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Both sides of aisle laud Goldwater as statue takes its place in Capitol

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WASHINGTON – Barry Goldwater is back in the U.S. Capitol – but this time he’s 8 feet tall and bronze.

A 1,700-pound statue of the former Arizona senator and one-time Republican presidential nominee was unveiled Wednesday in Statuary Hall before a tightly packed crowd of family, friends and politicians – most of whom wielded cameras at some point during the half-hour program.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the crowd that Goldwater earned one of his many nicknames, Mr. Arizona, because of his “love affair” with Arizona and that Arizona “loved him back.”

Republican leaders remembered Goldwater for his role in shaping the modern conservative party, with many referring to him as “Mr. Conservative.”

“He was the father of conservatives and brought that message full circle today,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott.

But even Democratic leaders were on hand to remember the man who was considered an arch-conservative by many.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reminded the crowd that Goldwater was more than just Mr. Conservative: His support of gay equality and women’s reproductive rights was fairly new and relatively unpopular in his time, she said.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, praised Goldwater as a social libertarian and a “fiercely independent and honest man.” Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that if “anyone finds irony” in him honoring a man known as Mr. Conservative, “then they clearly don’t know the full scope of Barry Goldwater’s service to this country and the commitment to principles regardless of where they fell in the political spectrum.”

The large crowd included some who knew Goldwater and some who only know his legacy, and featured House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Every state is allowed two statues in the Capitol and Wednesday’s unveiling caps a multiyear effort by supporters to make Goldwater one of Arizona’s statues, along with Father Eusebio Kino.

A statue of Arizona industrialist John Greenway, which had been in the Capitol for 85 years, was removed to make way for Goldwater and is heading back to Arizona to be displayed in the State Capitol.

But all the talk Wednesday circled around Goldwater.

Attendees worked the room before the unveiling began, shaking hands and catching up with those they knew while introducing themselves to those they didn’t, like the state and national politicians that many of them were.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he believed that Goldwater should be remembered for his efforts in “popularizing limited government, economic freedoms, and personal responsibility; for making Republicanism popular again.”

But even as he was remembered for his legacy to the Republican Party, speakers also cited Goldwater’s ability to maintain good relationships with leaders like John F. Kennedy, even when they disagreed politically.

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, said that when he was young his parents were family friends with Goldwater, but it was not until he was older that he understood the magnitude of the man and his impact on politics.

He said the world should remember Goldwater as someone who didn’t give up his belief in freedom even when it wasn’t a popular idea that would get him votes.

“The world caught up to him, instead of him chasing what was popular,” Schweikert said.

Boehner echoed that just before the official unveiling, saying the statue symbolizes “an assurance that if you just do what you believe is right and you put your faith in the people, you will always stand tall.”