It wasn't that large of a press conference, and it was almost embarrassingly sparsely covered (as have been all of the CD-8 events for that matter). What took place, however was perhaps one of the most significant events in Arizona politics that has occurred for several years.
It is a pretty shallow secret that Jim Click rules Arizona GOP politics. He not only writes the checks, but he also controls the money. If he doesn't give to you, nobody else will either. If he cannot wrestle an endorsement for his chosen candidate, he can freeze the endorsement from going to the competition. His power is such that he sits on candidate committees even when they are using clean elections money (Len Munsil) and can bend the national party to the point of almost committing Hari-Kari in perhaps one of the most important districts in the 2006 congressional election, just to satisfy his whim.
What is unique here, is that for perhaps the first time, a group of candidates have aligned against the area GOP power structure and, more importantly, they are going to prevail.
Mr. Click's name was never mentioned during the press conference, most of the heat was reserved for Steve Huffman and the RNCC and deservedly so, as they are ultimately responsible for their own decisions, and each have made some very poor choices.
After the general statement that I already posted was read, each of the candidates delivered their own statements. Here are a few highlights:
Frank Antenori- Frank was very well spoken, referencing the fact that he has served in the military and also served the Republican party, by volunteering, donating money, and even filming an ad for President Bush's reelection campaign. He was repaid by a knife in the back. Moreover, Ron Drake is fighting for his political life in CD-7 and can't get a dime from the national party. It is a travesty that Republican donor dollars are being used to fight other Republicans on behalf of a weak candidate who has put together a disaster of a campaign.
Randy Graf- Of all the candidates, I felt that Graf was the most restrained. He commented that he has been the victim of a slew of reckless and unwarranted negative campaigning by Huffman and those who support him. He also reiterated that the National party had broken their word, and meddled in the campaign that was the domain of the voters. He also unveiled a telephone hotline that he said will be use to further clarify what was discussed here and to counter the salacious lies and smears that have been passed by the Huffman campaign. The number is available at his website at http://www.votegraf.com.
Mike Jenkins- He just gets better and better with his public speaking, and this was perhaps his best moment so far. He emphasized the desire of Republicans to maintain the seat and control of Congress and how he is saddened that the NRCC is breaking its own rules and supporting one candidate over another during a hotly contested Primary. The primary election belongs to the voters, not those who would overwhelm the race with selective financial support. The actions of the RNCC amount to stealing control of the election from voters.
Mike Hellon- He was the highlight of the conference, and the most direct and to the point in his condemnation. He recounted his considerable experience in serving the GOP in Arizona and than said "Steve Huffman's campaign has been bought and paid for by special interests." he then went on to discuss Steve's absences from voting when border legislation was brought up. He also went on to discuss that border security is not really a priority of the current congress, and their support of Huffman is due to the fact that he will "do as he is told."
His most striking quote, however, was "The unprecedented intrusion into a primary election by the NRCC is, in my opinion, tantamount to institutional corruption. . ." As I get more time tomorrow I will try to get the transcription of his remarks digitized in their entirety.
The question and answer session was highlighted by the question. "If Steve Huffman wins, would all of you support him in the general election?" which in turn was answered by the sound of chirping crickets.