Back in 2009 and early 2010, Grover Norquist’s "no new taxes" pledge received an awful lot of attention in Arizona. The state was grappling with an enormous budget deficit, and lawmakers were running out of ideas for how to address it. Republican Governor Jan Brewer, to her credit, realized fairly early on that a tax increase would be needed to help close the gap, but she and over 30 Republican legislators had signed Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. Ultimately, Brewer and over a dozen other Republicans broke the pledge by sending a sales tax increase to the Arizona voters, which they ultimately approved.
Recently, The Arizona Republic published a useful update on the pledge-breakers, pointing out that “there’s no evidence that … [any of them] … suffered any repercussions in last month’s primary election.”
Most notably, Governor Brewer coasted to an easy win in her primary battle, with all of her serious opponents dropping out before the vote even took place. Amusingly, Norquist’s group had prematurely labeled the pledge as a “deciding factor in the Arizona gubernatorial race” just a few months earlier when Brewer wasn’t doing as well in the polls.
The Republican legislators who broke the pledge apparently fared very similarly to Brewer. Most won their nominations, and among the four pledge-breakers that did lose, The Arizona Republic notes that, “no one is linking it to the pledge, and there is no evidence the issue arose.” This despite Norquist’s prediction that his pledge is “self-enforcing by the citizens of each state,” and his insistence that the pledge-breakers would have to “talk to their voters and explain to them why they voted the way they did.”
Ultimately, it seems that even Grover himself may be losing some interest in his pledge. Back in 2004, Norquist issued “least wanted” posters for Republican pledge-breakers in Virginia – a move that Arizona lawmakers apparently feared would happen to them. But when asked a few months back about whether he would pursue a similar strategy in Arizona, he backed down, stating that “the pledge is a commitment to taxpayers — not to me.” His group did ultimately write one measly blog post, but nothing like what took place in Virginia.
Perhaps Constantin Querad, a Republican campaign manager, had it right when he said, "I wouldn't be surprised if everybody takes a few years off from that pledge." We hope they take even more time off than that.