The Mesa businessman who founded SkyMall created a brand that’s known to countless millions, even as Bob Worsley remained an obscure figure in his community.
He has to turn that around rapidly now that he’s ventured into the political realm to take on one of the most prominent Arizona politicians, Russell Pearce.
Worsley concedes he’s not known much outside of his friends and the congregation at his Mormon church. He said he’ll build his name ID and political support with a grassroots campaign in a Republican primary to prevent the former Senate president from returning to the Legislature after Pearce’s November 2011 recall.
Worsley said he was approached by civic leaders to run for the Senate. He wouldn’t disclose who urged him to run, but he said they thought Pearce was too divisive and overly focused on immigration.
Worsley is running in District 25, which covers most of east Mesa.
“We just feel like this new district needs new blood, new vision,” he said. “Having Mr. Pearce come and run is going to be stepping back to what we were fighting about and quarreling over the last couple of years. A lot of folks just don’t want to get back on the one, single note of immigration and want to focus on jobs and the economy.”
He wants to focus on issues, including the economy, making Arizona more business-friendly and ensuring parental choice in education.
Worsley said some of the people who urged him to run also supported Jerry Lewis, the Mesa charter school executive who defeated Pearce. Worsley said he liked that Pearce’s illegal immigration law known as SB 1070 sent a message that Arizona is fed up with the federal government’s “hapless” approach to border security. He said he’s hopeful former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will become president and push through federal immigration reform so states aren’t playing as much as a role in the issue.
“I think passing more and more laws trying to legislate federal issues is a misappropriation of our effort,” he said.
Worsley estimates about one-third of District 25 was represented by Pearce until redistricting changed the boundaries for this fall’s elections. The rest was represented by Rich Crandall, a Republican who initially decided not to seek re-election. Crandall has since announced he’ll move to another district and run this fall.
Worsley said he’ll tout his experience in the business world. He founded the in-flight travel catalogue in 1989 and sold it in 2001 to NewsCorp. He is chairman of a company that runs a biomass energy plant near Snowflake, and he has land and mineral holdings.
He estimates he’s created more than 1,000 jobs through his ventures.
The candidate said he won’t use his personal wealth to bankroll his campaign. He said he will focus on grassroots fundraising as a way to build support for the campaign. He estimated many legislative races cost about $150,000, but envisions this campaign will cost significantly more because of the attention — and funds — that Pearce will bring.
Worsley, 56, and wife Christi have six children and 16 grandchildren. He has an accounting degree from Brigham Young University and has been a certified public accountant at Price Waterhouse.
While Worsley isn’t as conservative as Pearce on immigration, he said he expects to appeal to the GOP’s conservative base because of his views on social issues. He helped fund the Arizona campaign to ban same-sex marriage. He’s also a supporter of United Families International, which opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and promotes chastity until marriage.
“I would say that if you look at all the things that I’ve help fund or direct as a board member, you can’t get any more socially conservative than I am,” he said.