The county attorney explains he returned patriarch Omar Aldabbagh's contribution to him (after being questioned about it by a reporter) long before the sweep of the nudie clubs, but kept the money donated by the others until after the uncorking of Operation Aladdin.

Because of heat brought by Klahr late in the campaign, Romley has said he'll eventually try to scrape up whatever money he got from the likes of Mary Elaine Keating and others in her husband's orbit and give that to the Red Cross--if he has any cash left over after this campaign. For now, he explains away the Keating money by saying, "I didn't have a crystal ball."

Surely there are positive things to say about Rick Romley's job performance as county attorney. But he wouldn't say them to us.

The fact remains that almost all of the important public cases handled by Romley's office seem to have been flubbed.

Klahr has been firing away at that flubbery, with little effect. That's because anybody who knows Klahr's colorful history--which includes everything from owning Central Avenue head shops back in the early 1970s to his recent representation of a middle-school student banned from wearing a Chicago Bulls tee shirt to class--has a hard time getting past it to get to his opponent.

"People somehow remember my head shops, but they've forgotten about Mr. Romley's crack bar," says Klahr.

He's playing on the idea that Klahr is this irresponsible, kooky nut, which is an image I have, as you know, in many circles.

It is a small circle that remembers Gary Peter Klahr's earliest entry into popular consciousness, as a 7-year-old cast member of local broadcasts hosted by cowboy Lew King. Others to make memorable appearances on King's shows include Tanya Tucker, Linda Day George, Marty Robbins and Wayne Newton. Klahr's job was to introduce the host each week. His big line: "It's Wew-w-w King!"

Klahr, son of a wholesale produce man who worked where the America West Arena now stands, claims he was able to read by age 3. By his teens, Klahr had deftly made the transition from show-biz prodigy to budding gadfly. It was then that he organized a petition drive that reversed compulsory physical education in the Phoenix Union High School District. He graduated from high school at age 15 and headed for Arizona State University, where he fought the school's mandatory ROTC requirement. After eight years of agitating at the legislature and in front of the Board of Regents, military training was made a voluntary program at Arizona schools. By then Klahr had finished first in his class of 80 at the University of Arizona law school. His law-school extracurricular activities included filing a lawsuit that resulted in the reapportionment of the legislature.

Before the age most people own their first good car, Klahr had killed PE, ROTC and the rural grip on Arizona lawmaking. Yet he was not ready to become a lawyer, according to officials of the Arizona State Bar. The burghers of the bar objected to Klahr's entry for several reasons, one of which was a story by Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles in which Klahr was quoted as saying that some lawyers were "nit-pickers." The state Supreme Court ultimately had to admit Klahr to the bar.

Of course, Klahr was not content to limit his energy to the practice of his new profession. He launched campaigns for a wide variety of political offices, including county assessor, the state legislature, justice of the peace and county attorney. He has won twice, once recently for the governing board of the Phoenix Union High School District (on his fourth try; he still sits on the board), and once years ago, for a seat on the Phoenix City Council.

His city-council term is legendary. He was elected in 1973 (as a 30-year-old "youth candidate" in favor of marijuana decriminalization) and quickly made a reputation as a guy who couldn't sit still.

One controversy erupted when Klahr was accused of using the word "pig" in reference to police while addressing a youth gathering at a Unitarian Church in Tempe. Klahr denied he'd done it, but the daily newspapers and other establishment organs were fairly convinced that he was the type who would.

Also controversial was Klahr's head shop. According to a student of the local counterculture at the time, Klahr ran the shop--dubbed Inner Sanctum, then Pipe Fitter--with his sisters, who are now both married and living in Colorado. The former head-shop patron said the entrepreneurs appeared to be interested only in making money, not in using bongs, roach clips and rolling papers.

"It was obvious these were people who only dressed like hippies," says the self-described former hippie, now a successful real estate agent. "But it was also obvious they were not committed to The Movement."
After one two-year city-council term, Klahr lost his bid for reelection by 240 out of 86,000 votes, but not before leaving his mark on city government.

The councilmembers were then elected at-large, and city government was mostly run via the Charter Government Committee, an offshoot of the good-old-boy network that ran the business community. The charter group controlled government by running its anointed slate of candidates every election. Klahr was among the first pols to crack the charter hold on City Hall. In the early 1980s, the council election system was broken up into districts, and the last remnants of the charter bosses began to fade.

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