Will The Next Arizona Senator Be The Anti-McCain?

One of the biggest disappointments of 2010 was unquestionably John McCain's defeat of J.D. Hayworth in the GOP Senate primary in Arizona. After the passage of SB 1070, Arizona has become synonymous with immigration enforcement.

But having one of the most pro-amnesty Republicans re-elected as the state's senior Senator has seriously negative implications. The fact that McCain campaigned in a spectacularly unprincipled way, supporting SB 1070, border security, and even hinting at abolishing birthright citizenship, will soon be dispatched down the Memory Hole, courtesy of the MSM. McCain has already met with President Obama to discuss "immigration. " [I. E. Amnesty][President Obama meets with John McCain at White House , Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli]

So we are stuck with McCain for another six years—but Arizona's junior Senator, minority whip Jon Kyl, is retiring. His seat will be up for grabs in 2012.

On immigration, Kyl has been relatively better than John McCain with a career B grade from NumbersUSA. However, he has been a fervent McCain supporter and voted for his amnesties in 2006 and 2007.

Democrats were routed across Arizona in 2010 in large part due to the popularity of SB 1070. Now the Democrats seem to be pinning their Senate hopes on the possibility that Gabrielle Giffords will recover and be able to win sympathy votes. But even if Giffords recovers and runs, unless the political climate changes dramatically, the race is the Republicans' to lose.

So how do the potential GOP candidates look on immigration?

Congressman Jeff Flake:

Thus far, the only candidate who has declared is Jeff Flake, 49. Without a doubt Flake has the most pro-mass immigration record. He has a career C rating from NumbersUSA, but he has an F- on amnesty, chain migration, and increasing legal immigration. Flake sponsored or voted for amnesty six times. He has often taken the lead being the primary sponsor with Luis Gutierrez(D-IL) of the STRIVE Act in 2007. (The Strive Act would have granted amnesty to virtually every single illegal alien in the country. Additionally, it would have created a massive new guest worker-program that would allow 400,000-600,000 additional foreign workers and unlimited spouses and dependents to sign up for a six year visa during which time they could apply for permanent residency.) Flake opposed Arizona's Proposition 200 and SB 1070, although he claimed to be against Obama's subsequent lawsuit (as did Giffords).

Flake already cognizant know that this record will be a huge liability in the Republican primary, as evidenced by the fact that he voted against the DREAM Act. But as of yet, he has not been willing to do a complete McCain-style 180 on the issue.

In February, the left-wing Mother Jones magazine positively profiled Flake as a "moderate" on immigration. Flake reportedly claimed:

 "I've always felt that, like I said, nearly half of those who are here illegally didn't sneak across the border. They came legally and have overstayed. So border security is the number one item, but you've got to do other things as well."

Of course those "other things" should be employment verification and interior enforcement. But Mother Jones reported,

"When pressed to clarify whether such measures would include a pathway for legalization, Flake agreed that 'some mechanism' was necessary. 'We've dealt with it before with a provision that required [undocumented immigrants] to go home and register,' Flake said, appearing to refer to a provision in the STRIVE Act that would give qualified undocumented workers a six-year work visa—but also required them to 'touch back' and return to their home countries before being able to become legal residents. The congressman emphasized, however, that 'nothing else is going to move' until Congress does more to strengthen border security." [Jeff Flake's immigration problem, by Suzy Khimm, February 16, 2011]

Flake already has the support of the Club for Growth and the AstroTurf lobbyist-run pseudo-Tea Party Group FreedomWorks. We can expect other Establishment DC conservatives lining up with him.

But with 88% of Arizona Republicans supporting SB 1070, Flake's immigration record will be a tough sell.

Congressman Trent Franks:

Although Trent Franks is probably best known for his social conservative views, he has amassed a solid immigration record with a career NumbersUSA A- grade.  Franks has As in every subject including Birthright Citizenship, Amnesty, Visa Lottery, and Chain Migration—except Foreign Workers, where he has an F-.

However, this last blemish is misleading. Franks voted for a seasonal worker program (I'm not in favor of this, but these people actually go home most of the time) and a few trade agreements that had guest workers provisions.

But what really killed Frank's score was s that he cosponsored J. D. Hayworth's Enforcement First Immigration Reform Act of 2005 ,along with most of the best immigration patriots in Congress at the time, such as Tom Tancredo, Virgil Goode, Steve King, and Walter Jones. Hayworth's bill cracked down on illegal immigration and abolished the Diversity Lottery, ended chain migration, and (most bravely) imposed a moratorium on Mexican immigration.

 These are without a doubt the sources of most of the problematic legal immigration. However Hayworth's bill shifted some of the family visas to work visas, so while it did raise family visas, it did not raise total legal immigration levels. [PDF] So while Franks has never taken any action to stop employer visas, he hasn't done anything particularly harmful.

Franks has shown some independence and leadership as well. He was the only member of the Arizona Congressional delegation (that's including J. D. Hayworth) to support Prop 200. After its passage, he toured the country with Tom Tancredo and Russell Pearce in support of cracking down on immigration. In 1996, he served as a consultant to Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign.

