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National Restaurant Association - Association exec aims to expand advocacy work as lawmaker

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Association exec aims to expand advocacy work as lawmaker

As president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, Steve Chucri has spent the past nine years helping restaurateurs grow their businesses and fight burdensome laws and regulations. Now, he wants to do a better job of meeting the needs of his fellow citizens, so he’s running for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The Republican primary is in August 2012.

I’ve always had an interest in how politics has an impact on our daily lives. I grew up in my family’s car dealership here in Arizona, but that wasn’t for me. I started working for state senator Matt Salmon’s congressional campaign right out of college. After he was elected, he invited me to work for him in Washington, D.C.

At the time, I knew nothing about the restaurant industry — other than dining out. But I quickly learned how little things could make a big difference to a restaurant’s profitability, as well as the importance of small businesses to the national economy. As a legislative liaison, I met with restaurateurs all the time, and I learned a lot about tip regulations, capital gains taxes and other small-business issues. I gained an appreciation for what was at stake.

In addition to learning the nuances of the tax code, I met my wife Christine on Capitol Hill. She worked for Rep. Jim Kolbe, and I had to pass his office every day on the way to the post office. When we were about to get engaged, I asked a friend who worked in the White House to help me arrange the proposal in the Oval Office. But the person who was supposed to let us in didn’t show up — she’d been subpoenaed that day in connection with the Monica Lewinsky trial. So I ended up proposing in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

When my boss went back to Arizona on a self-imposed term limit, my wife and I thought it would be a good opportunity to move here. While working as a lobbyist on the state level, I was recruited to lead the Arizona Restaurant Association. INDuSTRy ADVOcATe: I’m proud of our work on immigration, tourism and tax issues. One of our most recent victories was getting legislation signed into law to prohibit municipalities from banning restaurants from offering toys in children’s meals. We were the first state to ban the ban! Over the years, we’ve been able to raise the stature of what restaurants mean to the Arizona economy — we’re a $9.4 billion industry in this state.

As a candidate for the Board of Supervisors, I want to take what I’ve done at ARA to help the residents and businesses in my community. I want to help reduce government burdens, such as excessive paperwork for certain business permits. I want to partner with other communities to solve problems together. And I want to restore integrity and get back to the basics of what true government is.

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