A Scottsdale businessman filed legal papers Monday to challenge incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer in next year's Republican primary for governor.
Robert Graham said he wants to do more than Brewer has done to run the state like a business. And he wants a more aggressive move away from income taxes, even to the point of eliminating them, as a way to spur economic growth.
That would leave state government pretty much dependent on sales taxes, as the property tax, which raises only $250 million a year, is currently suspended and would disappear entirely under a budget plan being considered by the Legislature.
And Graham acknowledged under questioning that, even with increased business activity, it may not be fiscally possible to run the state with just sales tax revenues.
Several others already have filed nominating papers for next year's GOP primary.
But Graham could be in the best financial condition as the president and chief executive of LG Capital, a financial consulting and investment firm. And Graham said he is willing to devote some of his own resources to taking on Brewer, pegging the cost of a primary battle at somewhere between $2 million and $4 million.
Brewer, who became governor in January after the resignation of Democrat Janet Napolitano, has not yet said she wants to seek a four-year term of her own. And Paul Senseman, her press aide, said the governor will not comment on her political future or possible foes, saying she "has been focused primarily on fixing the state budget.''
Graham said that, at least on paper, he may not differ that much from Brewer. He specifically mentioned her five point plan for bringing around the state's economy, one of which proposes future cuts in business taxes to stimulate business development once the state gets through the current recession.
But Graham said what Arizona lacks is "priority-based budgeting.''
According to Graham, lawmakers and Brewer have dealt with the deficit through across-the-board spending cuts at most agencies. What's needed he said, is a hard look at the services and programs the state offers and some decisions to eliminate those taxpayers cannot afford.
He said, though, he supports the move by Brewer and lawmakers to ask voters whether they are willing to temporarily increase sales taxes to get through the current slump. He was less clear, though, on whether he would personally vote for the measure if it makes the ballot, saying he would want to be sure that the surcharge definitely will disappear after 2012.
Graham, who is 37 and has lived in Arizona for 16 years, has no political experience. But he said that isn't necessary, saying his business background more than makes up for that in seeking to be the state's chief executive.
He said that experience would help him better promote Arizona as a place for businesses to locate, something he said Brewer has not done during her years in political office.
And Graham said the fact Brewer was secretary of state for the last six years, which has no official role in economic development, does not mean she should not have done more to be an "advocate'' for economic development.