In the 2002 Holiday Bowl, Andrew Walter — a three-year team captain as a record-setting quarterback at Arizona State University — suffered the kind of injury that would have knocked most players out of the game.
“I took a shot in the first quarter and broke three vertebrae,” he said. “And I stayed in and finished the game.”
Walter said it’s that kind of leadership he brings to the table in his bid for the 2014 Republican nomination for Arizona’s 9th congressional district, a region that covers all of Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Chandler. “I think to be entrusted with the position of leadership by your peers is an incredible responsibility, and it needs to be treated as such.
Walter became one of the first challengers to toss a hat into the 2014 election ring when he announced his candidacy last month.
Following his days as a Sun Devil from 2001-04, Walter spent five years in the National Football League with the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots; he said that through his experience as a leader and teammate at the collegiate and professional levels, he grasps what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself.
“There’s absolutely nothing like team sports, whether it’s collegiate, professional, or amateur. There’s nothing like a group of individuals with various backgrounds — we’re talking social, economic, race, creed, sexual orientation, you name it — that all sacrifice for the good of the team, for the guy next to you, and you work together for a common purpose,” he said. “That’s exactly what a campaign is all about.”
The 31-year old Walter, who was also married last month, said those who have known him for a long time weren’t surprised to learn of his interest in public office.
“I guess it started growing up around the dinner table. We always had conversations about government, politics, history, religion, philosophy, economics — all these things,” said Walter, a Valley native who played high school football in Colorado before returning to the southwest to attend ASU. “My interest was definitely piqued as a child and an adolescent.
“But the reason I felt like I should run now is because I just think that as a country, we’re at an extraordinary and unique point in American history. Common sense dictates that we can’t continue to spend more than we spend in without serious ramifications, and I would argue we’re already seeing some of those ramifications. Our economy has underperformed for the longest period after any recession in modern American history, and that’s unacceptable.”
Regardless of his name-recognition in the region, Walter likely has a tough run ahead of him for the CD-9 spot. In 2012, the CD-9 race had arguably the deepest field of any Arizona congressional election, featuring a former Valley mayor, city councilman, Arizona democratic party Chair, and two state senators. One of those senators was the popular Kyrsten Sinema, who won the crowded democratic primary before earning the CD-9 seat in the November general election.
Walter focuses his criticism of Sinema — a fellow ASU alum herself who has already also announced her intent to seek reelection — on her advocacy of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. Walter said the Affordable Care Act will increase the cost and decrease the quality of health care.
“She was the (Obama) administration’s appointed ambassador, if you will, for traveling around the State of Arizona cheerleading the passage of this legislation...,” he said. “It’s a terrible piece of legislation, and you even have Democrats saying this.”
Walter said he met a man in his district who owns a landscaping company with more than 75 employees and is concerned that he may have to lay off a third of his workforce because of a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that will require businesses to provide employee health care if it employs 50 or more workers.
“He already offers health care to his workers, but he was telling me that as soon as the Affordable Care Act kicks in, in 2014, because of the increased costs and premiums of health care, they’ll be forced to have to go out of business or have to fire over 25 employees…” Walter said.“I would vote for repeal and replacement with an approach that would lower the cost, increase quality, and increase choice.”
If elected, Walter said he would also address the federal tax code, which he said needs to be “flattened and made more fair for families and workers,” support a balanced budget, advocate term limits for members of Congress, and push education reform.
“Right now in Arizona, 87,000 kids K-12 attend failing schools, and that to me is heartbreaking,” he said. “I believe quality education is the civil rights issue of our day. There are incredible ways to do this and not have to spend more per child, which we’ve done every decade since the 1960s. Results haven’t tracked with the increase in spending.”
The 2014 midterm elections are still more than 16 months away, but Walter has already tapped into his leadership skills to build a campaign team. He has secured support, either verbally or financially, from a number of ex-Sun Devils, including quarterbacks Danny White and Jeff van Raaphorst, along with Dirk Koetter, Walter’s head coach at ASU.
“There’s definitely a really solid group of guys at ASU who have offered their support, and I’m very blessed by that,” he said.