THE OBJECT OF THEIR DESIRE

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

Most days, Linda Rawles rises at 8 a.m., drinks a Diet Coke, reads the morning newspaper and goes about the business of running for Congress. If she gets up any earlier, she vomits. Her husband, Tom, however, is an early bird. He's on the freeway to Phoenix--and his dual career as corporate lawyer and Maricopa County supervisor--before Linda's "human." At night, Linda tosses and turns, silently debating her opponents, while Tom snoozes.

The Rawleses don't see much of each other. He's a morning person, she's night. Their afternoons and evenings are jammed with events. But they remain together by other means. They are linked not merely by the love of husband and wife, but by a shared obsession with politics and their quest to conquer Arizona's Congressional District 1.

On a rare, empty evening in July, the loving couple sprawl on their living-room sofa, her bare feet in his lap. They are euphoric. They are together, and they are to spend the next couple of hours discussing their favorite subjects: themselves and their politics.

Both wear Polo shirts and Bermuda shorts. For high-priced Republican attorneys with a Jaguar and a Range Rover in the driveway, they're a bawdy pair. He burps, struggling to digest dinner--tequila chicken from the Rawleses' favorite restaurant, Applebee's; she stands to give her underpants a yank when they've crept up too far for comfort. Other than the occasional screech of a portable phone, the house is quiet, and if tonight is typical for the Rawles household, in a couple hours, Tom and Linda will watch the 10 o'clock news in bed before Tom passes out and Linda starts fretting.

Pillow talk, Tom says, will consist of "the campaign. The county. The budget. And how tired we are." Linda laughs, starts to speak, reconsiders. Goaded by Tom, she chuckles and says, "I was gonna say we would have sex, but we're too tired." Although Tom, who's 44, and Linda, who's 35, envision long political careers for themselves, they don't talk about the distant future. Nothing beyond the September 13 GOP primary, the November 8 general election and the trip to Jamaica they've promised each other.

The Rawleses' zeal borders on evangelism. Their wear their dogma--libertarianism tempered by marital bliss--like sturdy armor, particularly effective against the nasty headlines that have badgered Tom for allegedly using his supervisorial post to raise money for Linda's campaign.

"I'm her biggest advantage. I'm also her biggest disadvantage," Tom says. ". . . . We're not running as a couple, but we clearly are a team. And, yeah, there's an impact. Am I worried about it? I'm aware of it, but worried is not the right word, no."
Why should he be? In May, Linda released a poll which showed her to have the highest name recognition in her race--an obvious plus of sharing the county supervisor's last name.

The Rawleses are compatible between the sheets and on the campaign trail--though not necessarily in that order.

Tom says, "I'm not sure that we have a relationship right now that's separate from what we're doing. I mean, we love each other and we do things, but underlying it all is the county and the campaign."

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@body:Throw out ideology, and Tom and Linda Rawles are the East Valley's version of Bill and Hillary Clinton. They're both lawyers. Tom's supersensitive about his waistline; Linda changes her hairstyle every six months.

The Rawleses' love nest/war room is a modest house in Dobson Ranch, in Mesa, where they live with Linda's son, Clayton, 14, two dogs and a cat. Linda says the cat is the only thing Tom got from his first marriage, which lasted almost 20 years. It ended when Tom met Linda. His first wife, Michele Rawles, declined to be interviewed. A schoolteacher, she lives in Gilbert. The current Mr. and Mrs. Rawles met in 1990 at the Phoenix law firm Lewis and Roca, where Tom was practicing business law and Linda was clerking during her last summer of law school at the University of Chicago. Linda and her son left the Midwest for Arizona in the summer of 1991, and Tom and Linda were married that December--three months after Tom signed the divorce papers.

It's been a political whirlwind ever since. Tom ran for--and won--a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in November 1992. Now Linda is one of five Republicans vying for the chance to represent Arizona's Congressional District 1, the spot being vacated by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sam Coppersmith. Coincidentally, both Tom and Linda were just observers of American politics until 1986, when she ran for a county council position in Indiana and he considered a bid for CD1. Linda lost her primary by 250 votes, and Tom never made it to his--he pulled out to support and eventually work for the winner, former representative Jay Rhodes.

Tom worked for Rhodes as his local chief of staff for two years, then left to practice law full-time with Lewis and Roca.

In 1988, Linda lost another primary, this time for Indiana's state legislature. Then it was off to law school, Lewis and Roca and, eventually, love.

Now life revolves around politics, and the Rawleses couldn't be happier, they say, beaming at each other across the couch.

