THE DISTRICT SIXTHIS CONGRESSIONAL MATCH WAS MADE IN HEAVEN
That was geriatric superstar Pat Boone's greeting last month during a benefit fund raiser for his pal Doug Wead, who's running for Congress from Arizona's new District 6. Boone then conducted a search in the audience of 800 for "square" people who support right-wing Amway evangelist Wead.
Boone's huckstering for Wead was successful, but don't judge a congressional race by the blandness of its concerts.
Arizona has a political contest in which all the candidates of both parties are either crafty or intelligent, or both.
The six candidates talk a lot about "jobs," but this is a bitter, often ideological fight in a district that radiates from the East Valley suburbs to span one-third of the state.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
TicketsTue., Aug. 29, 6:40pm
All You Can Eat Value Pack - Mercury v Sun
TicketsFri., Sep. 1, 7:00pm
Phoenix Rising Football Club vs. Seattle Sounders 2
TicketsSat., Sep. 2, 7:30pm
All You Can Eat Value Pack - Mercury v Dream
TicketsSun., Sep. 3, 1:00pm
Phoenix Mercury vs. Atlanta Dream
TicketsSun., Sep. 3, 1:00pm
Beyond anyone's imagination two years ago, the District 6 contest has attracted three Republicans and three Democrats into a race that highlights several significant social, political and religious movements now afoot in the country.
Abortion. Feminism. The environment. The future of public schools. The religious right. The irrelevance of current political parties.
For pure campaign color, this one's hard to beat, what with a Pat Boone concert and tangents to AzScam and Moonies. And where else but in Arizona can you watch the state GOP finance chairman, a Polish migr named John Godzich, help hundreds of French people find Jesus Christ? (See related story.)
The District 6 race also reveals a new way to fund the political game. Sales networks, nurtured in a sort of free-enterprise religion, are threatening to displace parties in this race. Wead's campaign involves direct marketing by videotape (he's mailed out tens of thousands of promotional tapes) and the use of celebrities like Boone, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Neil Bush at concerts, "charity award" dinners and private meetings.
It's a game in which many of Arizona's prominent Goldwater-style Republicans find themselves on the left wing of the party. And left out.
The September 8 primary election in District 6 promises a monumental clash of issues and political techniques that could cost both major political parties dearly. Not that anyone may care in this year of contempt for officeholders, but the Democratic primary features two of the party's brightest and savviest legislators, state senators Karan English and Alan Stephens. English is the only woman in the race--a fact she mentions at every opportunity--and the most ardent environmentalist; Stephens is quick on his feet, a skilled partisan infighter for the Democrats as Senate majority leader and the only AzScam-smear target in the race. The third Democrat is an articulate and assertive Navajo lawyer, Al Hale, whose background resembles Abraham Lincoln's.
On the Republican side is the campaign's biggest spender, Wead, a preacher and publicist and newcomer to Arizona who has molded evangelical Christianity and charismatic capitalism into a potent political force. (Wead was profiled in the June 10, 1992, issue of New Times.) Another newcomer, Mike Meyer, portrays himself as the only pro-choice Republican and the only person in the race never to have had a government job. The third Republican is conservative lawyer Phil MacDonnell, a veteran of government-related work and a self-proclaimed crime buster who entered the race in response to Wead's presence.
The state's Democrats will wind up sacrificing at least one of their most prominent elected officials on September 8. But the Republican party is being ripped apart by its contest.
@body:Imagine all six congressional candidates sitting around a table, unencumbered by time limits, strict rules of order and free to spar.
Who would set the tone for the discussion? Who would be the most assertive? Who would coin the most memorable phrases? Who would invoke his party's revered names?
The surprising winner on all four counts during such a session at a Mesa candidates' forum August 18 was Navajo attorney Al Hale, who has the least chance of winning the primary.
The key question to the candidates that evening was: What distinguishes you from the pack?
Hale, alone of the six, calmly stepped into the nervous silence. He talked about his background, how he grew up in a primitive hogan until he was 17. He explained what he saw as the "rediscovery of America." He criticized his opponents' chatter about issues by saying, "We're looking at a tree that's dying, and we're up there in the branches and leaves. We need to get at the root of the problems." He invoked the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
It was poetic, kind of the opposite from what happened between the race's two heavyweight Democratic contenders during another forum on August 27.
From the start of the campaign, Karan English promised to be a "gentlewoman." She said mudslinging was not her style and wasn't what voters wanted. She and former state Senate colleague Alan Stephens were downright courtly to each other during an appearance before the East Valley Partnership in late July.
By late August, that had changed. The dreaded word "AzScam" finally was near surfacing, much to the horror of mainline Democrats who fear the GOP will simply kill them on that issue this November. (Stephens survived AzScam, barely, when charges against him were tossed out. When asked by a reporter about the corruption sting's potential to do him harm, he answers directly: "I was cleared. It was thrown out.)
