My wish for a new year? Plenty, mostly good health and happiness for my family and yours.
But politically speaking, Arizona-wise, my wish is for Mesa Mayor Scott Smith to get off the fence and declare himself a candidate for governor.
In part, I wish this because when I look at the Republican field right now, I only see the “far right” and the “really far right.”
From birther Bennett, our current secretary of state, to the ice cream mogul, Treasurer (and former Cold Stone Creamery big wig) Doug Doucey, to — seriously, this guy? — disgraced, disbarred, and attempting to be politically disinterred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the Republican pickings are slim.
These guys are Jan Brewer without the heart. Gulp.
The chances of a Democrat becoming our next governor are, as usual, pretty slim. In fact, the only candidate to date is someone well known in Democratic circles but practically anonymous to the rest of the state. A guy named Fred Duval, who’s been just about everything a Democrat can be, except, of course, elected to anything. That’s right, Duval’s first run at office is for governor.
Now, Duval’s about a Clinton Democrat — middle of the road, business-friendly, a guy with a lot of experience in a lot of both private and public areas — in other words, the kind of person who could be a decent governor.
Except, of course, he’s a Democrat. Which means the chances of him winning are not the best, to put it mildly.
So with those two thoughts in mind — a bunch of right wingers running in the Republican primary and a Democrat first-timer — Smith’s candidacy is even more important.
He’s played coy over the last few months, never committing to anything other than to be the mayor. But enough’s enough.
The guy has created an effective brand: pragmatic, can-do, problem solver, non-partisany.
And unlike so many Arizona Republican politicians, unwedded to the tea party. Smith comes off, anyway, as someone who’s not the ideologue we see so often in our state house or governor’s office.
At the very least, he’s been the catalyst in reversing Mesa’s deteriorating image, a city that once ruled the East Valley but for awhile’s been thought of as yesterday’s news.
Now, though, with the extension of the light rail, the multiple private universities in town, the Goldwater Library building downtown, the Apple-related company building out near Eastmark, and with — hopefully — the accompanying development of the downtown and Fiesta areas, Mesa once again seems to be a city on the move.
I have my doubts about the efficacy of the private universities in Mesa — for the most part, they’re pretty expensive and have to compete with the behemoth to their west, Arizona State University. But it’s clear Arizona needs more higher education options, and these schools provide a start at that.
Of course, Smith hasn’t been the only one who’s brought these changes to Mesa. But he is a part of that, and deserves credit for it.
He seems to be the right guy for the right time. Arizona’s slowly coming back from the Great Recession, the tea party’s influence might be on the wane, and Arizonans are sick of the Legislature’s tired shenanigans.
We want folks in office who’ll solve our state’s many problems. Imagine a Gov. Scott Smith during the current Child Protective Services disaster. Anyone think Gov. Smith wouldn’t have fired DES director Clarence Carter right now and possibly called a special session to get more money for that agency immediately?
My wish is for a Duval-Smith competition for governor. Two thoughtful men debating in a thoughtful manner the direction for Arizona, free from the tired clichés extremists on both sides cling to.
That would be a New Year’s wish fulfilled for all of us.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.