Almost two months ago, George Chasse, the new face in Phoenix politics, sat down with a well-known Valley leader and discussed City Hall. Chasse explained that he hoped to run against incumbent Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard.
Chasse's confidant was aware that Mayor Goddard had stubbed his toe on several issues: ValTrans, the north-side amphitheatre, the beautification of Central Avenue, the new Phoenix Suns arena and the Formula One Grand Prix race downtown.
But Chasse wasn't interested in talking about issues. Chasse wanted to discuss Mayor Goddard's "homosexual lifestyle."
Chasse said there were pictures.
We put him under surveillance. People followed him around. We got it on him and we're going to use it, claimed Chasse.
We followed him at night to his house and we took pictures.
When questioned as to what Terry Goddard's personal life had to do with being mayor, Chasse allegedly responded, "I don't like queers, do you? It isn't fair for the rest of us to be subject to that sort of person being leader."
You must grasp that George Chasse is not part of the lunatic fringe in Arizona.
As chairman of Voters Against Senseless Transit (VAST), Chasse hung the biggest defeat of Goddard's career upon the popular mayor when voters rejected the $10.4 billion mass-transit proposal on March 28.
Today, just three months later, the man is a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimately, Chasse decided not to tackle Goddard directly. Yet he will still get his two cents into the race.
Former Republican state chairman Tom Pappas said that although Chasse is not part of the inner sanctum, he is part of "a larger circle of advisers" who are close to GOP hopeful Burt Kruglick.
Last Thursday Kruglick, the leader of Arizona's Republicans, announced that he would challenge Goddard in the October mayoral election.
Kruglick has already consulted with Lee Atwater, the McCarthy chain saw of the Republican party who is leading the GOP charge to wrest control of America's city halls from Democrats.
President George Bush's constellation consists of a thousand points of light and one Death Star, Lee Atwater. White fear of black criminals was forever linked to convict Willie Horton and Michael Dukakis by Atwater during the presidential election.
Recently, Atwater's office leveled a thinly veiled accusation of homosexuality at the new Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Foley. Atwater's innuendo was so repugnant that even President Bush was embarrassed to the point that he repudiated the attack.
Now Atwater is savaging New York Mayor Ed Koch, an official who for years has endured snide comments about his bachelorhood.
Insiders close to the mayor fear that Goddard is next in line to be smeared.
This is not groundless paranoia. Although the Goddard forces are unaware of it, there was a conversation last week which illuminated the ugliness that passes for politics in Arizona.
The night before Kruglick's press conference to announce for mayor, Chasse again told his friend that Goddard's personal life would become a campaign issue.
"Burt won't ever use it directly," said Chasse, "but it will come out."
Well, of course. Isn't that the way this poisonous swill is always passed for public consumption? The benefactors of the Goddard-in-spandex rumor won't stand on their hind legs and make the charge. They will find some religious nutbasket or a sign-carrying malcontent to heave the cobblestone.
Then we will hear that they don't like to see this sort of campaign, that they are above this sort of campaign, and all the while they refuse to drive out the mouthfoamers from their midst.
Do not expect the accusations of homosexuality to surface until the final days of the election. That way a flustered Goddard will not have time to respond.
Let us have no part of this smarmy bargain.
This cannot fester until the last second. Stand up, now, and tell us your concern about Terry Goddard.
If they mean to kick in that crystal window with their jackboot, let them do it in the full glare of the morning light instead of the evening shadows.
If a man's private life is not just that, private, then let those of you who are obsessed with sex step forward. Let us examine this "evidence." What do your "pictures" have to do with City Hall? Let us see what you have to say. Let us see who you are.
When reached by phone, George Chasse claimed he had no idea, none whatsoever, regarding allegations over the mayor's private life. Chasse, in fact, expressed surprise after being informed that Goddard's personal habits threatened to become a campaign issue.
"I didn't know that," said Chasse. "This is the first time I've heard of it."
When pressured, however, Chasse backpedaled and then contradicted himself.
"I know some people who've said they got material on the mayor," explained Chasse. "They told me, when I asked what it was, they said, `You'll soon find out.'"
Chasse would not be more specific.
"I really don't have anything to do with it," he added. "That's not my ball game. And if I had it, I wouldn't release it."
The person Chasse originally talked to regarding the surveillance on Goddard's home said Chasse is changing his tune. Chasse's confidant was so stunned by their initial conversation that he kept a record of the dialogue.
