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GEORGIA STATON

In this atmosphere of tense campaigning, where Georgia Staton, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has been publicly scorned as a "junkyard dog" by a prominent attorney and has been deserted right and left by members of her own party, it is probably only fair to point out that she has a friend from college who has loved her dearly for twenty years.

"Georgia's a lot of fun. She really MDBOMDULis," says Donna Schafer, an assistant professor of gerontology at San Francisco State University who roomed with Staton at the University of Kansas. Schafer is a woman who laughs a lot, and she laughs at her own remark, too, as though she knows it's difficult to believe this about the noticeably no-nonsense Staton.

"And she is a real honest kind of person. And she is a good friend, very trustworthy. She is one of several people with whom I have stayed in contact."

Schafer's impressions of Statonalong with those by family members and campaign workers who refer to her with words like "intelligent" and "thoughtful"are not consistent with those of some local defense attorneys. Many of the latter are scared to death of the womanor, more specifically, of what they believe is her rigidity and abrasiveness when it comes to enforcing the law.

And there is good reason to believe that, even if she is capable of loyalty and warmth in private, she is indeed rigid and abrasive in the professional world. You hear it again and again from attorneys who have dealt with her, and even Bill Jones, a professed admirer and senior partner in Jones, Skelton, and Hochuli, the law firm where Staton has worked as an associate for six years, admits that there are very starchy aspects to Staton's personality. He says, "Where Georgia is concerned, there is always a right way [to do things]. If she has a fault, it is that Georgia's way is the `right' way, frequently.

"I wish she could be more bending, less demanding of people around her.
"I am not so sure she is not a frustrated cop." Her younger sister Josephine Tucker, a California lawyer, says Staton's feelings about law enforcement are such strong ones that they stand somewhat apart from the rest of her beliefs. To draw a comparison, she says that Georgia is a strict Catholic who would probably never opt for an abortion for herself, but that she is a pro-choice MD120 Col 1, Depth P54.02 I9.03 candidate "because she would not enforce that belief on others." "But there are other issues in terms of law and order where she has a very strong sense of right and wrong," Tucker goes on. "And if enforcing the penal code in a strong sense is moralistic, then in that case she could be moralistic."

These clear-eyed supporters and others say without qualification, however, that Staton's integrity is beyond question. They are so adamant about this point that it makes the Royden Brown case seem even more confusing.

That was the matter, publicized in MDUL New Times during Staton's race for Maricopa County attorney in 1988, where it was revealed that local litigator Ed Novak believes Staton lied on the stand during the course of a colossal, convoluted land fraud case that she prosecuted out of the Attorney General's Office. If Novak's interpretations of past events are true, Staton's zeal to send Royden Brown to jail overcame her ethics. Staton countered at the time that if Novak had truly believed she'd lied, he would have filed a bar complaint. (MDULNew Times has recently learned that a bar complaint in the matter of Royden Brown has been filed against Staton by Ed Novak. Asked to comment about the complaint, Staton points out that Novak waited until after she had announced her candidacy for attorney general before filing ittwo years after the story first appeared in the press and seven years after the Brown case was settled. She says that Novak is involved in opponent Grant Woods' campaign, and that his action "is the biggest political smear that has even been orchestrated in statewide politics." She adds, "I want the people of the state to know the lengths to which the criminal defense bar will to to keep a strong, experienced prosecutor out of that office." Novak refused to discuss the bar complaint, saying that it violates attorneys' ethics. He said that he has lent his name to the Woods campaign.)

What these claims and counterclaims actually mean about Staton's character is hard to know, beyond the obvious conclusion that the impressions Staton leaves in her wake are strong and contradictory.

And the woman herself is hard to know, although not because she seems to be intent on hiding anything in particular as she ruminates about the personal values that, if elected, she would bring into office. It is more that she gives an impression of having been so intent on personal success, even as a Democrat during the values-challenging Sixties, that she did not consider the status of the larger world, and did not develop much personal depth. Seated in her sterile office, answering questions about her passions without ever raising or lowering her voice, she communicates that there may not be much there there.

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Deborah Laake