Thirty years ago, the Goldwater Institute was established to advance the principles of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty. As we look back on our successes of 2017—and as we celebrate 30 years of defending liberty—we also look toward the future in this interview with the Goldwater Institute’s president and CEO Victor Riches, as featured in our “Liberty in Action: 30th Anniversary Edition.”
Last year, the Goldwater Institute Board of Directors appointed Victor as the Institute’s new leader, after previously serving as the Institute’s vice president. Victor began his career in the Arizona State Legislature, where he spearheaded the state’s first school choice legislation as well as the largest tax cuts of all time in Arizona. He is the only person in the history of the state to become chief of staff of both the State Senate and the House of Representatives, and he served as Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s deputy chief of staff for policy and budget, where he crafted and negotiated Arizona’s first balanced budget in nearly a decade.
What does freedom mean to you?
I was 17 years old in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. I remembered Ronald Reagan’s famous admonition to Mikhail Gorbachev a couple of years earlier, but I didn’t appreciate its significance until I watched the East Germans reclaim their freedom for the first time in decades. I actually went to Germany a few years later and bought a piece of the wall from a vendor in Berlin. It’s still on my mantle today. When I look at it, I remember how precious freedom is—and that’s a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my life.
When did you get your start in public policy?
Born and raised in Arizona, I was hired as an assistant research analyst at the state legislature shortly after I graduated from college. This was the lowest position at the Arizona Capitol, and my “office” was a cubicle under the stairwell. I ultimately became the youngest chief of staff of all time at the State Senate. Later, I became the chief of staff of the House, and I’m still the only person to have ever run both chambers. I served as Governor Doug Ducey’s deputy chief of staff for the first two years of his administration, running his policy and budget shops. All told, I’ve worked in the policy world for more than 20 years.
What brought you to the Goldwater Institute?
I started working with the Goldwater Institute shortly after I started at the Arizona Legislature. I was introduced to the Institute by one of our founders, Norman McClelland, who sadly just passed away last year. Goldwater was very small back then, with only a handful of employees. They wanted to learn how to be more effective in the policy world, and I wanted to learn from their analysts. It was the start of a great and long-lasting relationship.
What makes the Goldwater Institute different from other policy organizations?
What sets the Institute apart from other groups is that we do much more than just write white papers. We’re really the only organization of our kind that conducts original research, develops policies, and passes model legislation in capitols all around the country. We also have an aggressive litigation team to defend our ideas—using not only the U.S. Constitution, but the 50 state constitutions as well. There is no other one-stop shop like the Goldwater Institute anywhere in the country.
How can the Goldwater Institute continue to make an impact for America?
Since its founding 30 years ago, the Institute has grown from a small think tank in the desert into not only the premier force for freedom in Arizona, but also into one of the most impactful organizations anywhere in the country. Looking ahead, I look most forward to proving the efficacy of federalism: The greatest effect we can have on the country is by moving issues at the state level. Our approach is proof that federalism benefits Americans—from our efforts to protect terminally ill patients’ right to try investigational treatments, to our work to eliminate unnecessary licenses that keep people from entering the workforce and achieving the American Dream.