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By State Senator Al Melvin

Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been law since 1999. SB1062’s sole purpose was to update two sections of it. First, to clarify the definition of “person” to include all types of businesses and legal entities. Arizona laws largely conform to that, but more clarity was best. Second, to address the infamous photographer case in New Mexico where courts ruled that RFRA protections did not apply in a case involving two private parties. We wanted to protect people’s liberties, not just from encroachment by government, but from other private parties as well. al melvin

The bill did not change the protected or unprotected classes in Arizona. Hysterical pronouncements like “mixed-race couples will be kicked out of restaurants” were deliberately inflammatory. That discrimination remains illegal under Arizona and Federal law.

Democrats and liberals argue that businesses should operate only with the consent of government and they should have no say in who they do business with or how. If their doors are open, they must serve everyone and accommodate any request if they are physically able. But that isn’t the law now, nor should it be. A sign company doesn’t have to produce a banner that depicts graphic violence just because their customer wants one. A baker doesn’t have to bake a cake in the shape of a Nazi swastika just because a customer wants one. Still, opponents of SB1062 argue that the State of Arizona should force these companies to make these products or go out of business.

True liberty is not where you get to make everyone do everything you want them to do. True liberty is where you are free to do what you want to do. You are free to make your choices and so is everyone else.

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MSNBC Host Rachel Maddow is really liberal. And annoying. And she’s a partisan. But one can’t say she doesn’t bring it with passion. It’s worthy of respect even while it reminds those not like-minded why we are right.

That’s why a shout out is in order for SeeingRedAZ.com, one of the most influential and longest-running political blogs in Arizona. Its espousals are not moderate. Opinions were and always are conservative.

And even as the house has caved in on SB1062 – and Republicans run for cover – there stands SeeingRedAz, defending the policy. Proudly.

Theirs is a small gun in war that has been lost. But thank goodness they are there, adding to the debate. They make one think, just as Maddow does, but unlike her they are more often right than wrong. Just not on this one.

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A recent article discussed fear within the Christian community that Christians were losing the culture war and would soon be losing their rights as well. The writer interviewed Jim Phillips, the senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church, to find out why events are moving against Christians with such speed.

“Sadly, Christians have often wimped out and grown silent instead of being bolder for the Gospel,” he said. “Christians get subdued into thinking they’re not supposed to rise up.”

It was easy to be reminded of that quote as we watched virtually the entire Republican field for Governor run for the hills in the debate over SB1062, the religious liberties bill that was advocated for by the Center for Arizona Policy and was supported by 50 out of 53 Republicans in the legislature. Conservative Republicans supported the bill, but so did moderate Republicans like Frank Pratt, TJ Shope, John McComish, Steve Pierce, Bob Robson and Adam Driggs.

Upon passage however, Democratic lawmakers and their allies in the homosexual lobby kicked their public relations machines into high gear and the media happily engaged in a feeding frenzy to declare SB1062 the next SB1070. And why not? SB1070 was great for ratings!

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Arizona State Senator Michele Reagan is one of the most likable people in all of state politics. She has her own style and compelling nature that is refreshingly authentic in an age of political clones. Reagan has been a dynamic and effective representative for her district that covers much of Scottsdale.

And for years it has been known she has wanted to be Arizona’s next Secretary of State. And she would likely do a fine job. Screen-Shot-2013-10-30-at-10_34_40-AM2-78220_641x340

But sometimes in politics things just break against you. And when they do it’s OK to re-evaluate. And it should be the responsibility of a consultant to shoot straight rather than walk a candidate into a wall.

Let’s take stock.

Yesterday, Reagan reported having about $100,000 in cash on hand for her Republican primary run. That’s a new definition of pissing in the wind with the well-funded Wil Cardon facing her for the GOP nomination and Terry Goddard ready after that as one of the more formidable Democrats to ever pursue the post. And this amount very likely defers a good amount of campaign expenses relegating her real total to less than spun.

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So the Arizona Republican Party censured John McCain this past weekend. If they were hoping this would dissuade the senior senator from re-electing it may have had the opposite effect. After all, a man who withstood the Vietcong probably chuckles at the potbellies of rightward lunacy. They remind us that just because one can do something, doesn’t mean it is wise to do so. One Ted Cruz is just enough.McCain, John-012309-18421- 0004

Still, the Censurists do speak to the long-time detachment and disregard many Republicans have for John McCain. He is at once so damn impressive yet also such a petulant ass. The kind of guy that is both a great American symbol for resilience yet also one that would yell at the construction worker he hired for not building a monument to himself fast enough.

Evidence can be found in the numbers. Despite spending some $26 million in the 2010 Republican primary against J.D. Hayworth who raised a fraction of that amount McCain only won the Republican primary by a little more than 20 points. Fast forward to 2012 when Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon spent a relatively similar amount in that U.S. Senate primary but Flake won by 50 plus points.

And this gets us to a key point. The 2012 U.S. Senate race occurred at all because Jon Kyl decided three terms was enough; that others could carry on his good work, in their own way. And Arizona would be just fine. He left at the top of the Republican Senate world, like Bobby Jones atop the golf world some 80 plus years ago. He knew when it was time to leave. He knew there was more to life than title and ego.

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Billy Crystal watching Meg Ryan faking it was one of the most memorable movie scenes in recent memory.

