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By New Times Staff
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When Mahoney passed the reviewing stand, his shoveling activities were duly noted by former congressman Sam Steiger, who was sitting with a microphone at the ready.
Steiger announced to the crowd, "Here comes our secretary of state, Dick Mahoney. He has finally found his true vocation, picking up where other politicians leave off."
The horse-manure stunt was such a hit that Mahoney decided to risk filming it for a campaign commercial at a later parade in Tucson.
"We knew it would be a risk," he explains, "but we also understood it was something that could either make the campaign or break it."
Mahoney did another commercial, which he calls "The Flying Mustache," in which the distinctive appendage on Coppersmith's upper lip keeps flying on and off his face to denote his frequent change of positions. The ad is totally irreverent, but its message--that Coppersmith was nothing more than a political opportunist--came through clearly.
"Coppersmith gave me a wide berth after that began appearing," Mahoney says with a chuckle. "I think he was afraid if he got too close, I'd smack him."
Mahoney shakes his head.
"You know, I intended to run for governor rather than for the Senate seat."
"He convinced me that being governor was a hopeless office for a Democrat. You would have to contend not only with two predominantly Republican lawmaking bodies, but there would also be the fact that you would be in such close quarters with the press."
With his decision to run for the Senate made, Mahoney went to DeConcini and announced his intention to run for the seat then held by the senator.
At this point, DeConcini had not revealed his intention to step down. DeConcini reacted as though Mahoney's move was a threat.
"To say the very least, Dennis wasn't pleased," Mahoney says, laughing and shaking his head for emphasis. "And his unhappiness continued."
In fact, when DeConcini finally announced he was stepping down, he went out of his way to hurt Mahoney's chances.
"I'm here to announce that I'm running for secretary of state," DeConcini said facetiously to his followers.
DeConcini went on to complain about what he perceived to be Mahoney's ingratitude.
"I've been a friend of his family for years. His sister has worked for me for 17 years and still does."
And then DeConcini added what he hoped would be the final nail in Mahoney's coffin.
"I don't think Mahoney would be a strong candidate, and I don't think I could vote for him."
Here was DeConcini, who was leaving the U.S. Senate with a personal fortune valued at $25 million, trying to destroy the chances of a candidate who was virtually without funds. In a way, it was a fitting end to the career of a discredited politician who had sold his soul to Charlie Keating and others of his ilk.
Mahoney shook his head at the memory.
"My sister still works for Dennis," he says. "She stayed neutral in the campaign. She went to Dennis and told him that she supported her brother, but that as long as she worked for Dennis, she would work as hard as she could.
"To his credit, he told her he understood that and was confident of her loyalty."
Mahoney is a rebel by heritage. His grandfather, William Mahoney, came to Arizona after being a union organizer for the Western Federation of Miners in Colorado.
"There was a warrant for his arrest and a contract on his head arranged by the Pinkertons when he came here in 1899. He served in the second and third legislatures and wrote the first rights bill for women. He lived to be 86, and I knew him well.
"When my grandfather got married, the best man was Governor George Hunt."
It was Hunt who in 1916 became engaged in a race for governor so close that his opponent, Tom Campbell, was first declared the winner. Campbell had already taken office by the time the recount showed that Hunt was the actual winner.
But Mahoney is not counting on that happening in his case.
"I admit that on election night, like 8,000 jackasses before me, I thought I was the winner. But it's over. It was worth doing. It was worth disturbing the peace, stirring things up."
Mahoney shakes his head ruefully.
"But it sure as hell isn't worth it in terms of some lifelong plan. Stick with it too long and you become like Job.
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