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She nods. "People like Paul Johnson and Jane Hull cannot come up with solutions because in their parties there are no solutions. It's only about grabs, takes, perks. When poor people realize this, libertarians will get elected to office."
So, what solutions does Kat Gallant have?
"First, burn down Tent City. Then get rid of the drug laws. Legalize all drugs. Let people be responsible for their behavior. But my first objective is--burn down Tent City. I am so outraged by inmates being abused. And for what? They smoked marijuana? Well, who did they hurt? Real criminals--murderers, rapists, child molesters--belong in jail. Lock them up. But don't punish the chemically dependent. I've visited the jails and interviewed the inmates. I've seen what goes on."
Unfortunately, the governor can't burn down Tent City. It belongs to the county. If she burned it, she'd be committing a crime herself. She would have to get a law passed that outlawed such installations, which might not sit well with Gallant's dislike of government interference.
She shows me a documentary she made about the women in jail. In it, Gallant walks around the tents, speaking to the inmates. When one woman is hesitant to answer Gallant's questions, Gallant moves the camera and we see why--a guard is standing there, notebook in hand, apparently writing down the names of those who complain.
Gallant's view is the classic libertarian one. She opposes big government and believes the best kind of government is one that governs the least, or not at all. Although she doesn't smoke, she campaigned furiously against the City of Mesa's ban on smoking. She says she believes in three things: "Life, liberty and property." She sees dependence on government to solve social problems as an abdication of personal responsibility, a societal laziness and lack of compassion.
"I hate the establishment. I hate the bureaucracy. I hate politicians. I love freedom. This is about my family, my friends. . . .
"We need to take responsibility for our children, our friends, our neighbors, not leave it to the government. We need to have compassion."
What about that almost a quarter of Arizona children live in poverty? That the real story of Arizona is that the majority is getting screwed by the minority who's making a pile? Gallant blames it on big businesses being allowed to come into the state and pay slave wages.
"The solution is about a local economy. When a local economy grows, you have to increase your wage to get employees, or they're going to go work for somebody else. It's a simple formula of economics. If you cripple mom-and-pops, as big government does, you hurt the local economy and you hurt children."
Gallant was once asked if cutting men's hair while dressed in lingerie wasn't degrading. She answered, "No. What's degrading is working for someone who pays you very little and doesn't respect you."
The next evening, Gallant is invited to a meeting of the Arizona Breakfast Club, our local version of the John Birch Society. Various candidates for office have been invited--all conservative, naturally--and it looks to be lively.
Tonight she's wearing an understated brown suit, and the only thing that makes her stand out from the rest of the crowd is her beauty. The meeting is held in a church at 19th Avenue and Osborn. As soon as we enter, I know where we are--there are signs bearing slogans like "Fire the government--no New World Order," "Get us out of the United Nations" and that standard, "Impeach Clinton now." Welcome to the right-wing lunatic fringe.
I spot Jim Howl, Gallant's Republican opponent. I ask her what she thinks of him, and she laughs. "He's harmless. I don't thing he'd ever hurt anybody. He's kind of cute. But he couldn't even get the weather forecast right."
Gallant is disappointed when she realizes that the invited speakers haven't really been invited to give speeches. They're just supposed to get up and, in two sentences, say who they are and why they're running.
Former Joe Arpaio flunky Tom Bearup gets up and says he's running for sheriff. "Actually, my name is David and I'm fighting Goliath," he says. He doesn't mention that he's running against his old boss because he's pissed at having fallen from favor and being forced out of his job.
UFO nut and conspiracy theorist Frances Emma Barwood gets up. Instead of giving her usual aliens-are-among-us-and-I'm-going-to-find-them routine, she decides to push some easy racist buttons. She says she wants citizenship checks on immigrants to keep illegals from voting. This, naturally, draws considerable applause. Barwood has hit on a huge problem. Illegals are sneaking into the polls and stacking our Legislature with Mormons. Or maybe it's the Martians who're doing it. Barwood says nothing about trying to get citizens to vote.
Jim Howl declares that his Republican values are more conservative than the governor's. God help us.
When Gallant's turn comes, she decides not to participate in the bullshit. She just tells a joke.
"These kids in school see some ballot boxes, and they ask the teacher what's going on. The teacher says, 'This is voting day.' And the kids say, 'Good. We need some new teachers.'"
Then she sits down, as the audience looks at her in bemusement.
Contact Barry Graham at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org