By Amy Silverman
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This gentleness between the two Democrats was just a veneer, anyway. In at least one forum, English mentioned "ethics" among her four top issues and then never returned to the subject. It was a broad hint at AzScam that everyone understood. Asked weeks ago whether she was going to bring up AzScam, she told a reporter that she wouldn't have to because others would. And she was right. A couple of weeks ago, police stoolie Joe Stedino told TV talker Larry King that, despite the dismissal of AzScam charges against Stephens, he nevertheless was corrupt and as dangerous as a "wounded bear." English's headquarters, without being asked, faxed news articles on the King fuss to reporters.
In front of a crowd of Democratic loyalists last Thursday, Stephens went ballistic. He blistered English for her continued "innuendo" on the campaign trail about his ethics. He condemned her attendance record during this year's legislative session and accused her of claiming too much per diem pay. The party regulars at the Nucleus Club luncheon debate were set abuzz. One person pleaded with both candidates not to give Doug Wead ammunition to use on them in the general election. Ex-governor Sam Goddard (father of ex-Phoenix mayor Terry Goddard) scolded them for airing their dispute and warned that it could cost them come November.
It would have made for great TV if any of the stations had bothered to attend.
Stephens had caught English off-guard, and she spent much of the afternoon doing damage control by telephoning the reporters who had been at the luncheon. When asked during one such damage-control call, "Are you going to start bringing up AzScam directly?" English replied, "I think that I might. Maybe hardball is the only ball game left."
Before the warfare between English and Stephens broke out, several Democrats at the luncheon made fun of what they called the "noxious weed" in the GOP primary. But their giggles were nervous; they're afraid of Doug Wead and his campaign war chest.
It turns out there are quite a few Republicans who agree with them.
@body:The depth of the old-guard Republicans' distaste for Doug Wead is probably summed up best by longtime party activist Kit Mehrtens: "I hate to say it, but he reminds me of Slick Willy." A Republican with 30 years of partisan warfare under her belt comparing a fellow party member to a Democrat?
The entrance of Wead into Arizona politics about a year and a half ago has galvanized Republicans. "I don't like the way he has come into this state and just taken over," says Mehrtens.
Still, many of those not in the old guard say they kind of like what's going on. One of those is Tom Buggeln, governmental affairs director of the Maricopa County Deputies Association. "It's a breath of fresh air," says Buggeln, who describes himself as a "blue-collar guy" in the camp of party conservative Jack Kemp. (Buggeln describes himself as a Wead supporter, but stresses he's not speaking for the deputies' group.) "There's something refreshing about a Republican who's not beholden to the Phoenix 40 and the country-club set. What frightens them is here is a guy who comes in with an independent source of sustenance."
Phil MacDonnell, however, isn't just a last-minute throw-in. For a campaign novice, he's well-connected. He's the son-in-law of ex-legislator Pete Corpstein (who's now a candidate for Maricopa County assessor) and he's the head of government relations (i.e., a lobbyist) at powerful law firm Jennings, Strouss & Salmon. (That's the job formerly held by current District 2 Congressman Jon Kyl, by far the most formidable of Arizona's five current U.S. representatives at collecting checks from big business.)
MacDonnell points to his crime-busting jobs in the state Attorney General's Office, as an assistant U.S. attorney and as superintendent of the state liquor department. (He says he "cleaned up the mess" at the liquor department, and many would agree with him. But he doesn't mention that he later lobbied for some parts of the liquor industry that he formerly regulated.)
When the three GOP candidates have gotten together, MacDonnell and Wead have sniped at each other. Mike Meyer, the "other" guy, claims he doesn't mind. He likes to say, "There's not an iota of difference between Doug and Phil." Meyer, a newcomer to the state but married to an Arizona native, characterizes Wead as the front-runner but places himself as strongly second. Meyer, an executive with a national job-search firm, says he's putting a strong focus on Republican women, hoping they'll realize he's the only pro-choice candidate in the GOP race. "I don't think it's a slam-dunk for Wead," says Meyer. "I think people want an outsider. I'm a businessman, I've never been in government and I'm running against a lawyer-lobbyist and a minister, both of whom have."
MacDonnell and Wead both espouse conservative positions, but the enmity between them seems real. At the Pat Boone concert and fund raiser, Wead, referring to MacDonnell, but not by name, told the lily-white, older audience, "I've got an opponent who's mudslinging. He's a mean-spirited little man who doesn't seem to stand for anything. He's a liquor lobbyist and an attorney, a Harvard grad, by his own definition, he's a liberal! Washington, D.C., is full of liberals, and every one of them has a degree from Harvard!"