State Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, has been working hard this summer to win voter support for re-election to a second term in the Legislature. He has to hope he’s done enough, because he’s about to end his personal campaigning early to go serve his country in wartorn Iraq.
Paton is known at the state Capitol as the young-looking, well-dressed freshman lawmaker who somehow manages to call 10 constituents a day, every day, just to hear their questions and concerns about state issues.
But along with his legislative office and political consulting firm, the 35-year-old Paton is a first lieutenant and intelligence officer is in the Army Reserve. He underwent six months of specialized training at Fort Benning, Ga., last summer. At that time, Paton overheard someone claim he would never join his peers on a dangerous assignment because he’s “an elected official.”
Offended that anyone would think he wanted special treatment, Paton volunteered for a six-month tour in Iraq to help Army units select the safest traveling routes for supply convoys and other motor traffic.
“This is something I can actually do to defend what I believe in,” Paton told Time magazine. “There’s the whole argument about weapons of mass destruction, but I really just felt that what Saddam Hussein was doing was wrong, and we needed to finish the job that we had started years before.”
Paton didn’t count on the Army calling him up just before the Sept. 12 primary, in which another incumbent and two other Republicans are competing for nominations to two House seats from District 30. The two winners are likely to win the general election, as the district tilts heavily Republican.
Despite his role as an incumbent, Paton is known to be nervous about what might happen while he’s out of the country and forbidden by Army rules to conduct any campaign activity. Paton lost two prior bids for office before he finally was elected in 2004, and he clearly loves his job as a lawmaker.
Family and some powerful friends are stepping up to keep the campaign going in his absence, including Senate Republican floor leader Tim Bee, R-Tucson.
And if Paton loses?
“Serving the state has been my dream but serving my country is my duty,” Paton wrote in a letter to voters posted on his campaign Web site.
We say he should have few regrets for any sacrifices to his political career as he has followed a more noble cause.