This gentleness between the two Democrats was just a veneer, anyway. In at least one forum, English mentioned "ethics" among her four top issues and then never returned to the subject. It was a broad hint at AzScam that everyone understood. Asked weeks ago whether she was going to bring up AzScam, she told a reporter that she wouldn't have to because others would. And she was right. A couple of weeks ago, police stoolie Joe Stedino told TV talker Larry King that, despite the dismissal of AzScam charges against Stephens, he nevertheless was corrupt and as dangerous as a "wounded bear." English's headquarters, without being asked, faxed news articles on the King fuss to reporters.
In front of a crowd of Democratic loyalists last Thursday, Stephens went ballistic. He blistered English for her continued "innuendo" on the campaign trail about his ethics. He condemned her attendance record during this year's legislative session and accused her of claiming too much per diem pay. The party regulars at the Nucleus Club luncheon debate were set abuzz. One person pleaded with both candidates not to give Doug Wead ammunition to use on them in the general election. Ex-governor Sam Goddard (father of ex-Phoenix mayor Terry Goddard) scolded them for airing their dispute and warned that it could cost them come November.
It would have made for great TV if any of the stations had bothered to attend.
Stephens had caught English off-guard, and she spent much of the afternoon doing damage control by telephoning the reporters who had been at the luncheon. When asked during one such damage-control call, "Are you going to start bringing up AzScam directly?" English replied, "I think that I might. Maybe hardball is the only ball game left."
Before the warfare between English and Stephens broke out, several Democrats at the luncheon made fun of what they called the "noxious weed" in the GOP primary. But their giggles were nervous; they're afraid of Doug Wead and his campaign war chest.
It turns out there are quite a few Republicans who agree with them.
@body:The depth of the old-guard Republicans' distaste for Doug Wead is probably summed up best by longtime party activist Kit Mehrtens: "I hate to say it, but he reminds me of Slick Willy." A Republican with 30 years of partisan warfare under her belt comparing a fellow party member to a Democrat?
The entrance of Wead into Arizona politics about a year and a half ago has galvanized Republicans. "I don't like the way he has come into this state and just taken over," says Mehrtens.
Still, many of those not in the old guard say they kind of like what's going on. One of those is Tom Buggeln, governmental affairs director of the Maricopa County Deputies Association. "It's a breath of fresh air," says Buggeln, who describes himself as a "blue-collar guy" in the camp of party conservative Jack Kemp. (Buggeln describes himself as a Wead supporter, but stresses he's not speaking for the deputies' group.) "There's something refreshing about a Republican who's not beholden to the Phoenix 40 and the country-club set. What frightens them is here is a guy who comes in with an independent source of sustenance."
Phil MacDonnell, however, isn't just a last-minute throw-in. For a campaign novice, he's well-connected. He's the son-in-law of ex-legislator Pete Corpstein (who's now a candidate for Maricopa County assessor) and he's the head of government relations (i.e., a lobbyist) at powerful law firm Jennings, Strouss & Salmon. (That's the job formerly held by current District 2 Congressman Jon Kyl, by far the most formidable of Arizona's five current U.S. representatives at collecting checks from big business.)
MacDonnell points to his crime-busting jobs in the state Attorney General's Office, as an assistant U.S. attorney and as superintendent of the state liquor department. (He says he "cleaned up the mess" at the liquor department, and many would agree with him. But he doesn't mention that he later lobbied for some parts of the liquor industry that he formerly regulated.)
When the three GOP candidates have gotten together, MacDonnell and Wead have sniped at each other. Mike Meyer, the "other" guy, claims he doesn't mind. He likes to say, "There's not an iota of difference between Doug and Phil." Meyer, a newcomer to the state but married to an Arizona native, characterizes Wead as the front-runner but places himself as strongly second. Meyer, an executive with a national job-search firm, says he's putting a strong focus on Republican women, hoping they'll realize he's the only pro-choice candidate in the GOP race. "I don't think it's a slam-dunk for Wead," says Meyer. "I think people want an outsider. I'm a businessman, I've never been in government and I'm running against a lawyer-lobbyist and a minister, both of whom have."
MacDonnell and Wead both espouse conservative positions, but the enmity between them seems real. At the Pat Boone concert and fund raiser, Wead, referring to MacDonnell, but not by name, told the lily-white, older audience, "I've got an opponent who's mudslinging. He's a mean-spirited little man who doesn't seem to stand for anything. He's a liquor lobbyist and an attorney, a Harvard grad, by his own definition, he's a liberal! Washington, D.C., is full of liberals, and every one of them has a degree from Harvard!"
