By Jeremy Duda
Former Republican Congressman Matt Salmon is running for governor, looking to win the prize that eluded him 20 years ago in one of Arizona’s closest gubernatorial elections.
Salmon launched his gubernatorial campaign Wednesday morning, running on the platform of border security, immigration enforcement, election integrity, expanding school and eliminating Arizona’s income tax.
“Today, the Arizona values we cherish are under attack from Washington and liberals here at home. Open borders and closed classrooms, crushing tax hikes and socialism, censorship and cancel culture. The radical Democrats are pushing the most far-left agenda in our lifetime,” Salmon said in a press statement. “We can’t allow liberal politicians to turn Arizona into California. We must protect the values that have made Arizona a beacon of opportunity.”
Salmon focused on several issues in his announcement. He said he’s committed to enforcing immigration laws and wants to use state resources to secure the border. On election integrity, he said he’ll strengthen voter identification laws and “permanently” ban the practice of third-party ballot collection, pejoratively referred to as “ballot harvesting.” Arizona banned the practice in 2016, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide soon on whether to uphold or strike down the law.
On education, Salmon said he wants to ban critical race theory, a field of study that racist historical practices are still imbued in modern institutions, which many conservatives view as promoting the idea that the U.S. and white Americans are inherently racist. He also pledged to expand school choice and hire more math and science teachers in K-12 schools. And he vowed to build on Arizona’s “strong economic foundation” and cut income taxes to put the state in line with Florida and Texas, both of which do not have income taxes.
“Here’s where I stand. I’m 100% pro-life. I was A-rated by the NRA. And I believe in strong borders and an Arizona first agenda,” Salmon said in an announcement video.
Salmon’s call for election integrity comes as the state Senate conducts a self-styled audit of the general election in Maricopa County in response to baseless but widespread allegations that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud, which polls show the majority of Republican voters believe. Asked whether Salmon believes the election was affected by fraud, Salmon’s campaign noted that a “significant amount” of Arizona Republicans question the election’s outcome and said he wants to see the outcome of the audit before prejudging its results.
Salmon has been a fixture in Arizona’s political world for three decades. After serving four years in the legislature, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Republican wave of 1994, serving three terms before stepping down under his voluntary term limits pledge.
In 2002, Salmon was the GOP nominee for governor, falling short to Democrat Janet Napolitano by less than 12,000 votes, or about 1 percentage point. Salmon was elected to his old House seat in 2012 and helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, serving two more terms before retiring from Congress for the second time. In between his two stints in the House, Salmon worked as a lobbyist and spent two years as chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.
After leaving office following the 2016 election, Salmon took a position as vice president for Government Affairs for Arizona State University, where he oversaw the university’s lobbying team. Salmon resigned his position in conjunction with his campaign announcement.
Salmon’s departure from ASU follows a couple days of fighting between it and Gov. Doug Ducey over new university policy requiring students who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks on campus and submit to twice-weekly tests for the virus.
Ducey issued an executive order negating the new policy on Tuesday. Salmon opposed the university’s policy and supported the governor’s executive order, according to the campaign.
Salmon may have stiff competition in the primary, which already includes several contenders for the GOP nomination. Former Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake, developer and regent Karrin Taylor Robson and state Treasurer Kimberly Yee have all announced their candidacy.
On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Marco Lopez, the former mayor of Nogales and director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, are running.