Halloween VI: Election Fright!

In the sixth congressional district, J.D. Hayworth and Steve Owens have run campaigns so devoid of content it's almost scary

Hayworth was upset, the paper reported, because he had not been chosen to attend a meeting with then-president Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C. Hayworth claimed he had been discriminated against because he supported John B. Anderson, a Republican presidential candidate.

Other students told the paper Hayworth acted like a child and a prima donna during the meeting.

In 1990, Phoenix dailies reported that Hayworth was suspended from his job at Channel 10 after threatening a local radio producer.

In Washington, Hayworth stormed the Senate and almost started fistfights on the House floor.

Hayworth picked a fight with Maryland Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer by circulating a flier criticizing an amendment regarding health coverage for abortions that Hayworth thought Hoyer had sponsored. (Actually, the sponsor was Representative Ron Packard, a California Republican.)

This subtle flier read:
Hoyer = Illegal drug use "how to" training
Hoyer = sex training for federal employees
Hoyer = New Age cult training

On another occasion, Wisconsin Representative Dave Obey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, stopped a speech on the floor of the House to chastise Hayworth for kibitzing during Obey's remarks.

"You are one of the most impolite members I have ever seen in my service in this House," Obey told Hayworth.

One of Hayworth's more pathetic attempts at humor--and grabs for attention--comes in the form of Top 10 lists he reads aloud many mornings, during introductory remarks before the House of Representatives.

The following is one of the wittiest of the lists, as recounted in the Congressional Record:

Mr. Speaker, from the home office back in Scottsdale, AZ, the Top 10 reasons liberal Democrats oppose our Contract With America:

No. 10: Ideas? We don't need your stinking ideas.
No. 9: Book envy.
No. 8: Would you Republicans shut up?
No. 7: Al Gore, what a guy!
No. 6: 'Tis better to have taxed and lost than never to have taxed at all.
No. 5: Never make a promise you might have to keep.
No. 4: Would rather follow the P.T. Barnum maxim, "Never give the taxpayer an even break."
No. 3: Profits? What are profits? Are they evil?
No. 2: Hey, what happened? We thought the status quo was pretty good.

And the No. 1 reason Democrats oppose our Contract With America: Republicans, with our contract, are trying to change this Congress. Democrats would rather change the subject.

The Progressive, an admittedly liberal to radical magazine, dubbed Hayworth one of the "dimmest bulbs" in Congress. But the Washington Post also featured him in a story about unusual new members of Congress in its Style section.

Liz Wilner, managing editor of the Cook Political Report, calls Hayworth an amateur.

She says, "The things that Hayworth has done are not necessarily of the stuff that are going to make voters vote one way or another. Taken collectively, they sort of undermine his credibility and make him look amateurish."

That judgment makes Jason Rose angry. Rose, a Republican consultant and senior associate with the public relations firm Nelson, Robb, DuVal and DeMenna, says of the pundits, "They want to criticize J.D. Hayworth for being someone that most people would consider different. The guy doesn't always do the most tasteful things in the world.

"But J.D. Hayworth campaigned in 1994 on that kind of a platform, where he said, 'I'm not the same old thing. I'm not gonna go back there and just get along with a bunch of folks and not speak my mind.'"

Neither candidate in this race has deep ties to District 6. Hayworth and his family have lived in Scottsdale since 1987. Owens moved to Arizona in 1988 to marry his Vanderbilt Law School sweetheart, Karen, who was already working in Phoenix.

But Owens has lived in District 6 for little more than a year; previously, he lived in central Phoenix. When asked about the recent move--which coincided with his announcement to run for office--Owens acts insulted, explaining that he needed a larger house to accommodate a second child.

Despite Owens' protestations, the relocation was no coincidence. Steve Owens may have lived in Arizona for the past eight years, but he's spent most of that time plotting his path to Washington, D.C. A move across town is nothing, if it means a seat in Congress.

As a lawyer at the Phoenix law firm Brown and Bain, Owens earned a reputation as the Democratic party operative in an office teeming with active Democrats. He became chairman of the Arizona Democratic party in 1993.

During the 1994 political season, Owens considered running against Representative Bob Stump in District 3 and for the U.S. Senate seat left open by retiring Senator Dennis DeConcini.

Wisely predicting the oncoming Republican landslide, Owens stayed out. Now he's running for office full-time, on leave from Brown and Bain. Owens wears cowboy boots and insists he's at home among the rural constituents of District 6. It's obvious he has little in common with them, for it is Owens, the challenger, who is the Washington insider. The incumbent, Hayworth, is largely shunned inside the Beltway, while D.C. pundits practically coo when Owens' name is mentioned.

Wilner says of Owens, "He's a very good candidate. He's raised a lot of money. He's articulate."

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