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Her colleagues shake their heads in amazement. "You're gonna have to hire psychologists and psychiatrists to figure out what snapped there," Representative Sue Gerard says of Graham's newfound commitment.
"I have changed in this process," Graham agrees. No more Mrs. Nice Guy. ". . . What it takes is being willing to have people mad at you for a long, sustained period."
The New Lisa Graham surfaces when it's suggested she's carrying Symington's water, perhaps in exchange for an endorsement for higher office.
"Oh, bullshit. That's bullshit. It's not carrying the governor's water. . . . This is my idea. It's my program," she says. Furthermore, she insists--after fuming that the suggestion is patronizing and sexist as hell--I have not cut a single deal with the governor."
@body:When Arizona's voucher proponents realized they may be short Republican votes, they turned to Hispanic Democrats. As the Wall Street Journal noted in a February 2 editorial, this is a popular tactic used in voucher battles around the country.
But instead of accurately describing the intense lobbying aimed at Hispanic Democrats--particularly by the Catholic Church--the Journal referred to a "quiet revolution," suggesting that Hispanic Democrats are flocking to support school choice.
That has not been the case in Arizona. At best, the Hispanic community is split when it comes to vouchers. And support among Hispanics, for the most part, has not translated into votes. For months, Senator Lito Pe¤a was the sole Democrat solidly committed to vouchers. Representative Joe Eddie Lopez recently indicated that he will probably join in support. Others remain in strong opposition; a few are reportedly wavering.
Senate Minority Leader Pete Rios is not wavering. And he doesn't appreciate some of the lobbying tactics of the opposition.
"I think it's pretty obvious," says Rios, who received a pro-voucher call from the governor of Puerto Rico. "They're using Hispanics to try to get to Hispanics. They're using high-powered Republicans to get to Republicans. They're using whatever will work with particular legislators."
So why not use Catholics to get to Catholics? Pe¤a, who says he hasn't been lobbied by the church, laughs at the idea. "What would they do, threaten you to go to hell?" he asks.
The Catholic Church has been a longtime advocate of public aid to private schools. According to Church Schools and Public Money: The Politics of Parochiaid, a book by Edd Doerr and Albert Menendez, American Catholic schools lost more than two million students between 1970 and 1990. In Arizona, the total number of students enrolled in Catholic schools declined by almost 50 percent during that time.
Because Catholic schools have access to volunteers, they are generally able to keep tuition lower than at secular schools. While the $1,500 voucher wouldn't appeal to a secular private school, Catholic schools see it as a way to boost declining enrollment.
In California, the church officially took a neutral position, but many parishioners heard pro-voucher messages from the pulpit. In Arizona, Monsignor Ed Ryle, lobbyist for the Phoenix Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, has joined the pro-voucher movement.
Ryle is modest about his powers of persuasion. He looks heavenward, hands together in mock prayer. "I pray hard every day that everybody will come around," he says, giggling. The clergyman devotes most of his time to lobbying for issues of social welfare, and insists he has little power when it comes to stacking up votes. "I don't have PACs; I don't have money to go to fancy fund raisers," he says. He has, however, been responsible for rallying Hispanics around the voucher cause. Keli Luther, an aide to Graham, says Ryle really "got the ball rolling" in the Hispanic community. Ryle says he's always been honest about his intentions. "I don't blindside people," he says. But just a few weeks ago, he orchestrated an event that caught Pete Rios by surprise. When Rios was invited to lunch by Ryle, Rios didn't have to ask the topic; he knew it would be vouchers. What he says he didn't know was that Lisa Graham and other voucher supporters would be there, ready to bombard him with propaganda.
Rios arrived late for lunch; the first person he saw was Graham. "I looked, I said, 'Okaaaaay! I think I know why I'm here,'" he recalls. He apologized for his tardiness, ate his lunch and quickly escaped.
When questioned about the incident, Graham pauses. "I had the thing on my calendar for two weeks," she finally says. "I can't imagine Rios wouldn't have known I was [going to be] there." Last week, a group of Hispanic leaders gathered in the Senate lobby to endorse Graham's reform package--vouchers and all. After a brief press conference, some of the participants exchanged sharp words with Democrats such as Rios, who remain opposed to vouchers.
And far above the fray, on the Ninth Floor of the Executive Tower, was Fife Symington.
@body:Not every Republican is as loyal to the Cause.
The Capitol has been abuzz for weeks with word of arm-twisting by Republican leadership, Symington's office and special interest groups. Lisa Graham insists the only pressure has been "intellectual." The Senate's Tom Patterson concurs. "There's been no suggestion of any retribution of any kind," he says. House Minority Leader Art Hamilton disagrees. "To suggest," he counters, "that members haven't had their political careers threatened in terms of at least having precinct committeemen talked to or having it suggested that they're not good Republicans, Tom himself can't believe that. It certainly has happened. It's been the talk of this whole damn place."