A discussion with Bob Worsley, the Mesa businessman who founded SkyMall the in-flight catalog, about his run for the District 25 Arizona state Senate seat.
Jose Cardenas: Russell Pearce is seeking a political comeback and wants his senate seat back. Pearce was ousted in November when Jerry Lewis beat him in a recall election. Candidate Bob Worsley will challenge Pearce in the newly created legislative district 25. Joining me to talk about his candidacy is Bob Worsley. Bob, welcome to "Horizonte." Before we talk about why you decided to run, what you hope to accomplish, a little bit of background about yourself.
Bob Worsley: Moved here in 1980, six children, 16 grandchildren. I'm a real family man. I'm also a serial entrepreneur. I have started a number of businesses, and really enjoy taking an idea and seeing it come alive as a business.
Jose Cardenas: And you're known most prominently with respect to your Eclipse Educational version only -- not for commercial use creator of Sky Mall.
Bob Worsley: When I was 32 years old I started sky mall in Phoenix, and eventually employed hundreds of people.
Jose Cardenas: An accountant by training?
Bob Worsley: Yes. CPA, I discontinued practicing as a CPA into my business side of life, but I practiced for nine years.
Jose Cardenas: Also very active in your church, the Mormon Church.
Bob Worsley: Yes, I am.
Jose Cardenas: In that context you've -- you learned to speak Spanish.
Bob Worsley: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: But also active with the Hispanic community in Mesa. Tell us about that.
Bob Worsley: About seven years ago I was asked to explore an experimental what we call a split congregation set up an overlay where we were going to what we thought was an underserved Latino community our boundaries. We visited with folks, they volunteered to participate. We started this branch of Latinos, and ended up becoming very successful and ended up becoming two units, one becoming a ward.
Jose Cardenas: And your involvement today is --
Bob Worsley: I was released from being the branch president for that Latino branch. About a month ago.
Jose Cardenas: But before that you were the branch president. And what did that entail in terms of your involvement with this Hispanic group?
Bob Worsley: Basically you're the pastor, you're the shepherd, and basically you would be concerned about all of the physical and Eclipse Educational version only -- not for commercial use every member in the branch.
Jose Cardenas: And the services were in Spanish?
Bob Worsley: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: A predominantly MONO lingual Spanish congregation?
Bob Worsley: Yes. A lot of the adults only spoke Spanish. The youth, because of school, were speaking perfect English, so we would do an overlay with an Anglo congregation, the youth would go into those programs are we're their Anglo peers in English, and we would teach the adults Sunday school and other men and women programs in Spanish completely in Spanish.
Jose Cardenas: Now, what impact did the passage of SB 1070 have on your congregation?
Bob Worsley: It was very difficult. We had about a third of the congregation leave the state. Most for other states, a few went back to Central America. But we lost about a third of the congregation.
Jose Cardenas: Do you know why they left? Was it because -- obviously we're in the midst of an economic downturn, and people left to obtain other jobs, but were these folks leaving because they felt they weren't welcome here?
Bob Worsley: Certainly sounded that way in visiting with them why they were leaving. They were concerned about their safety here.
Jose Cardenas: Did that have -- those experiences that you're talking about, have anything to do with your decision ultimately to run for the senate seat?
Bob Worsley: I think that the difference between my view of life and Mr. Pierce's view of life, my opponent, he comes from law enforcement in his background, I came from this experience. So I would say yes, it definitely colored my view of the situation more from a spiritual leader perspective where his view of the situation was very much from a law enforcement perspective.
Jose Cardenas: You've told others that you made the decision to run because people approached you and asked you to do that.
Bob Worsley: That's correct.
Jose Cardenas: Who asked you?
Bob Worsley: I had a group of people, I wouldn't want to name names, but basically folks that were involved with the Jerry Lewis campaign and the recall.
Jose Cardenas: And why did they want you to run?
Bob Worsley: I think they wanted the citizens of this new legislative district 25 to have an alternative to Mr. Pearce.
Jose Cardenas: It was pretty clear by then he was going to run --
Bob Worsley: Yes, it was rumored he was going to run, and we wanted to have an alternative. Let the voters decide in this new legislative district if they wanted what I would call symbolic legislation, it's not really practical, nor cost effective, or if we're going to get back to more of a common sense approach to legislation.
Jose Cardenas: Now, had you previously made known your interest in running for office? You'd never done it before. Were you a successful businessman? People would say why did you want to get involved?
Bob Worsley: Never, ever any intention on my part. We just needed someone to do this. To provide the voters an alternative. And so never on my bucket list of things to do in life, but there was a good pause in my business life where I could give this time and give back, and my wife and I made a very serious conversation, we decided that we would give back, and if the voters of Mesa want to have a more elevated political dialogue that we would throw our hat in the ring and give them that choice.
Jose Cardenas: Now, when you talk about more elevated political dialogue, are you talking about for the campaign that's upcoming, or just generally the kind of discussions we've had the last few years in the state legislature?
