NO MERE MR. NICE GUY

GUBERNATORIAL HOPEFUL EDDIE BASHA IS KNOWN AS A PHILANTHROPIST AND A CRUSADER FOR EDUCATION. WHAT HE'S NOT KNOW AS IS A DEMOCRAT

Basha also wants to create "small business investment banks" to provide new sources of capital through private banks and state Department of Commerce appropriations.

Campaign prognosticators see Basha as an underdog, but a force to be reckoned with in the primary.

If, for example, Goddard and Johnson split the vote in Phoenix, where they have high name recognition, Basha's support in the Tucson area, rural counties and on the Indian reservations--where Bashas' Markets Inc. is the only major grocer that has been willing to do business--could put him over the top.

And nearly all Democrats--and not a few Republicans--believe that if Basha wins the primary and faces incumbent Governor Fife Symington in the general, he'll win.

It would be a fascinating contest, pitting Symington, a failed businessman who talks about nothing but business and who sends his kids to private schools, against Basha, a successful businessman who talks about almost nothing but education, whose family built a Catholic school in Chandler but whose own children have attended public schools.

A glorious October sunrise broke over the Chiricahua Mountains as the Basha for Governor campaign bus rumbled to life with a belch of blue smoke.

All day, as the bus wended across the undulating highways from Douglas to Willcox to Globe and Superior, its transmission protested loudly, groaning and revving crazily. Cresting a high pass on State Route 177 between Superior and Kearny, the bus had had enough. Its gearbox exploded with a startling racket. The bus driver eased his wounded machine into a convenient gravel turnout. The dozen or so occupants--relieved that the brakes had outlasted the transmission--tumbled out.

The sky was a perfect, cloudless blue. The autumn sun gave a warm burnish to pinnacles and scarps that dot the topography. The air, save for an acrid waft of pulverized machinery, was moteless and pure. It was a wonderful spot to be marooned. Someone broke out soft drinks.

But soon, the realization sunk in that down the road in Kearny, people were gathered on a patio, awaiting an audience with the candidate. The Basha for Governor brain trust babbled and gesticulated into its first exercise in crisis management.

Basha observed for a few moments before his chairman-of-the-board instincts kicked in. He waded into the thicket of advisers, sweeping his beefy arm and brandishing a cellular phone. "All right, here's what we're going to do!" Basha announced. The haggling stopped.

The entourage had the good fortune of two trailing sedans, which had come alongside the disabled bus. Basha decreed that essential personnel would commandeer these vehicles to keep the appointment in Kearny. In the meantime, a cellular summons to Bashas' corporate headquarters in Chandler would mobilize a fleet of Chevy Suburbans to collect the remainder of the crew.

As the two sedans darted back onto the highway, a discreet aide was taking the "Basha for Governor" banners off the crippled bus. Eddie Basha's campaign was on the road again, headed for Kearny, where a wispy youth named Rhett Wilson was waiting to talk with him.

A BOY OF STRUMMER RICK TREVINO PLAYS THE... v1-20-94

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