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Southwest showdown: Republican vs Republican

by Robbie Sherwood Saturday, Dec. 13, 2003 at 2:06 AM (602) 444-8499

Grant Woods says that "mainstream" Arizonans support increased spending for key issues like education, health care and Child Protective Services -- that's why he's fight the Washington, D.C.-based "Club for Growth" who will spend million in Arizona to oust moderate Republicans in the 2004 elections.

2 Republicans launch group to fight conservative efforts

Robbie Sherwood, The Arizona Republic, December 11, 2003

Two of Arizona's more prominent moderate Republicans have teamed up to counteract political organizations targeting lawmakers who don't toe the conservative line in the 2004 elections.

Former Attorney General Grant Woods and Board of Regents member Jack Jewett said conservative lawmakers and national interest groups like the Club for Growth are "out of touch" with most Arizonans. So on Wednesday they launched a political non-profit advocacy organization of their own called Mainstream Arizona.

Woods said he was driven to act when the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth announced in September it would open an Arizona office and spend million in the 2004 legislative elections to oust Republicans who don't take a hard line on spending and taxes.

"Most people in Arizona understand that if you took the lawmakers out of the Legislature who are more mainstream in their thinking and inserted in their place people from the far right, that this state would be even more screwed up than it already is," Woods said. "The fact that we're here on this day when legislators, at least in the House, have still not been able to stand up and protect children illustrates the point."

Woods said that "mainstream" Arizonans support increased spending for key issues like education, health care and Child Protective Services, now a subject of an eight-week special session.

Jewett said the organization, which has raised ,000 already, would step in to defend incumbent moderate Republicans and Democrats against any groups using intimidation and misleading ads to sway voters.

David Keating, executive director of Club for Growth, said the organization is far from out of touch with average Americans. Political non-profits have wide leeway to run strongly opinionated issue advertisements as long as they don't say to vote for or against a candidate.

"The key emphasis for us is essentially tax policy," Keating said. "People don't want to see higher taxes kill off new jobs and economic opportunity."

Sen. Slade Mead is considered a likely target of the Club for Growth because he and fellow moderate Republican Linda Binder of Lake Havasu successfully held out for more spending in the 2003 budget. When Mead, R-Ahwatukee, took on incumbent Lori Daniels in 2002, he came under attack from a political non-profit called Arizona at Its Best, and he expects more of the same in 2004.

"Just so long as they play by the rules, and it sounds like they will with a former attorney general in charge, I say more power to them," Mead said of Mainstream Arizona. "Arizona at Its Best trampled all over the rules. We couldn't even find out where they were registered."

Woods said all sources of donations to Mainstream Arizona would be divulged to the Internal Revenue Service, a practice he accused Club for Growth of not following. Keating said his organization does file monthly donor reports with the IRS.

"Are they going to take money from teachers unions and labor unions?" Keating asked of Mainstream Arizona. "Because those aren't very mainstream Republican organizations."

The club got off to a shaky start in Arizona, however, because of a social issue. The Arizona chapter's first chairman, former Rep. Steve May, was ousted after less than a week when socially conservative groups complained because May is gay.
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