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Munger hungers

Citizen Staff Writer

John Munger says he’s not – at this time anyway – running for governor.

OK, then. Maybe he really is doing nothing but working to develop a “long-range strategic plan” for the state of Arizona just to help us out.

But let me put it this way: If someone were positioning himself for a gubernatorial campaign next year, he’d probably do exactly what Munger is doing these days:

Laying the groundwork so, if the opportunity presents itself, he’s ready to jump.

Munger, a Tucson attorney, is former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. And last year, he appeared all set to run for what he thought would be the vacant Governor’s Office in 2010, when Democrat Janet Napolitano would have ended her eight-year run.

But since then, fate – and President Obama – have intervened. Obama plucked Napolitano to be his secretary of Homeland Security. That shoved woefully unprepared Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer into the Governor’s Office last month.

It’s not nice to challenge an incumbent of your own political party. So Brewer’s ascension appeared to put the kibosh on Munger’s plans for 2010.

Does Munger have gubernatorial dreams? “I’m not even considering it right now,” he said.

What about Brewer’s claim that she plans to run for election to the office in 2010? “Anyone in their right mind would say that to avoid being a lame duck,” Munger said.

Translation: If Brewer runs, Munger probably won’t. But she may not run and, if that’s the case, Munger will be ready. And he’s already building his platform: ImagineArizona.

ImagineArizona is a political action committee Munger started. He says its goal is “long-range strategic planning” – which sounds like the kind of planning one would need to do to become the first southern Arizonan to be governor since Raúl Castro resigned in 1977.

Munger has established a Web site (www.imagine arizona.com); is sending out e-mails; doing radio and newspaper interviews; and writing op-ed pieces on how to fix the state. (See Page 2B)

What’s most intriguing about Munger’s vision is that he actually has one. Compare that with Brewer, who ceded most decisions to the Legislature when it came time to close this year’s budget deficit. She said she’ll be more involved on next year’s budget. We’ll see.

Munger already is beginning to stake out moderate positions that separate him from conservative Brewer.

For example, Brewer and the Legislature cut spending on education. Munger talks about making Arizona schools the best in the nation and having universities that thrive instead of “being starved for sufficient funds.”

The recent state budget fix cut spending for health care, transportation and state parks. Munger talks of improved health care, an efficient transportation system and “protecting our natural resources for future generations.”

“What we’re trying to do is add new ideas on how to move Arizona forward,” he said.

Munger, a former president of the state Board of Regents, said he “feels very strongly about education” – prekindergarten through college.

Instead of cutting funds for education when there are budget problems, Munger wants the state to set its priorities and appropriate money accordingly.

“I’d like to see us in Arizona say that education is our top funding priority,” Munger said. “We’ve got to come up with more money for education.”

That would be a refreshing change.

Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6.

He may be reached at mkimble@tucsoncitizen.com or 573-4662.

‘What we’re trying to do is add new ideas on how to move Arizona forward.’

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