Originally Published: November 6, 2000 7:15 p.m.
PRESCOTT – Some prominent Yavapai County Republicans have gone out of their way publicly to support the local Democratic candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives, Henry Camarot.
"Republicans for Camarot," including former state senator John Hays and former representative Jerry Everall, have signed onto Daily Courier and other ads to show their support.
Camarot is seeking one of two Legislative District 1 (LD1) seats held by Rep. Barbara Blewster, R-Dewey, and Rep. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City.
One of the two Republican House candidates who lost in the LD1 primary, Caleb Soptelean, put his general election support behind Blewster and Camarot, after he repeatedly denounced Binder for being too liberal.
The "Republicans for Camarot" contacted by The Daily Courier, however, said they don't have a problem with Binder – it's Blewster they want to see lose on Tuesday.
Everall, a life-long Republican, said he personally contacted Camarot after former Prescott City Council member Lucy Mason lost in the primary.
"With Blewster as a representative, I just couldn't sit still without doing something," said Everall, a Prescott-area resident who served in the House from 1978 to 1984. "Her performance for the past few years has left a great deal to be desired."
Blewster labeled "Republicans for Camarot" a "campaign gimmick."
Everall and other "Republicans for Camarot" said Blewster is too narrow-minded to represent the whole of Legislative District 1.
When they contacted Camarot, they liked what they heard.
"Henry Camarot is extremely well qualified," said Everall, noting his experience in Alaska as an assistant U.S. attorney, assistant attorney general and executive director of the Alaska Legislative Council. "It would be positively absurd if we didn't take advantage of the man's qualities."
Everall's wife Elizabeth agrees.
"He's much more qualified," she said of Camarot vs. Blewster. "In fact, he's qualified, she isn't."
Camarot is a gentleman, mature, well-educated, and willing to compromise with others, Everall said.
Harold Tenney, a Chino Valley school principal and member of a prominent local Mormon family whose father Boyd served for decades in the state House and Senate, agreed.
"When you run for office, you should not represent a small group of people," Tenney said.
He recalled how his father listened to all his constituents and received Democrats' support because he treated them with dignity and respect.
"I believe Henry Camarot has the ability to do that," Tenney said.
Prescott City Council Member Robert Behnke, another life-long Republican who is publicly supporting Camarot, agreed. Camarot will be able to work well with other legislators, including Binder, he said.
"The candidate he's running against to me does not represent the true Republican Party," Behnke said. "She's not a team player."
Although Camarot is a Democrat, "He's extremely conservative when it comes to finances," Behnke said.
Blewster, known as one of the most conservative members of the House, disagrees.
"Henry Camarot is trying to pass himself off as a fiscal conservative," Blewster wrote. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been on the trail with him for months. When he says mental health he means spending. When he says no new taxes he means except for the governor's sales tax, the largest tax increase in the history of our state, and except for taxes on services, and except for taxes on products used in manufacturing."
Education spending obviously is important to Tenney. The trouble hiring good teachers at salaries much lower than neighboring states is getting critical, Tenney said. Camarot supports Proposition 301 to increase the state's sales tax by six-tenths of a percent for education; Blewster doesn't.
"Dad said a conservative isn't someone vs. government spending; a conservative is someone who spends government money wisely," Tenney said.
And spending money to educate children is wisely spending it to help the economy, he said.
"It keeps kids off the street, and out of jail," he said. "It's a no-brainer."
Education is an Arizona issue, not a party issue, Binder said. She also supports Prop. 301.
"It doesn't surprise me in the least (that these Republicans don't support Blewster), because extremists are very damaging to the party," Binder said. "They don't understand building by consensus."
Other locally prominent Republicans are surprised by the Republicans for Camarot.
Harold Tenney's aunt, Opal Allen, said she was surprised to see Harold's name on the Daily Courier ad.
A few days later, she and 20 other Republicans signed onto a Daily Courier ad supporting Blewster. Those others include state Treasurer Carol Springer; state Sen. Marc Spitzer; state House members Bob Burns, Jim Weiers, Lori Daniels, Karen Johnson and Linda Gray; Yavapai Republican Chairman Malcolm Barrett; and Sheriff Buck Buchanan.
Gov. Jane Hull originally supported Blewster in her re-election bid, then withdrew her endorsement.
"I think she'll compromise," Allen said of Blewster. "I think she's learned a lot in this first term that she'll use in the second term."
Barrett said it's Republicans' right to support a Democrat.
"However, I question their core values and philosophy," he added.
He wondered out loud what the Republicans for Camarot did to support other Republican candidates that Blewster beat in the primary.
"I like Barbara Blewster alright," Barrett said. "It's no secret she's got hoof-in-mouth disease," but as chairman of the county Republican Party, it's his job to stand by the Republicans that voters chose in the primary.
Behnke said some of Blewster's past statements are "inexcusable," however.
"I'm a strong believer in conservative ideals, but that's over the line," he said.
County Democratic Chairman Stan Turner said Camarot is his dream candidate – an articulate person who has done his homework and doesn't step on his tongue.
"When you get right down to it, people support Henry because of Henry," although they probably started out thinking they were just against Blewster, Turner said.
"Regardless of Barbara Blewster or anybody else, the Republicans for Camarot stepped up because of his experience," Turner said.