Republicans hoping to unseat Gabrielle Giffords this fall took to the stage at Ironwood Ridge High School last Thursday night.
They're all men. They're all military veterans, service for which we are grateful. And they're nothing like the incumbent, referred to without dissent as "Nancy Pelosi Jr." You're going to hear that a lot these next six months.
Andy Goss, Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller and State Sen. Jonathan Paton are far more conservative, far less likely to see government as a problem-solver, much more prone to wave a copy of the Constitution than Giffords, the Democrat.
They decry earmarks, big government spending and environmentalism. Washington is "a pit of corruption, a pit of power," Miller said, and no one rose in dissent.
These four advocate more drilling for oil and gas, and fewer rights for people identified as terrorists. By and large, they said the things a big, upset Republican crowd would like to hear.
Are there distinctions to draw, six months ahead of the Aug. 24 primary? Well, for starters, Goss admits he's "not a politician. I'm just a ticked-off American." And Goss proved as much. Andy Goss is who he says he is, a little self-deprecating, a little funny, and certainly angry.
Miller appears a strict Constitutionalist, and he's got no issue taking a swipe at the perceived front-runners, Kelly and Paton. "Jesse W. Kelly," he called the tallest candidate, a reference to President George W. Bush. "Jonathan McPaton," he labeled Paton, a jab at Sen. John McCain. Miller "got a little nasty at the end," someone said in the audience. Candidates always walk that fine line between criticizing an opponent, and coming off as mean-spirited.
Kelly and Paton are equally willing to poke at one another. Paton's disadvantage, if it may be stated as such, might be that he has a legislative record to poke at. It's one he defends, too.
There can be no doubt — these men are patriotic, proud Americans who love their country. Good. But Republicans in District 8 have to answer a very big question about them: Which one could defeat Giffords? Yes, she may be vulnerable, as identified nationally by the Republicans, but it's never easy to unseat an incumbent, particularly one with something like $1.5 million in her re-election coffers.
The party in power always struggles in a mid-term election. Kelly calls for a "conservative revolution" this fall, as compared with a "Republican revolution." Truth is, political revolutions truly occur when there are changes in power both in the Capitol and in the White House, and that's not going to happen in 2010.
Kelly was determined the "winner" by more than 500 in attendance, and for that he was interviewed on a Tucson talk radio show Friday morning. Winners, in February? No. Decisions come with the primary election of August, and the general election of November, and those votes are a very, very long way off.