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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@body:"Does it make you nervous if I put the gun in the car?" Linda calls out, emerging from the back of her house with something wrapped in a washcloth, which she places on the kitchen table alongside a Sucrets box. The central Chandler precinct she's chosen to walk today has some tough neighborhoods, she explains.

The Rawleses only have one gun, a .38, which Linda bought strictly for self-defense. "I usually have Tom carry it in the Jag," she says. "They just assume you have money." Who they are is uncertain, but there's no time to ask, because Linda's behind schedule. Things are more hectic than usual at the Rawles home. Last night, Clayton had the stomach flu, and today, campaign manager Manda Turley is home with "an extreme case of PMS," Linda says. An hour ago, Pharaoh, the Rawleses' basenji, snatched Linda's lunch, an Arby's sandwich, from the kitchen table. The dog did leave the fries, which Linda has eaten, and now the candidate is ready to walk. After visiting with voters nearly every afternoon for more than a year, Linda's an expert at walking door to door. She's filled plastic bottles with water and ice, gathered petitions and clipboards and voter lists.

She heads outside to pack up the car after saying goodbye to Clayton, who's playing computer games in his bedroom with friends. Linda's sky-blue Range Rover is the campaign's command central on wheels. She's got a place for her water bottle, clipboards, lists, even the gun, which she loads with bullets from the Sucrets box and stows in a closed compartment, though she doesn't have a concealed-weapon permit.

Melissa Etheridge's Never Enough is in the tape deck, a stuffed elephant sits on the dash, a crystal hangs from the rearview mirror.

These days, Linda's hair is cropped short, its basic brown chemically coaxed to burnt sienna. She wears Bermudas, a Polo, big earrings and shiny, silver flats. She changes shoes each day, to avoid calluses, and wears a straw hat with a bright Guatemalan band to keep the sun off her face. No sunglasses--they restrict eye contact.

In the back of the car are boxes of campaign literature, bookmarks, refrigerator magnets and copies of a book titled The Imperial Congress, published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative, Washington, D.C., think tank. Republicans who voted in the last election get one of each and, if they're home, a greeting from the candidate herself.

She's guided by computer-generated lists that tell her the names and addresses of Republican voters. Tom devised a code when he was walking precincts for his supervisorial campaign in 92, and she's careful to pen the letters by each name, after each visit: "L.A." means left all materials. "L.B." means left brochure. "S." means she got a signature on her petition.

Most people are kind, Linda says. About one in 20 isn't, and those people also get a listing by their names: "A.H." for asshole. Linda doesn't make it a practice to mention that her husband is a county supervisor, but some people recognize the name and want to chat about the county. She does, reporting their complaints or praise to her husband. One guy told her one politician in the family was enough. Another, wearing a Phoenix Suns shirt, hat and socks, was mad about Tom's vote against the stadium tax. Others tell her to tell Tom to keep up the good work. She's having trouble finding the right street. Tom's far better at directions, and weekends are a relief, because he navigates and drives; all she has to do is hop out of the car at each house and give her shtick. Being with Tom is a relief on a lot of levels. After she was divorced in 1982 from George Hinshaw, a carpenter and musician to whom she was married for four years, Linda tended bar to support Clayton. It took 13 years, but she got her degree in political science from the University of Indiana in 1988, then commuted to the University of Chicago Law School.

When she met Tom in 1990, "I never dreamed I would marry him," she says. They barely spoke that summer, although they did go to lunch on her last day at the firm.

They ate at a restaurant on Central Avenue named Scruples. "We shared a piece of cheesecake. . . . That was as intimate as we got," Linda says. That would soon change. With Linda back in the Midwest, the two fell into the habit of speaking on the phone for three or four hours a day. She asked for advice--should she take a job with Lewis and Roca or a Chicago firm?--and "we ended up talking about everything," Linda says. "We fell in love on the telephone."

The bride wore forest green. "I did not break up his marriage," Linda insists (a friend of Tom's ex believes otherwise). "Like I said, they had nothing in common. . . . We are not a bit ashamed of how we met or that we fell in love. Neither of us was truly happy until we met."

Nor are they ashamed, she adds, about the fact that they shacked up while Tom was still married.

Ironically, they have Andy Gordon to thank for bringing them together. Gordon, a former partner at Lewis and Roca, recruited both Tom and Linda to work at the firm. He left in 1992 to head up newly elected Democratic Representative Sam Coppersmith's Washington, D.C., office. Gordon and others at the firm--including Beth Schermer, Coppersmith's wife--were reportedly taken aback when Linda announced her intention to challenge Coppersmith in 1994. (He had not yet decided to run for the Senate.)

