Cap'n Al Calls It Quits

Melvin's stall, DuVal's haul and other news from the gubernatorial free-for-all

J.D. Fitzgerald

State Sen. Al Melvin called it quits this week.

The Saddlebrooke Republican finally acknowledged what many had said since he announced his candidacy: He simply had no chance of winning a race for governor.

Melvin blamed his departure on his failure to collect the necessary 4,500 $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding.

Melvin, who is such a fiscal hawk that he voted to cut health-insurance benefits for children, blocked an extension of unemployment benefits for out-of-work Arizonans and eviscerated funding for state parks, hoped to get about $753,000 in public dollars for his gubernatorial campaign.

But his platform didn't resonate with the public enough to get the contributions.

In the statement announcing his withdrawal, Melvin said the decision "was difficult because I believe so passionately about the principles we were campaigning for and because ... you feel a tremendous responsibility to not let down your supporters and all those who have contributed time and treasure to the effort. At the same time, I am at peace with the decision because in spite of our efforts we were not going to be able to win the race .... "

Another GOP gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Thomas, appears to been more successful than Melvin in pursuing Clean Elections funding, despite the fact that he was disbarred for using his position as Maricopa County attorney to pursue trumped-up criminal charges against his political enemies.

Thomas' application for the funds was rejected by the Clean Elections program, but if he submits roughly 130 more $5 contributions and the accompanying paperwork, Thomas will be eligible for his $753,000 in public dollars for his campaign. He has one more opportunity to submit the additional contributions.

Thomas has been largely absent from forums with fellow candidates and has focused his campaign on the notion that he was disbarred because he tried to uncover the systemic corruption throughout Arizona politics.

More viable candidates in the Republican primary include Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (who has qualified for Clean Elections funding), Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, attorney Christine Jones, former Mesa mayor Scott Smith and former California congressman Frank Riggs.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Fred DuVal, who last week unveiled a "Sun Corridor Jobs Plan" focusing on Pinal County. The plan includes support for a rail yard near Picacho Peak and highway infrastructure to support trade with Mexico; building linkages between the biosciences work being done in northern Pima County and Maricopa County; and work on commuter rail between Tucson and Phoenix.

"Getting the economic corridor between Tucson and Phoenix successful is a huge part of our longterm viability," DuVal told the Weekly.

In other tidbits:

• DuVal made it rain at a fundraising event at the Biltmore Hotel last Wednesday, June 18, receiving pledges from attendees to raise him more than a million dollars.

Attorney Jeff Rogers, a former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, said he'd never seen anything like it as different people in the crowd of about 120 heavy hitters pledged to raise money in various "tiers" of $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000.

"Altogether, it came out to more than a million dollars," Rogers said. "And knowing who some of these people are, they're good for what they say they will do."

Rogers said the crew was encouraged by polling data shared at the meeting that showed a competitive race between DuVal and the various GOP candidates.

• Jones, who has been courting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's endorsement, picked up another tough-on-the-border sheriff's support this week: Republican Paul Babeu came out in support of Jones.

"All the candidates have personally asked for my endorsement, yet Christine asked for my input and advice," Babeu said in a prepared statement. "We need to secure the border and we need the soldiers Christine is proposing to do it."

Jones released a border-security plan on Monday, June 23, that relies on mobilizing National Guard troops and using state dollars to provide direct funding to county sheriffs, build a border fence and purchase technology to provide better border surveillance.

• Bennett got a bit of disappointing news when the Clean Elections Commission voted against giving him the go-ahead with his plans to plaster his face on advertisements designed to help improve voter education this year.

Bennett hoped the commission would agree that his decision that it was imperative for him to appear in the ads would not count as an-kind contribution to his campaign, since he has agreed to limit his primary spending to the $753,000 he received from Clean Elections.

The commission did not agree, which means that Bennett could still do the ads, but he runs the risk that one of his political opponents could complain that in doing so, Bennett has violated the rules of the Clean Elections program.

Indeed, Ducey campaign attorney Michael T. Liburdi has already raised an objection, telling the Clean Elections Commission that "Bennett's appearance in those advertisements serves no purpose other than for him to use public resources to campaign for governor."

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