Opinion: The Matt Factor

Jim SharpeJuly 7, 2022
Share This

When it comes to the 2022 race to be Arizona’s next governor, the saying “Nice guys finish last” should be changed to “All guys finish last.” Because, if the latest polling numbers are any indication, Arizona will have its fifth female governor come January.

Some Republicans, however, are praying that a certain maybe-nice guy doesn’t finish the race at all. 

Barring any strange, unforeseen circumstances (not uncommon in Arizona), current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs will be the Democratic nominee and either Karrin Taylor Robson or Kari Lake (both with 20-something percent support among likely voters) will carry the Republican banner into November’s general election.

But many Republicans worry that if Lake wins the GOP nomination, Hobbs will clobber the former FOX 10 News anchor because Lake is easily painted as a Trump-lie-lovin’ conspiracy theorist who seems to think neo-Nazis are just misunderstood patriots. She’s easily painted this way because she talks this way.

And that’s where “nice guy” and former East Valley congressman Matt Salmon can help: If he folds his gubernatorial campaign soon, his 11 percent support can run straight into Taylor Robson’s outstretched arms and put her over the top in the August primary.

Even a Lake win could be a loss for pro-business Republicans. Some have told me they’re worried that a “Governor Lake” would end up being a “Governor Mecham 2.0.”

If you haven’t lived here for long, you might not realize why the name Evan Mecham still makes many Republicans want to switch their registration to “no party.”

Mecham isn’t remembered for being a decorated WWII vet, a successful Mesa businessman or for the fiscal accomplishments that occurred during his 14 months in office. Nope. He’s in the history books for using the word “pickaninny” and saying Martin Luther King Jr. “doesn’t deserve a holiday.” He’s best known for being Arizona’s only governor to be impeached.

In response, the NFL pulled what was supposed to be our first-ever Super Bowl, tens of millions of dollars were lost when conventions were canceled, corporations decided against locating here and even the head of the state chamber of commerce said, “We usually back Republicans, but he’s a different kind of Republican.” Lake might be described the same way.

Then again, considering that the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, three GOP congressmen and a significant number of Republican state legislators spout the same “stolen election” asininity that Lake does – with still zero evidence – maybe she is a regular Republican.

So, who’s gonna be the one to tell Salmon he needs to sacrifice himself before it’s too late to save reasonable Republicanism in Arizona?

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit ktar.com to find more information about his on-air work.


For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.