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DEARTH WATCH

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"There's no doubt about it. They [the gay/lesbian community] are a constituency that gathers in a public place, which makes it easier to campaign," Nadolski says.

The Arizona Human Rights Fund endorsement comes with a $250 contribution. Far more valuable is the grassroots support that comes along, too. AHRF chairman Bill McDonald estimates that as many as 15,000 gay/lesbian voters could turn out to vote for Nadolski--a formidable sum in an election that might see only 30,000 or 40,000 voters participate.

McDonald estimates a candidate may be able to reach as many as 5,000 gay voters in a weekend by making the rounds at Phoenix gay bars.

AHRF also endorses local and statewide candidates, and has raised about $15,000 for the 1994 election cycle, but "Linda's mayoral campaign is the focus. It has the highest priority," McDonald says.

"We love Linda. She's been there for us," he adds. "We've made no overtures to Skip, which may be unfair."

Rimsza, who did not originally support the gay-rights initiative, voted for it in the end--as part of a Johnson-orchestrated consensus. "Skip is not a terrible, terrible person," McDonald says. ". . . There's a lot worse people than Skip Rimsza."

Skip Rimsza likes to be prepared. He's got this speech he wrote in March, which he carries around "like a security blanket"--just in case he forgets what he wants to say. So far, that hasn't happened.

While Nadolski has rented an old house for her headquarters, and relies mainly on volunteers, Rimsza has a covey of Generation Xers and an office upstairs from his "general consultant," Mike Crusa. (Best known for his bit part in AzScam, Crusa is a longtime Johnson confidant.)

Contrary to his campaign brochure, which boasts that Rimsza personally returns constituent calls and holds neighborhood meetings, access to the candidate is problematic. Campaign manager David Schwartz agrees to a paltry 30-minute interview--with the media consultant present--and it's all but impossible to schedule a photography session.

Schwartz faxes a letter from one constituent brimming with praise for Rimsza, whose office got an unsightly cable-TV control unit removed from outside the gentleman's home. But Vickie Limparis, one of a streetful of homeowners on Bethany Home Road that has spent years trying to get someone to listen to concerns about the Squaw Peak Parkway, says Rimsza "never showed his face on this street. He never talked to us, he didn't return phone calls, he, I guess, decided to ignore the situation, hoping it would go away."

Limparis doesn't have kind words for Nadolski, either.
Rimsza looks like a Skip, and it's not just the khakis, navy blazer and floral tie. He's buoyant, boyish--with a wide grin, a full head of hair and a pink glow.

"I'll catch ya," he says, an eye squeezing into an automatic wink, as he's off to glad-hand the next electoral victim.

Rimsza's in fine form at a recent candidates' forum sponsored by his fellow agents, via the Paradise Valley Realtor Marketing Service. It's his turf. G.G. George and Nadolski mill around awkwardly before the forum, while Rimsza holds court in a corner. "Look what I got," an older man says, showing Rimsza a G.G. George brochure. The men chuckle.

A Rimsza staffer moves through the crowd, handing out campaign stickers. Rimsza expresses remorse over Johnson's loss in the recent gubernatorial race, accepts a compliment about his recent weight loss and refers to his open-heart surgery as a "little deal this summer."

When it's time to speak, Rimsza gets the coveted last word. The three (Greg Campbell didn't show) have lots to say about crime, but there's no discernible difference in message.

The Rimsza stump speech covers three topics: neighborhoods, the economy and families.

Neighborhoods: "You don't outrun this urban cancer. You've got to stay put" in inner-city neighborhoods, and fight for revitalization.

The economy: He's helped boost Phoenix through his leadership as chairman of the city council's Committee on the Economy, including "a little contest called Super Bowl XXX."

Families: "A kid has no business on the streets at 2 a.m." or carrying a gun to school. We must stop the forces that "wreak urban terrorism in this city."

Warm applause.
Twenty minutes later, the candidate's smearing jam on a toasted bagel at the Eggery at Central and Camelback. Griffin Merkel, his media consultant, sits nearby.

Up close, a few gray hairs glint at Rimsza's temples. He tones down the back-slapping-realtor bit for a one-on-one. But he's terse, almost defensive, as he offers canned responses to questions about his background and philosophies.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.