Aha! Linda's finally found the right street. She turns the Range Rover into a residential neighborhood and parks, flipping through her list of voters.

The neighborhood, which Linda describes as "upper-lower or lower-middle class," is deserted except for a few kids who race through sprinklers or splash in portable pools. It's hot, but not as hot as you'd expect for the first day of summer in Chandler, Arizona. A thin layer of pale-gray clouds blocks the sun. Says Linda, who grew up poor in Indiana, "To me, anyone who had a doorbell was wealthy." This neighborhood's not so bad.

Most folks aren't home. The few who are look harried, but glad to see Linda when they realize she's not trying to sell anything but her candidacy. Gaggles of kids crowd around tired-looking moms, who open screen doors a crack to accept the campaign paraphernalia or to sign the nominating petition. She tells the voters to read her literature and call with questions.

"I'm working to earn your vote," she tells them. Do you want to sign my petition? she asks a large woman who answers the door wearing nothing but an oversize purple tee shirt. "Yeah, I do, especially when it's female!" the woman says, her wide-mouthed laugh revealing missing front teeth.

The advantage of being a woman is diluted in this race, where Linda has to share the female spotlight with longtime Tempe state legislator Bev Hermon and former Scottsdale city councilwoman Susan Bitter Smith. The fifth candidate in the Republican race is Bert Tollefson, a real estate executive and former government employee.

Linda tries to ignore the other women and Tollefson, claiming the primary is a two-way race between herself and Salmon; she brags that state legislator Chuck Blanchard, the sole Democrat running in CD1, has already started to campaign against her.

And she comforts herself by walking every day. Already, Tom estimates, Linda's given out almost 4,000 copies of The Imperial Congress.

The walk is cut short today; Linda is the featured speaker at the District 27 Republican meeting tonight. She pulls up to the house at the same time as Tom, and rushes off to shower while her husband greets the dogs and sorts the mail.

Tom's had a busy day, too. He spent the morning in a county budget workshop; while the others discussed the official budget, he pored over his calculator, devising his own alternative to offer later in the week. Linda pads out to the kitchen in stocking feet, hair slicked back, wearing a navy-and-white, figure-hugging dress.

"What color shoes?" she calls from the hall closet to Tom, who's still reading the mail at the kitchen table. "Anything but white." She waves a pair of silver and gold at him.

"Anything but white," he says, barely looking up.
"I don't even have white," she says, hearing him for the first time. She chooses black, and sits on the couch to apply layers of liquid makeup and lipstick. Tom quizzes her about her speech, and it's decided that Clayton and Tom will eat pizza for dinner.

The couple pauses a moment to read a letter from Arizona Republican National Committeeman Mike Hellon. The letter, addressed to "All Republican Candidates," urges GOPers in contested primaries to avoid personal attacks. ". . . . Misrepresentations about, or gratuitous attacks on the character, family, or motives of a Republican primary opponent will immediately precipitate the most aggressive pre-primary opposition I can muster," Hellon writes.

Linda drives through Jack-In-The Box for a Diet Coke. She can't eat before a public speaking engagement.

Addressing the couple of dozen Tempe Republicans, she apologizes for Tom's absence--he wishes he could be there, but Clayton's Little League awards presentation is tonight--then shares her message of economic and personal freedom.

When it's time for questions, her GOP opponent Tollefson jumps to his feet. Tollefson is prone to sudden, public outbursts of political incorrectness. Recently, at a forum sponsored by the Arizona Republican Caucus, he chastised his fellow candidates who have children at home for running.

"Linda, I'm sorry to say, but everybody's talking about how Tom's out there raising your money for you," he says, his voice booming through the Tempe City Council chambers where District 27 Republicans meet.

A murmur runs through the crowd.
"Come on, Bert." "Sit down."
He doesn't, continuing to harp on the ambulance company looking for county business that gave Linda's campaign $11,000 last year.

Linda remains composed. Her simple denial of impropriety seems enough to satisfy the crowd, and, in the end, Tollefson's outburst is a plus. No one seems to care whether Tom might have bagged her some contributions. Blue-haired ladies hug her when she's done, and state Representative Gary Richardson turns around in his seat to comment, "I think Bert is getting more votes for her."

