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Kozachik stands up to GOP: Is there room for a moderate?

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Kozachik stands up to GOP: Is there room for a moderate?

CREATED Feb. 23, 2012

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson's own political maverick Councilman Steve Kozachik is fighting back after weeks of criticism from his own party. The criticism stems from Kozachik's decision to endorse Ron Barber, a Democrat, in the upcoming special election to replace Gabrielle Giffords. Kozachik says it wasn't a political decision and that it was just the right thing to do. Pima County Republican Party Chair Carolyn Cox isn't buying that argument. She's accusing Kozachik of making a political calculation for his own personal gain.

"She accused me of something I find personally insulting," Kozachik said.

Kozachik tells 9OYS the attacks haven't stopped there. He's been called a "Demo-rat" among other things not suitable for television or print. 9OYS wanted to know if this signals a moderate Republican may no longer be welcome in the GOP.

"I guess we'll find out," Kozachik said. "The executive committee can take action against me just like they did against Brian Miller if they so choose, but I'd be careful what you wish for. If you keep driving moderates out of this party, you're going to end up with a fringe party that loses elections."

Former Pima County GOP Chair Brian Miller knows a thing or two about what Kozachik is going through. He too ruffled feathers in the party establishment with controversial comments following the Jose Guerena shooting. It ended up costing him his post as party chair. Reporter Marcelino Benito asked Miller if he thinks there's a place for moderate Republicans in the party.

"We'll see what happens to Steve," Miller said. "Apparently the party leadership, those in control right now, say no, there's not. What you have here is a party apparatus that's unleashed on people who don't tow the party line."

Political analyst Peter Goudinoff says if the GOP swings too far to the right, it could alienate independent voters. The same voting bloc that decides elections.

"It would seem to me if they don't encompass a broader spectrum of opinion, they are on their way to oblivion," Goudinoff said.

Whether or not the party pledges to change, Kozachik says he will not. He says he'll never put party politics ahead of what's right and what's good public policy.

"I don't have to prove anything to anyone," Kozachik said. " The Republican Party has to prove to voters they deserve their vote."

9OYS did reach out to several local Pima County GOP officials. Only current GOP Chair Carolyn Cox returned 9OYS's calls. She said she had no comment and stands by her earlier statements on Kozachik's motives.

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