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By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
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"It raises some question about the caliber of people who would run for this office. You have to have someone like Gary, who can afford to do it. He's someone who has carved out his niche in the legal community. He's not one of these people who dreams to make a million dollars, or to build himself into a huge corporate law practice.
"He's running because he's not happy with how Romley has run the office."
Klahr hasn't spent any of Rhodes' money polishing his image. He prefers short-sleeved shirts (lime green is his favorite color for this campaign) and, when absolutely necessary, clip-on ties. When he appears at lawyerly functions, you can almost hear his natty colleagues thinking, "Who let him in?"
Klahr says one gay activist wouldn't promise him that community's vote unless he could lose 50 pounds.
Meanwhile, some of the county's most prominent Democratic legal eagles, including former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Frank Gordon, are in a group called Democrats for Romley. Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, also a big-deal Democrat, considered endorsing Romley before declaring neutrality.
"The Democrats think I can't win or that it doesn't matter, it's got to be one or the other," says Klahr. "Both reasons are so wrong. I can't understand the psychology. Part of the reason is I'm not a glamour boy."
Everybody knows how important this race is. Everyone knows this man is a wounded bear. This is probably the first time I've ever been in a race where my opponent has much higher negatives than me. I've won two races and lost 12. In most of those races, I had alleged negatives. In this case, whatever negatives on me are old ones. Head shop from 17 years ago, that kind of stuff, and every negative I have he's got a counternegative. I mean, head shop--he's got the bar.
Every negative they've got on me, he's got more. It hurts to see a race that's so winnable that may not be won. I still think I can win. But . . . if it's close and I don't win, it'll be obvious whose fault it'll be. It won't be the Republican machine or the establishment. It will be our own people.
Klahr has had a problem picking people to hang out with. And he has had several strange brushes with crime and criminals.
Example: In January 1973, Klahr entered his North Central home to find a knife-wielding intruder in the living room. Klahr says the assailant, "a kid I knew slightly," stole $80 and Klahr's car, but crashed the car and was "promptly apprehended."
Another example: In December 1975, near the end of his city council term, a photograph of a black-eyed Klahr ran next to a news story about an assault on Klahr by one of his own head-shop employees. Klahr told the paper that his assailant was a drug addict he was attempting to rehabilitate. The beating, Klahr said, had occurred after the men returned from a Christmas shopping trip together. The assailant told the paper that Klahr had given him money, gifts, jobs and medical assistance over a period of two years. Klahr did not press charges in the assault.
Finally: In December 1985, Klahr came home to discover an intruder, armed with a shotgun, waiting for him. "People who say I'm soft on crime, they don't know what I've gone through," Klahr says. "I walked into my house . . . and there was a man with a sawed-off shotgun. I thought it was a hit. I mean, I thought it was a deliberate killing. Obviously it wasn't. That's why I'm still here. But he robbed me of $1,000 and that was really frightening." The crime was never solved, and Klahr was again photographed for a newspaper story, this time posing in front of the bathroom towel bar to which the intruder tied him.
Klahr has had other brushes with the chaotic nature of the universe, including one bizarre tale from the mid-1970s in which one of his young clients convinced him to journey to a Mesa drive-in theatre--purportedly to talk about the client's drug problem. During the movie, both men were robbed at knifepoint by a third man. The assailant had robbed Klahr at his home the previous month, leading police to suspect that Klahr had been set up by his client. Klahr today labels the situation a kidnaping.
Characteristically, Klahr attempts to turn his brushes with mayhem into a campaign strategy point. In this year's campaign literature, Klahr claims that his home and offices have been burglarized some 40 times, then adds that such a record will help him, as county attorney, better empathize with crime victims.
Is it possible to chalk up these episodes to a bad-luck streak? Klahr explains it all by saying he represents a lot of "bad eggs," that he has personally invested a lot of time trying to rehabilitate them, and that sometimes the rehab doesn't take.
"I used to be a bleeding-heart liberal," says Klahr of his sometimes dangerous work with "bad eggs." "You've heard the definition of a conservative as a liberal who's been mugged? Well, I've gotten more conservative as I've gotten older, though I haven't lost my idealism.