February 22, 2014
July 18, 2012
The Arizona Republic
Matt Salmon and Kirk Adams have similar platforms.
Both are fiscal conservatives who believe that resolving the national debt should be Congress' top priority. They differ only in semantics on Social Security and immigration reform.
They also have pledged to go to bat in Washington for the economic interests of Congressional District 5, which includes Gilbert, south Chandler and most of Mesa.
But Salmon's experience in Congress from 1994-2000 makes him more likely to get those things accomplished, making him the best choice in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.
Salmon knows many of the movers and shakers at the Capitol, and he would enter the job with seniority, increasing his chances of chairing a powerful policy committee.
That could be a major boon for Arizona, particularly given Salmon's energy and history of speaking up for what he believes. He routinely challenged former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on spending issues.
Adams is quick to point out that today's Congress is not the one in which Salmon served. There is far less working across the aisle now and far more pandering to special interests. It's not unusual for lawmakers to vote symbolically and leave problems unsolved.
Adams contends his more recent experience as a legislator makes him better prepared to navigate rough budget waters.
Indeed, his quick rise to power in the state House was impressive, having been elected speaker in 2008 after only two years in office. He led lawmakers during a difficult time, pledging to increase transparency and balance the budget after the real-estate market imploded.
But Adams, who is quieter and more reserved than Salmon, also was criticized for not including many people in those discussions. The completed budget was released with little input from constituents or rank-and-file lawmakers.
Salmon may have been a lone voice in Congress initially, but he was able to win over his colleagues and work for consensus. And he has been seemingly everywhere in the district since announcing his candidacy, attending chamber functions and meeting with elected officials to gather their ideas.
Salmon's ability to work a room could come in handy. If nothing else, he's a natural choice to get Arizona's congressional delegation back in lockstep on issues that transcend party, such as supporting the state's core aerospace, technology and health-care industries.
Salmon believes that Washington needs people like him -- who have an eye for reform but also remember what it was like in the old days -- to realistically address the nation's problems.
Kirk Adams still has a bright future in Arizona politics, but it's hard to compete with Salmon, who has the experience to start lobbying Washington's inner circles from day one. If the goal is to get an intractable Congress moving again, we'll need Salmon's brand of leadership.