Christine Jones, the former GoDaddy executive who ran for governor in 2014, will run in the 5th Congressional District.
Christine Jones, the former GoDaddy executive vice president who unsuccessfully sought Arizona's 2014 Republican gubernatorial nomination, on Tuesday will officially enter the GOP race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon.
Jones lives in Phoenix, outside the district, which includes Gilbert and parts of Mesa and Chandler. But she told The Arizona Republic her family has longtime connections in the area and that when Salmon, R-Ariz., announced his retirement, her phone started ringing. Jones, 47, who has been formally exploring a U.S. House campaign for a month or so, will file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run in the East Valley's 5th Congressional District, considered a safe Republican seat and one of the most conservative in the Southwest.
"Candidly, the voters who live in the East Valley and I share the same values," Jones said. "I've been going to church down there for almost 19 years and my husband has been teaching in Chandler for almost 15. We live a lot of our life in that community, and we feel very connected to it. So when the opportunity came up, and people in the district reached out, I said this is something that I definitely at least need to take seriously."
The Republican field to replace Salmon is starting to get crowded. It already includes Salmon-endorsed Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs of Gilbert; former Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn, state Rep. Justin Olson of Mesa; and former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley.
Jones two years ago finished third in the six-way GOP primary race for governor, a bruising battle dominated by negative "dark money" advertising. More recently, she has been interim CEO of Great Hearts Academies, a non-profit charter-school network.
However, her outsider political campaign may have been a little ahead of its time in 2014. This year, celebrity billionaire Donald Trump, the ultimate political outsider from the business world, is the Republican presidential front-runner. Trump's main GOP rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, already has tapped former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his vice-presidential running mate.
"What I've found is that the people in the East Valley feel very much like the people in the rest of the country, and that is, we have enough career politicians in Washington," Jones said. "We want outsiders who are citizen representatives: People who have a track record of getting things done, to go to Washington for a few years, represent us, and come back home and keep living their life.
"Everybody else in this race is either a longtime politician, holding office right now or has been in office, and people are just tired of it. You just feel this collective groan. It's like, 'Enough is enough.' Enough career politicians."
Willing to use her own money
Jones also is independently wealthy and is willing to use her own money to largely fund her campaign.
Jones suggested that her congressional campaign will revisit some of the themes and issues of her run for governor, including the need to protect gun rights and the need for improved border security, which she said Congress has failed to satisfactorily address despite talking about it for years. However, she said she also is eager to tackle "uniquely federal issues," such as foreign policy and topics related to the internet and technology. She touted her experience with technology policy during her time as an executive and corporate lawyer with internet company GoDaddy, "Through good fortune, a lot of hard work and some just dumb luck, I've had great success in my life and I view this as an opportunity to give back," Jones said. "It's also a real blessing to be able to go out and talk to people and ask for their vote without asking them for money."
"Border security is a big issue, and if you live in Arizona you know that it's something that we live every day," Jones said. "... But that's not the only issue. There are other substantive issues where I think I can sort of pick up where I left off when I was advocating for policy when I was an executive vice president at GoDaddy."
National security and technology are linked, she added.
"We can't get beat by ISIS (the terrorist Islamic State) on technology. We can't get beat by China and Russia because they have government-funded hackers who are hacking into our systems all day long," Jones said. "Those issues are issues where I have a deep understanding, but also issues of passion for me just as a human, as an American. Those are things that I would have strong interest in focusing on in Congress."
Ready for attacks from rivals
Jones expects her congressional rivals and their allies to try to revive the attacks she endured during the governor's race "because that's what politicians do."
One 2014 allegation, which she emphatically denies, may have fresh currency in 2016: that she was a fan of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on her way to becoming this year's Democratic presidential nominee.
"Despite what you may have heard in the gubernatorial race, I do not in fact support Hillary Clinton," Jones said. "In fact, I can think of very few people in this country who would make worse presidents than Hillary Clinton at the moment. So I will be supporting whoever the Republican nominee is."
Jones acknowledged that, just like "normal guys" and unlike politicians with an eye on public office, she did not always carefully guard her statements while in the private sector.
"I have no delusions here. I assume they are going to do the same thing again, and they'll make stuff up, and they'll twist and turn my words," Jones said. "... But I think people remember the sincerity of my gubernatorial race. They know when they talk to me that I feel the same issues that they feel and I share the same values that they share."