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Hull Monitor: Adventures of Big Red

Let's get one thing straight.
Barring the discovery that she had a tryst with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky--and Linda Tripp got to watch--Jane Dee Hull will be reelected. By a wide margin. It's a no-brainer. The economy's good, the opposition's weak and, after Fife Symington, Jane Hull looks like the Angel of Mercy.

Will someone please tell that to Jane Hull, so she'll quit acting like a wuss and start acting like a governor?

I miss the old Jane Hull, the real Jane Hull, the tough legislator who didn't care who knew how she stood on abortion. The old Hull took no prisoners--and when the state did, she said those cons didn't even deserve the luxury of swamp coolers.

As Speaker of the House, she was Big Red, a leader of Superheroic proportions, able to scale tall lobbyists in a single bound and still get the 31 votes needed to pass a bill--and all without one blazing crimson hair out of place.

Alas, as so often happens in comic books and reelection campaigns, Big Red is in trouble, fallen to the politician's version of kryptonite, silenced by the lure of a full term in elected office. For the past year, the state has been led by Granny Hull: a two-term hopeful with the politics of Gerald Ford, the disposition of Rose Mofford and a lapful of grandchildren.

Hillary Clinton had a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Jane Hull has the fruit of her loins. It seems as though her grandchildren show up for every gubernatorial photo-op short of posing onstage for a candidates' debate. Maybe that's why she keeps turning down all those invitations to go at it with her opponents--the grandkids aren't up to a debate.

Grandchildren on Parade isn't a bad tactic for reaching voters who just want their state's leaders out of the national headlines. But a good campaign strategy isn't necessarily good for the state. Jane Hull doesn't deserve praise for trying to make us feel warm and fuzzy. That's not her job.

Jane Hull's job as a governor and a candidate is to come out from behind her grandchildren, do some governing and then tell us what she intends to do in the future, if reelected.

Since the day she became governor, Jane Hull has acted more like a seat-warmer than a sitting official vested with the power to make this state a better place. Too bad--Arizona needs improvement. Her predecessor left a huge mess, and Hull--paralyzed by the thought that she might do something to piss off the voters--has done little to clean it up.

Except for the eleventh-hour scramble to pass a school finance reform package that finally passed muster with the state Supremes, Arizonans haven't seen a lot of hustling by the Hull administration. In fact, they've barely seen the governor herself at all. Even those closest to her concede that Hull's a lousy speaker, and that's why she isn't debating her opponents.

It's not surprising to those who have watched Granny Hull waffle and dodge and hide this past year. Big Red may have her fiery temper and ironclad opinions. But Granny Hull is not without her bag of tricks, either. Check her out.

The Waffle--One of Granny Hull's most disappointing waffles is her refusal to state her position on abortion. Are you or aren't you, Jane? Pick a side. Return your Choice PAC questionnaire to Arizona Right to Choose.

Abortion is a personal issue, Hull has said many times. But she cast pro-life votes regularly during her years in the House. And now, as governor, when she's been asked her position, she's all over the map, trying to say in the same breath that she's pro-life but supports a woman's right to choose during the first trimester.

The Flip-Flop--Initially, Hull told the press she didn't believe her convicted predecessor should serve prison time. But when asked about it on a radio program, she changed her mind: Six months, hard time. Whoops! After some coaxing from Symington's cronies, Jane flipped back to her original view.

The Blow Off--In celebration of Earth Day last April, a coalition of tree huggers called on Hull to fire Department of Environmental Quality Director Russell Rhoades. Rhoades--one of Symington's biggest stink bombs--is renowned for his support of big-business interests. In 1996, he supported a bill dubbed "The Polluter Protection Act," which would have allowed polluters to keep violations secret and avoid fines. Even the Legislature dumped that one.

Hull hasn't bothered to answer the Earth Day letter. Aw, c'mon, Jane! Give a hoot!

The Dodge--Department of Public Safety chief Joe Albo is another wildly unpopular bureaucrat--and this guy's hated within his own ranks. Not a good thing for an agency loaded with heat-packin' cops. Insiders say Albo's naysayers have repeatedly griped to Hull's staff, and have been told to wait until after the election for some action.

Privately, Hull's people say you just can't get good help with an election looming--no job security. Bull. Fife Symington hired former House speaker Mark Killian and former Senate president John Greene to head the departments of revenue and insurance, respectively, months before he was canned.

Hey, Guv: If Albo's not doing his job, fire him. If not, show him your support--and tell those cops to buzz off.

The Water-Down--As a grandmother, it's only natural that Granny Hull's centerpiece issue is medical care for indigent children. But when she introduced KidsCare, legislation that dedicated state tobacco tax funds in order to receive more funding from the feds, conservatives called her Hillary Clinton. Gasp! They tried to recruit Congressman Matt Salmon to run against her. Arrrghhh!

In the end, KidsCare passed, and Salmon passed on the governor's race--but only after Hull bent and swayed to the pressure levied by House speaker Jeff Groscost and his merry band of right-wingers. The final version of KidsCare will only help about 60,000 kids. There are more than 200,000 kids in Arizona on AHCCCS, the state's indigent health care plan--and that doesn't include scores of other children whose parents are on welfare but aren't poor enough to qualify for AHCCCS.

Under the Carpet--Hull has also received a lot of credit for resolving the state's long-standing school finance reform issue. But she only sprang into action when it looked as though inaction would cost her the election.

If you'll recall, school finance reform had two go-rounds this year. The first reform package, passed in the final seconds of the regular legislative session, was widely regarded as a failure. Even Hull staffers acknowledged that the legislation wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny of the state Supreme Court. No matter, they said. The judges will be kind enough to hold off on their decision until after election day. Bad call. The legislation was struck down almost immediately, and Hull had to scramble to put together an acceptable package. To her credit, she did--briefly demonstrating that when she wants to, she can still flex some muscle.

Read Her Lips--Another must-do on Jane's list this year was a tax cut. She got one, saving citizens and businesses $180 million. Again it was a do-or-die issue. Hull knows her legislative record is peppered with votes to increase taxes. Even in good economic times, voters are unlikely to elect a politician with a track record of picking their pockets.

The whole package spells out the difference between the two Jane Hulls. Big Red would have gotten her tax cut, as well as a bigger cut for poor, sick Arizona kids. She would have made sure that the school finance reform package was acceptable the first time, never gambling that the court would let it sit until she was safely reelected. She would tell the voters how she really feels about abortion, and let the chips fall where they may. Would she fire Russell Rhoades and Joe Albo? Maybe, maybe not. But be sure: She'd make a decision.

Arizona's voters will be asked to decide--first in September, then again in November--who their governor will be. They'll choose Granny Hull. Maybe they'll get Big Red.

Contact Amy Silverman at her online address: asilverman@newtimes.com


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