By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Maricopa County attorney doesn't have the career cachet of, say, Arizona attorney general, from where people tend to advance toward higher office or higher visibility. Bruce Babbitt moved from attorney general to governor to presidential candidate to, some speculate now, a cabinet post in a Clinton administration. Bob Corbin, Babbitt's successor, is president of the National Rifle Association. Grant Woods, the current Republican attorney general, is bouncing on the political springboard.
The last county attorney, Tom Collins, now works as a prosecutor in Cochise County. The guy before him, Charles Hyder, works as a federal prosecutor. Romley, who was a prosecutor for the City of Phoenix before signing on with Collins, is said to have his eyes on a higher prize, specifically attorney general.
But any young, ambitious lawyer with plans of running for a loftier spot--governor, Congress, NRA president--would never get stuck at the Romley-Collins level. Says one such ambitious lawyer: "It's a dead-end job for dead-end people."
Thus the Democratic party tried, and failed, to whip up any interest in the job. "If we could get a good moderate woman," mused one Democratic wheel, "we'd have a good shot."
One woman whose name comes up repeatedly is Georgia Staton, who lost to Romley in 1988 after her primary opponent, Myrna Parker, graciously threw her support to the Republican. Romley then hired Parker and Staton went on to lose a close election to Woods in the 1990 attorney general's race.
"It was neither the time nor the place," says Staton of this election, adding that she would have relished an "I told you so" campaign against Romley. "I don't want to be seen as the Democratic Evan Mecham."
So Gary Peter Klahr, the Democratic Evan Mecham, is the candidate.
"It's a tough election year," says Dem boss Jackson. "It costs a lot of money to campaign. The fact that Gary Peter Klahr is our candidate is not a negative thing."
As I've said before, you're buying my brain, not my body.
I don't cultivate sloppiness as some kind of San Francisco-type hippie-ness. . . . I'm just not into fancy clothes. I wear a tie when I have to, at formal appearances. Years ago, when I was a young attorney, I wore a tie all the time. The TV spots, when you see them, I look as clean as anybody. Because of the angles, even the weight is gone. I look as sharp as anyone.
Klahr has run a four-front campaign attack on Romley.
There have been numerous public forums at which both men have appeared, including radio interviews, candidate forums and a few mano a mano debates, such as a riveting dustup last week in front of the county bar association.
Klahr claims he does not do well at such personal appearances. He drew a big laugh at the bar tiff when he interrupted a typically frenzied monologue by saying, ". . . and furthermore--what was the question?"
While lambasting Romley for taking and keeping the Keating money (and calling for a grand jury investigation of Romley's dainty treatment of beer baron Jim Hensley's questionable contributions to U.S. Senator John McCain and others), Klahr managed to overload the room's public-address system several times and his opponent at least once.
As Klahr pounded away at a Romley staffer over conflict-of-interest allegations, Romley withered under Klahr's rhetorical Uzi bursts, turned blood-clot red and was unable to speak for several seconds.
Aside from such high-comedy, low-profile outings, Klahr's campaign consists of about 150 signs (Elect a lawman, not a politician), 250 or so TV spots aired on Dimension Cable (which reaches about 40 percent of the electorate) and a peppery series of news releases in which Klahr either announces platform positions (Klahr calls for crackdown against driving without a license) or levels charges (Klahr calls Romley 'Ethical Pygmy').
The news releases have been all but ignored. When it appeared that pollsters would also completely ignore the race, Klahr had his campaign staffers do one of their own. By calling the top name on every other page of a telephone book, the Klahr campaign came up with a grossly unscientific sample of 54 voters. Sixteen were for Romley, five for Klahr and the rest were either undecided or miffed at being bothered.
In hopes of convincing those undecideds, Klahr estimates he'll spend $35,000 on this campaign. He's managed to raise about $2,000, he says, which means that the rest will come out of his own pocket. All for a job that he has sworn (via notarized affidavit) to hold for only one term. In contrast, Romley's campaign-contribution total through October 24 was about $41,000. The small folder that holds Klahr's campaign-contribution documents contains no check stubs from prominent Democrats. "The state Democratic committee hasn't had any money since Joe Stedino stopped funding it two years ago," says Klahr. And his file holds only a few of the ACLU types for whom Klahr so selflessly and so frequently crusades. Louis Rhodes, director of the local ACLU, is one of the 20 or so people who have written Klahr a check.
"It would be a real upset if he were to win," says Rhodes. "He probably has that view, too.