The Bench Warmer and the Straggler

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

Hull named Gary Trujillo, who helped raise campaign cash for her in the Hispanic community, to the board that will oversee school spending under StudentsFIRST. That has drawn an angry response from state Senator Mary Hartley, a Democrat who has fought the Republican majority on education issues. Hartley objected because Trujillo's only experience in education is a short stint as a school board member. "Where was this guy when we were spending all of those months dealing with this problem?" Hartley complains.

Hull says she finds Hartley's concerns "unbelievably insulting." Trujillo, she says, was from South Phoenix and had been appointed to a school board at only 21, then left for Harvard University. Trujillo didn't return a phone call for this story.

"To me there was nobody more perfect than a successful person who comes from the [underfunded] districts who's a self-made man and is willing to spend the time and energy," Hull says. "I could not have thought of a better person to chair that."

How different is the state under Hull? Environmentalist attorney Jeff Bouma says it's hard to tell.

"She doesn't say much, so it's tough to gauge where she's going. But from what she has said and done, the Symington effect on the environment still seems to be in place," says Bouma. He was alarmed to read Hull's comments on the Endangered Species Act reported in a Sierra Vista paper. Giving a speech at the Governor's Rural Development Conference on September 11, Hull said, "Some day the federal government will realize jobs are more important than small animals," and added: "Mining and lumbering are not the end of civilization." The paper reported that Hull got rousing applause for her remarks.

Still, Bouma says, Hull treats him better than Symington ever did. "At least with Jane Hull, I know I can sit down with her staff and make my thoughts known. So there's hope, I guess."

"I'll talk to anybody," says Hull. "And I'll listen to their complaints. And some of them are certainly valid. We've had problems with [the Department of Environmental Quality] from the hour it was formed."

Other activists also say that, in reality, Hull has changed little about state government since she took over from Symington, largely because she has kept in place key department heads.

Donna Hamm is known for taking on the Department of Corrections over its treatment of prisoners. Hamm says not much has changed under Hull, particularly since she's kept Terry Stewart, a Symington appointee, in the director's seat. Under Stewart, she says, inmates still have inadequate access to courts and substandard medical care, and their families are unfairly hit with exorbitant telephone costs. However, like Bouma, Hamm says she's found the Hull administration doesn't shut her out the way Symington did.

Only scheduling difficulties, she says, have kept her from meeting willing Hull staffers. "Certainly that is an encouragement," she says, but adds, "My fear is that I don't want to waste my time or theirs if they're just going to pat me on the head and send me out the door as a happy constituent."

If Hull hasn't entirely won over environmentalists and prisoner advocates, Johnson is having his own troubles with other groups.

Tonight, on his October road trip to Tucson, he's just having problems attracting any kind of crowd. Cal Sunshine has shuttled Johnson around to various appearances, and now he's driven Johnson to a private fund raiser at a large home in Tucson. Someone, however, has apparently forgotten to invite guests.

A mere six people mill about in an immaculate living room, arguing over why more people hadn't shown up.

Johnson doesn't seem fazed. It isn't the first time that day that turnout on one of his campaign stops has been disappointing. He puts on a determined face, sits down with the handful of attendees, and gives them the same treatment he does a roomful.

Whether to a single person or an entire room, Johnson's ready to delineate issues and policies in remarkable detail. And always with intensity. "I gotta tell ya," he says almost incessantly, trying to emphasize how important his next statement is going to be, even if it's not really very significant at all.

Quiz him on an issue, and Johnson has a ready response. Not only about his plan to equalize school funding or rein in HMOs or end school violence. He'll also tell you why Jane Hull's ideas aren't as good.

So why isn't he doing better, even among Democrats?
If the public suffers some amnesia when it comes to Hull's extensive legislative career, voters seem to have long memories about Paul Johnson.

"June 16, 1992. I'll never forget that date," says Jeff Ofstedahl, the former manager of Echo magazine and a well-known gay activist. That's the day 5,000 citizens showed up to watch the Phoenix City Council make a decision on a controversial ordinance that would have extended protection from discrimination to gay city employees. It was the largest crowd ever to show up at a city council meeting. Ofstedahl watched in disgust as the Johnson-led council decided to put off a vote rather than face the ire of various factions of attendees. Eventually, Johnson pushed through a watered-down version of the ordinance (and he gives Ofstedahl credit for helping to make it happen). But many in the gay community still harbor misgivings about the former mayor.

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