I am thinking of pip-squeaks the other day, when who should come to mind but congressional candidate Fred Duval.
Duval is running against a field of 13, including my dog in this hunt, Steve Udall.
If you are a Democrat in Phoenix, you have been solicited for money for Duval's campaign in Congressional District 1. Some candidates might use more of their own money, but no one has raised more than the well-connected Duval. In fact, Tipper Gore toured Arizona with Duval and then hosted an upscale benefit for him at the Arizona Biltmore resort. Now, right here, her presence in our state ought to tell you something.
I will go to my grave nursing a grudge against Tipper, the Junior League do-gooder, and her self-absorbed jihad against rock 'n' roll, a crusade she took to Congress because she was offended on behalf of the children, of course by some lyrics of assorted head-bangers. Tipper is one of those frightening nanny-mommies who believes that the only place safe enough to suckle an infant is seat-belted inside a Volvo station wagon.
If Tipper Gore is running point for Fred Duval, I want to know more.
Now, I remember Fred from back in the day, when he was a scampering aide to then-governor Bruce Babbitt. Briefcase-toters like Fred had less throw weight than a hamster fart, and I suspected I was missing something in his professional résumé that qualified him for Congress, particularly in this new district whose heart is Apache County, the third-poorest not just in Arizona in all of America.
The winner of this election needs shoulders like Mike Ditka's; you don't grow that big by hauling around Bruce Babbitt's files.
So who is this hyperfinanced candidate?
Fred was the student body president in high school.
And I say, "Bully!"
Also in high school, Fred went to Boys State.
This research does not qualify me to be a forensic accountant for the IRS. Fred lists these accomplishments on his official campaign Web site.
Let's put aside for a second the fact that no one ever went to Boys State who wasn't a hoser on the make.
Thirty years later, you are still so needy that, as a congressional candidate, you are compelled to remind people that you were student body president and attended Boys State?
Hey, Fred, what about your merit badge for impersonating Eddie Haskell?
Knowing all this, I was not shocked to hear from a friend about a phone call she received from Duval's people. The pollster interviewed my friend and inquired: Would her opinion of a congressional candidate be negative if she learned he'd failed the Bar exam three times (the maximum the bar allows)?
WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP!! Pip-squeak alert.
Good God, I have failed all manner of tests, from Latin to field sobriety.
Congressman Ed Pastor failed the Bar three times and does just fine as a public official.
Flunking the Bar three times doesn't make Fred a flunky. Polling to find out if I care makes Fred a flunky.
Polling to decide if you're going to run for Congress based upon how I feel about your failing the Bar three times, or trying to figure out how to position yourself if it turns out that I do care about your failing the Bar three times . . . well, you can see that Fred has "leader" stamped all over him.
Leadership is an issue in this district. Almost all of the government lands that we hold dear in Arizona the national monuments, the forests, mountains, relics, burial grounds are concentrated in District 1. Indian reservations, with their unique issues, sit cheek-by-jowl with areas of unmitigated poverty and unemployment. Ranching, timber management and serious environmental issues divide the populace.
The latest crisis in the district is the crippling Rodeo-Chediski firestorm, which consumed more than 600,000 acres as well as the homes of residents in the path of the fire. This was a national news event that mingled television footage, devastated lives and federal forest management policies.
Duval broadcast television spots urging all of us to "open our hearts and homes" to the victims of the Rodeo-Chediski fire. He advised avoiding the blame game and asked that, in this time of tragedy, we all pull together.
These sentiments are so much Tipper Gore treacle.
Steve Udall is the only candidate in District 1 who articulated a federal forest policy prior to the fire. He'd studied the problem for years.
More to the point, Steve Udall and his family have a long history of confronting the problems of the territory, dating all the way back to when Arizona was a territory. I am not speaking only of the incredible career of his uncle, Congressman Mo Udall, who cast the shadow of a giant across this state and this country.