It’s fair to say that’s how engaged Republican primary voters are feeling as they evaluate whether upstart Christine Jones is faking her espoused conservative bona fides or whether she really has the financial resources to become a player in the 2014 Arizona Governor’s race.  jones-governor

Fife Symington clearly had the personal dough to be competitive. He actually became an Arizona Governor. He wasn’t faking it. Buz Mills appeared to have the jack too, before pulling out of the 2010 Governor’s race because of the unique circumstances of SB1070.

Wil Cardon was soundly defeated for the U.S. Senate in 2012 but he too showed a real bank account. If Christine Jones doesn’t have the same depth she is an immediate also ran.

Judging from her very aggressive fundraising efforts we question how much there is really there. The 2013 financial reports due Friday should shed some light. But so too does a refresher course on Buz Mills’ effort.

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Tough on crime and tough on illegal immigration. That’s Andrew Thomas in a nutshell. What’s not to like? As a candidate for Governor, Thomas hopes to appeal to the most conservative voters in a split field and capture the GOP nomination. From there, he would look to ride the Republican voter registration advantage to a brand new office on the 9th Floor, from where he would wage war on corruption in the government and the judiciary. Light your torches!

But each news cycle’s coverage of settlements of lawsuits against Maricopa County related to Thomas’ conduct as County Attorney erodes confidence that Thomas is capable of winning a fight against corruption, not to mention an election.thomas_20100818180053_320_240

Thomas claims to have been hard on the trail of massive corruption within Maricopa County and for the sake of this post we are going to assume that he was sincere and correct. He indicted a lot of people for a lot of things. We can’t say they were guilty of anything though because they were not convicted. Seriously. Ever. Not any of them as near as we can tell. And we’ve really searched the news clippings hard. Was it because Thomas quit as County Attorney in the middle of these prosecutions to run for Attorney General? Or was it because the indictments and investigations were a really bad idea? Or were they simply really badly executed?

Based just on the number and size of the checks Maricopa County is writing to settle lawsuits filed by the “victims” of these acts, we’re going to concede it might be any or all of the above.

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We all remember the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher, that muffled, mumbling sound no one could much listen to for longer.

That’s the way just about every Republican candidate sounds these days. Ronald Reagan was great. I am a conservative not a moderate. I can recite my poll tested talking points with the best of them, hopefully with more money.

Is this what modern candidates and political consultancy has come to?kemp

As Arizona holds its State GOP Convention this Saturday in Tempe we should ask ourselves is it time for a change?

For nearly thirty years Republicans have been wedded to this model. It’s boring and increasingly ineffectual.

Interestingly, there have been detours. And they have been successful.

George W. Bush developed his own “compassionate conservative” vernacular and won an election he was not expected to in 2000.

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Some politicians just want it too badly. They are just too obvious. Everyone who sees what they are doing knows what they are doing. Yet these same politicians seem to have no idea that they aren’t fooling anyone.

Exhibit A for today is Arizona Secretary of State wannabe Michele Reagan.

For years she has wanted to be elected to statewide office, especially Secretary of State. Facing a daunting primary challenge just to retain her State Senate seat, Reagan decided that 2014 was the perfect time to run for it. The only problem is that after more than a decade in the legislature, she really didn’t have much of a record to run on as related to the SOS office, and what record she was known for was left of center on a host of issues.

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In fact, the Republican Primary for Attorney General may be the ugliest race of any election year in Arizona history. And we are basing that solely on how ugly it already is here in 2013. Familiar faces, familiar tactics, hypocrisy by the boatload, and two candidates who are likely to get lost in all of the mud. Oh yes, and a Democrat nominee hoping all of this comes to pass.

The offending group is the ironically named Arizona Public Integrity Alliance. Don’t bother trying to find out who is paying for their work because their donors are secret. Their Vice President and spokesperson is Tyler Montague who, when we last saw him, was working with liberal bomb-thrower and racial demagogue Randy Parraz to recall conservative Republican Russell Pearce and replace him with Jerry Lewis.

Their target is Republican Attorney General Tom Horne. Their tactic is smear. They want you to know that Tom Horne has been accused of having an affair, was accused of giving jobs to “cronies”, was investigated by the FBI, and took campaign contributions from law firms who do business with the AG’s office.

They are spending a lot of money on ads and mailers designed to soften up Horne before the Republican primary and, to avoid campaign finance laws, they are disguising their attacks as issue ads in support of a newfound agenda to pass two reforms to the AG’s office. One of their early ads has already had to be pulled and redone because it was proven factually inaccurate.

What isn’t clear is if they simply hate Horne, they want to elect his Republican challenger Mark Brnovich, or they want to elect the Democrat candidate Felicia Rotellini. Because AZPIA’s donors are secret, we can’t know where their money is coming from. But Montague’s history of working with Democrats to elect more liberal candidates is well established, and the AZPIA’s attacks are basically rehashes of the Democrat Party’s talking points about Horne.

Republicans across Arizona are rightfully worried about Horne losing the general election to Rotellini in 2014. But they are ignoring that Horne has a largely solid record as AG and that Arizona remains a solidly red state. Rotellini and her allies outspent Horne and his allies in 2010 and he won anyway. It is quite probable that a united Republican Party would be able to defend Horne’s office in 2014. But smear campaigns fronted by Republicans and funded by dark money a year before the election promises to muddy both Republican candidates to the point where neither can recover. Then Arizonans will get to see what Chicago style politics really look like with Rotellini in charge.

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