Hold Back the Don?

Donald Harris gives good lip.

Harris: He's shifted. "Oh, I didn't mean it when I said [drug dealers] should be put in stocks. I didn't mean it when I said mothers who put their kids in day care are worse than Susan Smith." Because he's being worked with. And he's dangerous.

NT: Why isn't the Democratic party behind you?

Harris: I don't know, sir. It's hurtful, and I don't understand it. I've lived Democratic principles my whole life. I'm a lifelong member of the NAACP. I believe in civil rights; I'm pro-gay marriage.

The other Donald wants your vote.
Emily Piraino
The other Donald wants your vote.

NT: Who is endorsing you?

Harris: I'm endorsed by the people. And [Maricopa County Supervisor] Mary Rose Wilcox [a Democrat]. She's stood behind me since Day One. I've been endorsed by animal rights [activists]; by AFSCME -- the largest union of public employees, 5,600 of them. Isn't that newsworthy, sir? The papers didn't print it. So when you ask me why do I think I'm being picked on, I point to something like that.

NT: Mayor Phil Gordon is backing your opponent.

Harris: Phil Gordon is talking out of both sides of his mouth. When Phil Gordon gets up there and endorses Thomas, who stands for everything opposite of what Mr. Gordon stands for, it's very strange. I've never done anything to Phil Gordon, or said anything to embarrass myself or the party.

NT: Well, you did call Bruce Babbitt a liar.

Harris: Everyone says it stems from that. But I thought politics was a game of "kiss and make up." After the primary, I see John McCain with his arm around George Bush. So I thought, After the primary, they'll rally around me. Instead, they sent out e-mails saying, "Write in Jonathan Warshaw's name." Instead of endorsing me, a guy who's outspoken, they get behind this other guy [Andrew Thomas], this creature out there.

NT: That "creature" has endorsements from [Maricopa County Attorney] Rick Romley and [former Arizona attorney general] Grant Woods [both Republicans]. Which seems odd, since Thomas is kind of a radical conservative.

Harris: I'm a mainstreamer! They all feel, the people who have sought Thomas' favor, that he carries an extreme right-wing base, and they all want to tap into that when they run. Grant Woods wants to run again for something. Romley wants to run for governor. . . . Phil Gordon would like to be something other than mayor someday. They've got half their rear end on a chair, and the other half is looking for a place to sit. So they're sitting in the Governor's Office, and it's, "Where do I put it next? I want to be a senator. I want to be president."

NT: Isn't that the nature of politics?

Harris: Yes, but I'm not a politician. I want my seat firmly planted in the County Attorney's Office.

NT: On paper, you seem like the most qualified candidate.

Harris: I am. On paper and off paper.

NT: And yet a lot of people seem to want to keep you out of office. Is it because you tend to shoot your mouth off?

Harris: Why do you have to say it so coarsely? Why can't you say because I'm outspoken? You've got a command of the language; use it, for crying out loud!

NT: It means the same thing.

Harris: No, it doesn't. When you say I shoot my mouth off, you're getting into the gutter. I'm not letting you off the hook. Ask me, "Mr. Harris, are you outspoken?" I'll answer that.

NT: Okay. How about this: People don't like you because you have really big opinions and you don't keep them to yourself.

Harris: Yes, sir. That's my failing. I don't think like a politician. I think like Donald Harris, and if something's on my mind, I'm gonna get it off my mind. Which the public found enchanting when I was County Attorney in 1976. The newspapers were blasting me the four months I was in office because I wouldn't play ball with them on the Bolles case. And Babbitt did, because he wanted to ride that case into the White House. Everybody knows that.

NT: Newspapers can be awful mean.

Harris: I don't need the paper to validate my life. My life's been validated by me. I've led a good life, and they print those innuendos --

NT: Like that you were recently caught in an endorsement scam.

Harris: What I put on my Web site was not an endorsement. When a high-ranking police officer wrote me, I put it on my Web site. I didn't say the police were endorsing me. That's not a scam. That's a Jonathan Warshaw lying tactic. The kid is a great liar. Can't I tell the public what the head of the Democratic party thinks about me, since the party has pushed me away? Can I tell what a police officer thinks of me, even though I don't have the PD's endorsement?

NT: You've been quoted as saying, "Politics is bullshit." So why are you running for office?

Harris: Because I'm not a politician. Obviously. I want to do some good in this community. And I take back what I said about this being the worst experience of my life. I'm glad I did it, and I really want to win this thing. Not for getting even with people. I want to win this because I'm the better man. I mean the better person.

E-mail robrt.pela@newtimes.com

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