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Melvin’s campaign for governor would focus on school choice, tort reform

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Saddlebrook, announces that he has formed an exploratory committee for a 2014 gubernatorial run. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Saddlebrook, announces that he has formed an exploratory committee for a 2014 gubernatorial run. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. Al Melvin joined the growing ranks of Republicans eying a potentially crowded field for the 2014 governor’s race.

Melvin, R-SaddleBrooke, formed an exploratory committee for a run for governor on Monday, saying he wants to run a campaign focused on issues such as school choice, tort reform, attracting businesses from California and asserting state control over federally owned land in Arizona.

“My campaign will not run from the major issues,” Melvin told reporters during a press conference in front of the Arizona Senate.

The three-term senator said he wants to implement Texas-style tort reform in Arizona and create a voucher system that would grant parents about $9,000 to send their children to the school of their choice. He also said he wants to build on recent efforts to lure businesses from California, such as the Arizona Commerce Authority’s opening of offices in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.

Melvin said he opposes Gov. Jan Brewer’s push to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He said he also wants to push for greater security along the Arizona-Mexico border, and is working with Tucson-area businesses to encourage officials in the Mexican government and the state of Sonora to build a deep water port.

Melvin said he will run as a publicly funded candidate. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission provides $753,616 to gubernatorial candidates in the primary and $1,130,424 for the general election.

Some GOP politicos were skeptical about Melvin’s ability to compete with Clean Elections funding, especially considering a new law that will raise campaign contribution limits for the 2014 cycle and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling striking down the system’s matching funds provision. Melvin has little name identification, insiders said, and won’t have the money to build it up while running against better funded opponents.

But Melvin said he is confident  he can win with Clean Elections funding. He noted that he was outspent in the 2010 general election in the old Legislative District 26, when Democrat Cheryl Cage spent nearly $125,000 to his $63,000.

“I know that people probably will be outspending me two, two-and-a-half-to-one. But I know that by being frugal and smart we can make this money into a winning campaign,” Melvin said.

Melvin, a retired U.S. Navy officer and owner of a business consulting firm, said he plans to build up name identification by traveling the state and speaking to groups such the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rotary, the Elks Club and the Knights of Columbus.  He is a member of all of them.

Melvin said he will keep his exploratory committee open until January, when he can run for office without violating Arizona’s resign-to-run law. He said he expects Rep. Steve Smith, a former senator who moved to the House when redistricting put him and Melvin the new Legislative District 11, to file soon to run for the Senate seat he’ll vacate. Conservative activist Vince Leach will file to run for Smith’s House seat.

The announcement adds to a potentially crowded 2014 Republican field for the governor’s race. Former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman is running, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett opened an exploratory committee for the position in 2011. State Treasurer Doug Ducey and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith are widely expected to run, and former GoDaddy executive vice president and general counsel Christine Jones is considering a run as well.

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