Austin Hill: Vernon Parker is a Republican who has worked for two former U.S. presidents. He is the mayor of Paradise Valley, and he's African-American. Parker is talking about seeking the governor's office.
Lots and lots of e-mail. That's the best way to describe the response I've gotten over the past few weeks, as I've contemplated here in this column how Arizona's next race for the governor may be shaping up.
Having listed the prospective candidates, and having offered my perspective on each of them, in the coming months I will be periodically interviewing each of them, and sharing my conversations with you.
The Democratic nominee will almost certainly be Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. But with the Republicans, I expect some surprises on the way to a nomination. And in the spirit of "surprises," here's one for you now.
Vernon Parker is a Republican who has worked in Washington for two former U.S. presidents. He is the mayor of Paradise Valley, and he's African-American. Nine months ago, I featured him in this column as we discussed the election of America's first black president.
Parker is talking about seeking the governor's office, but hasn't committed to entering the election, yet. I caught up with him last week to learn more.
Hill: Why are you considering a run for governor?
Vernon Parker: It's simple. Because I believe it's time for a new dialogue in our state. Arizona is crying out for leadership, and I can beat Terry Goddard. I can provide a new brand of leadership. Our state is at a crossroads right now, and we need a different approach, and a new dialogue. If Arizona doesn't correct course very soon, then our state's future will be compromised.
Hill: What do you mean "a new dialogue"? How do we need to "correct course"?
Parker: Einstein said it best: When you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results, that is insanity. We need to approach our fiscal problems differently. We need to bring new businesses in to this state, we can't continue as we have been economically. As for our dialogue, the governor's office and the Legislature need to work collaboratively, not adversarily. I have a professional track record of resolving conflict, and I can bring a different dialogue to the state Capitol.
Hill: Has the presence of America's first black president paved the way for you to become Arizona's first black governor?
Parker: No. What has paved the way for me to run, if I choose to, is my own hard work, and the time and energy that I've put in to our community. The existence of our first black president is great, but if I didn't have the credentials and the personal record, then I would not be a legitimate choice to be governor.
Hill: Arizona is in the midst of a huge fiscal disaster, with no apparent pathway to get out of it. What's your plan?
Parker: I am in the process of developing a plan which I think will be effective. I think it will be well received. Anytime you use the word "cut" and "spending" and "government" all at once, those are good things. Reducing the size of government is necessary, and that will be a part of my plan if I get into the race.
Hill: If you do this, you will face an incumbent Republican governor, and probably a handful of other opponents. Why would you do this? Why do you think you can win?
Parker: For starters, I would hate to see our state turned over to Terry Goddard. Goddard, and the current Legislature, would be a Molotov cocktail for the state. I stand the best chance of defeating Terry Goddard with sound Republican principles, and I can lead the Legislature in ways that neither Brewer nor Goddard can.
Hill: What "Republican principles" are missing from current Republican leadership in Arizona?
Parker: Republicans control the Legislature and the governor's office, and yet Republicans still can't put together an economic plan that helps the middle class, helps grow business in our state, brings down the state deficit and avoids punishing the citizenry with tax increases. These are the things that are missing at the Arizona Capitol.
Hill: But why run against an incumbent Republican governor? That will be difficult, won't it?
Parker: I believe Gov. Jan Brewer inherited a horrible mess, and it's astonishing that (previous) Gov. Napolitano left our state in the mess that she did. That said, Brewer has unfortunately been at odds with her own party in the Legislature almost since the moment she became governor. Worse still, I think Brewer has been damaged in the process. We need a change. We need a governor who can work with the Legislature, and I would bring the style of leadership that would enable that kind of cooperation to happen.
Hill: Are current racial sensibilities in Arizona beneficial for your candidacy, or do they work against you and your candidacy?
Parker: I was very proud of my fellow Paradise Valley residents last year. With African-Americans comprising less than one half of 1 percent of the population, I garnered 67 percent of the vote in my run for Town Council. I got the most votes in the history of the town, and I was elected based on my qualifications. That is the way it should be. The reception I've received across Arizona thus far has been very positive and encouraging, and frankly, the majority of people with whom I have discussed my possible candidacy have been white. With me, it's not a racial thing. It's a leadership thing.
There are some who believe that if you are black and a Republican, there is something wrong with you, as though being black and Republican means you are not "fully Black." Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were frequently subject to this kind of reaction when they served in the U.S. Secretary of State's office. How do you address that kind of attitude?
Parker: There is no problem with me being both black and a Republican. People who think that is problematic have a problem themselves. I try to demonstrate with my life that my skin color is irrelevant, and my character and my qualifications for public service and my willingness to serve are what matter. If people want to judge me either favorably or unfavorably simply because I am black and Republican, well, I don't have time for that.
Hill: When will you make a decision about running?
Parker: I still need to have some more conversations with people who I trust and respect, whose perspective I value. After I complete that process, then I will render a decision.
Stay tuned. The next governor's election could get real interesting, real fast.
Austin Hill of Gilbert comments on political and social issues every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country and is a guest host for Arizona's Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM).He is also a national columnist at Townhall.com. Contact him at info@Austinhill.net.