On the wall of Grant Woods' office is a photograph, taken of him when he was at Occidental College, together with an old black man named Preacher. Woods attended the small liberal arts school in Los Angeles beginning in '72, so he missed the pure Sixties, but there are certainly vestiges of it apparent anyway in this icon: Woods' hair is shaggy and curly and over-the-collar, he is wearing a corduroy jacket and an item of headgear that can only be described as a cap. Most of all, the bottom half of the frame is taken up by the words to a well-known Paul Simon song, "The Boxer," that certainly takes you back:

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade/ And he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him out/ Or clept him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame/ "I am leaving, I am leaving," but the fighter still remains.

Leaning back in his chair in such a relaxed posture that he doesn't appear to have bones, Grant Woods is responding with slight embarrassment to a request that he explain this souvenir. It is the only embarrassment he has shown during hours of interviews. It is not that his thoughts about the old man Preacher embarrass him, because he has been talking very easily about things that are more intimate. It is probably that this is such a frankly sentimental story that Woods knows he can't tell it without sounding like a sap.

Preacher was an old codger among other old codgers who came frequently to spend the day in a park in Los Angeles. Woods found them interesting, and used to make a point of visiting them there. He got to know Preacher pretty well. "Obviously things had not worked out quite the way he wanted," he says about Preacher. "I think when you are young, you do not dream that you will be alone and have nowhere to go but the park. But all you had to do was talk with him and you would see that the fighter still remains."

This sensitive side of Woods has not been terribly apparent during many of his public appearances and interviews in this campaign. What has been most apparent, perhaps, was his piqued defensiveness in front of the charges leveled at him during the primary by opponent David Eisenstein, wherein Eisenstein insinuated that Woods and his father had become knowingly involved in a business deal with gangster Mario Renda. (The smear seemed to fade in the face of explanations that neither of the Woodses had heard of Renda before he was quietly brought into the business deal in question by a third party. Even Eisenstein told New Times that he now believes Woods' assertions that he was an unwitting partner to Renda.) Also apparent has been Woods' behavior during the evening of acrimony at ASU law school with Democratic opponent Georgia Staton, the evening that was billed as a debate but that deteriorated to the level of petty name calling.

Maybe he has come across in this unpleasant way because the modern-day business of running for office is not designed to bring out the best in anybody. And maybe it is because Woods is a competitive, aggressive lawyer who one of his close friends describes as "kick-ass." Whatever the reason, there isn't any doubt that Woods is more than equal to the demands of bad-tempered maneuvering that crop up in the political world.

But talent with pot shots isn't all he excels at. Perhaps more than any of the other young candidates except Mahoney, Woods, at 36, is possessed of a deeply thought-out and varied map for the philosophical and political portions of his life. It is a mighty peculiar map, too, for a Republican, because it keeps leading Woods back to a sense of compassion for the disadvantaged and a passion for civil rights.

He has been ruminating this morning, for instance, on his regard for one of his first heroes, Robert Kennedy. "Robert Kennedy's real attribute was a deep-felt sympathy with the disadvantaged, and this is something we should all share, whether conservative or liberal," he says. "The Republican party has done a lousy job at that. I hope the Republican party in the Nineties will use its great strength and position to tackle some of our social problems."

He has also been inspired by RFK's dedication to civil rights, a concern that he has incorporated into his campaign by supporting a Martin Luther King Day even during the primary, when his position may have alienated him from some Republican voters. "For people in my age group in Arizona, I find that racism and sexism as it has been known in the past is just so abhorrent it is not even considered," he says. And so he made clear on the primary campaign trail what his bias would be when called upon to prosecute civil rights complaints within the Attorney General's Office: "I talk about the need to enforce the civil rights law proactively instead of reactively, to go out and try to stop discrimination." "I think the Republican party can be a leader in the areas of civil rights. Many Republicans do not go there naturally, but I think they will go there, because it is right," he adds.

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Deborah Laake

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