For $75,000 a year, 31-year-old attorney and former journalist Jay Heiler has been hired to help Governor Fife Symington shape the policies that will benefit all Arizonans."
But his appointment last month as Special Assistant to the Governor for Policy Development has sent ripples of uneasiness among some who remember Heiler's stint ten years ago as editor of the State Press, Arizona State University's student newspaper. Sandwiched between the resignations of two key gubernatorial aides-chief of staff Chris Herstam and Project SLIM liaison George LeckieÏHeiler's plunge into the turbulent waters of the Symington administration drew little notice.
There are plenty of people at ASU who still remember him. In the early Eighties, Heiler was one in a series of students who took over the paper and used its editorial pages to push their conservative bent-attacking liberal professors, homosexuals and others.
They were homophobic, they were misogynistic. They were pretty much against everything that was not very narrowly, traditionally defined," says one professor, who asked not to be quoted by name considering Heiler's newfound influence.
They were connected in this right-wing ideological craziness," says Mark Reader, an associate professor of political science who found himself a target of some of the attacks.
Heiler says he cannot talk about his newspaper days or elaborate on what his duties with Symington will be. As much as I would like to comment on that, I can't," he says. (Heiler referred all questions to Symington press aide Doug Cole, who didn't return calls.)
Former Heiler ally Matthew Scully, now a speechwriter for Vice President Dan Quayle, says the State Press was a voice of dissent in a liberal environment."
Scully describes Heiler as one of the brightest, most articulate conservatives you'll ever meet," and says the student paper rankled liberal faculty members unaccustomed to criticism.
After finishing journalism school, Heiler continued through law school at ASU, graduating in 1986. He worked as an assistant in the Arizona Attorney General's Office until 1989, when he switched tracks and became an editorial writer for the Richmond Times Dispatch.
In 1991 he left the newspaper to work for a radon-testing company in Virginia, and then was tapped by Symington.
Although many of Heiler's editorials during his time at the State Press in 1982 and 1983 dealt with parochial campus topics-such as bicycle rules and pay for student senators-he regularly wrote about broader issues:
On homosexuality: It is my impression that by `coming out of the closet,' as their emergence has come to be called, homosexuals hope to make the rest of us less uncomfortable about their aberration-and despite one's feelings about it, it is most definitely an aberration."
On illegal immigrants: The immigrants come here to start a new life, then try to cling to their own language and customs. This tendency leads to all sorts of societal problems, ranging from interracial unrest to unexplained disappearances of dogs. The former difficulty crops up wherever aliens are to be found; the latter arose in California when the Vietnamese arrived."
On liberals: Through their past bumblings, I have discerned that Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neill are the two most misguided men to ever stink up the Capitol building, and that includes some stiff competition. They are paraders of socialism whose actions and utterances have left many of us with sour looks of disgusted disbelief."
On abortion: Those with the stomach for it are forced to take note of the fact that thousands of this country's unborn babies are slaughtered at the hands of their mothers every year."
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The professors remember the years that Heiler, and successors of similar persuasion, ran the newspaper as a low point in the university's evolution. The general quality of the paper stunk in those years," says one. This sort of stuff lasted for about two or three years...these were young men and they were not intellectually mature."
That he's gone to work for the governor," says Mark Reader, is an indication that he's either reformed a lot, or that one ought to wonder where the governor is taking the state."
Heiler apparently hasn't reformed." Scully says Heiler remains steadfast in the conservative views. Jay is a man of unbreakable conviction, and that intimidates some people," Scully says.