THE OBJECT OF THEIR DESIRE

WOULD-BE POWER COUPLE TOM AND LINDA RAWLES WANT VOTES MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE

Tom and Linda want to share their "philosophical awakening" to the libertarian values of limited government and individual responsibility. Savvy to the politics of the area, they label themselves "conservative Republicans," not Libertarians.

According to Linda's campaign literature, she opposes tax increases, gun control and government interference in personal choices such as sexual orientation. She is pro-choice, but opposes federal funding for abortions. She is fighting to preserve the American dream, she tells the voter.

At the slightest provocation, Tom slips into the vernacular of the warrior.
"The battle that we're fighting is a hard one to describe, but it is more than just, you know, running for Congress and being supervisor. There are some fundamental things going on in this country that are at a variance with what we believe," he says.

Linda chimes in: "[Our] relationship solidifies our efforts, and gives us the heart and soul we need for our battles." Tom calls Linda his philosophical mooring, claiming he couldn't put his political theory into words until she helped him sort it out.

And Linda couldn't find her way around CD1 without Tom. He is her temporal compass. He handles every administrative detail of their personal and professional lives, from balancing the checkbook to mapping precincts to assisting in the preparation of her Federal Election Commission campaign reports.

His role in "Linda Rawles for Congress" (he doesn't have an official title, but for all practical purposes, he's running it) has raised eyebrows and led to unflattering news stories about her contributors--many of whom do business with the county.

While Tom's involvement has not been proved to be illegal, the ethics of mixing county concerns with congressional campaigning have been questioned repeatedly. The Rawleses ignore the criticism, which has made them even less popular with establishment Republicans, who've never welcomed the couple into the inner circle.

Last spring, Matt Salmon, another Republican candidate in CD1, bagged an official endorsement from U.S. Senator John McCain--a potentially powerful blow to Linda's fund-raising efforts. And Tom annoyed power brokers on both sides of the aisle with his vocal opposition and vote against Jerry Colangelo's baseball-stadium sales tax.

The Rawleses cheerily cultivate their image as outsiders. Jason Rose, an account executive for the local political consulting firm Nelson Robb DuVal & DeMenna and a Salmon supporter, says, "Tom pictures himself as a populist Republican, if you will, and, for the most part, tries to buck the establishment, because he sees himself in this popular role, and the baseball-stadium debate is a classic example."

Tom says, "We're sort of renegades, but we're respectable renegades."
Respectable, but not always respectful. At a meeting of the North Phoenix Rotary Club last spring, he referred to his fellow supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Ed King as "Beavis and Butt-head."

"It was entirely disrespectful and inappropriate. I deeply regret it," Tom says with a self-satisfied smile. King laughs it off. Wilcox didn't. "I think it just kind of shows what kind of person he is when he says those things. Obviously, we must frustrate him, and I think he's a bit of a bully himself, and I think he's very frustrated because he can't bully us into going his way," she says.

"I've never worked with anybody like Tom," she adds, "in that most of the people I've worked with--Democrat or Republican--you know, everybody knows you have to sit down in the final analysis and try to fit in or hammer out a consensus opinion, and if you can't, then you professionally differ. I don't see that Tom--if things don't go his way, I think the childishness comes out."
Linda, who follows Tom's actions at the county almost as closely as he follows her campaign, scoffs. "What is the point of having people with different viewpoints, like Tom and Mary Rose Wilcox, always getting along? That's not even a desirable end," she says.

The Rawleses just don't care what people think of them. About the only thing they do worry about--other than their quest to save Americans from their government--is their finances.

Aside from the snazzy cars, the Rawleses lead a simple life. Tom's divorce was a financial drain. Linda gave up a paycheck when she left Lewis and Roca to campaign. Tom is only practicing part-time, and the $42,500 salary he draws from the county isn't enough to make ends meet. Recently, he was told by his superiors at Lewis and Roca that he's spending too many potentially billable hours on county business; his salary will shrink next year.

"Every month we go a little deeper in the hole," Tom says.
But money is nothing when you can have power--or, as the Rawleses would rather describe it, the ability to shape policy. In a declaration that begs soft accompaniment by "America the Beautiful," Linda explains, "We think that freedom is a higher good than security. So we have to be willing to practice that in our life by giving up our financial security." "And our time. And our time with each other," Tom adds.

"But you can't talk that way," Linda says. "If you talk that way, people will think it's a bunch of crap. Because they think it's all . . ."
"Glory," Tom interjects.
"Glory," his wife echoes.
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