After Mac lost the 1952 election for what would have been his third term in the Senate, he returned to Arizona and, with partners, established KTVK, Channel 3.
He then ran for office in 1954 as Governor of Arizona. Once elected, he began working on improving Arizona’s three initial goals: underfunded schools, Arizona’s need for waters from the Colorado River, and government efficiency.
For the first goal, Mac worked with the legislature to raise the average daily attendance allocation to make sure that public schools were adequately funded.
He addressed his second goal by working with Congressman Stewart Udall to evaluate the potential of Arizona to consider developing the Central Arizona Project, since no headway was being made in Congress. While this failed, the effort demonstrated Mac’s efforts to look at other options to accomplish an important, and seemingly impossible, task.
Then Mac did something that was at the time unprecedented. He personally traveled to Washington D.C. to present in Arizona’s case against California over the waters of the Colorado River.
Arizona v. California was a set of cases that started before Mac was in the Senate. Because the case was between two states, the U.S. Supreme Court acts as the original jurisdiction. The Arizona v. California case was in 1931 and focused on the construction of dams on the Colorado River without Arizona’s consent. It was dismissed.
Three years later, Arizona sued over the Colorado Compact being unconstitutional. It was denied. Then in 1936, Arizona sued to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide what Arizona’s allocation would be and to restrict California apportionment. California petitioned the court to enjoin the other states in the lawsuit, which would delay the court ruling for many years. With Mac’s testimony as to the delaying tactics used by California, the enjoinment was denied and a major blockade to Arizona acquiring its Colorado River water rights was removed.
Mac’s last goal was fulfilled by his calling of a special session to revise Arizona’s law code.
While this code revision had been in progress for four years, Mac’s leadership helped to propel the changes through the legislature and created a code that laypersons could understand. When signed into law, the code revisions were the longest state law in legislative history: 5,142 pages and over two million words.
He also worked with the legislature to create tax incentives to attract new business to Arizona. Though the process was challenging, eventually Mac garnered the bipartisan support to pass the changes in the tax codes. The Sperry-Rand Corporation was the first company to take advantage of the incentives with plans to build a plant which would employ five thousand people.
Reelected to a second, and final term in 1956, McFarland promoted Arizona highways development including an increase in staff of the highway patrol which he believed would curb the ever increasing number of accident-related injuries and deaths.
He also continued his support of the development of a state park system. At the time, Arizona was the last state to create a state park system and Mac envisioned it as way to offset Arizona’s rapid urban growth. Since the first state park was created, Arizona State Parks as grown to over thirty parks and natural areas.
Mac was a proponent of elevating Arizona State College to university status. When a public initiative was approved by the voters, he readily signed the proclamation and worked administratively in the status and name change.
Mac also worked with U.S. Carl Hayden to acquire the site for the housing community for construction workers building Glen Canyon Dam. The town was built on the Arizona side of the Colorado River and named Page after John C. Page, a Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner.
At the end of his second term as governor, Mac ran again for the position of U.S. Senator. After losing a second time to Barry Goldwater, Mac returned to his private practice and other interests.
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