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Symington wins in GOP romp


Comeback governor vows to try to kill taxes

Arizona’s jubilant comeback governor, Fife Symington, in his victory speech this morning, again pledged to try to eliminate state income taxes during his second term.

He will also work to reduce the government’s regulatory burden on business, he added, and to get tough on crime.

“We have to stop turning to government at every single juncture when there is a problem,’ the governor said.

Aided by the Republican landslide that swept the nation, Symington capped a remarkable political comeback and declared victory over Democratic gubernatorial rival Eddie Basha early today.

Symington’s remarks came at 12:10 a.m., just minutes after Basha conceded.

With all but 1 percent of the state’s votes counted, Symington had 52 percent to Basha’s 44 percent and Libertarian John Buttrick’s 3 percent.

While Symington’s supporters were chanting “four more years’ and “I like Fife’ during a boisterous celebration in downtown Phoenix, Basha backers mourned their nominee’s loss during a solemn Democratic Party gathering in Chandler.

Just a month ago, public opinion polls showed Basha leading the race by 15 to 20 percentage points. But Symington led in the only poll that matters, yesterday’s general election, from start to finish.

“It was possible because we have the best team,’ the governor said.

Symington called the results of yesterday’s election a “miracle’ and a “revolution.’ He said the election shows people “want their country back and they want their taxes lowered. Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan started all this and God bless them.’

Basha was gracious in defeat, offering in a telephone call to the governor to help Symington make Arizona a better place for families and children.

“I understand his passion for education, and we will make our education system the finest in the country for our children,’ said Symington.

The two were not always so conciliatory.

Symington said the turning point in the campaign occurred during a League of Women Voters debate about three weeks ago.

When Basha said the public school system “can be the surrogate family to help children and parents,’ Symington used the statement to paint Basha as a misguided liberal who supports big government.

“Eddie Basha thinks the state can take the place of the family,’ he said. “We will fail as a society if that is our destiny.’

Basha, too, thinks the “surrogate family’ statement hurt him, as did his statement that he supported same-sex marriages as a civil rights issue.

“I’d rather lose this race holding on to my convictions and beliefs, rather than be a hypocrite and sacrifice them,’ Basha said.

Political analysts said it was Basha’s race to lose, which he managed to do by avoiding the use of negative campaign ads until the campaign’s final days.

“While it’s nice to take the high road, Eddie had an obligation to tell people why Fife was not a good governor,’ said Bruce Merrill, a pollster at Arizona State University. “He kept saying what he would do as governor, but he never attacked Fife Symington. When you run against an incumbent you have to attack.’

“I just didn’t want to run that kind of campaign,’ said Basha. “I wanted to run on the issues, but maybe issues don’t win a campaign.’

From the campaign’s outset, Symington put Basha on the defensive, successfully painting him as a tax-and-spend, Clinton-style liberal, an image from which Basha never recovered, said John Garcia, a University of Arizona political science professor.

However, Armando Ruiz, a former Democratic state lawmaker who backed Symington, said Democrats need to reassess their positions on issues.

“Democrats are taking a beating in Arizona and throughout the country because people think the party is out of touch,’ Ruiz said. “I know many Hispanics feel the party has gone too liberal.’

Symington said his victory was achieved by attacking Basha strongholds, such as rural areas, minority districts, Pima County and Maricopa County’s East Valley.

“We went right at his bases,’ said Symington. “I think we have run one of the best campaigns in the history of this state.’

PHOTO ONE: RICK WILEY/Tucson Citizen/Gov. Fife Symington, with his wife, Ann, acknowledges supporters last night at a Phoenix rally.

PHOTO TWO: RICK WILEY/Tucson Citizen/Eddie Basha and his wife, Nadine, talk with reporters last night at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

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