State legislator Sue Grace caught a familiar sight, glancing up from her microphone at a candidates' forum last week. It was Becky Fenger.
And her camera. A bit of history: Fenger, who unsuccessfully challeged Grace in September's Republican primary for the House of Representatives seat in District 24, surprised Grace this summer when she showed up--camera in hand--at the legislator's table at RoxSand, a popular Phoenix restaurant. Fenger insists the encounter was a coincidence, that she happened to see Grace and approached the table to give her some documents. She says her camera accidentally went off. She says she asked Grace if she could take her photograph, but was refused. The incident showed up in the daily press; Fenger says it contributed to her defeat. Grace, therefore, had thought her days as a photographer's model were over, until she saw Fenger at last week's forum, which drew more than 200 people--including the gubernatorial candidates. (It was sponsored by the nonpartisan organization Fiscal Accountability and Reform Efforts [FARE].) But there was Fenger, seated at a table right near the microphone Grace used to address the crowd. "When she started getting ready to snap a shot, I told her not to do it," and she didn't, Grace says. She doesn't know why Fenger was taking pictures, but she suspects Fenger is already campaigning for a 1996 legislative bid. Fenger used one photograph she had taken of Grace in what Grace calls a "hit piece" against her.
"I don't know what she does with all those pictures. I don't even want to speculate. She must have them all collected in a room somewhere. It's pretty odd," Grace says. "I take pictures for my personal collection, and it's my way of recording events," Fenger explains. "And I also make people happy when I often take and put them in booklets and present them to the people."
Fenger takes photographs at legislative district meetings and other political events. She says she has given photo booklets to John Buttrick, the Libertarian candidate for governor, and Susan Bitter Smith, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congressional District 1 in the Republican primary.
Kristi Clark, of FARE, says she wasn't aware anyone took exception to Fenger's shutterbugging.
"Yeah, Becky was taking pictures, but she was cute!" Clark says. "If there were any problems . . . I would have been the first one to hear that."
And Eddie's Selling Apples on the Corner
The Arizona Republican Caucus' monthly newsletter is required reading among GOPers in the know. Smart Democrats scramble for it, too, to catch up on the latest political gossip. Touted as the Republican party's "latest whispers," the newsletter is heavy on speculation, which makes it fun. And sometimes inaccurate.
Editor Jason Rose (who works days as an account executive for the consulting firm Nelson, Robb, DuVal and DeMenna) is the first to admit he doesn't enlist the services of a fact checker. Case in point: a tidbit in the latest edition, which claims Representative Sam Coppersmith, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, hasn't been paying his campaign staff. "It's no secret that Coppersmith has serious campaign overhead. What is little known, however, is that he hasn't been able to pay those responsible for his overhead (staffers) for weeks," Rose writes. "So that's where that rumor came from," says Coppersmith campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cohen. Cohen insists she and the other paid campaign staff haven't had to do without. Fund raising did, in fact, slow down in the Coppersmith camp while there was uncertainty over who--Coppersmith or Dick Mahoney--would emerge as the winner in the Democratic primary. But there was no way for anyone outside the campaign to verify payroll information until campaign finance reports are filed. Rose is nonchalant. "Is that right? Okay," he says between chuckles, when told of Cohen's comments.
"I'm not held to the same standards as you guys [reporters] are," Rose adds. "That's the way it goes." Kyl's Breast Fixation
GOP Representative/U.S. Senate candidate Jon Kyl's efforts to establish himself as a breast-cancer advocate have been criticized here in Arizona, particularly by his opponent, Democratic Representative Sam Coppersmith. Over the last few weeks, Kyl and Coppersmith have each provided evidence of Kyl's votes for and against legislation that included funding for breast-cancer research. But now some national folks are registering disgust with Kyl on the topic.
"It's nauseating," says Jane Reese-Coburn, a member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition in Washington, D.C. (The organization does not endorse candidates.) Reese-Coburn, who has worked with the coalition during its three-year existence, says she's seen breast-cancer-research funding increase, but she's also seen members of Congress use breast cancer as a way to woo the female vote. Many pro-life candidates, she says, "pick up on the breast-cancer issue. Unfortunately, not all of them have really been that much of an ally." Kyl's record is "mixed," she says, not nearly as bad, for example, as that of U.S. Senator Arlen Specter--a Republican from Pennsylvania who touted breast cancer as one of his issues to get support from women who were upset with him for his Judiciary Committee vote in favor of Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination.
And Specter won reelection.
But Reese-Coburn does criticize Kyl for a hearing last week on Capitol Hill. The hearing, sponsored by the Women's Issues Task Force, co-chaired by Kyl, dealt with the discovery of a gene that causes breast cancer. Reese-Coburn, who did not attend, called the hearing a "photo opportunity," because it did not specifically address legislation or funding.
"It was about nothing," she says.
Kyl spokeswoman Kate Watson vehemently disagrees, saying the hearing provided useful testimony. "Because we're at the end of a session [of Congress], it didn't make sense to discuss funding," she says.
Gee, Thanks, Grif
Griffin Merkel's either a political genius or just one lucky guy. The former executive director of the Arizona Republican party recently started his own political consulting firm, called Griffin and Associates. (The "associate" is Merkel's wife, a journalism major who edits his work.)
So far, Griffin and Associates' clients have included these GOP primary victors: Corporation Commission candidate Carl Kunasek and congressional hopefuls John Shadegg, J.D. Hayworth and Matt Salmon. He's also working for mayoral candidate Skip Rimsza. Merkel's responsibilities differ from campaign to campaign--he's written speeches for Salmon, handled the press for Rimsza, taught Hayworth to raise money and developed a strategy for Kunasek. He spends most of his time these days on Shadegg's campaign, where he's "general consultant." His only loss? Republican Kevin Ganem, who ran for the House of Representatives in Legislative District 25--which had one of the most crowded fields in this year's state races. The Meaning of Wisdom
While browsing on the information superhighway this summer, a member of the environmentalist-friendly Sierra Club happened upon a missive thrown into cyberspace by a wise-use group called the Sahara Club. Rick Sieman, president of the Sahara Club, has written an "Agenda" for the organization:
"Consider it your guide book to effectively battling New Age nuts, militant vegetarians, anti-gun pukes, animal rights goofballs, tree worshipers, new world order pushers, human haters, pro-socialists, doom-sayers, homosexual rights activists, radical eco-Nazis, slobbering political correctness advocates, militant feminists and land closure fascists!"
The Agenda is chock-full of advice for harassing anyone who falls into the categories defined above. And while Sieman continually reminds Sahara Club members that he doesn't recommend they break the law, he certainly doesn't mind if they cause trouble.
"For those who choose to indulge in illegal dirty tricks, we must heartily disapprove. And for those who just want to have some harmless fun, the following advice might prove helpful:
a. Always wear rubber gloves when handling items to be mailed.
b. If you must write, write upside-down or backwards to avoid writing identification.
c. A copy of typewritten words is near un-traceable.
d. A fax of a Xerox copy is un-traceable.
e. Don't be a big mouth. Keep your tricks to yourself."
Apparently, Sieman doesn't take his own advice, or his Agenda wouldn't have fallen into enemy, tree-hugging arms.