By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Roger Rudman sits nervously on the edge of a chair, his fingers busily fondling an imaginary cigarette as he takes a momentary respite from a chain-smoking habit. His clothes are rumpled and his hair mussed. He looks as if sleep has long been a stranger, and dark circles rim his watery, bloodshot eyes. When he speaks, to tell his tale of woe, the words tumble out in a manic, staccato patter.
This is a man in pain.
This is a man who has been dumped like a sack of wet cement by the woman he loves.
"She left me because she wanted to 'pursue other horizons,'" he says, laughing bitterly.
It's a sad story, and agonizingly familiar to veterans of the relationship wars. One morning you wake up and wham . . . Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect has turned into a weasel, dropping the unexpected bombshell that it's time to "see other people," or mumbling some other euphemism for "Get lost."
First come the tears, the bitter recriminations and, finally, the squabbles over petty possessions--I want my records back, the dog likes me best, etc., etc.
Before long, however, most people put the painful rejection of a breakup behind them. And yes, sometimes you can still be friends. Life goes on.
But not for Rudman. This jilted lover has forsaken forgiving and forgetting to embark on a quest for big-time payback--and he wants Phoenix voters to help him get it, by tossing his former sweetheart out of office.
Rudman, 47, a former bail bondsman and self-styled political kingmaker, skillfully managed then-girlfriend Rebecca Macbeth's insult-charged 1990 campaign for justice of the peace in the East Phoenix No. 1 District. They proved to be a winning team--the grizzled, hard-bitten handler and the youngish, pretty candidate, showing they shared a love of below-the-belt politics and each other.
About 18 months ago, however, it became clear that the honeymoon was over for this match made in the voting booth. In the wake of what court records hint was a financial dispute, the judge suddenly broke the news to Rudman that their romance was splitsville. When Rudman didn't ride gracefully into the sunset, instead making repeated phone calls to Macbeth's home and picketing the courthouse where she works, the judge filed for a court order protecting her from this persistent Romeo.
In reply, Rudman slapped back with a protective order of his own, charging that Macbeth had threatened to kill him. Then he launched a vitriol-drenched recall effort against his ex-honey--providing pol-watchers with yet another episode in a long-running public soap opera.
A former JP himself, Rudman insists that his efforts to boot Macbeth from office are based on civic-mindedness. Citing a host of vague, largely unsubstantiated ethical violations, he charges that Macbeth "is an unfit judge." "I helped put her in, so it's up to me to remove her," he says. "Our personal relationship has nothing to do with it. There's a principle at stake."
It seems fair to wonder, however, if the "principle" alone is worth the kind of effort and cash Rudman is pumping into the recall campaign. The lovelorn politico--admittedly still smarting over the breakup--has brought an almost Biblical intensity to the task at hand, thereby not only revealing a vengeful desire to evict Macbeth from office, but also to burn her political career to the ground and salt the earth where it once stood.
Rudman, who is working on the recall almost full-time, has spent more than $7,000 of his own money since the campaign began October 29, most of it for dozens of large, flashy, "Recall Rebecca" signs designed around an especially unflattering photo of her honor. In addition, Rudman has coughed up the funding for 20,000 full-color, glossy, anti-Macbeth fliers that have been mailed directly to homes across the East Phoenix district--a high-dollar tactic usually reserved for congressional and presidential campaigns.
Macbeth, 37, categorically denies that her performance on the bench has been anything less than "exemplary," but does admit to being "wounded" by the recall effort.
Unlike Rudman, Macbeth refuses to discuss many of the details behind the very public spat. "A judge," she intones solemnly, "can't involve herself in mudslinging." She has hopes the whole thing can be resolved somehow before it goes further.
But Rudman says there isn't much chance of that. He takes his sexual politics seriously, and he's playing to win.
"This is the most serious recall effort since that one," Rudman says, pointing to an old "Mecham for ex-governor" bumper sticker.
"I'm going to toss her out of there. She's going down."
Truly, hell hath no fury like a boyfriend scorned.
@body:Rudman and Macbeth go way back. So does their attraction to the office of justice of the peace, and their history of conflict and controversy.
While most citizens would probably be hard-pressed to name the JP in their district, it is undeniable that the county's 21 justices wield considerable power. They are on the front lines of the judicial system, presiding over DUI jury trials, preliminary hearings for many felony cases, civil lawsuits up to $2,500, landlord-tenant complaints and a wide variety of misdemeanor offenses. For the vast majority of people, JP court may be their only contact with the legal bureaucracy.