In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest, as a man of limited mental capacity but strong convictions and played ably by Tom Hanks, always was just in the right place at the right time to gain fame and fortune and to be there during important moments in history.
It seems that in real life, we have something of a parallel here in Arizona. Good things keep happening to Jan Brewer, but in fact many of them come to her despite her own actions in the past.
Fifteen years ago, as the majority whip of the Arizona Senate, Jan Brewer was instrumental in pushing through the massive Symington-Brewer tax cuts. When combined with a 1992 referendum which made it virtually impossible for the legislature to raise taxes, these cuts undermined the fiscal stability of our state by plunging recklessly down a road which assumed that growth would continue forever and provide an increasing stream of revenue to fund state services. Accordingly, under the legislature that Brewer was one of the leaders of spending levels were cut to the point where many schools and state agencies were on a shoestring budget in good times, with no thought apparently given to what this would mean for bad times.
Common sense dictates that if you can't back up, then you would proceed forward with caution. But I guess not according to then State Senator Jan Brewer.
In 2001 and 2002 we got a taste of what bad times meant. Due to the incompetence of former Governor Jane Hull and the outright deception of former House Speaker Jeff Groscost, the legislature passed the 'alt-fuels' bill that essentially bought cars for a lot of Groscost's neighbors in Mesa at state expense and when combined with the recession of that year meant that incoming Governor Janet Napolitano entered staring down a $1 billion hole. She went to work and fixed the hole, but because of when Napolitano took office (at the beginning of 2003) Jan Brewer was given a ready made 'excuse' that she could use to claim years later that Napolitano had 'overspent'-- conveniently overlooking the fact that much of the spending 'increase' under Napolitano was simply climbing back up out of the hole the budget was in when she took office.
But the excuse was there for Brewer and she has been taking it liberally, blaming her predecessor for the problems that in fact Jan Brewer helped create years earlier by weakening the state's tax structure! Nobody remembers her role now. Wow, talk about catching a lucky break!
She caught another one in 2002. Because of the very tight gubernatorial race between Napolitano and Matt Salmon, nobody paid much attention to the race for Secretary of State, despite the fact that (now counting Brewer) the past six Governors of Arizona have all either left office without completing their terms or been the Secretaries of State who succeeded them. It would be like not bothering to ask who the Vice President is. But that's what happen so she escaped scrutiny of her far right record.
In January of 2009 Brewer acceded to become an unelected Governor the day after Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States in, demanding an expensive and exhorbitant ceremony much more like the swearing in of an elected Governor, rather than the very plain and unremarkable swearing in that the previous two Secretaries of State to become Governor (Rose Mofford and Jane Hull) had done. This despite the fact that the state was in fairly good fiscal shape for those two but already gripped by the collapse of the housing market for Jan 'Money is no object' Brewer.
But luck shined her way again. The legislature became ensnared in a months long fight between very conservative Republicans and extremely conservative Republicans. The unecessary expenses of Brewer's elaborate swearing in ceremony were soon forgotten. So, she was free to propose a 1 cent sales tax increase to help balance the budget without anyone asking why she had spent so much tax money on her own vanity, and as such she did propose the tax.
And she got even luckier. The House and Senate agreed to pass a budget with only Republican votes. But that put them at the mercy of the most extreme members of their own caucus, so that Jack Harper, Ron Gould and Pamela Gorman blocked all progress towards a budget that included Brewer's proposed tax. Things got so bad between Brewer and the legislative leadership from her own party that she even took them to court to make them try and send her the semblance of a budget they did pass just so she could veto it and throw it back to them. Because the GOP budget they finally did pass was so extreme, Brewer got to look like the more responsible party.
Of course vetoing a Republican budget made Brewer unpopular in her own party ranks. As a weak Governor who was never elected, if she faced a single challenger she would probably be a goner. But she has drawn at least three credible challengers, which means she could easily win nomination with 30% of the GOP primary vote. Yet another stroke of luck.
She was still in the midst of a heated primary with today's vote on the sales tax-- unpopular with key elements of the Republican base looming-- when she caught, yes, another stroke of luck. The legislature sent her SB 1070. This was a tough decision: sign a bill that will repel Hispanics-- now 30% of the population of Arizona but 40% of the under 20 population of Arizona and growing rapidly, or veto it to further alienate the GOP base. She cast her lot with the nativists. As the bill became national news, Republican activists both in Arizona and around the nation praised Brewer. So, today the sales tax vote is an afterthought.
The timing couldn't be better. But remember this: Forrest Gump was a movie. Jan Brewer's string of good luck is bound to end sooner or later, and when it does Arizona will likely be on the receiving end.