Updated: Mar 1
Arizona Republican Candidate for Governor Talks with the Pinewood News
Munds Park, meet Matt Salmon, Republican candidate for governor. Matt, raised in Tempe, is a lifetime member of the NRA with an A rating for supporting and defending the Second Amendment. He co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and has worked to cut spending and get government out of the way so more Americans can thrive.
Matt’s political career:
• U.S. Representative from Arizona’s 5th Congressional District (2013-2017)
• Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party (2004-2007)
• U.S. House of Representatives (1995-2001)
• Assistant majority leader (1993-1995)
• Arizona State Senate (1991-1995)
Below is our interview with Matt discussing issues important to Arizonans. Read what he has to say, and see what you think.
Top 3 iIssues
Q. Matt, in your opinion, what are the top three issues facing Arizona?
A. The top three issues are border security, economy, and our educational system.
Q. You were our senator for two terms and a congressman for five. During your time serving Arizona, what legislative actions did you take that benefited Arizonans the most?
A. I was one of the original sponsors of charter schools. We started charter schools back in the early 90s. I was one of the sponsors, and I’m really proud of that. Arizona really led the way for the whole country on charter schools, and I think that’s been a great thing.
On The Border
Q. Matt, do you think our border is secure?
A. I don’t feel it’s secure at all.
Q. As Arizona’s governor, what would you do to solve this problem?
A. I believe that in the Constitution, we are guaranteed to be protected from invasion by the federal government, and having been down to the the border and seeing all the Fentanyl that’s coming across the border, the human rights violations… The cartels are managing everything. They’re smuggling people, they’re smuggling drugs, they’re smuggling guns, and it’s horrible. Number one, we should declare the cartels a terrorist organization. That would give us a lot more tools to deal with them. Number two, we need to start arresting people who are coming across illegally for violating state laws and incarcerating them, sending a clear message that if you come to Arizona, you’re going to be incarcerated. You want to go to another state, knock yourself out, but we’re going to protect Arizona’s borders. And three, I think that if the federal government is not going to finish the wall, then we need to figure out a way to do it.
We had 1.7 million interactions with our CBP (Customs Border Patrol) last year with people coming across illegally in Yuma from over 100 different countries. It’s not just South and Central America and Mexico. You’ve got people coming from the Middle East, from Asia, and it’s a bad problem. They’re paying the cartel members to smuggle them across.
Q. What about immigration reform?
A. I don’t think that the American public will buy into it until we secure the border. We’ve got to first secure the border, then we can talk about some immigration reform ideas, but we have to secure the border first.
I was talking to the chief—he’s the head of the border union—I was talking to him the other night, and I said, “What do you need? Do you need more equipment?” He said we don’t need more equipment; we need better policy. We need better policy, and we need an administration that actually unties our hands, so we can do our jobs.
Q. And when he says “policy,” is there anything specific?
A. Yes, he said the Remain in Mexico policy was very, very helpful because it had cut down the illegal crossing.
Q. Arizona spends $10,000 per student, about $5,700 less than the national average. The unions and some politicians argue that we need to spend more on education—That money is the answer. However, private and charter schools are educating their students for less, and they are doing an exceptional job.
If money isn’t the primary factor for an excellent education, what do you think is?
A. I’m a big believer that dollars should follow the child. Look, if money was the predictor or the decider of education, then the best educated kids in the country would be coming out of Washington D.C., and that’s not the case. I’ve been there. I’ve lived there. They’re horrible schools. So money alone isn’t the problem. Yes, we need to put money in the right places—you know, paying teachers good salaries—but I think that one of the best things we can do is give parents the ability to take their kids and put them in whatever school they want to put them in—charter, private, parochial—and have the dollar follow the child.
Q. How can the State support and increase the number of trade schools to meet the ever-increasing need for skilled labor?