That may sell to Mechamites, but Harvard grad Phil MacDonnell is not a liberal. In his campaign appearances, MacDonnell has railed against delays in death-row executions, supports a voucher system for people to by-pass the public school system and stresses his record in law enforcement. No stranger himself to hyperbole, MacDonnell said during a Mesa debate: "People are not safe in their homes, and the federal government is responsible for it!"
One prominent party insider from the northeast Valley says it doesn't matter what MacDonnell says; the race is practically a done deal. "Wead's coming down the homestretch, while the others are just getting out of the starting gates," says the insider. "All three spoke at our district meeting, and if you're a motivational speaker like Wead, you're out of their league." (This insider, however, acknowledges being "pro-life," a camp that Wead has heavily courted.)
The insider credits Wead with several smart moves. Noting that Wead headed the "It's Time" tax-initiative movement, the insider guesses that Wead must have developed a very good mailing list of fiscally conservative Arizonans. That's an extremely good guess.
The insider also notes that Wead has done a good job in trying to nail down support among Mormons. Prominent in his campaign are LDS legislators Lela Steffey and Lester Pearce, ex-county supervisor Tom Freestone and ex-congressman Eldon Rudd, who's Wead's honorary campaign chairman. Wead's campaign videotape features a brief scene with Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson.
Right from the start, Wead aggressively has tried to line up conservative East Valley support. Wead's camp not only scared prospective opponent Freestone from the race, it also gave Freestone seed money to start a campaign for an Arizona Corporation Commission seat. Freestone has been present at many Wead rallies; at the Pat Boone concert, he meekly took the microphone from Wead and asked the crowd to put money in envelopes and send it to Wead. (That kind of public shilling for another candidate probably is a first for anyone who wants to serve on the corporation commission, where one has to be able to stand up to big utilities.)
Freestone's supporters initially were angered by Wead's entrance into the race, but Wead has mollified many of them, including Chuck Wahlheim of the East Valley Partnership. Wahlheim now says he's a Wead supporter.
Wead has money to spend--according to reports filed last week, he had $70,000 on hand even after giving out thousands of videotapes and boxes of a book he wrote called George Bush: Man of Integrity. His supporters include a budding young Republican media star, Bill Tierney, an Arizona State University student who was one of the youngest delegates to the Republican National Convention in Houston. Tierney says he checked out Wead and found him to be the best man for the job. If you check out Wead's campaign finance reports, you'll find that Wead is paying Tierney a monthly salary of $440.50. Nothing illegal about it. It's just good machine politics to put your supporters on your payroll.
Wead, who has spent his whole life campaigning--as an evangelist, motivational speaker and George Bush's "public liaison" to religious conservatives and other special-interest groups--knows how to organize a rally. On May 10, two days before his campaign kickoff in Mesa, he took the pulpit on a Sunday to urge a crowd at Phoenix First Assembly of God Church on Cave Creek Road to come out and show support for his political campaign. He also called for volunteers to help him and the church's associate pastor Leo Godzich prepare campaign videotapes for distribution. (Wead's rally pitch is available from the church's bookstore for $3; ask for sermon tape 9219-B, entitled "Rejoice in the Lord Always.)
@body:The ongoing rebellion continues to bear fruit for the GOP's religious right--basically the fervent antiabortion people. In the past few years, they've captured the party chairmanship and many of the worker-bee party posts. Ambushed by newcomer Wead's well-financed blitz, the GOP's old guard had to scramble to get MacDonnell into the race at the last minute.
Wead's infusion of money and style of campaigning caught veteran Republican activists by surprise. But not the party's conservative Lincoln Caucus, whose Arizona director, Sydney Hoff, is a paid consultant to Wead.
Wead and the Lincoln Caucus have collaborated on several projects. In November 1991, Wead was emcee of the group's environmentalist-bashing conference entitled "Unmasking the Green Movement." Last March, Wead was a panelist at a "symposium and awards dinner" called "Confronting the Moral Crisis in America," sponsored by the American Freedom Coalition, a group linked to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The AFC's Arizona director, Mark Anderson, who also was a panelist, says the AFC was founded in 87 with help from Moon associate Bo Hi Pak and "business sources related to the church."
Sydney Hoff, who had been scheduled to appear on the March panel until family matters forced her to cancel, says the Moon connection doesn't bother her. She praises the AFC's Arizona members for being active as volunteers in antitax movements. "Religious bigotry is religious bigotry," Hoff says. "If I were going to go after Mark Anderson because he's a Moonie, I'd be practicing religious bigotry. And I'm not going to practice it."
The state GOP's newly appointed finance chairman, John Godzich (who is pastor Leo's older brother), eased into the party machinery with the help of the Lincoln Caucus. Godzich the elder is an old friend of Wead's from the Amway circuit, and has pumped more than $50,000 into the party on Wead's behalf. Prominent Republicans, like former chairman Burt Kruglick, the head of the state's Bush-Quayle campaign, say they didn't even meet Godzich until he already was installed as party finance chief.
