even 1 percent. It simply said his office couldn’t absorb the shock of further cuts.

“It seems like when things get tough economically, the demand for legal services, both criminal and civil, goes up dramatically. So we’re sort of in a catch-22,” he said.

The election season, or least the lead-up to it, has been unusual.

Gov. Jan Brewer, the incumbent, had left many observers wondering whether she would even seek a full term. At least half-dozen potential primary challengers were jockeying for position while they waited for her decision.

The situation draws several obvious parallels with 1990. With one year to go before the general election, incumbent Gov. Rose Mofford, who, like Brewer, inherited the position as secretary of state, had not yet announced whether she would seek election. Deep divisions within the Republican Party foretold a contentious primary to come, while the 
eventual Democratic candidate — Goddard in his first run for governor — cruised to the nomination.

Republican political consultant Constantin Querard doesn’t expect the GOP primary field to be cowed by Brewer’s incumbency. He said he expects at least a five-way primary, with Brewer squaring off against state Treasurer Dean Martin, former Arizona GOP Chairman John Munger, Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker and Phoenix businessman Robert Graham.

Querard said he considers all five to be credible candidates.

“Everybody’s looking at it and saying, ‘Can I get 26 percent and win this thing?’ And every first-year candidate looks at a map like this and can see a way to get 26 percent,” Querard said. “I don’t have a client in that race, and I almost look forward to just kind of watching it as a spectator.”

Every prospective Republican challenger has one thing in common — they oppose Brewer’s call for a temporary one-cent sales tax increase to balance the budget, and they have not been shy about saying so publicly. That opposition comes as the right wing of the Republican Party has been especially vocal, with conservative activists hosting “tea party” protests across the nation to protest President Barack Obama’s fiscal policies.

“It will be interesting because she’s managed to alienate some of the same folks McCain did in terms of the far right,” Merrill said, referring to Sen. John McCain’s well-publicized problems with conservative Republicans.

Attorney Sam Coppersmith, a former congressman and one-time Arizona Democratic Party Chairman, said Goddard is making the right move by keeping a low profile.

“The Republicans are going to provide all the partisan squabbling that I think the voters will need, and there’s no reason for the attorney general to do more than offer to hold someone’s coat if they want to fight,” Coppersmith said.

Predictably, many Democrats don’t feel Goddard should be commenting publicly about budget issues, while many Republicans feel he should take a stand. Lobbyist Chuck Coughlin, a close advisor to Brewer, noted that Goddard has already told Democratic groups that he intends to run for governor.

“He’s already told the Democratic Nucleus Club he’s running. So are you just running, or running away from it? He’s got an obligation to talk,” Coughlin said.

But conversely, Coughlin said, “If I’m his political consultant, I would tell him not to say a word.”

Goddard declined to comment on whether he thought Brewer had done a good job as governor, but left no doubt that he thought her predecessor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, would’ve done better. “What we’ve missed here in Arizona is the firm hand of the governor 
trying to propose solutions and then work with legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle to get them passed. I can’t imagine Janet being governor and not having a balanced budget at the end of the fiscal year,” he said.

The front-runners
Jan Brewer: She has some of the worst approval numbers of any governor 
in the country and faces massive discontent within her proposed sales 
tax increase. Still, observers say the power of incumbency is strong. 
She has more name ID than her challengers, a bully pulpit and nearly 
30 years experience in Arizona’s political realm. She has held office 
since 1983 and has never lost an election. And if anti-tax voters can 
look past her budget plan, she has still holds solidly conservative 
views on issues such as abortion and regulatory reform. Head-to-head 
polls show her losing to Goddard, but pollster Bruce Merrill said such 
polls are unreliable yardsticks until at least March, and predicted 
that Brewer could be a strong centrist candidate who could appeal to 
independents in the general election if she can defeat the 
conservative wing of her own party in the primaries. Her budget 
proposal went down in flames after a marathon legislative session, but 
Brewer could get a boost if she is able to push her budget through the 
Legislature. Recent staffing changes, most notably with her chief of 
staff, are generally being viewed as good signs for her agenda.

Terry Goddard: The attorney general and the Democratic frontrunner 
first sought the Governor’s Office in 1990, when he garnered enough 
votes to force a run-off with Symington but fell short in the historic 
second round. Goddard’s only prominent potential challenger, former 
party chairman Jim Pederson, announced earlier in the year that he 
would not run. Even the lesser-known challengers, such as state Rep. 
David Bradley and former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano have opted against 
running, clearing the field for Goddard. Querard said that without a 
primary challenge, Goddard won’t have to play the typically primary 
game of appealing the left wing of his party before moving toward the 
center in the general election, which could bode well for him as he 
embarks on his third run for the Governor’s Office. If he faces and 
ultimately defeats Brewer, he would be the first candidate to unseat 
an incumbent Arizona governor since his father, Sam Goddard, lost a re-
election bid in 1966.

The challengers
Dean Martin: The state treasurer is viewed by many as the strongest 
potential challenger to Brewer. A recent poll showed him as the 
strongest opponent for Goddard in the general election, though the 
poll still showed him losing. Martin has frequent speaking engagements 
across the state, though he said he hasn’t increased those appearances 
since his name being circulating as a possible gubernatorial candidate 
earlier this year, instead crediting Napolitano with raising his 
profile by calling him “chicken little” for his pessimistic economic 
forecasts, only to be proven right when the housing market crashed and 
the state’s budget deficit skyrocketed.

John Munger: The Tucson attorney has a political résumé a mile long, 
including stints as state GOP chairman, Pima County GOP chairman and 
chairman of the Board of Regents. He has never held elected office and 
is running as an outsider, touting his lack of public office as a 
qualification. Munger is running on a pro-business platform, complete 
with several big privatization proposals and a plan to eliminate 
Arizona’s corporate income tax, and was recently buoyed by the 
endorsement of longtime friend and former Gov. Fife Symington. But 
despite his assertion that being from Tucson is an advantage — he 
hopes to erase the advantage Democrats have in Pima County — Arizonans 
have not elected a governor from the Old Pueblo since 1974.

Vernon Parker: The mayor of Paradise Valley is another candidate 
running as an outsider, telling the crowd at his announcement speech 
that Arizona no longer can afford to entrust the state’s top job to 
career politicians like Brewer and Goddard. Parker grew up in poverty 
and his consultant, PR guru Jason Rose, is fond of citing the 
hardscrabble upbringing the mayor experienced before attending 
Georgetown law and serving under both Bush administrations. But as 
mayor of a tiny suburb who has been in office less than two years, 
Parker has name ID issues.

Robert Graham: A Phoenix businessman who runs the financial firm RG 
Capital, the 37-year-old Graham may be the most unknown of the 
potential primary challengers. As an independently wealthy businessman 
who has never held public office, Graham has drawn occasional 
comparisons to Symington, though the former governor had a long 
history of political involvement that Graham lacks. But despite his 
obscurity, Querard believes Graham must be taken seriously, if for no 
other reason because he can largely bankroll his own campaign. And if 
matching funds are available in 2010, Graham’s personal wealth could 
have a significant impact on his challengers as well.

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