Former Congressman J. D. Hayworth: Whatever his flaws, J. D. Hayworth, 52, was one of the leaders in the fight against illegal immigration in Congress, and had the courage to take on the McCain Machine. I blame the Republican Party and conservative Establishment's failure to challenge McCain as the primary cause of Hayworth's 24-percentage point loss. But many people believe that he had his chance.

Of course, this time Hayworth won't be up against an entrenched incumbent with a $20+ million dollars war chest. But it will still be an uphill battle if he chooses to run.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Babeu,  41, is seen as a tough Sheriff in the Joe Arpaio mode. However, he lost a lot of credibility by stumping for John McCain against Hayworth. Franks supported McCain too, but, while it does not fully excuse him, he faced a lot of pressure to support the incumbent as a member of the same Congressional Delegation, and he did not do much more than give his endorsement. In contrast, Sheriffs are not always expected to get involved in politics—and Sheriff Arpaio campaigned for J. D. Hayworth. Babeu actively campaigned for McCain and appeared in the disgraceful "complete the danged fence" ad, saying "Senator, you're one of us."

No one has any doubt that Babeu chose to support the clear favorite in hopes of advancing his political future. But he misplayed his hand here. By siding with McCain, Babeu alienated the hard-core immigration patriots and Tea Partiers in Arizona—yet his duplicity will not help him with the McCain establishment, who will all likely support Flake. If Babeu does run for higher office, he is more likely to go for Flake's congressional seat.

State Commissioner Gary Pierce:

Pierce's name has been thrown around as a possible candidate. He does not have much of a record on immigration. While in the State Legislature Pierce, 58, voted for mandatory E-Verify. As commissioner, he called Los Angeles' bluff when the city boycotted Arizona and offered to cut off its power from Arizona energy plants. However, when energy commissioner candidate Barry Wong advocated an admittedly creative idea of cutting power off to illegal aliens, he opposed the plan.

President of the Arizona Senate, Russell Pearce

Russell Pearce should need no introduction to VDARE readers. He is without any doubt the most effective state legislator in the country fighting illegal immigration. He was the primary force behind Prop 200, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, and SB 1070. He keeps pushing the envelope and this year backed legislation to end birthright citizenship and challenge Plyler vs. Doe. Pearce has no problem bucking the Establishment—he was one of the few politicians in the state to support J. D. Hayworth over McCain. Pearce also campaigned for Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo.

 Pearce has strong name recognition and popularity across the state. But he does not have the financial and campaign infrastructure that Congressmen have. Under Arizona law, he would have to resign as State Senator if he chose to run for federal office. He is doing so much great work in the State Legislature that it might not be worth resigning for a risky campaign.

It is also possible that Pearce could run for Jeff Flake's congressional seat, in which case he will likely win. However, the question again becomes if he does more for the cause of patriotic immigration reform in the State Legislature or in Washington, DC?

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

The other hero to patriotic immigration reformers in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has gone back and forth on whether or not he will run. The self-proclaimed toughest Sheriff in America, he has been a steadfast opponent of illegal immigration. Using the 287(g) program, Maricopa County is responsible for one-quarter of all deportations since 2006. This speaks a great deal of Arpaio's effectiveness, as well as the failure of ICE under Obama and Bush. Arpaio has stood his ground against the Justice Department's lawsuits against him, and campaigned for J. D. Hayworth and Tom Tancredo.

Arpaio says he is considering a Senate Run, and he would have a number of advantages entering the race. He has almost universal name recognition in the state, 2-1 favorability in most polls, and millions of dollars in his campaign coffers. (He hasn't been deliberately raising money—Americans from all over the country just sent it to him spontaneously.)

Like Russell Pearce, Arpaio would have to resign as Sheriff to run for Senate. He loves what he does and is doing a great job of it, so this could seriously affect his decision. Additionally, Arpaio will be 80 years old in 2012.

Thus far, the only poll of Republican voters, on February 14, 2011, gave the options of Joe Arpaio, Jeff Flake, J. D. Hayworth, former Congressman John Shadegg, and Congressman Ben Quayle (the latter two subsequently said they would not run.) Arpaio led with 21%, followed by Jeff Flake with 16.8%, J. D. Hayworth with 16.6%, John Shadegg at 12%, Ben Quayle at 6%, and 27.5% undecided.

We could fairly group Hayworth and Arpaio as the hardcore restrictionists, Shadegg and Quayle as moderate restrictionists, and Flake as the only pro-amnesty candidate. This puts hardcore restrictionists with 37.6%, moderate restrictionists at 18%, amnesty supporters at 16.8% and 27.5% undecided. (And the situation may be even more skewered against Flake. In my travels to Arizona, most of the people I speak to have absolutely no clue that Flake supported amnesty. Assuming this can get exposed, his numbers could dwindle even further.)

The bottom line: patriotic immigration reformers have the Republican voters.

Absent an extremely weak candidate, or two or more good candidates splitting the vote, there's a great chance that the next Senator from Arizona to be the anti-McCain.

It can't happen a moment too soon.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.