By Sam Stone
Democrat Ron Barber’s campaign to replace his former boss, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has to be disappointing to Democrats because, if you believe what Barber says, he’s pretty much just a Republican with the wrong letter after his name on the ballot. Unfortunately, what Ron Barber really believes remains a mystery to voters (You can read more about why here). But an interesting exchange midway through the recent CD8 debate on KUAT TV should provide a few clues.
Like most political contests, this one is a two-way battle between Barber and his Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly. But also, as per usual, the fringe-party people just can’t resist the opportunity to nab a little face time and distract voters from the real issues by inserting themselves into the debates.
In this case, that fringe is one Charlie “Occupy” Manolakis, purportedly representing the Green Party although he didn’t once mention the environment during the hour-long debate, choosing instead to focus on Socialist theories of federal government authority and eliminating State’s Rights in favor of the collective. If it was worth the time, I would rebut his ridiculous ideas. But it’s not.
One of the first things candidates learn on the campaign trail is to ignore and never, never under any circumstances engage the fringe. Yet midway through his debate with Jesse Kelly, Barber did just that. Why? What did he have to gain? Manolakis, a self-proclaimed Occupier, isn’t a factor in this race and never will be. Frankly, why KUAT and other local organizations even let these people in front of a camera is baffling.
Yet there was Ron Barber, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Civility”, aggressively taking on Manolakis when the Occupier challenged him for not taking a stand in favor of universal healthcare and Medicaid for all. Barber had absolutely nothing, politically, to gain by firing away at the fringe. But he just couldn’t help himself. Why?
The answer is telling. While Ron Barber might be pretending to be a conservative in the hopes of winning this election, nothing in his history suggests that he actually believes anything he’s saying right now. Ron Barber is a life-long social worker who proudly stood at Gabrielle Giffords side when she cast votes in favor of Obamacare, Cap and Trade, and the rest of the Obama / Pelosi radical agenda. His first fundraiser was co-hosted by Pelosi and local Socialist icon Raul Grijalva. Simply put, Ron Barber is as liberal as they come, and he couldn’t stomach being attacked from the left.
Barber’s campaign team must have been terrified. All that careful work and planning – clearing the field so he didn’t have to expose himself in a primary, studiously copying the talking points of Kelly’s primary challengers Martha McSally and Dave Sitton, hours spent listening to Republican talk radio – all of it almost went up in the smoke curling from Barber’s ears when the Occupier called him out.
Ron Barber would like you to believe that he’s just a “moderate”, friendly old guy: the Grandpa next door who watches your kids for you when you have to run to the store. But all it took to expose him as yet another loony liberal was one loony Occupier. Apparently, the Occupy movement was good for something after all.
Sam Stone is a Republican political consultant from Southern Arizona.