Dick Mahoney is relaxed. His left leg rests over the arm of a chair in the living room of his Encanto Park home.

Mahoney seems at ease with himself. He has no regrets over his hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Sam Coppersmith holds a margin so paper-thin that it required a recount.

Most politicians would second-guess themselves for the rest of their careers. They would agonize over statewide vote totals, pondering helplessly over strategic moves that might have snatched victory from defeat.

Did he say something that alienated just enough voters to cost him the election? Might he at some point have made a gesture that had the power to win over the disaffected?

Mahoney, however, would do nothing differently. He is at peace. Any wounds from the Coppersmith imbroglio no longer smart. At least, that's what Mahoney maintains.

Even during his tenure as secretary of state, Mahoney kept up with his teaching career at the Thunderbird School, and he will go on with that. He was educated at Princeton and holds a doctorate in international political economy from Johns Hopkins University.

Mahoney became something of a legend at the Arizona State University law school, where he sailed through courses without attending classes. It was at a time when he was also writing his doctoral dissertation.

"I will not have to reinvent myself like so many other politicians must after defeat," he says.

Mahoney is something of a neatness freak. The crease in his tan slacks is faultless. He wears a forest-green dress shirt and tie. He looks around the room and gestures with one hand.

"We used the house for campaign headquarters, and things got really trashed," Mahoney says. "They are just getting back to order."

Mahoney invites his visitor to look around. The single-story house on the tree-lined street has been the object of numerous rehab projects over the nine years in which he has lived in it. New floors, kitchen, skylights.

Far from being "trashed," the place seems ready for a photographic team from Architectural Digest to come through the front door. It is spotless. Not one thing is out of place. There are no signs that it was ever inhabited by a team of volunteer campaign workers.

On an antique writing desk in a corner of the room are volumes of poems. Walt Whitman, Wilfrid Owen, Rainer Maria Rilke are there. So are the memoirs of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They are arranged side by side, ready for quick reference. Perhaps it is significant that all of Mahoney's poets are romantics and rebels.

At this point, he was in the dark as to the final outcome of the election. He was at least a week away from knowing if he had been struck by a political miracle.

But he is clearly not counting on it. Paul Eckstein, his campaign chairman, has warned him not to expect Coppersmith's slim lead to disappear. So, for now, Mahoney wears the mantle of his defeat lightly.

He knows how to accept defeats gracefully. There was the night when he was speaking to a group and spotted his former wife in the audience. He saluted her by saying he had given her the best year (sic) of his life.

Mahoney is like the tourist who took a very expensive and strenuous vacation to a faraway land, where nobody spoke English and the food was indigestible. The journey was fascinating. He would not, however, undertake it again anytime in the near future.

"These days, political campaigns are not the fun they used to be," Mahoney says. "Inevitably, they all turn into death marches.

"There are too many handlers. They are too busy orchestrating stuff they want to get on television for maximum punch.

"Much of the bankruptcy of this entire enterprise has to do with these mercenaries, media consultants and pollsters. They give every candidate a sameness, a defensiveness.

"They also give a campaign a certain level of ferocity, because these guys all keep telling their candidate he has to go negative. It doesn't matter to them how far ahead their man may be.

"Suppose we had this philosophy among our airlines. Delta would be saying that United has caused 25,000 deaths over the last 20 years."

Mahoney laughs.
"Hell, everybody would be riding buses."
Mahoney walked to the beat of his own drum. He hired only two paid campaign workers and accepted no contributions from political-action groups.

On the other hand, Coppersmith, as the duly anointed successor to incumbent Dennis DeConcini, was rolling in PAC money. Mahoney estimates Coppersmith spent $930,000 on television time alone.

Mahoney and his people did their own TV commercials, and they proved the most original of the campaign.

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Tom Fitzpatrick