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@body:It's 1 p.m. on June 23, and Tom Rawles will appear on Horizon, a public-affairs program produced by the local PBS station, in six hours to talk about the county's financial woes. His administrator, Manjula Vaz, has orchestrated the afternoon: back-to-back meetings with county budget staff, fellow supervisor John Katsenes and Linda Turley, the county's $72,000-per-year spin doctor and charm coach.

The goal of the Horizon appearance is for Tom and Katsenes to present Rawles' alternative budget, designed to address the county's deficit, which, on this particular day, stands at an estimated $70 million.

Tom sits in his office on the tenth floor of the county building and sorts through the contents of his "In" box. His desk is bare except for a framed picture of Clayton and a few stacks of paper. Tom's graying hair falls over his forehead, Dennis the Menace style, and despite his large frame, his dark suit seems too big.

He was raised on a ranch 100 miles north of San Francisco. He graduated from Willamette University and Arizona State University College of Law, practicing criminal defense and medical malpractice law until 1987, when he went to work for U.S. Representative Jay Rhodes. Even when he's yelling at county staff, Tom looks as though he's eager to please--his wide face hopeful, his body straining forward. He says "all's" a lot, as in "all's we gotta do." Tom also quotes Winston Churchill, his hero, and talks about his book on Dwight Eisenhower's political motivations--the manuscript half-finished, in a closet at home. He calls books "my friends."

He's never completely still. A leg or a foot is always shaking, the rapid staccato of a man who's running a congressional campaign, practicing law on behalf of Dial, a Fortune 500 company, and trying to balance a budget run amok in the nation's sixth-largest county.

But right now, he's reading a seven-page document prepared by an outside consultant, detailing the county's requirements for a new county manager. Disgusted with grammatical errors and phrases he finds contradictory, Tom summons Paul Ahler, the county's human resources director. Vaz is instructed to push the other meetings back.

The county's financial crisis seems forgotten as Tom rips the document apart. The consultant has even included mention of an automobile allowance--a huge no-no in light of the recent controversy about supervisors and staff keeping county cars. (Rawles vehemently opposed the practice, and never used a county car.)

An hour later, Ahler gone, Tom calls Linda. He wants to catch her before she leaves to walk. He reminds her of the time of her district meeting that night, and spends five minutes repeating detailed directions to the site, the Scottsdale Senior Center.

He tells her he hears it's 114 degrees outside, and they decide she will feed Clayton.

"I love you. All right, bye," he says, then spreads out his budget notes to play with some numbers before Katsenes arrives. It's almost 3 p.m. The phone rings, and Tom's secretary pops her head in. Manda Turley, Linda's campaign manager in title, is on the line. Tom, the campaign manager in practice, takes a final look at his computer screen, mutters, "Well, I've gotta find another $1.7 million," and picks up the phone.

Manda's having trouble setting up a campaign event for the weekend. Tom advises her, cracks open a Coke, and turns to Vaz. "Okay, let's talk to John."

It's late June, and the clock is ticking on the county budget. Tom doesn't like the staff proposal, which would slice each department by 15 percent. He's tinkering with a model that would cut some programs by only 6 percent, and skewer some entirely.

If all goes well, and a few numbers can be rearranged, Tom can present his budget on Channel 8 tonight and maybe speak with some of the daily newspapers' editorial boards before the end of week. He and Katsenes are joined by Barbra Cooper, the acting county manager. It quickly becomes clear that Tom doesn't yet have a solid budget to pitch.

Cooper's nervous; she's just come from a meeting with the public-sector credit people at Bank One, and they weren't encouraging about offering the county help. "I think we've gotta throw them [Bank One] a bone," she says. "Close the trauma center [of the county hospital]. Close two floors of the hospital."

Tom has an alternative. Transfer the hospital's debt to the general fund and let it start fresh. Cooper wants to know if he's ready to sell the county's health-care business after a year, or raise taxes, if it doesn't work.

Yes, Tom says, although "I don't like putting my political future in the hands of 4,000 employees. But that's what we're talking about." By 4:30, they've decided to share just a few general themes with Horizon's viewers. Linda Turley, a former TV news anchor, comes in to prep Tom and Katsenes. Don't use acronyms, she tells them. And try to come across confident and honest, Turley says, adding that she's frustrated because "we're not getting the word out" about how hard county staff is trying to resolve the crisis.

The pep talk turns into a gripe session. They grouse about David Schwartz, the Arizona Republic reporter covering the county. "We could clue David in to the resurrection of Jesus and he'd want to know who pounded the nails," Tom says.

The supervisors assure Turley they're not nervous, and Katsenes tells Tom he'll defer to him, since it's his budget. "You keep your wits about you, and I'll cue up for you," he says.

