by David Safier
When Ethan Orr supported Governor Brewer's Medicaid plan, she promised to help him win reelection in Legislative District 9. Early in the primary season, her independent expenditure committee, Arizona's Legacy, bought a bunch of Ethan Orr for State Representative signs and stuck them around the Tucson area. At the top, they read, "Supported by Governor Brewer."
A new batch of Arizona's Legacy signs has sprouted up more recently. As you can see in the image above, they're identical to the original signs, except for one important change. Governor Brewer is no longer mentioned. Both signs have the required "Paid for by Arizona's Legacy" information in small letters at the bottom.
Why the change? The answer is, Orr's strategy for winning the election is to belong to the Moderate party, not the Republican party. A moderate has a chance of drawing enough votes from Democrats and middle-of-the-road Independents to pull off a win in a top-two field which includes him and two Democrats, Randy Friese and Victoria Steele. A Republican, especially one whose name is linked to Brewer's, will have far more trouble peeling off the necessary votes.
The fact is, Orr is a Jan Brewer Republican — which is to say he's a Jan Brewer conservative — but he's better off keeping that quiet on the campaign trail. He's not an Al Melvin Republican. He's not a Russell Pearce Republican. He's a Jan Brewer Republican. Brewer is not as far right as the wing-nuttiest members of her party, but you have to move the "Moderate Meter" way, way to the right to include Brewer under that label.
So Brewer's IE, either on its own or at a veiled suggestion from the Orr campaign (which, of course, can't coordinate directly with an IE), decided to remove the overt Brewer endorsement from its more recent campaign signs.
When Orr talks to a mixed crowd, his message is something like this: "I'm almost as good as a Democrat, and I'm almost as powerful as a Republican, and that's why you should vote for me. Let's just not talk about my stands on guns and women's reproductive rights, OK?" Here's a shorter version, my encapsulation, of what he said at the Clean Elections debate in early September where he stuck pretty close to that message:
"It really sucks being a Republican. So many of them are bad, hateful people. And that's why I vote like a Democrat almost all of the time.
"Guns? [Orr has a 92% approval rating from the NRA] It's really all about mental illness, and as everyone knows, I've taken a strong stand against mental illness.
"Women's reproductive rights? [Orr has a 0% rating from NARAL/Arizona Right to Choose and signed the anti-abortion, fetal personhood proclamation along with 31 House and 16 Senate Republicans] Some of my best friends are in Planned Parenthood, or I talk to people in Planned Parenthood, or something like that."
Orr hopes it's a winning message. A number of voters believe it and the media has mostly repeated it — minus talk about his stand on guns and women's reproductive rights — though that may be changing. The closer Orr is tied to Brewer, Republicans and the conservative agenda, the further away are his hopes to pull out a win.