Although Kruglick was unavailable for comment, one of his closest advisers, Tom Pappas, said Goddard's personal life will not be an issue.
More than most, Tom Pappas understands the stakes.
During the impeachment hearing of then-Governor Evan Mecham, a Tucson politician read the testimony of key prosecution witness Peggy Griffith. Again and again, as the live television broadcast went out across Arizona, Pappas was labeled a homosexual. Lee Watkins--tow-truck operator, ex-convict and most notorious member of the governor's kitchen cabinet--was the man making the charge.
There was never, not once, any proof offered that Tom Pappas was gay, let alone any explanation as to the political relevance of the man's sexuality.
"My family felt terrible," recalled Pappas. "But how do you fight something like that? My mother watched it on TV at home. My nephew saw it at school where his entire class had the impeachment hearings on. It hurts when your close friends hear something like that in a public forum. I guess it's something I'll put up with until I marry or die. There's always that thought when you're a single guy."
Goddard is also a single guy.
Pappas, however, doesn't feel Goddard's marital status is an issue nor does he feel his candidate will engage in this sort of slander.
"If I have anything to say, Kruglick won't have anything to do with it," said Pappas.
The real question, though, is how much will Pappas or Kruglick attempt to control others in their party.
Kruglick has shown little stomach for reeling in the wild-eyed, particularly if there was an up side for Burt in cutting deals with the restless. When the fundamentalists, the holy rollers, the talking-in-tongues populists and the Mechamites formed a coalition to elect the majority of the precinct's committee members within the state Republican party, Kruglick made book with the biblicalists to keep his seat as state chairman. Then Kruglick, a Jew, sat by silently and watched those he cannot control or discipline pass a resolution declaring America a Christian nation. Even Pappas readily admitted there are political operatives within the Republican party who will not listen.
"There are these guys downtown who even have bumper stickers ready," lamented Pappas.
One of the guys downtown that Pappas referred to is Leon Woodward.
Mecham loyalist, political iconoclast and the owner of significant blocks of parking in downtown Phoenix, Leon Woodward is a staunch Goddard foe. He fought, and won, a lengthy court battle with City Hall when Phoenix planners tried to force landscaping of the parking areas.
Woodward's bumper stickers read: "Terry, Does Brooke know about Mark?"
Brooke is Brooke Newell, Goddard's long-time girlfriend, and Mark is Mark Steinberg, the mayor's former campaign manager and good friend.
Woodward said last week that the bumper stickers weren't actually his.
"Someone gave them to me. Some Mecham guy, a whacko. I don't have them anymore," said Woodward.
Woodward agreed that Goddard's private life would indeed become a campaign issue.
"I've been told that, too. I wish I knew more. I'm all ears," said Woodward. "I'm interested. I would like to know if he is a queer . . . . I think it would be most damaging if he was because he denied he was. It's a matter of credibility."
I do not know if Terry Goddard goes to gay discos, but I am appalled at the thought that anyone would follow him and keep him under surveillance.
I do not know if Terry Goddard is homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual or asexual, but I am disgusted that someone would lurk in the bushes outside his home to take photographs of who comes and goes.
I do not know if Terry Goddard is going to marry Brooke Newell, but I am saddened that their courtship would be plastered with obscene bumper stickers.
Once before, Terry Goddard endured this type of smear. When Mecham's ex- press secretary, Ron Bellus, published his memoirs, he said that Terry Goddard was a homosexual. He identified his source as a member of the Phoenix gay community named "Butterfly."
Because Ron Bellus was widely dismissed within the Phoenix press corps as a fool and because his book was regarded as a joke, Goddard escaped the intended slander without a scratch.
Today, however, Goddard's blood is on the water after a series of well-publicized civic blunders.
Today there is a race for the mayor's seat. What's more, Kruglick has been playing footsie with the Mechamites for a long time. And this is a coalition that has proved it's capable of anything.
What has this combination of circumstances brought us?
The headlines in the afternoon daily when Kruglick announced said that observers were expecting a vicious, dirty campaign. But there were no details.
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So all of us were left hanging, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Leon Woodward made it clear he was not part of any surveillance of Goddard's home.
"I'm not going to take that ball and run with it," said Woodward.
But he inquired whether or not we'd be interested in printing anything that might turn up.
Do not expect the accusations of homosexuality to surface until the final days of the election.
I do not know if Terry Goddard goes to gay discos, but I am appalled at the thought that anyone would follow him.