Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, ASU's former vice president of government affairs, spoke about his positions on economic policy, immigration and federalism at the first event in a series of candidate visits hosted by ASU College Republicans Monday.
At ASU, he oversaw the school's cultural relations with the U.S. and Mexican governments, but resigned earlier this year to launch his second campaign for Arizona governor after an unsuccessful attempt in 2002.
Discussing his platform, Salmon said he'd like to cut Arizona's state income tax to bring more companies and jobs to the state and ban critical race theory from being a required course or training because it is a "policy that does nothing but divide people."
Critical race theory refers to historical analysis examining both past and modern structural racism. It is a form of scholarship intent on examining the intersections between race and the law to achieve equity.
ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers critical race theory courses, and some universities require students take at least three credits of an ethnic studies course to graduate.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation this year banning state or local governments from requiring employee training on, or the teaching of, critical race theory.
College Republicans President Joe Pitts, a junior studying management and civic and economic thought and leadership, said the club will host other gubernatorial candidates throughout the remainder of the semester, including Karrin Taylor Robson, Kari Lake and Kimberly Yee.
Salmon came third in favorability among Republican gubernatorial candidates in a poll conducted in early July, falling behind former broadcast anchor Lake and State Treasurer Yee.
Pitts, who moderated Monday's event, said he thinks in primaries the voices of older voters are heard more often than student voices.
"We think that something like this, where it's a forum for students to be able to speak and ask prospective governors questions about how they're going to lead, is vital to democracy," Pitts said.
Salmon condemned a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Phoenix Police Department, which will examine its practices to determine if there's evidence of discrimination against racial minorities, those with disabilities and others.
"I want Arizona to be recognized as one state that absolutely stands for the blue," Salmon said, referring to police.
Salmon promised to enact anti-abortion policy if elected. Salmon said he supports a recently passed Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks and allows private citizens to sue abortion clinics and anyone who aids in the procedure.
"I love it," Salmon said. "If we don't stand for life, we stand for nothing."
Republicans Rep. Andy Biggs and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz have endorsed Salmon, as have several other state representatives and local politicians.
Salmon also called for Republican unity, stating the best thing Republicans can do is elect other Republicans, even if they disagree on certain issues. Salmon said those who refuse to work with other Republicans because of minor disagreements are hampering the party's agenda.
"We got to be bigger than that," Salmon said. "I believe in a big tent."
Isaac Humrich, a freshman political science major, said he was "impressed by (Salmon's) responses, particularly the responses about the big tent Republican party."
Though Salmon has faced criticism that he is a career politician, he said his time in public office shows he can get things done.
"My feeling is that experience is a good thing," Salmon said.
As a congressman, Salmon received an A rating from the National Rifle Association and awards from several right-wing organizations, including the Taxpayers' Friend Award from the National Taxpayers Union.
Salmon also received the Family Research Council Action's True Blue Award, which is awarded to members of U.S. Congress who vote routinely against the expansion of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the Family Research Council as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group.
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