October 25, 2006 - Al Melvin's SaddleBrooke home reflects his years spent all over the world.
The retired Merchant Marine captain, who served in the naval reserves for 30 years, has collected artwork, keepsakes and furniture from Pakistan, Japan, Cambodia and Austria. He even married his wife Kou when he was working in Japan.
In his "glory room," Melvin's office, his medals, awards and diplomas are proudly framed and cover the walls. Books about economics, conservative politics, war and religion fill the shelves.
This room is where for the past year-and-a-half, Melvin has been planning his first political victory.
In the Republican primary this September, he got halfway there. He beat moderate incumbent Toni Hellon for the Republican nomination for the District 26 state Senate seat.
To most District 26 cognoscenti, Melvin's win was the biggest primary upset in the state.
Hellon represented the district in the state Senate since 2000, and hadn't really been challenged in her previous two re-election bids.
But Melvin said he knew he could win.
Melvin spent a good deal of the primary campaign attacking Hellon for not being conservative enough.
He rallied what he called the "conservative sleeping giant." He said when given a choice between a true conservative and a "RINO," Republican In Name Only, voters would support the more conservative.
Moderate Republicans, Melvin said, "bolt the Republican Party and defy Republican leadership."
"The term moderate Republican had to be coined by the Democratic National Committee or by America's secular, liberal and leftist media, since they are so fond of using it in praise of Republicans who vote their way," Melvin wrote on his Web site.
Melvin only sees politics in black and white, with no shades of gray. There's good and there's evil, he said.
His race for state Senate is no different. Republicans are good and Democrats are evil.
"Politics is the eternal struggle between good and evil," Melvin said.
Well, "bad, not evil," Melvin said later, attempting to soften the statement. "That sounds better."
Things like abortion, removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and letting gays wreck the institution of marriage are bad, he said.
As a true Republican, Melvin said he supports lower taxes, school choice - meaning give parents vouchers - tort reform, marriage only between a man and a woman and prayer in schools.
"We want to secure the border, they're weak on it. They want to defend gay marriage, we want to protect traditional marriage," he said. "It's always party lines, with just a few exceptions."
In the primary election, conservative voters showed up at the polls and voted for hard-line conservatives. They cast their ballots for Melvin's running mate, David Jorgenson, for state House, and Randy Graf for U.S. Congress in District 8. Graf beat out long-time State Representative Steve Huffman, also viewed as more of a moderate.
Melvin, a Catholic, went to churches throughout the district to ask for support.
Olga Aguilar, a fellow Catholic and president of the Tucson Republican Women's Club, said she knows Melvin well. His wife is in her group.
"When I met him he told me he's always been a Catholic, so I asked him if he went to see (Tucson Bishop Gerald) Kicanas?" Aguilar said. "He said 'Oh yes. Right away.'"
Aguilar asked Melvin what the bishop said and Melvin told her that he and the bishop agreed on almost everything. He told Aguilar he got the bishop's support.
"I know Al is very aggressive, and he's well-versed," Aguilar said. "Al believes in himself. He believes in what he says."
But now that the primary is over, and he successfully set himself apart from his opponent, Melvin admitted he's moving to the middle a bit.
He denied that he ever used the term "RINO" and said he now supports Pete Hershberger. Melvin told a voter at the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce October breakfast to "straight shot" Jorgenson, and not vote for another legislator in an effort to get all the "RINOs" out of office.
On his platform, Melvin is pretty straightforward. He said he pledges to vote with the Republican leadership and Republican majority to advance the Republican platform.
"The leadership is going to be so happy to see Jorgenson and me," Melvin said.
Melvin said the Republican platform is always the best thing for Southern Arizona.
Specifically, Melvin said he wants to get tough on immigration, meaning the border needs a gulf-to-ocean fence.
"I'm confident that terrorists from the Middle East are using our porous border to enter into our country," Melvin said. "We also have a moral obligation to stop the deaths in the desert."
Melvin vowed that securing the border would be the first thing he would work on if elected.
His tough talk on the border has won him the support of many active Republicans.
At a SaddleBrooke Republican Club meeting in October, nearly 100 members excitedly cheered for Melvin as he talked about a few of his issues and encouraged them to support Republican candidate for Congress, Randy Graf.
John Martin, president of the SaddleBrooke Republicans said Melvin is honest and dedicated, and he doesn't deviate from his principals, Martin said.
"Everyone I voted for in the primary election won," Martin boasted.
Public education in America needs major reforms and Melvin said he doesn't support funneling more money into it as a repair.
"We spend about $9,500 per child in the U.S., which is more than any country in the world," he said. "Yet year after year we have the lowest comparative grades than any advanced nation in the world."
Melvin said the United States graduates about 14 lawyers for every engineer - just the opposite of India and China. And the reason is because "we're doing such a bad job in math and science."
The only viable solution is competition, Melvin said.
He supports giving all children a $7,000 voucher to use at the school of their choice.
Public education is broken, Melvin said, and not enough emphasis is put on math and science.
"We need competition," he said. "This is the only way you can break the cycle of poverty in this country."
When it comes to healthcare costs, Melvin said tort reform that sets caps on frivolous lawsuit settlements will help drive down the cost of insurance. Melvin said good doctors are retiring early and leaving the state because of too many lawyers bringing medical malpractice suits.
Melvin said he's not a fan of lawyers, "not by any means."
He also would like to see people use health savings accounts coupled with catastrophic insurance coverage. People can pay into the health savings accounts monthly, then use the savings to pay for routine medical needs.
In March, Jorgenson decided to run and joined Melvin's ticket.
"Our vision is with David in the House and me in the Senate, we can run our bills simultaneously," Melvin said. "Our vision for Arizona is that we are the premier state - provided we get control of our border and stop illegal immigration."
Melvin said people are catching on to the synergy of their team.
"As we appear at events, people see more than one of us. It is clear that this is a Reagan Republican team."