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8:42 AM Tue, Sept. 25th

Governor withdraws endorsement of Blewster

Gov. Jane Dee Hull has withdrawn her endorsement of Republican Arizona House of Representative incumbent Barbara Blewster.

In a statement Hull's office released Tuesday, the governor said she "was caught off-guard and made a mistake" in her endorsement of the ultra-conservative and controversial Blewster last week in Prescott.

"This candidate does not support the issues closest to my heart, specifically education, diversity and respect for human dignity," the statement said.

"I have been a Republican all my life. As a Republican, my inclination is to support other Republicans in contested races. So, when asked to endorse Mrs. Blewster, my first reflex was to say yes.

"Upon reflection, however, I cannot in good conscience support this candidate.

"I did believe, however, that I owed it to Mrs. Blewster to talk to her face to face. Today (Tuesday) was the first opportunity I had to have that conversation. Now that I have talked to Mrs. Blewster, I want to share that decision with the public."

Blewster said in a press release that she was seeking the governor's endorsement to help unify the Republican Party.

"I believe that unity within the Republican Party is important," the statement said, "which is why I sought the governor's endorsement for my re-election during the general election. I had hoped that I could make a strong statement for party unity. I believed the governor was committed to making the same statement.

"It's disappointing not to have received the governor's endorsement. We have a great deal of momentum coming off my upset victory in September. District One voters want representation that opposes higher taxes and more government regulations."

Hull spokeswoman Francie Noyes said that Blewster had asked the governor for her support after a speech last week in Prescott.

Noyes said Blewster's request caught the governor by surprise, but that her first response was to support a Republican candidate.

"(Hull) was not really comfortable with this, even last week," Noyes said. "The governor really started to second guess her decision. The longer she thought about it, the more she realized she'd made a mistake."

Hull's busy schedule kept her from retracting her endorsement sooner, Noyes said, and the governor wanted to speak with Blewster personally before going public with her decision not to endorse her.

Noyes said Blewster has not supported the governor on key issues such as Proposition 301, which would raise money for education through a sales tax increase.

Blewster also came under fire for allegedly making disparaging remarks about ethnic groups and gay people during her first term.

Noyes said Hull will endorse incumbent Rep. Linda Binder of Lake Havasu City, but she will not endorse Democratic challenger Henry Camarot. Binder, Camarot and Blewster are competing for two Legislative District 1 seats.

Malcolm Barrett, Yavapai County Republican Committee chairman, said Tuesday that key issues are likely what caused Hull to change her mind.

"I know the governor and Barbara Blewster," Barrett said, "and at least from what I've observed in the press, they have not gotten along too well on issues.

"It appears that the governor does not feel Barbara Blewster is supporting her on issues.

"I think that all the things that have happened in the last two years in the press has brought a lot of attention to (Blewster), and in some cases it may have hurt the party," Barrett said. "But, I'm very cautious about believing everything a reporter writes in the newspaper.

"(But) I think because of all the attention she's brought to the party, it has brought about some concern."

Barrett said Blewster's conservative voting record over the past two years has appealed to Republican voters.

But Barrett was hesitant to get involved in the rift which has divided the Yavapai County GOP.

"I just can't get between the governor and Barbara Blewster," he said. "The governor is entitled to endorse or not endorse any way she wishes.

"This thing, it's just between the two of them."

County Democratic Chairman Stan Turner said he was pleased that Hull had dropped her endorsement, but questioned the governor's initial actions.

"(Hull) made a blatantly partisan move," Turner said.

Turner said Hull's decision to endorse Blewster was an endorsement of her "radical John Birch Society agenda," as well as the incumbent Republican's disparaging remarks about ethnic groups and gays.

"I'm glad she's doing the right thing now, but there is a question in my mind about her judgment," Turner added.

However, Turner said, Hull's flip-flop likely will not hurt Blewster's chances to defeat the Democratic nominee, Henry Camarot. In fact, he said, the deep fracture in the county GOP may actually help her chances.

"I do not underestimate the Barbara Blewster campaign," he said. "This is going to further galvanize the Republican Party, and I don't want to see that. She has a very loyal group of supporters and her people are out there working very hard.

"So, no, this does not mean an easy victory for Henry Camarot."

And, as the old saying goes, every woman, even the governor, indeed has the right to change her mind.

"These things happen in politics," Noyes said. "But she's exactly where she belongs now, standing up for what she believes in."