(Mike Chamberlain) – Swept into office during the Republicans’ takeover of the House in 1994 and swept out when the Democrats’ reclaimed that body in 2006, J.D. Hayworth’s electoral fortunes have tracked closely with those of the Republican party. With the tide of this election cycle seeming to have turned both against incumbents and in favor of conservatives, the man who calls himself “the consistent conservative” has set his sights not on a Democrat but on the Arizona Senate seat of former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.
During a Q&A session with journalists and bloggers moderated by the Nevada News Bureau, Hayworth claimed that, after having McCain represent them at the federal level for 28 years, Arizonans were suffering from “McCain fatigue.” But it was more than just fatigue with a long-term Senator that led him to believe McCain was an attractive target.
Hayworth referenced a Rasmussen survey taken last year that reported “61% of Arizona Republicans think McCain has lost touch with those in his own party.” He also declared that his campaign’s internal polling revealed that “over a third of McCain voters say they’re going to vote for the more conservative candidate.”
This primary battle has been undeniably fought on the right, with McCain accusing Hayworth of insufficient spending restraint during his House tenure and Hayworth countering that McCain has “now out-flip-flopped John Kerry.”
McCain was a main sponsor of the immigration reform bill that failed to pass the Senate in 2005 and that was largely opposed by the conservative base. In the wake of the murder of Arizona rancher Rob Krentz, according to Hayworth, McCain “was for the fence, the virtual fence and the guard at the border…if he’d just come out against guest worker he’d be 4 for 4.”
The McCain camp has attempted to exploit Hayworth’s support for such things as the Medicare prescription drug plan and use of earmarks to paint him as not a true fiscal conservative. Hayworth responded to this criticism by pointing to the projected cost of the immigration bill and McCain’s vote in favor of the $800+ billion TARP. His opponent’s effort to portray him as a big spender, Hayworth declared, “hasn’t worked, largely because my lifetime score for Citizens Against Government Waste is higher than his.” Hayworth’s CAGW score is actually just one point higher than McCain’s, 89-88.
Hayworth has been no stranger to controversy. He admitted that during his failed re-election campaign in 2006, he “came off as angry” in responding to his opposition. He recently claimed in a radio interview that a consequence of the way in which the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court allowing gay marriage was written is that “if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse.”
Hayworth admitted that the statement was “stupid, from the standpoint that it opens me to all sorts of ridicule and it screws up the message I’m trying to give.” While declaring that “it doesn’t mean that I believe the federal government should be peering into the bedrooms of consenting adults…and I don’t believe in micromanaging people’s lives,” he expressed his support for defining marriage exclusively as being between one man and one woman and for a Constitutional amendment cementing that definition.
His stance on immigration has also engendered much criticism from members of both parties. He was considered one of the staunchest opponents of the failed immigration reform and some conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal editorial board, attributed his defeat to his immigration views.
He disagreed with the contention that opposition to immigration reform was an electoral loser, saying “I think that’s about to be disproven in Arizona.”
Hayworth criticized conservatives “who are all happy with me cutting taxes but apparently even that is not enough. Now they want to pay substandard wages and they mistakenly believe that their embrace of open borders and a guest worker program will give them cheap labor ad infinitum… A lot of the money guys, and a lot of official Washington – Dick Harvey, Grover Norquist – they’re all into the open borders hooey. They’re perfectly content to whistle past the graveyard in the post-9/11 world. I think that’s incredibly dangerous, incredibly short-sighted.”
What to do with those already in the country illegally, some of whom have been for many years? By enforcing current laws, Hayworth stated, “They find it in their interest to self-deport, not to face criminal charges.” The issue of family members would be left to “judicial discretion.”
When asked about any regrets during his House tenure, the former talk radio host lamented the extent of the broadcast de-regulation bill, which has led to what he termed “the rise of MBA radio.” He added, as an example, “The cross-ownership of both television and newspapers by Gannett in Phoenix, I find troublesome.”
Other regrets included not being “prepared for the shrillness of what I still think were coordinated attacks between the, among the, alphabet networks and the Democrat minority” and “the culture of appropriations” that infected the GOP majority.
Hayworth has appeared on national radio talk shows, local talk radio in Las Vegas and made an appearance at an event in Las Vegas Friday night after the Q&A. He reported receiving donations from Nevada and other states across the country in his race against McCain, whom many conservatives grudgingly supported in his Presidential run. “The race has been nationalized and I don’t think it’s by my design but I’m sure happy to take advantage of it,” Hayworth said.
(Mr. Chamberlain writes the Cranky Hermit blog out of Las Vegas)