A. I’m big on trade schools. I think that in our educational system, we’ve got to get back to the basics: reading, writing, math, science, civics and vocab. We teach kids as if they’re all going to college, and they’re not, and a lot of those kids end up dropping out, and we lose them. Are you familiar with the term CTED? It’s Career Technical Education. Just about every county has one. My wife works for the one here at East Valley Institute of Technology, EVIT, and they have 42 different certificate programs. The kids graduate from high school, and they get a welding certificate and go into a $65,000, $70,000 a year job right out of high school. My granddaughter is a junior. She’s going to get her certificate in cosmetology. If she would’ve waited until after she graduated from high school, it would’ve been about $25,000 to pay for that, but she’ll graduate being a cosmetologist, so she’ll walk right into a good-paying job. X-ray technicians, welders, electricians, plumbers. I’m big on that. Our current governor signed an initiative called Achieve 60, and what that means is that by 2035, 60% of our graduates from high school will either be in college in a 4-year degree program, community college or a trade school. We’re not even close to meeting that objective. When I’m governor, we’re going to focus on that like a laser beam. Let’s quit training everybody “one size fits all.” We also need to stop teaching kids what to think and teach them how to think.
Q. Arizona is growing fast, especially with the mass exodus from states like California. How will you balance growth while protecting our resources?
A. The biggest issue we have right now as a resource is water, and if we don’t handle this right, it’s going to hurt our ability for economic prosperity for a long time to come. We’ve got to get it right, and that means that we’re going to have to do a whole bunch of things. We have to find new water sources and it’s gonna take resources and dollars. The governor announced at a State of the State that he was looking at the possibility of building a d-cell plant on the Sea of Cortez and then not pumping the water to Arizona, because that’d be really expensive, but letting Mexico keep the water. Then we would get that portion of our water from their Colorado River rights, which would be about 200,000 acre-feet of water. These are good ideas, but we also are going to have to look at some conservation things and look at the way we grow, and do it in a way that’s positive in managing our resources. I’m very concerned, but most of the growth in Arizona right now is in Maricopa County.
Maricopa is the fastest-growing county in the country. I think we need to spread the wealth around. What I’m saying on the growth and the economic development is, we need to not have it be so ZIP code-specific and do it all throughout Arizona. I’m really frustrated about the tribal lands. We’re not doing any economic stuff. They’re like a third-world country where half of them don’t even have any electricity or water.
I can’t remember the full number… it’s over a million acres of state trust land, and some of that land can be used. The other thing that really concerns me, and you’re probably onto this, too, is something that’s a big deal. It’s the price of homes. It’s through the roof and young people who are just starting out, heaven help them. We need to find out a way to use our state trust land responsibly to find more opportunities for land, because right now, it’s a supply and demand thing. There’s not nearly enough houses for the demand that’s there, and we’ve got to find more opportunities for finding less expensive land.
On The Homeless
Q. Most of our homeless are mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol. Generally speaking, they are not people who are temporarily displaced. They need care. They also need off the streets.
A. We don’t do a good job in the state when it comes to dealing with either mental health or drug or alcohol dependency. This is up close and personal to me. Two of my really close friends from high school, really close friends, lost their kids to opioid overdose. My oldest brother was an alcoholic his whole life. He died just a few years ago, sober, but he went through detox three times. Do you know that the likelihood that you’re going to be able to get cured from alcoholism is like 10%? It’s really low, but there are some things happening. I just talked to some guys the other day. It’s called Recovery Café… This is really exciting. I just spoke with this guy yesterday. They’re coming to Arizona. It’s a nonprofit and they have a 90% success rate. The other places have a 10 or 15% success rate. What we find is when people with addictions go through rehab, and they’re back on the streets, they go back to their old friends and they’re back in the same problem within just a while. This is a place where they can interact with different people who have similar issues. They help each other, and it’s really successful. We need to look at more innovative programs for helping people overcome addictions. My youngest son is a psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., and mental health, especially after COVID, mental health and addiction issues have gone through the roof. We’ve got to address that because homelessness is becoming worse, not better, and it’s because of that, so that’s something I want to focus on big time as governor.
The attorney general won a big settlement from the opioid makers, and it’s close to half a billion dollars. We can use that money to help people beat their addictions, but the answer isn’t like Joe Biden’s, giving crack pipes to people.
On Election Laws
Q. How can we ensure our elections are secure and accurate?
A. I put out a 10-point plan called the Voter Bill of Rights, and first and foremost, if you don’t have ID, you can’t vote. You’ve got to prove that you’re a citizen and that you’re in good standing, and then you can vote. Look, if you want a beer, you have to give an ID. If you go through the airport, try getting through without an ID. Voting should be the same. This should be a bipartisan thing. Also, we need to put better teeth in our laws to punish those that ballot harvest because that’s nothing more than cheating the system. Then I think we need to get back to precinct voting, and I want to also pass a law that says that within the last 65 days, you cannot change the terms of the election. Last time, in the name of COVID, the judge came in and they changed all the terms of the election. They extended the deadline for registering to vote. They forced the poll workers to work so many feet apart, and they couldn’t see the ballots. What good is a poll watcher that can’t watch the ballots? So, those are some of my thoughts.
