GOP Senate hopeful Jim Lamon distances self from tax-raise plan

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Jim Lamon, an Arizona businessman running in the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is distancing himself from taxation and Social Security proposals in a controversial GOP policy agenda he enthusiastically embraced a week ago.

Lamon told voters in North Phoenix last week that a proposal by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida is “pretty good stuff.” Scott’s 11-point plan calls for raising taxes and, some argue, threatens Social Security and Medicare. It has divided mainstream Republicans and energized Democrats who hope their voters will mobilize against it and bolster their party’s bleak electoral prospects this November.

Lamon brought up the plan during a conversation with voters at an IHOP restaurant, which was surreptitiously recorded and provided to The Associated Press. He said the plan bore similarities to his own proposals, but he did not specifically address the most divisive provisions, and he distanced himself from them when asked by the AP to expand on his remarks.

“Jim also feels strongly that no American should have their taxes raised and has signed the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” Lamon’s spokesman, Stephen Puetz, said in an email. He added that Lamon strongly believes that Congress must protect the Social Security benefits “that millions of Americans were promised and have built their retirement planning around.”

That’s the most detailed response an Arizona Senate candidate has offered to Scott’s plan. It followed Lamon’s enthusiastic remarks about the plan to voters gathered for a grassroots tea party meeting in Phoenix.

“It was pretty detailed. Pretty good stuff,” Lamon said of Scott’s plan. “I talked to him, what was it, Monday. I said Rick, have you been reading my website now? We have a whole lot of similarities.”

Later, he added: “Please go read the website of our policies, but also look at Rick’s. Look how many similarities are there.”

Scott, who controls millions of dollars to elect Republicans as head of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, outlined his proposal late last month, breaking from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategy of avoiding offering specifics that Democrats could attack.

And Democrats immediately pounced, optimistic they could capitalize on the plan to motivate voters in a midterm election when they are saddled with an unpopular president and a shaky economy. The Democrats will lose their Senate majority if the GOP picks up even a single seat this year.

They latched onto two provisions in particular. Scott’s plan said “all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game,” noting half of Americans pay none. Democrats say that would amount to a tax increase for millions of low-income and elderly Americans.

Scott’s plan also calls for setting all federal legislation to expire after five years. “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” he wrote. But critics say that would threaten popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The plan fed a simmering feud between Scott and McConnell, who made clear Scott’s plan was not his own.

“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half of the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” McConnell told reporters.

Lamon is a longtime energy industry executive who founded a solar energy firm headquartered in Scottsdale. He’s running in a crowded Republican primary with no clear frontrunner to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The other Republicans are Attorney General Mark Brnovich, investor Blake Masters, former Arizona National Guard chief Mick McGuire, and Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson.