Paton has to prevail in a four-way GOP primary that includes fellow vets Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller and Andy Goss before he’ll have a shot at Giffords.
Paton copped to being sad about leaving the District 30 Senate seat he won in 2008 after two terms in the House of Representatives.
“It’s kind of like graduation day,” Paton says. “There’s a certain wistfulness. You never want to leave high school, but you do want to go to college. You never want to leave where you were, but there’s a certain excitement for the next step.”
Shortly after Paton announced his resignation, Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers blasted the erstwhile senator in a press release.
“State Sen. Jonathan Paton's decision to quit mid-session means that his ambition trumps his job description and he'll run from a challenge, if it means running for higher office,” Rogers said. “Paton leaves a legacy of failure at the state's most dire moment. It's a legacy that has Arizona's neighborhood schools ranking dead last in classroom funding. It's a legacy of failed policies that have left Arizona with the nation's largest budget deficit per capita…. And Paton has refused to be a leader, leaving Arizona's legislature without a balanced budget eight months after the constitutional deadline. Now Paton wants a promotion from voters, when any private sector business would fire him for cause."
Paton laughed off Rogers’ attack.
“I got more bills passed into law than any lawmaker last year,” Paton says. “And I’ve got four names for him: Napolitano, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell and Giffords.”
Paton was referencing Democrats Janet Napolitano (who resigned as governor last year to become Homeland Security chief in the Obama administration) and Ann Kirkpatrick,
Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords (who all resigned from the Arizona Legislature in recent years to run for Congress).
“Apparently, they were all quitters too,” says Paton, who points out that Democrats were equally critical of former Senate President Tim Bee for staying in the Legislature when he ran against Giffords two years ago.
“If this is the sum total of their rhetorical skills, this is why they’re going to lose this election cycle,” Paton says.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will name Paton’s replacement once the precinct committemen of District 30 submit three names. We hear they may be meeting to make their picks this Monday, March 1.
District 30 Rep. Frank Antenori has made no secret of his interest in the seat, going as far as to say supervisors may be sorry if they don’t pick him because he expects to win the seat in November, no matter how the appointment process plays out.
As we reported awhile back, two other former lawmakers may be in the running: Bill McGibbon and Randy Graf. Antenori helped line up the slate to ensure that the supervisors would have to choose a hard conservative for the seat.
Jonathan Paton illustration by Rand Carlson.