According to campaign finance records, Wead already has spent nearly $250,000 so far this year, almost as much as all five other candidates combined.
And this district demands campaign funds. It stretches from Casa Grande to the Four Corners. It includes much of the East Valley, some of Scottsdale, all of Cave Creek and Carefree, half of Flagstaff, a host of mountain and mining towns like Payson, Globe and Springerville and seven Indian reservations.
Wead has chipped in more than $100,000 of his own money. A little more than that has come from individual contributors, much of it from Amway distributors nationwide. Some of them contributed as a result of hearing Wead's motivational lectures and sermons. (He does a reading from memory of the Sermon on the Mount that one contributor said "would bring tears to your eyes.)
Meyer has raised $80,000, much of it from out-of-state business people; MacDonnell has generated about $64,000, much of it from lawyers and some from people in the liquor industry. Combined, they had slightly more than $40,000 in cash on hand as of last week; Wead had more than $70,000. And that doesn't count $50,000 Wead shelled out August 10 to six television stations.
On the Democratic side, both Stephens and English have raised more than $90,000, much of Stephens' from lawyers and labor unions and much of English's either from herself or from national women's organizations.
The campaign reports indicate that Al Hale simply doesn't have any money and, in fact, has had vehicle problems on his arduous treks through his vast reservation. He's undaunted, though. Hale says he's "planting seeds" for the future. "You can't sit back," he adds, philosophically.
@body:This is a district that will stump any pundit. Each party's primary race will be aimed at a completely different type of audience than the parties will face in the general election.
Forget that the district is 47 percent Democratic and 43 percent Republican. More than half the district population is in rural areas. Many of the Democrats are conservative and, besides, they don't care that much about party lines.
Mesa is by far the biggest city in the district, but English estimates that more than 70 percent of the district's Democrats live outside Maricopa County. That should make the Democratic primary more of a rural race. And not surprisingly, all three Democrats have rural bases: English in Flagstaff, Stephens in Casa Grande and Hale on the Navajo Reservation. Will Hale be a factor? One of every five residents in the district is a Native American, most of them Navajo, the nation's largest tribe. But Navajos haven't turned out in big numbers for primary elections--except in tribal races.
The GOP candidates face the opposite situation. Most of the district's Republicans live in the East Valley, and their primary looks more like an urban contest. The East Valley is known to have a heavy number of Mormons, many of whom have "traditional family values" that match Doug Wead's, right? Not necessarily. Wead is working hard to cultivate Mormon support, but there's historic enmity between Mormons and evangelical Christians. In fact, Wead's books and tapes are sold at Christian bookstores and churches, including Phoenix First Assembly of God Church, that also prominently display anti-Mormon tracts. Some evangelical Christian sects denounce Mormonism as an evil cult.
The big three daily newspapers, the Arizona Republic, Mesa Tribune and Phoenix Gazette, all have endorsed MacDonnell for the GOP nomination. English got the endorsement of the Trib and Gazette on the Democratic side. The Republic, in a fit of partisan pique, endorsed Hale while haughtily noting that the Democrats are a party that "thinks of itself as inclusive" and "ought to be interested in sending an Indian to Congress."
And then there's that Mecham in the woodpile. The impeached former governor wants to run for the U.S. Senate against John McCain in the November 3 general election. But Evan Mecham's supporters, largely ultraconservatives in the East Valley, won't be able to sign his petition unless they forsake voting in the September 8 primary. That could cost Wead some votes.
On top of everything, all of the candidates are worried about a low turnout, because the election is the day after Labor Day, and many Arizonans still may be on holiday.
Regardless of what happens this fall, GOP stalwarts like Kit Mehrtens, who are put off by the party's religious right wing, vow to fight back. She notes that Dodie Londen, also a member of the party's old guard, already has announced she will run next year against party chairman Gerald Davis, an unabashed Wead supporter. Some party insiders call this "sour grapes" that will have nothing to do with how the voters actually perform on September 8.
It seems ironic that the Republican candidate with the most money, Doug Wead, is also the one with the least formal education (four semesters at a Bible college and an honorary degree from Oral Roberts University). Wead's a dynamic speaker once he gets rolling, but he also commits the biggest gaffes of the campaign. His beautiful home is filled with thousands of books, but Wead's slickly printed, 38-page campaign pamphlet, It's Time for a Change, is frequently unintelligible and refers to Barry Goldwater's seminal book as The Conscious [sic] of a Conservative.
You'd think that would be an unpardonable sin in Arizona.
THE GOP'S NEW GODFATHER ... v9-02-92
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.