I am a member of the fastest growing political party in Arizona, having recently become second largest in the state, and quickly threatening to become number one.
That party? Independents.
Now, it’s not much of a party, since it contains righter-than-right-wingers who think our Republican party in Arizona is too liberal, as well as folks who just don’t think either party reflects their views.
Of course, we don’t vote in the numbers we should.
But clearly, we are growing, and a growing threat to the status quo, particularly the Republican pooh-bahs who are afraid we’ll hijack their primary election, much like blacks in Mississippi did in ensuring that the Tea Party senate candidate lost.
And here’s the cool thing about independents in Arizona: We can vote in either state primary. Which means we can prevent the uber-conservative candidates for governor from getting the Republican nomination.
This is why I’m voting for Scott Smith on Tuesday. The former Mesa mayor is not perfect, not for me anyway: He edges a little too closely to the SB1070 crowd, though he seems a bit reluctant to do so. And I’m guessing he’s no fan of gay marriage.
But as mayor, at the very least he helped return some mojo to Mesa, a city prior to his leadership that seemed stuck in a permanent funk. And his positions on issues are mostly — except for immigration — sane.
He’s a supporter of Common Core standards, standards that are more rigorous than what we’ve expected of our students. (Yes, I know, Common Core is equated to ObamaCare by some conservatives, but give me a break — the standards are actually good.)
He supported Gov. Brewer’s expansion of Medicaid in our state, which did the miraculous trick of giving more folks health coverage and helping to lower our insurance costs at the same time. He has experience in the private sector and he’s been president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, both of which give him a more complete perspective on what is needed to kick start our state’s economy. And he’s not afraid to tell voters the harder truths about our economy, unlike Ducey, who promises to work to end the income tax in our state but doesn’t quite explain how that can happen without punching a huge hole in the state’s budget.
Smith’s dad was Mesa Public School’s superintendent for years, so he knows the value and the intricacies of public education. And — maybe this is most important — he has differentiated himself from the rest of the Republican field simply by not pandering to the base. The rest of the Republican crew of candidates have been shameless in that, from Ducey’s satellites to Jones’ “bill to Obama” to Thomas’s “Patton line” that apparently will split Arizona into Baja Arizona and the rest of us (Tucson might like that).
Smith has been the adult in the room.
So I will vote for him on Tuesday, hoping enough of the independents show up to do the same, and hoping that enough rational Republicans follow suit.
With Smith as the Republican nominee and Fred DuVal as the Democratic one, we Arizona voters will — with any luck — have a chance to listen to two thoughtful men explain their vision for our state.
Get out and vote.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.