Bob Worsley: I think that the state legislature has been involved in far too much symbolic legislation. Not really looking at problems to resolve, but to voice protest against the federal government, for example, in the immigration area protests over the federal government not doing their job, which is true. They were not. But also there's other things that don't really -- aren't really practical, but we seem to want to make a statement with the symbolic bill that we passed that other people around the country are kind of scratching their head going, what are they doing in Arizona? Why are we talking about contraception, why are we taking guns into schools and workplaces? Why are they so strident in their immigration views? So I think there was a lot of, let's make a statement with this law that we're trying to pass, versus what's the real need, what's the real problem --
Jose Cardenas: you're referring to SB 1070?
Bob Worsley: That particular law, yes.
Jose Cardenas: What would you do differently as a state legislator?
Bob Worsley: I think that there's other -- there are other things that need to go along with SB 1070. SB 1070 will probably be deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in July. But it's a component. And very smart people like Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County attorney, believes it needs to be surrounded by such things as better control at the border, it needs to have a guest worker type program where people can voluntarily register that are here without documents. And then we should not allow magnets to occur, such as amnesty that we don't believe in that because that creates more demand to come here without documents. I think there needs to be a reform of the immigration electronic paperwork, and how we get things done to get Visas to come here and work Visas to come here. Those things need to be part of the solution. SB 1070, without those, becomes a symbolic law. It's not practical, it's not cost effective, we don't have enough jail space, we don't have enough police officers to become border patrol agents on every corner. It's a symbolic law to tell Washington that this is broken, Arizona has 50% of the problem, and we're one of 50 states. We need help. And in that respect, it was successful. From an implementation perspective, it's completely impractical, not cost effective, without the other issues being addressed.
Jose Cardenas: You've stated many times since you declared your candidacy that your focus is not going to be immigration.
Bob Worsley: Correct.
Jose Cardenas: That have you other priorities, and you fault senator Pearce of -- former senator Pearce for his obsession with this. What will your priorities be?
Bob Worsley: My priority is this economy. We're on the verge of coming off the bottom of this recession, great recession. This state wants to take off; it's warning to get elevation. And I think we need to talk about things that will help the economy come back. Will help create jobs.
Bob Worsley: What kinds of things as you as a state senator do that would accomplish that?
Jose Cardenas: Instead of being fixated on one topic, like immigration, and let's push more and more and more, I would be looking at things we could do to create a more friendly job environment for entrepreneurs, let's get some of those California businesses that are moving out, 230 a month, and instead of going to Texas, let's stop them here. Let's create an environment where businesses want to come to Arizona. Let's get the environment here such that tourism rebounds, and is flourishing in Arizona. I just think we're focusing on symbolic, high-conflict topics instead of settling down and letting us return to business in the state.
Jose Cardenas: Speaking of conflicts, conflict of interest has been a big issue of late with legislators being accused of at least questionable activities. Would that be one of the things you'd want to address as a senator?
Bob Worsley: Absolutely. We need to completely ban gifts to legislators. I don't care if it's a ticket to a game, or other kinds of gifts. Folks cannot be impartial if they're taking these types of gratuities from their constituencies. So I think an outright ban is the best answer. As a fallback we need to have far more sunshine, far more transparency on a real time basis of what's happening. So that legislators know that we're watching. The citizenry is watching what you're doing, what tickets you're taking, what trips you're taking, and it's not a big delay or there are some way to circumvent reporting that. So I prefer a ban, but would live probably with more transparency.
Jose Cardenas: Now, we should talk in the few minutes we have left about the campaign and how it's shaping up. You announced that while you're prominent in Mesa, don't have the name recognition that Russell Pearce does. How does the campaign look?
Bob Worsley: We think we've made great progress. We started with polls telling us we had 16% name recognition. If you bring Sky Mall into the picture, founder of sky mall, the name recognition goes up substantially. If votes were held the first week I got in, I was about nine points behind Mr. Pearce. Today we think we're doing much, much better. We've turned in all of our signatures today, we turned in our financial disclosures today, we're on the ballot, so we're very excited and we think we've made a lot of progress.
Jose Cardenas: Now, as a number of pundits have pointed out this, is not the recall election. Senator Pearce himself thinks he lost that because Democrats influenced the outcome. How do you view this in comparing this race with what happened in the recall?
Bob Worsley: Well, I think it's a new district. District 25 is two-thirds Rich Crandall's old district and only one-third Jerry Lewis and Russell Pearce's old district. This is a demographic I think is much more likely to vote for me. We think it's much friendlier, more professional, more upscale. I really believe this district is going to be more favorable to my candidacy.
Jose Cardenas: Has there been any discussion that the Latino community will be supporting you either by Eclipse Educational version only -- not for commercial use reported with respect to Jerry Lewis's campaign, get out the vote efforts?
Bob Worsley: The Latino community that would be able to vote in a Republican and independent Republican primary, the Hispanic community is solidly behind me. Those who are democrats and want to support in some other fashion, I'm not familiar with that, nor am I coordinating with that group.
Jose Cardenas: Mr. Worsley, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." Good luck on your campaign.
Bob Worsley: Thank you very much.
Bob Worsley:Businessman, District 25 Senate hopeful;