Gizzi On Politics: December 15

Fresh From Brewer

The pending departure of Arizona Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to become secretary of Homeland Security will provide a Christmas bonus for conservatives in the Grand Canyon State.

That’s according to someone who should know — State Republican Chairman Randy Pullen, a stalwart conservative who won the party helm over an opponent favored by Sen. John McCain and is best known nationally for sponsoring a resolution at the Republican National Committee calling for tougher border security.

Pullen, who was in Washington last week, talked to me about how Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer will succeed Napolitano in the governorship (Arizona has no lieutenant governor) when the two-term Democratic incumbent leaves for the Cabinet.

“And Jan is a solid conservative,” said Pullen, recalling how the governor-to-be compiled a strong record on opposing spending while a Maricopa County supervisor and then as a state legislator. “She’s always been a fiscal conservative and she’s pro-life,” he said.

Pullen expects that Brewer will be nominated for a full term in 2010 without difficulty. But he expects the Democrats to have a fight for their nod. Their leading candidate for governor is State Atty. Gen. Paul Goddard, former mayor of Phoenix and son of former Gov. (1964-66) Sam Goddard. However, he is expected to face a primary challenge from former State Democratic Chairman Jim Pederson. Two years ago, multi-millionaire developer Pederson spent nearly $10.9 million of his own money on a race against Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and drew 43 percent of the vote.

From the Islands

Every election year, there is some interest in the races for non-voting delegates from the American territories (see “Politics,” October 27.) Along with the District of Columbia, non-voting delegates are elected to the House of Representatives from American Samoa. Guam, Puerto Rico the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although they don’t vote on the House floor, all have votes that count as much as those of the other House members in the party conferences and in House committees.

In each case, a liberal Democrat was elected last month. In American Samoa, conservative Republican Amata Radewagen had nearly unseated leftist Democratic incumbent Eni Faleomavaega in ’06. This time, unions pumped big money into the race, and Faleomavaega, a member of the far-left Progressive Caucus in the House, handily won the rematch with Radewagen.

The Northern Mariana Islands were electing a non-voting delegate for the first time. Republicans had high hopes for Pedro “Pete” Tenorio, who had served as the elected resident representative to the United States since 2002, But the 67-year-old Tenorio lost by 357 votes to Gregorio Sablan, executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission and onetime staffer for Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D.-Hawaii). The 53-year-old Sablan was elected as an independent, but told reporters he will caucus with the Democrats.
The only good news for Republicans from the territories was the election of
Luis G. Fortuno as the third-ever Republican governor of Puerto Rico. Fortuno, who had been resident commissioner (non-voting delegate) for the commonwealth, won in a landslide over embattled Gov. Anibal Acevedo. The latest in a series of Puerto Rican politicians to be caught up in a corruption scandal, Acevedo will stand trial early next year on charges of using campaign funds to pay personal expenses such as clothing.

The 48-year-old Fortuno is chairman of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, which is affiliated with the Republican Party on the mainland. He has been a delegate to Republican national conventions and, in the recent campaign, promised a hiring freeze that would lead to a 3-to-5 percent spending cut and save $1.5 billion by 2012. He has frequently been likened to Barack Obama because of his charisma and calls for change. (His slogan is Cambio, Spanish for “Change.”)