The Bench Warmer and the Straggler

Gubernatorial candidates have been playing the usual political game. One of them lost a long time ago.

Like Rios, some look at Hull's first year as governor and find it hard to reconcile with her performance as Speaker of the House. Who shows up after the election? The moderate governor who, unlike Symington, will at least talk with environmentalists, who makes AIDS funding a budget line item for the first time, who takes advantage of federal dollars to extend health care to low-income children?

Or the conservative legislator who supported a constitutional amendment to ban all forms of abortion, who favored insurers over consumers, who voted to make schools teach evolution as a theory rather than a fact?

Asked about her stand on abortion, for example, which has gone from staunchly opposing a woman's right to choose to a lukewarm support for it, Hull tells New Times: "I think it's always hard to pin me down."

She's voted to require parental consent in the cases involving minors, and she says a Johnson commercial is correct when it cites her 1981 support for a constitutional amendment that would have banned all forms of abortion in Arizona. "It didn't get through the Senate, and I think I strongly suspected that it wouldn't," she says.

When an initiative banning abortion came before the voters in 1992, Hull was very public in opposing it. "I think we are all appalled by abortion . . . but I will say that I think the discussion should hinge more on abstinence, parental responsibility and on family planning."

Archival news reports do pin down several other highlights of Hull's legislative career:

Elected to the House in 1978, Hull became speaker in 1989, moving up from majority leader, the No. 2 spot. She aligned herself with moderates but pleased the right wing by giving her old post to a conservative.

She takes credit for this year's $180 million in tax breaks ($100 million in vehicle license tax cuts, $50 million in income taxes, and $30 million in corporate and property taxes), but as speaker she presided over three major tax increases in the tougher economic years of 1988 to 1990.

In 1984, Hull voted against equalizing pay for women working in state and local governments. Three years earlier, she had supported a bill that would have limited state-subsidized day care, saying, "We have women in bikinis at the pool while their children are in day care."

A 1982 remark is often quoted, when she suggested that swamp coolers at a state prison might break down. "That might get rid of some of our prison population."

Asked to elaborate, she did: "Suffocate them to death. I really believe if we made it harder on them, they wouldn't be there."

She told New Times later that the remark was made in jest to relieve the frustration of dealing with the corrections budget, but it won her respect from legislators who liked her toughness even if they didn't think suffocating prisoners was a good idea.

Hull favored legislation that would have made it mandatory to teach evolution as a theory rather than a fact, then changed her mind. She also supported prayer in schools, and had several battles with teachers unions, co-sponsoring legislation that would have made it illegal for public employees (including teachers) to strike. The bill passed the House but didn't get through the Senate; another attempt was vetoed by then-governor Bruce Babbitt. Hull tried yet a third time and was successful in getting a referendum on the ballot, but voters turned it down.

Hull was speaker during two of the most contentious upheavals in the Legislature's history--the AzScam sting and Governor Evan Mecham's impeachment. In both episodes, Hull earned high marks from the press, particularly when she became one of the first legislators to call for Mecham's resignation. The ire of Mecham loyalists eventually soured Hull on the job. "I'm tired of the fights. I can't stand the meanness anymore," she said as she stepped down in 1992.

A year later, she resigned her House seat to run for Secretary of State, a quieter post that took her away from the legislative infighting. As secretary, she put election records on-line, making it easier for voters to keep an eye on candidates' campaign money. It wasn't the sort of work that generated much press attention, and the Iron Lady began to fade from memories.

Instead, Hull seemed deliberately to nurture an image of dullness and quiet integrity--exactly what the electorate seemed to want after Symington's ouster.

Still, Hull, like Symington, has not escaped the image of someone who lets special interests dictate her politics.

In 1987, she sponsored a bill--written by developers--that would have weakened enforcement of the state's groundwater laws. When asked about it, Hull told reporters: "Frankly, I've barely read it."

Other times, Hull sponsored bills written by lobbyists that would have helped specific industries or even, in one case, a lone credit union. Some questioned her attempts to cap malpractice awards, which could have directly benefited her husband Terry, an obstetrician.

Even in her short stint as governor, her record suggests that she continues to reward political cronies and fund raisers.

In December, Hull appointed two old political allies, former legislators Chris Herstam and Jack Jewett, to the state Board of Regents, making it all Republican for the first time. They aren't paid, but Herstam and Jewett sit on a board with immense power, overseeing a university budget of $2.5 billion.

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