Reading Gov Doug Ducey’s announcement regarding the renaming of the Douglas Land Port of Entry on the border to the Raul Hector Castro Land Port of Entry, in honor of Arizona’s 14th governor left longtime Arizonans bemused.
Ducey’s praise of his predecessor was glowing. “Governor Castro was a devoted civil servant, a beloved family man, a loyal friend and an unforgettable, invaluable part of Arizona history,” said Ducey. “He will be remembered not only for making history as our first Mexican-American governor, but more importantly, for the work he did to make Arizona a better place to live. His mission to make our state and nation a remarkable, hopeful and productive land of opportunity is an example we strive to follow today. I’m proud Arizona will continue to honor Castro’s life and legacy with this fitting and lasting tribute.”
No one doubts that Gov. Castro, who died earlier this year at age 98, was devoted to his family and beloved by them. It’s also true that he had historic status as a Mexican-born governor. But Ducey engages in a bit of hyperbole regarding Castro’s efforts to make Arizona a “remarkable, hopeful and productive land of opportunity.”
Castro, who had earned a law degree and briefly practiced law, was a Democrat Party operative who ran for and was elected as Pima County Attorney and later as Superior Court Judge. He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador and then held the same post in Bolivia. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1970, but achieved his goal in 1974.
That’s where the saga takes a strange twist.
Overwhelmed by the duties of governor, then-President Carter offered him the ambassadorship to Argentina. After just two years as governor, Castro happily jumped at the opportunity and stayed in that post until 1980.
Castro was succeeded by popular Democrat Wes Bolin, Arizona’s longtime Secretary of State, who had served an unprecedented 28 consecutive years. Shockingly, Bolin suffered a heart attack and died after less than 5 months in office. The next in line of succession was Attorney General Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat who then took over the reins of state, and was later elected to two full terms.
Current Gov. Doug Ducey, lavishing praise on Raul Castro, was a child named Douglas Anthony Roscoe, Jr. and living in Ohio when Castro made his mark. Ducey came to Arizona to attend ASU in 1982 and worked for Cindy McCain’s Hensley & Co. Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, where he forged a connection with the senior senator. It’s unlikely he ever met Raul Castro.
Arizona has had more than its share of political musical chairs, and the sleeper office of Secretary of State often provides the direct route to the governor’s ninth floor office. In 1988 Democrat Secretary of State Rose Mofford succeeded impeached Republican Gov. Evan Mecham. Republican SOS Jane Hull followed the same path in 1997 after GOP Gov. Fife Symington resigned due to a felony conviction — which was later reversed. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer was Secretary of State when she completed Democrat Janet Napolitano’s term in 2009 after Napolitano resigned to join the Obama administration.
It’s never dull in the desert.