The late GOP Congressman and 1972 American Independent Party Presidential candidate John Schmitz always claimed he was a member of the John Birch Society to appeal to the moderates in his district. In 1968, I was elected chairman of the Los Angeles County Young Republicans as the centrist candidate. I was supported by both the Birchers and the Objectivists.

I'm not making this up. I only report it to again illustrate that the center is a relative concept, and that moderation is far more a demeanor than an epistemology.

I was correctly taken to task for a prior column where I stated that should State Sen. Jonathan Paton enter the race for the GOP nomination in CD8 next year, he might run as a moderate. Sen. Paton called to tell me that's difficult for someone with his solid conservative voting record on issues from gun control and abortion to taxation and spending.

The "moderate" possibility came from a Democrat consultant friend of his. Paton responded that was someone proposing how he should run, not how he would if he does.

Fair enough, but some advice. Spend a little more time with Tea Party folks and a little less with Democrat consultants.

My old colleague Jim Nintzel at the Tucson Weekly sees Paton as the GOP heavyweight in the CD8 race, and thinks it's a replay of the Democrat CD8 primary of 2006, where Iraqi combat veteran Jeff Latas was wiped out by State Sen. Gabby Giffords' late entry, with Iraqi combat veteran Jesse Kelly playing the Latas role and Paton Gabby's. Putting aside two other Iraqi combat vets already in the GOP race, Brian Miller and Andy Goss, and Paton's own Iraqi service, the races aren't analogous. Here's why.

Democrats aren't Republicans. Democrat primary voters aren't impressed by a 20-year lieutenant colonel with an Air Force Cross, and are downright suspicious even when he's a lefty. My take on Democrat behavior erred judging that race because of my own biases. Jim's current take on GOP behavior errs for the same reason.

2010 isn't 2006. Politics are tidal. Conservative Republicans now have the wind at their back instead of in their face. And incumbent legislators have hardly grown in stature.

Latas never raised any money. Kelly already has a quarter million. Latas garnered little big name support. Kelly has many heavy hitters both in and out of state, including talk show host Mark Levin, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, and former House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter joining Congressman Trent Franks, Sheriffs Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu, and Paton's State Senate colleague Al Melvin in state. Even more important, the troops who turn out primary voters really like him.

Others are already committed to Goss, who's from the Cochise County portion of Paton's Senate district, and Miller, who gets to even more gun shows than I do. Paton may be too late. Eight months ago when Kelly announced, Gabby looked like a re-election slam dunk. Somewhere between Cap and Tax and ObamaCare the blue dog faded to pastel.

One comparison Republicans hope won't re-occur is the clumsy muscle job party heavies pulled in favor of State Rep. Steve Huffman in the 2006 GOP primary. Conservatives would now rebel if you tried to force feed them Ronald Reagan. And some who drove the Huffman operation, like GOP money guru Jim Click, already support Kelly.

Paton isn't Huffman. He's in the GOP conservative mainstream ca. 2010 along with Kelly, Miller and Goss. Should he choose to run he'll have a good shot as long as whatever GOP establishment types supporting him don't follow the heavy-handed route and make him look like Huffman.


Hear Emil Franzi and  Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 1030 AM.

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