Ron Barber’s Remarks on the House Floor

Here are the remarks of Arizona’s newest Congressman, Ron Barber, shortly after being sworn in to the United States House of Representatives this morning.

I would like to thank the Arizona delegation for that warm welcome.

And I would like to thank Speaker Boehner for his long and dedicated public service and for swearing me in today.

And to my family – in the gallery and my grandchildren here on the floor – thank you for your support and love without which I would not be here today.

They are the most amazing family and I am blessed to have them in my life. To my high school sweetheart and wife Nancy, I love you dearly and look forward to celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I stand here on the floor of the House in the very spot where five months ago my friend, and my predecessor, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, bravely delivered her resignation from Congress.

I want to thank the congresswoman for her vision, leadership and the inspiration she gives to the country. Gabby, Southern Arizona misses you and can’t wait to have you home.

Today, as I begin my service in this, the people’s house, I am mindful that the stakes for our nation are very high.

They are too high to not set aside political division in favor of seeking common ground.

Too high to use our words as weapons.

Too high to think of those with whom we disagree as villains.

As an Arizonan, I look to the example of Congressman Mo Udall and Senator Barry Goldwater, two leaders in their respective parties who disagreed on much, but did so without being disagreeable. They came together many times to do what was right for their state and their country.

I’m going to approach my work for the people of Southern Arizona with an eye not toward partisan victory, but toward American achievement.

Because we as a country have much to achieve:

We must protect middle class families at a time when our middle class is slowly disappearing.

We must ensure the dignity and health of every American senior in retirement.

We must honor our veterans and military families – by ensuring that the more than 100,000 veterans I represent in Southern Arizona and every other American veteran and service member receives the services and benefits they’ve earned.

We must secure our border so that border residents are safe and we impede the flow of drugs into our communities and illegal drug money out of our country.

And we must create jobs with innovative energy technologies, improvements in our essential infrastructure, and by supporting local small businesses to grow.

I look forward to working across party lines to achieve these goals for the good of my constituents and for all Americans.

Thank you.

I yield back.

Belated Congrats

I have been having trouble with my computer off an on since Saturday, so I neglected to write anything about my friend Nick Fontana, who was just picked to replace Daniel Patterson.

I’ve known Nick as long as I’ve been alive, I think. He was an intern for Mo Udall way back, and ended up taking over for a fellow employee who took a long term leave. He’s still a tremendous admirer of Udall, and if he only learned five percent of what Mo had to offer, District 29 will do okay.

Nick was my sponsor when I took my first communion way back when. So, if any of y’all start talking trash, you’ll have a blogger to deal with.

NB: A few of you may be wondering why I didn’t comment on the selection process. I’ve got plenty of stories and opinions about it. However, my brother was on the committee that culled the nominees, so I thought it would be better not to cause him trouble by my bloviations.

William O. “Buckey” O’Neill

Yeah, I’ve been bad about posting. I’ll give refunds to those that ask.

I can’t let the birthday of one of this blog’s favorite old time Arizona politicians pass. Buckey O’Neill was born on February 2 in 1860. He might have been born in Missouri, Washington, DC or Ireland. The facts of his birth varied by audience needs and alcohol consumption.

He was a gambler, newspaper man, lobbyist, lawman, entrepreneur, Mayor of Prescott and two-time candidate for congress in the short lived (and radically anti-corporate) People’s Party.

Despite his reputation as a lawman, he was shy when it came to public speaking. He was also blunt. Mo Udall quoted one of O’Neill’s campaign speeches (likely from one of his two failed runs for congressional delegate) in his book Too Funny to Be President:

I announce for this office entirely on my own responsibility. There has been no “anxious public” urging me to do so; there has been no solicitation of friends; nor have the wishes of “many prominent citizens” made the slightest effort to bluff me into doing it.

To be frank, it is not a case where the office is wearing itself out hunting the man. Here it is the man wearing himself out for the office, and for the simple reason that it is a soft berth with a salary of two thousand dollars per annum attached.

As for my “special qualifications,” the truth is, I don’t have any. Although I have no particular advantage over 75 percent of my fellow citizens in the country, I do believe that I am fully competent to discharge all the duties incident to the office – if I am elected.

If you coincide in this opinion, support me if you see fit. If you do not, you will by no means jeopardize the safety of the universe by defeating me.

Lorenzo Torres

I recieved an e-mail today informing me of the passing of Lorenzo Torres.

Torres made several runs for office, beginning with a tilt at a South Side senate seat in 1978 (he placed last out of four candidates). The following election, he made a run for US Senate against Barry Goldwater. He followed on with two runs against liberal icon Mo Udall. In 1990, he finished off his electoral career pretty close to where he started: a run for a South Side seat in the legislature.

Aside from quixotic runs for office, he was a fixture in far left circles in our community for decades. So, what gave this guy cred among the radicals? You ever seen the movie Salt of the Earth? Torres was a participant in the 1950 strike that that movie was based on.

After the strike, he came to Arizona and became one of those “community organizers” so derided on the right.

Oh yeah. He was also a Communist. Card carrying and everything.