But during the broadcast, Tom barely gets a word in, as Katsenes rambles on about issues only tangentially related to the budget.

Tom's a good sport about the whole thing.
He guides the black Jag into his parking space at the county's Southeast complex and heads for the harshly fluorescent cafeteria where District 29 Republicans, Mesa conservatives, have gathered. He's not here to speak about the county, but about Linda.

When Linda announced her candidacy, he tells the group, "The first question of me was, why are you letting Linda do this? . . . I was advised, not consulted."

He gets a lukewarm response to that, and concludes by saying that this "country is headed for economic ruin," and Linda can save it. He doesn't wait for questions, and heads for the back of the room amid a polite smattering of applause.

Matt Salmon, John McCain's anointed CD1 candidate, stands in the middle of the room, listening. He doesn't applaud.

Tom spends the duration of the meeting in the hallway, schmoozing, or by the snack table. He shoves a sugar cookie into his mouth. "This is my dinner," he says sheepishly.

He doesn't hear Salmon's speech, though it's directed at him. In sharp contrast, Salmon pounds the podium, brimming with fire.

"Although I'm the only one in my family running for office, we care about our country as much as you do!" he says. He thanks his wife for "giving me" four children, his motivation for running in the first place. He concludes with another jab at the Rawleses: "I want to know that person's character--it is an issue."
The assemblage cheers.
Salmon's words all but confirm rumors that Linda's foes intend to make an issue of her character. In her literature, Linda tells CD1 voters she will fight to keep government "out of your bedroom."

That statement is toned down from her writings in the February 20, 1992, issue of the Chicago Federalist Forum, published by her law school's chapter of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. That edition features a pro/con between two students on the question "Should the State Regulate Consensual Sexual Behavior?" No! states the libertarian Linda Dilts (her maiden name), in a breezy missive that starts off, "Says the 'Conservative' to the 'Libertarian': 'Do you actually wish to legalize all private sexual activity between two consenting adults?' Responds the 'Libertarian': 'Why limit it to two?' And, indeed, why?"

By the middle, she's warmed up to, "As welfare and government 'entitlements' are simply legalized theft, so sodomy, fornication, adultery and prostitution laws are inverse rape."

The piece concludes with a brief bio in which Linda describes herself as "a second-year law student who rambles in print and in thought, harbors only minor inconsistencies, enjoys good and moral sex, and claims that the preceding quirks are protected by her Ninth Amendment rights."

Today, she defends the article as an exercise in argument.
"I believe I stretched mine [opinion] a little bit for the sake of argument, because that's what you do in law school. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't believe the gist of it, because I still do, and probably believed most of it then, too," she says. She does renege when it comes to legalizing prostitution. "AIDS was a factor then [in 1990], but not nearly so much as it is now," she says.

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@body:Will love conquer all--or even the GOP primary? The Rawleses face an uphill struggle in their lust to put Linda in office.

For all her talk about personal liberties and individual responsibility, Linda has had difficulty translating her beliefs into measurable action.

Nelson Robb DuVal & DeMenna's Jason Rose says part of the problem is that Linda Rawles wants to paint herself as a conservative, but the voters haven't caught on.

"I think people recognize Matt Salmon as a conservative. I don't think people know what Linda Rawles is," he says. "She wants to be a conservative worse than anything in the world, and I cannot give you a good reason why she's not viewed as a conservative."
Ben Sheffner, assistant editor of the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based monthly covering congressional and gubernatorial races, has interviewed more than 175 House candidates, including Rawles, Salmon, Bitter Smith and Blanchard. He sees Salmon as the front-runner on the Republican side. "One, he has proven vote-getting ability. Two, he's conservative. . . . And in a Republican primary, especially in Arizona, that's where you've gotta be," Sheffner says.

Sheffner agrees that Linda has trouble portraying herself as conservative, probably because she doesn't have a track record, as Salmon does from his years in the Arizona legislature. But her biggest problem is her carpetbagger image, he says. Of the House candidates he's interviewed, Linda Rawles is the most serious offender in the short-timer category, Sheffner adds. Linda Rawles' campaign "reeks of political opportunism," he says.

Linda admits that she didn't recognize Ann Symington when Arizona's first lady approached her at a reception last fall. But she and Tom believe that works to her advantage. After all, this is the congressional district that another carpetbagger, John McCain, snatched up in 1982.

