AZ-Governor: Terry Goddard's Immigration Balancing Act

As he runs for governor, Terry Goddard faces a dilemma. Most Arizonans support the state's new crackdown on illegal immigrants. But, as a Democrat in Arizona, many of the voters Goddard needs to win -- Hispanics -- don't. Can he strike a balance that will win him the votes of some supporters of the law without alienating its opponents?
by | June 2, 2010

As he runs for governor, Arizona's Terry Goddard faces a dilemma. Most Arizonans support the state's new crackdown on illegal immigrants. But, as a Democrat in Arizona, many of the voters Goddard needs to win -- Hispanics -- don't. Adding to the dilemma is Goddard's day job. He's the state's attorney general, which means he's legally obliged to defend the state's laws in court.

In that context, here's what I take as an effort by Goddard to find the right balance. From the Arizona Capitol Times:

Attorney General Terry Goddard said he urged the U.S. Department of Justice not sue Arizona over S1070, saying he would defend the state in any lawsuit brought by the federal government.

...

“I told them there already five lawsuits that have been filed about 1070 and that every possible argument is being briefed. I told them we need solutions from Washington, not more lawsuits,” Goddard said at a press conference. “I also told the Justice Department lawyers that I intended to defend any lawsuit that might be brought and that I would fight back vigorously.”

Goddard, who signed in as an opponent of S1070 while it was being debated in the Legislature, said the bill is “far from perfect” but that it was a response to federal inaction to serious problems along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Opposing a law and describing it as "far from perfect" strike me as two very different things. Here's more from Goddard, this time in the Arizona Republic:

"I told them we need solutions from Washington, not more lawsuits," he said. "While Senate Bill 1070 is far from perfect, it is a response to a serious problem. It would be just plain wrong for the federal government to sue."

...

"Arizona has an opportunity to make this work," he said. "I will certainly stand up for the state of Arizona in defense of this law."

What I suspect "make this work" means is that Goddard will end up pursuing a "mend it, don't end it" approach to SB 1070. He'll probably continue to oppose some of the law's key provisions, such as the requirement that police officers query the immigration status of anyone they think is in the country illegally, but in the same breath propose other strategies for reducing illegal immigration.

The key question -- the one that may determine whether Goddard is elected governor -- is whether that approach wins him supporters on both sides of the debate or simply alienates everyone. I'd guess that Goddard would much rather be talking about Arizona's economic malaise and all of the cuts to public education, parks and health care during Gov. Jan Brewer's tenure, even if the attorney general has a much more motivated Hispanic base than he did before the governor signed SB 1070 into law.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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