Melvin says he intends to join race for Ariz. governor - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Melvin says he intends to join race for Ariz. governor

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Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013 8:51 pm | Updated: 9:16 pm, Mon Apr 22, 2013.

Three term state Sen. Al Melvin announced Monday he intends to run for governor this coming year.

The Republican whose district extends all the way from Oro Valley in Pima County through part of Casa Grande into the Pinal County community of Maricopa said his campaign will focus largely on two issues: school vouchers and limits on jury verdicts. He said they will improve education and improve the business climate.

Only thing is, both provisions run directly afoul of the Arizona Constitution.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that vouchers are specifically forbidden. The justices wrote that if lawmakers want such a program they first have to get voter approval.

Proponents have not even tried.

There have, however, been three separate statewide votes to repeal or alter other constitutional provisions which now prohibit lawmakers from putting a cap on what can be awarded in civil lawsuits. All three were rejected.

Melvin conceded the constitutional bar.

"Politics is education,'' he said, saying he plans to explain to voters the need for both changes -- even as he makes what he acknowledged is a bit of a dark-horse bid for the state's highest office.

The senator said he will address his lack of name identification and funding for a statewide race by running with public dollars.

Melvin, who lives in the community of Saddlebook just north of the Pinal-Pima county line, said he is relying on a core base of supporters to each donate $5. If he gets the necessary 4,500 donations he qualifies for a check for $753,616 from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission for the GOP primary, putting him in a position to wage a credible race in what is becoming an increasingly crowded 2014 Republican primary.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett already has an exploratory committee, as does former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. Others looking at the race include state Treasurer Doug Ducey and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.

And that does not even consider the possibility that incumbent Jan Brewer will also be a factor.

She has not made an announcement. But Brewer got an attorney to prepare a legal memo which says she is entitled to seek another full four-year term of her own, despite a constitutional limit of two terms, based on the premise that her first two years, in 2009 and 2010, simply filled out the term of her predecessor, Janet Napolitano.

The senator said he will run even if Brewer is in the race, using the opportunity to criticize her plan to expand the state's Medicaid program as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Officially, Melvin is only "exploring'' a gubernatorial bid, as elected officials cannot formally announce for another office before the last year of their term. But Melvin made it clear on Monday he will make the campaign official in January.

Melvin's education plan is built around giving every parent a voucher for $9,000 -- close to what the state now provides to public schools -- which could be used to pay tuition at any public, private or parochial school. He said that gives parents maximum choice in what is best for their youngsters.

The jury verdict proposal mirrors a Texas law which caps non-economic damages for things like loss of a loved one and pain and suffering at $250,000.

"When Texas did that, lawyers started leaving the state, doctors started arriving and business flourished,'' he said.

Melvin, 68, is no stranger to controversial issues.

He supports more nuclear power and has pushed to make Arizona the national repository for nuclear waste processing and burial. Melvin also pushed through a measure last year to have Arizona demand title to federal lands, only to have it vetoed by Brewer who said the state can barely manage its own property.

"With all due respect, it's not true,'' Melvin said Monday of Brewer's assessment. "I know we can manage these forests far better than the feds can.''

But his issues do not fall into a single political category.

He has sponsored bills to ban driving while texting and to prohibit adults from smoking in vehicles if there are underage passengers. Both measures were beaten back, largely by Republican colleagues.

Melvin retired as a captain from the Navy Reserve and also served in the Merchant Marine.

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