By JONATHAN J. COOPER
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX (Wednesday, April 22) â€” Violence along the U.S.-Mexico border could have been prevented if Sen. John McCain and others in Washington had done more to curb the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs, the co-founder of the Minuteman movement said Wednesday in announcing that he is seeking McCainâ€™s seat.
Chris Simcox, co-founder of the Minuteman organization, attends a news conference in Phoenix on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, to explain his decision to oppose Sen. John McCain in the 2010 Republican primary for Senate. Simcox said McCain and others in Washington havenâ€™t done enough to secure the border.
(Cronkite News Service Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)
â€œHe is fully responsible for the deaths along our borders, the raging violence in Mexico and the violence we have in U.S. cities from border to border and coast to coast,â€ said Chris Simcox, who was joined by two GOP lawmakers at a news conference in front of the State Capitol.
Simcox, former president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a volunteer group that patrols the southwestern border, said his campaign will focus on what he called core Republican values and not just border security.
â€œWe need someone to take a strong stance, say, â€˜Enough is enough, youâ€™re not representing us, and conservative values in this state are not being represented in Washington, D.C.,â€™â€ he said.
Simcox, who is 48 and lives in Phoenix, faces an entrenched incumbent with a considerable head start.
McCainâ€™s Senate campaign account had more than $3.6 million at the end of March, according to his latest filings with the Federal Election Commission. In the same time period, McCain had $700,000 in his presidential primary account, which he can transfer to Senate accounts, according to the FEC.
Simcox said he could overcome McCainâ€™s money advantage with grassroots support from border enforcement advocates nationwide. He said some supporters have already called and sent money.
â€œThere are millions of supporters across the country who have been waiting for some leadership in Washington to take on this border security issue,â€ Simcox said.
But it will take more than grassroots support to topple an incumbent as well-known as McCain, said Rodolfo Espino, an assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University.
Small donors canâ€™t supply enough money for a candidate to mount an effective campaign for Senate, and Simcox probably isnâ€™t wealthy enough to fund the race himself, Espino said. Victory would require big checks from established donors, he said.
â€œThose are the kinds of donors who arenâ€™t going to bet on a dark horse like Simcox,â€ Espino said.
McCain didnâ€™t face a primary challenger in any of his three previous Senate reelection bids except for a write-in candidate who secured a handful of votes in 1998.
In a statement released by his office, McCain said: â€œI always anticipate spirited races and donâ€™t take anything for granted.â€
The senator has taken flak from some Republican activists critical of his support for an immigration reform bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants now in the United States.
But Espino said Simcox could have a hard time drawing a contrast with McCain on border security because the senator hardened his stance on illegal immigration during his failed bid for the presidency.
State Sen. Jack Harper of Surprise endorsed Simcox and said contested primaries keep politicians loyal to their parties.
â€œThereâ€™s somebody who went without a contested primary in 2004 and had a hard time following any type of party platform,â€ Harper said of McCain.
State Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix called the news conference and introduced Harper, saying elected officials need to take a stronger stand against illegal immigration and border violence.