Former Governor Castro

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Former Arizona Governor Raul Castro passed away at the age of 98. Former state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Alfredo Gutierrez will discuss the life and legacy of Arizona’s only Hispanic governor.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Former Arizona Governor Raul Castro died last week at the age of 98. He was born in Mexico, became a naturalized citizen and overcame significant obstacles to become an ambassador to three countries, superior court judge, a county attorney and Governor.

Raul Castro: People ask me, of all those jobs, what did you like the best. I'll tell what you I do, I'm retired. I spend 60% of my time going to elementary schools talking to fourth, fifth and sixth graders. I like to motivate young people, walk in the classroom and look at the children and their eyes, let them see and look. Don't tell me you don't have a chance. You do have a chance. You must get an education, you must go to school. If I was able to do it, so can you. You've got to get your education.

Ted Simons: Joining us now to discuss the life and legacy of Governor Castro is former state lawmaker and veteran political observer Alfredo Gutierrez. Good to see you again.

Alfredo Gutierrez: Thank you.

Ted Simons: You were around back in the day.

Alfredo Gutierrez: Indeed, I was a volunteer on his first and second campaigns for governor. And I was the majority leader of the Senate the entire time he was governor.

Ted Simons: What kind of governor was he?

Alfredo Gutierrez: I think his greatest achievement was his life. He was a governor a little less than two years, a very brief time. I think there were relatively few notable achievements during that period of time. But this is an extraordinary life. He's the youngest or second youngest of 13 kids, they arrived here penniless in a segregated town next to Douglas, Arizona. They lived in segregation and sheer poverty. And this is a fellow who was relentless, whose energy level, whose -- in a sense his anger at discrimination, at what he was going through, just propelled him forward. He never stopped, he never looked back.

Ted Simons: He rode the rails, he was a boxer, he had a law career.

Alfredo Gutierrez: He used to tell a story -- and he'd tell this to the kids you just mentioned. There was a lot of boxing carnivals and traveling carnivals throughout the states of New Mexico and southern California. He joined a carnival and he'd box whomever got up from the crowd. They would bet and that's how he paid his way through law school. He ultimately of course became a county attorney and a judge, and ultimately the Governor of the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: That kind of boxing discipline, that's just the discipline he showed throughout his life. In terms of politics, again, his story is amazing and there are so many ways to get into it and it's been told so many different ways and times. He wanted to be governor. He ran twice.

Alfredo Gutierrez: He wanted to be governor. He had come back from Bolivia as ambassador. He was one of the best known Latinos in the state. I think the rest of the state didn't know him, but the Mexican-American community knew him and wanted to meet him. From the moment he came back to Tucson there was a lot of talk about him running for governor. He was the great hope. The problem was this. Governor Castro was not your average politician. He was not a glad-handing joyful guy, slapping you on the back. He was not a salesman. This was one tough guy. And the first time he ran he barely lost, only lost by a percentage or so to Jack Williams. But the first time he lost I think he learned a great deal. The second time he ran he smiled a lot. But I'm not sure it was ever sincere. He was always uncomfortable at these events. But he was, like I say, unrelenting, tough, disciplined, he was going to do it.

Ted Simons: Were there programs or ideas he championed? If not in office, he wasn't in office very long, but when he ran, what got him elected? People today, my goodness, a Mexican-American got elected governor, they would be shocked.

Alfredo Gutierrez: They would be shocked. His candidacy created a backlash, his ultimate victory created a backlash. The sort of polite racial underground that had been tampered down in the 1970s -- immigration was very low in the 1970s -- had been tampered down and burst out again as he succeeded. You've got to recall, this is in the '70s now where advertising was rather primitive. The main advertising was big billboards. And the big billboard of his opponent was a blue background, his photo, Russ Williams, a white mane of hair, a handsome white gentleman. All it said was, he looks like a governor. I think it was pretty clear what it meant. And so even discrimination was everywhere in those days. And you know, he not only overcame it. You know, he stomped on it. He saw I think every attempt to keep him down as a personal affront.

Ted Simons: And he left office to become ambassador to Argentina, after not a very long period of time. Did he not like being governor?

Alfredo Gutierrez: I don't think he liked it at all. I think it was not at all what he expected. He had been an ambassador, he had been a judge, a county attorney where there's executive authority and people defer to him. He becomes governor, he's the first governor with a four-year term in the state of Arizona. There are great expectations of him. And he begins -- I think he felt he was simply going to tell the legislature what to do and they were going to do it. The particular culture of Arizona's legislature is -- was a free-wheeling raucous -- raucous, undisciplined, unbridled structure in these two houses, led in the Senate by myself -- I was 26 years old at the time -- and in the House by the great Burton Barr. So it was simply not what he had expected. There was no order to the place. I think he found it very, very -- I think he found it juvenile. I think he said so more than once actually. He found it juvenile and he found it offensive. He thought the Governor deserved greater respect than that which legislators in Arizona pay their governors.

Ted Simons: Isn't that interesting? It's always a curiosity when people look at governors of Arizona and you see ambassador to Argentina sounds interesting and all. But if you want to be a governor, once you get in you don't leave that quick for that sort of a thing. Us a mentioned, with all this in mind, his background, politics, what is his legacy?

Alfredo Gutierrez: That magnificent life. It was -- you know, you can't judge it by the 20 or so months he spent as governor. You have to judge it by that kid that came across, he was 10 years old or so, the second to last kid in the family of 13 who arrives and doesn't speak a word of English. His first campaign literature had a line in it that said, born of indigenous parents. We used to joke that people are going to think that he was Indigenes from the island of Indonesia. He meant to say what we call Native American, a tribal person, an Indian. That is the lowest economic class in Mexico. And his family came here and they succeeded beyond -- and he succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams. Think about it. He had a teaching degree. As he tells the story, I've heard it many times, he couldn't get a job teaching because nobody would hire a Mexican teacher. He was out in the field with a degree picking beets. Finally he goes back to law school and works through it boxing, going to -- in a traveling carnival. It's an amazing story of achievement.

Ted Simons: It is indeed. I wanted to get someone here who worked with the man and knew the man and you did. Thank you so much for joining us.

Alfredo Gutierrez: Thank you, thank you.

Alfredo Gutierrez:Former State Lawmaker and Gubernatorial Candidate, Arizona;

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