I’ve never figured out if it’s true or just an urban legend that you can’t actually run as a Communist in Arizona. In any case, Torres never appeared on the ballot as one: he used a variety of ballot lines including People Before Profit and Martin Luther King Party.

His politics were notably to the left of mine, but his passion for equality was admirable.

I Think We Have a Talking Point

There’s that bit in the Arlo Guthrie song “Alice’s Restaurant” when he declares that three people singing in unison is a movement.

So, what about two similarly themed alarmist communiques from local Republican pooh bahs? A talking point, of course!

Below is the latest missive screed from member of the local Republican szlachta, John Munger. In it, he declares that Tucson is just like Selma circa 1959. He even goes so far as saying that “uppity” Republicans like him are being punished.

Yeah, he said “uppity.”

I usually try to have a hearty laugh at conservatives calling themselves victims. But Bruce Ash and John Munger claiming to be just like the guys that got their heads bashed in on the Edmund Pettus Bridge? There is something downright vomit inducing about a couple wealthy white guys making that comparison.

Munger, Ash and company can bloviate about the unfairness all they want, but the system Tucson has has survived several court challenges and Justice Department scrutiny (under both Republican and Democratic administrations). Also, the system elected in recent years Steve Kozachik, Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt. All of them won city wide and all representing very Democratic wards that it is doubtful any could have been elected in. The dissatisfaction that elected Kozachik came close to electing two more Republicans, and could have had the local party been better organized to support their candidates. Heck, they might have done better in one race if they had recruited a decent candidate rather than making random phone calls to track down someone that would fill the ballot line.

The funny part is, if we went to a ward only system, you’d have four bulletproof wards likely electing very liberal candidates who would have no reason to moderate because they would never need to appeal to more conservative East Side voters. If that ever happened, Ash and Munger would likely come up with another whiny argument about how unfair life is to them and their buddies down at the country club.

Munger’s silliness is after the jump:

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Joe Sweeney: An Electoral History

The man who brought a whole new dimension to the phrase “perennial candidate,” Joe Sweeney, passed away this weekend. I’m not going to pretend for even a minute like he was some political colossus that strode across Southern Arizona or even that he had something valid to contribute to our civic dialogue: the man was an unappolegetic bigot. He did, however, appear as a losing candidate on ballots here in Southern Arizona thirteen times (fourteen if you count a run for state legislature back in the ’70’s). This is a record of futility that is likely unmatched in electoral records anywhere in the country.

For your perusal, I’ve posted the results for his congressional runs after the jump. He first ran against Mo Udall in 1984. That year, his signs (wheat pasted on every available vertical surface in the Greater Tucson area, which became his M.O.) touted his support for expansion of VISTA and the Peace Corps. It was in the following years that he became more stridently anti-immigrant, and his slogans became more unhinged and nonsensical (“Give a Damn! Federal Interstate Byways Now!”). Despite his being clearly unqualified for office, he managed to carry counties against both Jim Kolbe and Raúl Grijalva.

One gap you’ll see in his ballot presence was in 1992. He was all set to run against Democrat Jim Toeves in the primary that year, but Toeves challenged Sweeney’s petitions and got him thrown off the ballot (why this was only tried once I’ll never know). Sweeney was left to file as a candidate in the New Alliance Party. He changed his registration too late to vote in their primary, but was able to run as a write-in none the less. Because the party was so small, he needed only a single write-in vote to be their nominee. Sweeney failed, however, to convince even one New Alliance voter to write his name in.

Jim Nintzel has some thoughts on Sweeney and a link to an article he wrote about him in 2004.

NB: The Tucson Sentinel has reprinted this piece. Yes, they asked first.

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Hand Wringing

I’ve been amused by the handwringing over the Democratic Party’s endorsement of Regina Romero, Paul Cunningham and Shirley Scott.

Apparently, we are supposed to be shocked that the a party establishment has lined up to protect its incumbents. Shocking.

This brings up the drawback to being the candidate that takes on the establishment: the establishment tends not to support you. Once again, shocking.

The move by the Pima County Democratic Executive Committee codified something that was already going on among the candidates. Mayoral Candidate Jonathan Rothschild was already walking with Regina Romero, and there were plans among the other incumbents to cooperate.

Former Senator Luís Gonzales sent a letter to Pima County Democratic Chairman Jeff Rogers decrying the move on behalf of his candidate, Joe Flores. Gonzales shouldn’t exactly be surprised by the move: his run against Mo Udall in 1986 effectively ended his career in electoral politics. I understand that he was perplexed that the local party establishment wasn’t on board with him back them either.

Had a candidate like Miguel Ortega made the race, not only would there have not been the votes on the committee pass the endorsement, I doubt it would have even been brought up. Some of Flores’s actions make it hard to take him seriously as a candidate. He refused to answer questions (even simple biographical ones) from a local political reporter, instead refering him to his supporter, Jesse Lugo. His campaign material doesn’t lay out much of a case against Romero, instead takes a shot at Raúl Grijalva. It makes it sound like the guy is a put up candidate from two people who are using this race as a way to carry on their decades long feud with Grijalva rather than having anything to do with how Tucson is governed, or even the woman that holds the office.