Tom wonders, "Do you have to earn your way, do you have to go up a step at a time, do you have to play the game, do you have to be part of an inner cadre of a group of people who are going to anoint their leaders, or do you have a right to step up and say this is what I believe and this is what I can do, and take your chances?"

"If somebody doesn't want to vote for me because I've lived here three years, that's their right," Linda says.

Manjula Vaz, who's worked for Tom since he was elected to the Board of Supervisors, says the Rawleses "will ignore perception."

Vaz learned a valuable lesson about perception last year, when she attended a campaign-related event in Washington, D.C., with Linda. A paperwork snafu led to the perception that Vaz was helping Linda on county time; Vaz insists Tom had cleared vacation time for her. "I now can recognize perception," says Vaz, who is careful to stay away from the "Linda Rawles for Congress" campaign. When Linda Turley came to work for the county, Vaz was concerned about appearances, because Manda Turley, Linda's daughter, is Linda Rawles' campaign manager. Vaz double-checked, and was told there was no legal conflict.

Tom, however, has immersed himself in Linda's campaign. That meant trouble last summer, when it was reported that Professional Medical Transport Inc. received a county contract after company associates gave $11,000 to Linda's campaign.

Subsequent reports detailed contributions from others who have county interests but--quizzically--don't live in CD1. For example, landowners and lawyers in the west-side community of Laveen donated money at about the time a decision was made to consider eliminating Laveen's flood-plain designation, an action that assures higher land values.

Last May, the Phoenix Gazette reported that one-third of Linda's contributions were tied to people with county business. The Rawleses deny any wrongdoing. It's hard to find traditional Republican fund-raising sources who don't have some connection with the county, Tom says. "You could make a connection between any of these people [campaign donors] and the county," Linda says.

But even if nothing's illegal, there's always the perception . . .
"Yeah," Tom says, "I've thought about pulling back. And what I eventually concluded is, A) I've done nothing wrong, B) I will do nothing wrong and C) I believe in Linda and I will do everything I can to help her. That doesn't mean that I will twist anyone's arm for a contribution . . ."
"Which we never have done," Linda interjects.
Tom: "And, in fact, if anybody knows me, I'm a horrible fund raiser. . . . I've never used the power of my office for a contribution. I've never called up anybody and said, 'You want something? You're gonna have to come through for Linda.'"

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, says that while there may be nothing illegal about the Rawleses' activity, it doesn't appear to be in the public's best interest. Most likely, there will never be a definitive answer as to whether Tom misused his position at the county, Hogan adds, because contributors won't want to admit they were using Tom.

"There isn't going to be anyone coming forward saying they made a contribution to Linda's campaign in exchange for Tom Rawles' vote. That isn't gonna happen," Hogan says. "You'll never be able to prove it. It just looks bad. . . . If she's elected, I assume we'll see this go in reverse, too."
Hogan recognizes that elected officials solicit contributions for other candidates all the time, but he believes judgment is clouded when family members are involved.

He says, "When I'm doing something on behalf of my spouse, I take a much more personal interest in it, and I want to see it succeed in a way that I don't for other people."

@rule:
@body:Around town, tongues continue to flap the tale that Linda's only running to clear a path for Tom, who will run for higher office--Congress or governor--in 96 or 98. Both deny this, although they do admit that Tom runs the show.

Except for when Linda's yelling at Tom, telling him that if he doesn't exercise, he'll end up like Skip Rimsza, the 39-year-old Phoenix mayoral wanna-be who just underwent triple-bypass surgery.

"Linda claims that I am the leader of the pack. It relates to the [family] dogs. . . . She'll tell the dogs, 'Do this, do this, do this, do this,' and they won't do it. But I'll look at them and say--like I did with this one--Don't even think about it.' And she stops dead," Tom says, motioning to Pharaoh, frozen at his feet.

"The dogs look at Tom as the leader. Definitely," Linda says.
So does she, and so does Clayton. Tom says he's giving Linda a break in the discipline department, which she's done alone as a single mom for 12 years. Clayton was instrumental in her decision to run, Linda says, recalling his remarks when she first broached the idea of running.

"He said, 'I'd rather you go [to Congress], Mom, than Tom.' Tom still rubs that in," she says, laughing.

Back on the couch, Tom and Linda continue to gaze into one another's eyes, warmed by the evening's pontification.

"I don't think we have a relationship without politics, because I don't think we have a being without politics," Linda says dreamily. Whatever would they do in Jamaica? Tom looks a little embarrassed. "We'll talk, but I can lay on the beach and drink 7&7s and not care," he admits. "I might take a book about Plato or something, and we'll argue that," Linda says.

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