Chris Simcox, founder of the pro-border enforcement group the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, will announce on Wednesday his plans to challenge Sen. John McCain in the Arizona Republican Senate primary in 2010.
Simcox, who spoke with CNSNews.com on Tuesday, said he has voted for McCain – the GOP presidential nominee in 2008 – in the past despite his many concerns about McCain’s politically moderate leanings.
“I had no choice” but to vote for McCain in the past, Simcox told CNSNews.com. “This is what this campaign is about, to give conservatives in the state an alternative to John McCain. … John McCain has been wrong about immigration. He has been wrong on border security, and he has attacked our First Amendment rights with campaign finance reform. He has acted like a big government bully.”
After losing the presidential race to Barack Obama last fall, McCain announced in December he would run for reelection to the Senate in 2010.
Among several issues McCain has faced criticism for from conservatives has been his sponsorship of legislation to establish a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, allowing them to stay in the United States if they learn English and pay back taxes. Opponents of these measures, such as Simcox, call the proposals “amnesty.”
Illegal immigration has been a major issue in Arizona where the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps was founded in 2005 as a citizens group to help patrol the southern border in lieu of federal support.
Its mission statement reads: “It is the mission of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to see the borders and coastal boundaries of the United States secured against the unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband, and foreign military. We will employ all means of civil protest, demonstration, and political lobbying to accomplish this goal.”
“There is one simple solution, and that is to deploy our troops to the border,” Simcox told CNSNews.com, but Simcox stressed that he did not want to be pigeon-holed as a single issue candidate.
As a former school teacher, he said he would be campaigning for education reform. Further, he said he supported doing away with obstacles to more energy resources.
Simcox noted that, as an incumbent and former presidential nominee, McCain has a clear fundraising advantage. Simcox also said that his campaign “is starting off with nothing.”
“I have a state base in Arizona, and I am nationally known, so that will help in fundraising,” Simcox said. “We have grassroots and foot soldiers and many, many people in the state.”
It is unusual for incumbent senators to be defeated in primaries. However, it has happened in recent years. Most notably in 2006, millionaire businessman Ned Lamont defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Connecticut Democratic primary. However, Lieberman kept his seat by running as an independent.
The loser of the Arizona primary will not have that option, said Arizona Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake.
“We have a law that says if you ran in the primary election and failed to be nominated, then you cannot file in the general,” Drake told CNSNews.com.
In another example, in 2002, U.S. Rep. John Sununu beat U.S. Sen. Bob Smith in a New Hampshire Republican primary. Then-U.S. Rep. Pat Tooney came close to beating Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary in 2004, but lost. Toomey, no longer a member of Congress, is reportedly going to challenge Specter again this year.
Leah Geach, a spokeswoman for McCain’s Senate office, did not respond to inquiries for this story.