By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
Just like that. The man who made Evan Mecham governor of Arizona in 1986 was blowing town.
He started out as a Republican, switched to the Democrats for 22 years and then rejoined the Republicans. He worked in the administrations of five different governors. He left in irony. It was his great friend Rose Mofford who first brought him into government from the hotel business. And it was one of her first acts as governor to fire him.
"My old pal Rose," Hawkins said. He didn't need to explain.
Max Hawkins has always been a controversial character. On a personal basis, he is quick-witted, with a finely honed sense of humor.
But his enemies, and they are many, fear Hawkins for his sarcastic tongue. In High Crimes and Misdemeanors, author Ron Watkins summed him up by calling him "a vindictive, mean-spirited man with a consummate belief in conspiracies."
He can be all of those things when he's in a fighting mood, a condition which has been his usual public stance.
But if you were perverse enough to enjoy the madcap humor of the Mecham reign, Hawkins is the man you should thank for it.
After all, it was Hawkins who had both the gall and the imagination to seek out Mecham; it was Hawkins who realized Mecham has a certain following that will never desert him. Mecham was already a four-time loser as a gubernatorial candidate when Hawkins suggested that Ev enter the Republican primary against Burton Barr.
"At first Ev didn't want to run again," Hawkins said. "He even offered to lend me $25,000 if I would run for governor instead of him."
What Hawkins now admits is that before approaching Mecham, he had gone to Rose Mofford, then secretary of state, and tried to get her to switch parties and run. Mofford turned him down. Then Hawkins went to Bob Corbin, then attorney general, and tried to convince him to run. Corbin declined, too.
Only then did Hawkins make the pilgrimage to Glendale and to Mecham. Not surprisingly, Mecham felt the ineluctable call to run. Recently, Ev has been convinced he once again hears a clarion call for him to run, this time for the United States Senate. But come this donnybrook, the acerbic tongue and pen and wicked imagination of Max Hawkins won't be around.
Few understand that Mecham was really Hawkins' creation. Hawkins was Dr. Frankenstein. Mecham was the inert monster confined to his Pontiac dealership in Glendale, awaiting the bolts of energy that would place him in charge of Arizona state government.
Hawkins supervised the gathering of the 10,000 Mecham petitions to put him on the ballot. Hawkins has since admitted how tough they were to get. He even admits they probably would not have withstood scrutiny, if checked closely. Mofford was every bit as incapable as secretary of state as she later proved to be as governor.
It was Hawkins who devised the campaign against Barr that labeled him a crook and a fixer who ran the state legislature. But Barr was overconfident. He laughed at Mecham's challenge. So did everyone else. An Arizona Republic poll showed Barr had an approval rating of 42 percent to Mecham's 5 percent. The rest of the voters were undecided.
On election day, it rained. Many people stayed home, believing the election would be a walkover. At that time, Barr was a household name in Arizona. Who knew Mecham? He was a character from the past. He had no chance.
But Mecham won. He got 54 percent of the votes to just 46 percent for Barr.
And then Mecham went on, in a three-way race, to become governor of the state. He didn't even get 50 percent of the vote. But he did get a television endorsement from Barry Goldwater that was the key to his victory. The rest was a series of unforgettable events. There was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday fiasco, the recall campaign, the so-called threat on Donna Carlson's life by fellow staffer Lee Watkins and the piäce de r‚sistance, the televised impeachment proceedings.
Through all of these days, Hawkins was Mecham's loyal adviser. Now, as Hawkins leaves town, he has one final barb to deliver. He says what brought Mecham down was actually Sam Steiger, because it was Steiger who brought Donna Carlson into the Mecham camp.
What Hawkins forgets is that it was Hawkins who hired Watkins, the unstable lout with a lengthy police record, and gave him a key position in the administration.
I always figured the death threat by Watkins against Carlson was something the Department of Public Safety pounced on for political reasons. But what isn't done for political reasons, in this or any other state?
Hawkins talks about his reasons for leaving.
"My wife has taken a job with the school board in Las Vegas. We've lived in our home here in the vicinity of Camelback and 44th Street since 1968. We have fixed it up real nice and will try to lease it."
Hawkins says his family ties here date back to John Wesley Powell's survey of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon by boat in 1869. "One of my ancestors was a cook on the exploration and he later settled in Phoenix."