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He has refused PAC money and, because he can't afford much advertising as a result, has tramped door-to-door through small Arizona towns. He and his supporters have stood on street corners in the summer heat, holding up sequential signs, Burma Shave fashion. ("Tired of the same old baloney? Special interest groups? Government for sale? Then change it--Vote Mahoney!")
He says he has done the legwork because he needs to--because, as a professor at the American Graduate School of International Management and a political speech writer, he's not a wealthy fellow who can pour Symington sorts of bucks into his own campaign. But he says he has also done it, and has advocated other changes in the election tradition, because of principle.
"If you change elections, you change government, period," he says. "If you don't take PAC money, if you have same-day voter registration, if you have limited terms, government will change totally."
He claims that these ideas are what his campaign is really about--that, if elected, he will use his bully pulpit as the state's elections officer to push for election reforms. He would have you believe that his campaign for public office is not really about Dick Mahoney at all.
"Politics are self-serving, because there is one personality that is seeking office and other personalities that gravitate around it," he admits. "But the key thing that differentiates a selfish impulse from one that has large results is a dedication to an idea--beyond the candidate."
There are those who would respond to this kind of posturing with a word that Mahoney himself has recently revived: baloney. Some political observers suspect that Mahoney has simply aimed for the office of secretary of state because he sees it as a springboard to other things. They point it out sourly, as though ambition constitutes immorality in politics where it never has in the corporate world. Even fans like old high school friend Roger Burrell think Mahoney has big goals. He says, "I think he wants to prove himself in that position, and I would be surprised if he didn't run for a higher office at a later time." But Burrell differs with critics who see Mahoney as simply a gifted man on a power trip. "I think the political man in him drives him," he says. "I think the idea of what RFK stood for and the way he wanted to go out on a limb on racial issues and poverty issues--I think those things drive Dick.
"The Dick I saw in the Sixties was pretty much the Dick that I see now."