Anthony Miller smiled Saturday as he carried a stack of chairs across the floor of the gymnasium at Mountain View Lutheran Church.
"I feel an energy that’s out here from the oldest to the youngest," said the chairman of the Legislative District 20 Republicans. "We’re going to unseat Harry Mitchell this year."
If the GOP is going to accomplish that goal in the 5th Congressional District, one of the six candidates who attended the weekend forum at the church will be the candidate to do so.
Miller organized the event that featured the Republicans vying in the August primary for their party’s nomination.
Residents gathered in the gymnasium of the church, 11002 S. 48th St., and were divided into six stations of about 20 people each. The six candidates then spent 15 minutes at each station answering questions and discussing their resumes and why they should win the primary election and face Democratic Congressman Harry Mitchell in the general election. The discussion was pulled from the national headlines: health care reform, unemployment and immigration – and all of the candidates involved stressed limited government and lowered taxes.
"I treat this as a job interview," said Lee Gentry, who was defeated in the 2008 six-way primary. "I’ve been campaigning non-stop. That’s what I do."
At one station, Susan Bitter Smith, also a returning candidate from 2008’s primary election, sat among her audience and concentrated on economic issues.
"We have to cut spending and taxes, and I’ve actually done it," she said, referring to her role in reducing property taxes for certain taxpayers as a board member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.
"Harry Mitchell is going to be very difficult to beat," she said. "I think it takes the right candidate."
At another station, David Schweikert, who defeated Smith in the last primary election by 1,000 votes only to lose to Mitchell in the general election, removed his suit jacket and began to pace back and forth.
"We have got to take the government and shrink it," he said. "We’ve lost our minds!"
Schweikert said his first order of business as a congressman would be to change the rules that govern the legislative process: limiting bills to one subject, placing firm restrictions on lobbyists, and requiring that all bills be translated into "human language."
"You can have an absolute revolution in Congress if you just change the rules," Schweikert said. "From that very first day you go for the revolution."
Next door, Chris Salvino, a surgeon and first-time candidate, attacked the health care reform bill proposed by the Obama administration and Washington Democrats.
"The main problem of health care is the cost of health care," Salvino. "The vote will lead us to socialized medicine. We’ll have to undo what’s been done."
His 15 minutes having expired, Salvino hurriedly passed out his business cards to the small audience before moving on to the next station. To his left, Mark Spinks, another first-time candidate, stood patiently, awaiting his turn to speak.
Spinks, a former business manager and real estate agent, used his allotted time to criticize legislation and government regulation that he says is a detriment to small and big business in the free market system.
"You have to table all legislation that is perceived as a threat [to businesses]," Spinks said. "The reality is that if it is perceived as a threat, it is a threat."
As the event wound to a close and volunteers began breaking down tables and boxing leftover fliers, most of the candidates stayed to speak with the remaining residents.
"We’re witnessing a fundamental transformation," said Jim Ward, a first-time candidate and local entrepreneur, said. "This country is in some trouble, and we can’t wait until 2012. Too much is going to be damaged by then."