Even one of Gov. Janet Napolitano's harshest and most outspoken critics is praising President-elect Barack Obama's apparent choice to make her Homeland Security chief.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who has brawled with the Democratic governor over a host of illegal-immigration measures, called Napolitano the most "qualified" candidate for the job.
Word that Napolitano could be leaving for Washington D.C. drew cheers from other East Valley Republican lawmakers who were looking forward to working with a GOP governor.
Although Napolitano has not confirmed that Obama has offered her the job in his administration, news organizations across the country were reporting Thursday that she is in line for the post.
If Napolitano accepts an offer, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, would become governor. Brewer on Thursday would not comment on the possibility of taking over the state's top elected office.
Pearce and Napolitano have long been at odds on multiple issues, including cracking down on illegal immigration and state spending. But the longtime Mesa lawmaker said Napolitano's experience as a border governor helps make her a solid choice in a Democratic administration.
"I think she's a good person to have in that office," he said Thursday afternoon. "But I say that recognizing that this is a radically left-leaning administration."
Border security is among the top duties of the Homeland Security department. Napolitano has vetoed more than a dozen bills sponsored by Pearce aimed at getting tough on illegal immigration. However, she did sign the Pearce-backed employer sanctions law in 2007 that punishes business owners who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The measure is considered one of the toughest illegal-immigration laws in the country.
Incoming Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, also approved of Obama's potential choice of Napolitano to head up the agency.
"I think having a border governor in that position it a good thing for the county," he said. "But it doesn't change the fact that we're still dealing with a record budget deficit here."
Adams said he thinks having a Republican governor will increase the cooperation between the Legislature and the governor's office. In recent years, the two sides have been at odds, as Napolitano has vetoed more legislation than any governor in state history.