I saw that David Morales is angry about the endorsement over at Three Sonorans. It surprises me that Morales would take Flores’s side in this given how strong Morales has been on issues like ethnic studies and SB 1070. For all of his talk about Democrats not being progressive enough, it’s odd for him to throw in with Lugo’s crowd.

Art Chapa

I was very surprised yesterday to find out that attorney and former Regent Art Chapa was seriously ill. This afternoon the news came down that he passed away. He left us way too young.

Chapa was a graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School and the University of Arizona. He did a stint in the Army, working in Army intellegence and at the Pentagon. He had an extensive involvement in our local and state politics. In addition to his time on the Board of Regents, he worked in the office of Morris Udall. He also was well known as a political fundraiser, raising money for Ed Pastor, Raúl Grijalva and numerous other candidates. His counsel was valued by numerous leaders in our community as well. Gabrielle Giffords sought him out when she was first elected and he served on her transition team.

His charity went beyond politics. I spoke to his good friend Dan Eckstrom yesterday and he said that when it came to anything that was good for kids, “he was always ready with a check.”

Chapa was a great community leader and he will be missed.

A Clue or Two to Why We Can’t Have a Rational Discussion

Back when I was in college, I had an aquaintance who somehow ended up in two classes with me. On the eve of the 1988 elections, he confidently told me that Mo Udall was going to win, but that would be the last time because after that year’s English Only proposition passed, none of the Hispanics would be able to vote.

This was idiotic and, yep, bigoted, since most of the Hispanic voters in the district were native born citizens who had been speaking and reading English (as well as voting for Mo) their whole lives. But for some reason, he thought Hispanics were all unschooled in the language of the Queen.

(Interestingly, this person’s hope after college was to go to seminary and return to his native Phoenix as a Diocesan priest. I always imagined he returned shocked to see the hue of many Phoenix area congregations.)

The other day, I caught this blog post from pollster Ryan Enos. Here are a couple of money quotes:

[P]oll respondents have a completely distorted estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in their state. The average response when asked what percent of their state is illegal immigrants was just over 17% – that is, the average American thinks almost 1 in 5 people are illegal immigrants.

Among all white respondents, the average answer to the question about illegal immigrants was almost 2/3rds the size of their answer to the question about Hispanics – meaning, if they thought about it – they are likely indicating that they think that 2/3rds of all Hispanics in their state are illegal immigrants. Among “very conservative” whites the answer to the Hispanic question was, astoundingly, almost 3/4ths the size of the answer about illegal immigrants – implying that 3/4ths of Hispanics are illegal immigrants.

Here, ladies and gentleman, is a big reason why arguments over the civil rights of legal residents and citizens didn’t seem to hold water with many. A person that believes that a Hispanic that gets stopped under SB 1070 is unlikely here legally is a person that isn’t going to be concerned about the rights of a someone they percieve as a criminal getting violated.

(For the record, most estimates of the undocumented population in Arizona are at a shade less than 8%, and the total Hispanic population is 30%)

Enos talks about the effect these perceptions have on the debate about illegal immigration, but it also tells us why so many other issues that are, at best, sidebars to the immigration debate seem get entangled in the issue. Look at the debate over English Language Learners, for example. Or, check out the comment section of your local paper when a political issue that impacts the Hispanic community comes up, and you’ll see comments positing that this or that politician only wants to help “the illegals.” If the politician involved has a Spanish (or just Spanish-sounding) last name, you’ll inevitably see a demand that he or she “go back to Mexico” even if he or she was born here. You even saw a bit of this in the case presented by people in the recent allegations of “registration” of aliens in Yuma County: the “evidence” consisted of the fact that many of the names (who by and large weren’t new voters, by the way) were Hispanic.

As much as we try to blame this or that political leader who plays off of the worst instincts of the electorate, remember where these instincts come from: our own misconceptions about our history and community and, yes, prejudice against our own neighbors. Until we can get past that, it’s hard to see how politics further up the food chain will ever change.

But, Will They Be Wearing Flowers in Their Hair?

Jan Brewer and Tom Horne are both traveling to San Francisco, ostensibly to help the State’s case on SB 1070, which is up before the Federal District Court there. This has nothing to do with getting some last minute press before Tuesday’s election, right?

As Mo Udall used to say, goomwah. Neither is going to actually be involved in arguing the case. Brewer ain’t a lawyer, right? Horne may be running for Attorney General, but that gives him as much standing as I do. His office is 0 and 3 in court this year, so if he wants the state to win, he may want to butt out. Someone told me that Mine Inspector Joe Hart is going to be making the trip too. They were kidding about that one, right? Does the court need a symposium in how to neglect mine safety?

(Maybe we can leave our Hart in San Francisco? Sorry, too easy.)

If this attempt to get election eve free media were any more naked, it would qualify for a Playboy centerfold. This is obviously a campaign trip rather than official duties, so hopefully the press that will inevitably follow them will feel some obligation to get reaction from their opponents.

Politicians pull stunts like this because it is their nature and what we pay them for. The media, however, is under no obligation to reward them for crassness.