For years, Mo's brother, former Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, worked on behalf of the victims of this country's nuclear weapons industry. He litigated on behalf of the "downwinders," those people in southern Utah and northern Arizona who, without any warning, were exposed to fallout from atomic weapons testing in Nevada. Stewart Udall also sued on behalf of the Navajo miners in Arizona and New Mexico who drilled and chipped uranium out of the earth. Both groups, the downwinders and the Indian miners, endured extraordinary levels of cancer in their later lives.
Though Udall's lawsuits were ultimately futile, they led directly to both houses of Congress passing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 2000. One problem: Although the victims in the Four Corners area were entitled to some $90 million, the government never appropriated the funds. The politicians actually sent cancer patients letters saying that, because of lack of funding, the government was sending the terminally ill an IOU.
Two other Udalls, Mark in Colorado and Tom in New Mexico, serve in Congress today and have attempted to secure permanent funding. In a long conversation out on a peaceful porch earlier this year, Steve Udall was visibly touched, describing the plight of those earlier victims of insensitive federal policy in the nuclear age. He has attended the funerals. The survivors, as well as the relatives of those who passed on, are still his neighbors.
While Fred is busy being introduced to those who suffered through the Rodeo-Chediski fire and calling for everyone to hold hands, Steve Udall has spent his entire life among these folks.
Udall's people settled this land in the 1870s. Picking up a family tradition of public service, Steve was elected County Attorney and served longer than any other prosecutor anywhere in Arizona.
Before Rodeo-Chediski broke out, Steve Udall condemned federal fire policy that grew out of the "Big Blow Up" blaze in 1910. Reform of government practices in America's forests has been stymied in Congress. The debate has gone on for years, though it appears that this is the first Duval has heard of any of it.
Where has Fred been, you ask?
Fred went to Washington, D.C., when Clinton and Gore took over. You might think that Duval would have gone to work for his old boss Bruce Babbitt, who took up the cabinet post at Interior. That would have provided Fred with valuable experience on many of the land-use issues in District 1.
But no, Duval's longest single job in Washington and he held several posts, including liaison between the states and the feds was as Deputy Chief of Protocol at the State Department.
When foreign dignitaries visited the nation's capital, Fred oversaw the teacups, the place settings and the fresh flowers. This is actually a job in Washington, D.C., and his suave good manners led to postings in the Gore campaign.
What was Steve Udall doing during this time frame?
He was Arizona's leading prosecutor of the looting going on at Native American burial sites. He also served on the board of DNA Legal Services on the Navajo reservation. Steve Udall also helped found the Arizona-New Mexico Counties Coalition, which actively lobbied for federal forest policy reform to avoid the sorts of disastrous fires that everyone except Fred knew were waiting to happen.
By contrast, Duval cashed in on his experience at the White House and became a lobbyist for the well-heeled Washington firm of Hill and Knowlton.
Rather than reestablish himself in Arizona at the end of the Clinton-Gore years in 2000, Duval officially lobbied on behalf of special interests and developers in the nation's capital. He explained to the California media that he wasn't defying the will of the electorate . . . he was working for free.
Duval's long history as a lobbyist a job he held before joining the Clintons and Gores in D.C. came in handy when Arizona was awarded new congressional seats after the last census. Duval returned to Arizona and actively worked to shape the district as more urban than rural. In other words, he had no intention of representing the very people whose vote he now courts. The district remained rural despite Fred's very best efforts.
Then Duval tested the waters in a Tucson district where he was raised. But polling in southern Arizona revealed that many undocumented immigrants had better name recognition in Tucson than Fred.
So he reluctantly cast his eye on Congressional District 1 and set out to raise more money than any Democrat in the race.
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It is called buying a seat in Congress.
I don't think I can count on Steve Udall to agree with me on much. But I respect the fact that his family has been on this land for generations. He's prosecuted the bad guys and worried about the well-being of his neighbors. It's a family trait, born and bred.
Fred Duval began his campaign in District 1 by asking residents to please explain rural Arizona issues to him. Friends of mine were actually pumped by the city-slicker lobbyist to come up with issues for him to discuss on the campaign trail.
Apparently, the ethics of carpetbagging were never mentioned at Boys State.