On Reproductive Rights
Q. You are pro-Life. Would you support overturning Roe v. Wade?
A. Yes, I would. The Supreme Court is deliberating on that right now as we speak. And again, the rhetoric on all this gets pretty heated. At the end of the day, I was raised to believe that life is sacred and that those lives, while they’re still in the womb of the mother, they’re still a life. I believe that our Constitution says that we’re supposed to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the first one, so that’s really important to me. Now, I don’t call people names or anything that believe differently than I do, but that’s my belief. I also think we need to do a lot better job in this state helping women who are pregnant with unwanted pregnancies; help them find ways other than abortion to be able to deal with their situation. We need to be compassionate about it and be able to help them.
Q. Do you believe there are any exceptions to that rule?
A. I believe if it’s to save the life of the mother, obviously.
On Gun Rights
Q. Do you believe in the right to keep and bear arms?
A. Oh, I’m the biggest 2nd Amendment guy you’ll ever meet. When I was a state senator, I sponsored the bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons, so that’s another one I’m really proud of. I’m a very, very strong 2nd Amendment guy. All my years in office, I’ve been A-rated by the NRA. I totally believe that if you don’t stand for the Bill of Rights, you don’t stand for anything, and the Second Amendment is number 2 on the Bill of Rights. It’s not there for duck hunting; it’s there to protect us from a tyrannical government. I’m a strong believer that one of the reasons we’re free is because we have a 2nd Amendment. We need to keep it; fight for it.
On the Economy
Q. On the economy, we are experiencing a 40-year high in inflation, and gas and food prices continue to rise. As governor, what can you do to help Arizonans keep more money in their pocketbook?
A. Actually, and this is on my website, too, but I want to get rid of our income tax. I want to get rid of it. Just like Florida, Texas and Nevada have no income tax, and if we do that, really great businesses will be coming here. Just like they are in Florida and Texas, and we will get some of the best paying jobs and that will mean more revenue because they pay sales tax and property tax, and the revenues, I think, will go through the roof.
Q. So, how fast could you get that done?
A. I want to get that done in the first year.
Q. Why should Arizonans vote for you?
A. I believe Arizona should vote for somebody that actually has a record of accomplishment. You shouldn’t have to roll the dice and hope. How many times have we been lied to by candidates that say they’re going to do something and then they do something completely different when they get elected? I’ve been in office. I was one of the very few who believed so strongly in term limits, that I term-limited myself, and I left when I said I would. Unlike a lot of people, I keep my word.
It’s really important to elect somebody who has a record of keeping their word and a record of doing what they said they’re going to do. I’m the only candidate running for governor that’s got that kind of record. Nobody else has even served. I’ve worked in the private sector most of my life, but I’ve served in public office for about 14 years. I think that is really important that you have somebody that understands the private sector and how important it is to keep government off of businesses’ backs, and also understands from the government perspective how to get things done because I think it’s important that we have a governor that can hit the ground running and doesn’t have to have on-the-job training. I’m the only candidate that’s got the skills, that’s running this time, anyway.
Q. I’m not comparing you; I’m just using it as an example… Joe Biden. That was one of Joe’s big selling points, “I’ve been in politics for 40 years...Nobody is more experienced than me.” Voters are getting hip to politicians that have been around for years, and they’re still talking about issues they were going to solve years ago. Same politician. Same problems.
A. I’m against career politicians—it’s about service. You go in and do some service, and then get out and let somebody else go in. I’ve not been a go-along, get-along guy. I’ve been a guy that goes in, and I fight my own party when I think they’re wrong. John Boehner was the Speaker of the House when I went back, and I went into his office with two other guys, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, and we stared him down. He was the most powerful Republican in the whole country, and we said, “We’ve got the votes to take you out as Speaker. You need to step down,” and he left three days later. So, I’m not afraid to take on my own party when I have to. I fight for the Constitution, and I fight for the people. That’s what I care about. I’m not fighting for the Republican Party. I’m fighting for this, the Constitution. I’m fighting for the things that I care about; the things that are important. I’ve got four kids and nine grandkids. I’m fighting for them.
For more about Matt's vision for Arizona, please visit here.