For the last eleven years, I have been honored to represent the people of Arizona in the United States Senate. I have worked hard, and that hard work has made a difference.
Yet, these are serious times. And in serious times, experience counts.
I want to continue to put my experience to work for Arizona, and I am now in a position, along with my colleague and friend, John McCain, to do even more for our state and country.
So today, I announce my candidacy for re-election as your U.S. Senator from our great state of Arizona.
Campaigns are like other things in life that bring out what is most important to us – namely faith, family, and friends. I would like to begin by introducing some of the people who mean so much to me, the members of my immediate family.
A senator must listen to constituents, and I’ve found that meeting folks throughout the state is a rewarding, sometimes even humbling experience.
In my first year in the Senate in 1995, we took a swing through southern Arizona.
The first stop was the Horseshoe Café in Benson for a meeting with community leaders.
I went in and asked the café cashier about the Jon Kyl breakfast meeting. She replied: “Oh, it’s upstairs, but he’s not here yet.”
I recalled the verse from Proverbs: “With humility comes wisdom.”
Because of the way I was brought up, I still find it difficult to talk about myself and my accomplishments. But if voters are to rehire me, they deserve to know what I have done, what I’ve tried to accomplish, and what I want to do.
I believe in principle, and like many Arizonans I am a common-sense conservative.
In the Senate, you have to work with others – and I do.
I have earned a reputation as a Senator who works in an inclusive manner to bring people together – regardless of their party or ideology – to accomplish serious and meaningful things that help people and are good for our country.
Some of these I will outline for you today.
Because I represent all Arizonans, I listen to all sides. And I won’t seek voter support by pitting one group against another, as some other candidates do.
In America, we want everyone to be successful.
I believe I have at least three major qualities that make for a successful public servant.
First, no one has ever doubted my work ethic. It came from my parents, and it’s who I am.
Hard work has enabled me to help Arizonans from all walks of life and also to earn the respect to be in a position to influence others. And the results have been good for Arizona.
As a member of a House-Senate conference committee at the end of 2003, for example, I was one of a few people who worked very late every night for weeks to write legislation to reform Medicare – and to provide a new prescription-drug benefit to seniors, including more than 600,000 who live in Arizona.
To combat illegal immigration, I have worked from my first years in the Senate – when it was hard to get people to listen – to secure our borders.
• Legislation I introduced and got passed more than doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and increased the number of Customs Service personnel fighting illegal immigration.
• I secured $180 million over four years to ensure that Arizona hospitals continue to provide quality health care to Arizonans, despite the burden imposed by illegal immigration.
• After years of hard work, I won a historic water compromise for Arizona that resolved the water rights claims of Indians and non-Indian groups and reduced our CAP repayment obligation.
• To protect Arizona’s environmental treasures, I worked to secure passage of such bills as the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act, the Walnut Canyon National Monument Expansion Act, and the Yuma East Wetlands Restoration Act.
• And I won authorization of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University to help restore the health of Arizona’s forests – one of my passions.
• Finally, I spent hundreds of hours out of the public spotlight over the years as a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, working to better protect Americans from those who threaten us – hard work out of the limelight, but critical to our nation’s security.
A second important and essential quality of good public service is honesty and integrity.
My parents taught me the importance of being forthright and doing the right thing regardless of the personal consequences. I try to follow Mark Twain’s advice: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
I will never forget attending a luncheon at the end of my freshman year at the University of Arizona where Senator Barry Goldwater spoke. “What is right is not always popular,” he said, “and what is popular is not always right.”
A few weeks ago, both John McCain and I had to cast votes that we believed were right, but not politically popular. We had to oppose our president and our party.
We opposed the massive energy bill that was stuffed with all sorts of pork, but does little to address the energy crisis facing this country, while imposing new costs on Arizona power consumers.
We voted against the final version of the transportation bill, with over 6,000 spending earmarks and many questionable expenditures, like the Alaska “bridge to nowhere.” A key senator bragged that he had stuffed the bill like a turkey. He was right. The bill cost too much and also was grossly unfair to Arizona.
A third quality I offer Arizona voters is experienced leadership, both in domestic and foreign policy.
With the serious challenges our country faces – especially in the war on terror – experience counts and leadership is essential.
I have been elected by my peers to chair the Senate Republican Policy Committee, making me one of six members of the elected Senate leadership.
As a result, I’ve played a key role on important issues such as the confirmation of judges – judges, I might add, who will not apply their personal agenda in striking “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, or use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution, or allow the condemnation of private property for other than public use.
My leadership role enabled me to win a federal exemption in this year’s energy bill so Arizona is not required to use expensive blended gasoline in the summer.
This saved a considerable amount of motorists’ money at the gas pumps, as well as ensuring cleaner air for all Arizonans.
I am committed to our veterans and to providing them quality health care.
John McCain and I worked together to win passage of legislation providing a more fair allocation of veterans’ funding in Arizona, resulting in our receiving the largest increase of any in America and providing more services for deserving veterans in Arizona.
I led the effort to defeat the dangerous Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and was a leader in establishing a missile defense for the United States – neither of which were popular positions when I started, but both of which commanded a majority position in the end.
Particularly rewarding for me was winning passage of federal legislation to keep open the Thomas Pappas School for homeless children in Maricopa County, the site of my re-election campaign announcement in Phoenix. I commend the Pappas School for taking in about 20 children who had to flee the Gulf Coast recently because of Hurricane Katrina.
Part of leadership is also working with others, including Democrats across the aisle. For a decade, I worked with Senator Diane Feinstein of California on behalf of victims’ rights. Together, we won passage of our Justice for All Act – signed into law by the President last fall – the most comprehensive federal legislation ever passed to protect the rights of crime victims.
I also want to say something about my future goals.
Based on my travels around the state, and communications from constituents, it’s clear to me that Arizonans have several key priorities. Illegal immigration is at the top of the list.
Recently, with Senator John Cornyn of Texas, I introduced a bill to restore order to our immigration system through tough, yet sensible measures to enforce the law at our borders, as well as in the interior and workplace.
I remain committed to fighting and winning the War on Terror, re-authorizing the Patriot Act, and addressing our shortfalls in intelligence capabilities.
I want to ensure that the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit is implemented on time for the benefit of our seniors and that all Americans have access to quality health care.
We now approach public education differently since passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. I’m committed to seeing that every child has an equal opportunity for academic achievement.
We need to address the serious energy problem with a multi-faceted strategy to move towards real energy independence for our country.
We are currently dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, trying to determine how best to rebuild, and how to pay for it without adding to the government deficit. I take that challenge very seriously.
I just received the top rating in the United States Senate from the nation’s No. 1 taxpayer watchdog organization, Citizens Against Government Waste, for my voting record against wasteful government spending. And that’s the place to start in offsetting the federal commitment to hurricane victims – not raising taxes as a Democrat Senate candidate promised to do.
Nothing would do more harm to the economy, families, and job creation than raising taxes. We need to make tax relief permanent, not eliminate it – and that includes permanent relief from the unfair death tax.
As I said, in serious times, experience counts. I want to continue to put my experience to work for you. That’s why I am running for re-election. My commitment is to work as hard as I can, in a straightforward and inclusive way to represent you well.
I would like to end as I began, by thanking you for coming today and for extending your friendship and support to me and my family. I see many familiar faces in this inspiring crowd, including many individuals who have urged me to run again. As I look out at all of you, I cannot help but think of a line by the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.”