"I am getting more and more impressed by your publicity machine," a diner tells Jason Rose as he sits down at Nixon's. Rose grins and makes the slightest bow of his head, as if acknowledging a hand clap of applause.
Nixon's, a kind of Planet Hollywood for political junkies started by Rose, Phil Miglino and Rob Hess, was in the day's paper--again--when former governor Fife Symington showed up. Symington spent most of the evening in the kitchen, Rose confirms, talking to a classmate from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, where Symington is taking classes while he waits out the appeal on his federal fraud conviction.
"Used to be, you couldn't get the guy away from politics," Rose comments to the diner. "Now he's happier talking about sauces."
The 28-year-old Republican political consultant may be in the restaurant business, but he's more in his element discussing the memorabilia on the walls than the grilled-swordfish club. There is a direct-mail flier from Robert Kennedy's doomed campaign for the presidency, a vintage World War II-era Life cover, a quote from Ayn Rand, a caricature of Nixon crossing the Delaware done by Mike Ritter, the political cartoonist for the Mesa Tribune, and a portrait of Rosa Parks, sitting at the front of a bus that also carries Madonna.
"Gordon Gekko goes up next," Rose promises. "You know that quote from Wall Street? 'Greed is good.'"
For Nixon's, the cameo by Symington is another shot of free advertising to add to the restaurant's press clippings, which include a mention in the New York Times. For Rose, it's another sign that his latest venture is getting noticed. And getting notice--for his clients and his business, if not for himself--is his life's work.
Rose's career in Phoenix has skyrocketed. A former vice president at the consulting firm Nelson, Robb, DuVal and DeMenna, Rose struck out on his own as a public-relations guru last year, forming Rose and Company. He worked on Tom McGovern's attorney general campaign and gathered up investors for the opening of Nixon's.
Rose tried to save the Cine Capri, campaigned for a transit tax and fought a development on the rim of the Grand Canyon. He's worked to convince the town of Payson to accept a Wal-Mart, represented developers in Scottsdale and backers of an oil refinery in Phoenix. He worked on the campaigns of Scottsdale Councilman Greg Bielli and Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana. There are derogatory epithets Rose's opponents might use, but the term "slacker" isn't one of them.
Slick is. Slick, and maybe a little greasy: Things go just a little too smoothly for Rose, they say. Critics characterize Rose as a lot of show and little content.
He's lost as many as he's won, but it's a testament to Rose's salesmanship that the clients keep coming to his door.
Rose doesn't hesitate to use his political connections to his advantage. Besides campaigning for Campana, he employed her daughter, Cassidy Campana, in his public relations office until recently. Last year, Campana voted with other council members to approve a Scottsdale project Rose was deeply involved in. Bielli, while a member of Scottsdale's redevelopment board in 1997, voted in favor of another Rose client.
He's vacationed in London with state Senator Scott Bundgaard, whom he counts as one of his closest friends. Last year, Bundgaard chaired a legislative committee that unanimously approved a tax break for one of Rose's clients.
Rose, Bundgaard and Sam Campana say there is nothing improper about their friendships. But Bundgaard recently backed out of his investment in Nixon's when the business deal became public. Sam Campana, whose boyfriend and daughter were Nixon's investors, also scrambled to distance herself politically when questions were raised.
Rose is now working behind the scenes for the Phoenix Coyotes and another group of developers in Scottsdale on a plan to convert the sagging Los Arcos mall into a hockey arena and convention center. The arena would become the new home of the NHL team, which is seeking an escape from the confines of the America West Arena and the clutches of Jerry Colangelo.
A group of local residents--called NO PUCKS, Neighbors Organized to Prevent Unauthorized Community Killing--opposes the plan: They say it would destroy their neighborhoods and bring crime and noise to the area. They hope to overturn the City of Scottsdale's efforts to create a stadium district which would subsidize the redevelopment with state tax dollars.
But Rose has been able to keep the contest from playing out as another case of David vs. Goliath. Before the opposition even had much of a chance to organize, it was Rose's idea to put together a pro-arena group called Don't Let Los Arcos Die. The group has shown up in force at city council meetings, wearing yellow stickers reading LOS ARCOS NOW! in contrast to their opponents' orange ribbons.
The two camps have bickered over a vote for the stadium district, with each side gathering signatures to force a public decision on the issue in May.
Meanwhile, the proposed arena is running into snags that even Jason Rose and good PR may not be able to fix. The Town of Carefree, which had earlier agreed to be part of the required two-city pact to form a stadium district, pulled out two weeks ago. Other cities, including Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley and Glendale have refused to sign on.
The stadium district could go down to defeat, and the Coyotes might never score a goal at Los Arcos, but Rose gets points just for changing the terms of the debate. Over tough resistance, he's selling the hell out of the idea that the development will save the area.
In a realm where image is everything, that matters more than the merits of the debate: for Rose, style is substance, and he's made a career out of making politics personal.
When people talk about Jason Rose, they start with the hair.
"I'd have to say he does have the best hair in town," his fiance, Republican fund raiser Stacey Pawlowksi, says. "It's certainly better than mine."
Rose's locks pile up on his head and roll down over his collar. Other guys his age are just starting to pay attention to Rogaine commercials, but it looks as if baldness exists on a different planet than Rose does. He has enough hair to support a whole economy of styling products, oceans of gel, jet streams of blow-dried air. It doesn't matter that his shirts are impeccably pressed, and he's almost always wrapped in a sports coat. The first thing is still the hair. It says that Rose, despite his politics, his family connections and his friends, is not your average Young Republican.
"He's, in some senses, a novelty," Kevin DeMenna, one of Rose's former bosses says. "Jason has an ability to entertain--and it's inherent, it's not manufactured--while he makes his case."
Other people in Rose's field--who asked not to be named, saying they may have to work with him some day--put it in less flattering terms. Rose is long on style, they say, but short on substance.
"He's got the look; he's got the hair; he's very slick and magazine," says one. "He's a rich kid. He's been given a lot of opportunities and he's done something with them, in a slick kind of way, but there's not a lot of depth to it. It's not just a job, it's a lifestyle."
Rose capitalized on his connections to get his professional start in Phoenix. It's a skill he's maintained ever since.
He graduated from Occidental College in California and went to work for Nelson, Robb, DuVal and DeMenna; partners Bob Robb and Fred DuVal are also Occidental grads. So is former attorney general Grant Woods.
"Bob [Robb] considers Occidental something close to the Vatican of education," DeMenna says.
Family ties also helped Rose get on McGovern's campaign team last year. McGovern has known Rose's father, Scott Rose, for years. Scott Rose is a partner at O'Connor Cavanagh, an influential Valley law and lobbying firm.
But even Rose's detractors agree that once in the door, he constantly hustles. "His work ethic is incredible," one critic of Rose concedes.
Cassidy Campana, Rose's former employee at Rose and Company, says he will sometimes work from 2 or 3 in the morning until 11 at night.
"I've never met a guy who worked harder," DeMenna says. "The thing about Jason now and then is that his professional life and his personal life, there really isn't a boundary. It isn't that he's always working. It's that the things he does to relax are the same things he does at work."
Rose's clients get not only a defender, but someone willing to take the offensive. For people blackened in the public eye, Rose is willing to hit back--hard.
"That's a niche, for better or for worse, that I've developed," Rose says. "If the client's looking for someone to represent their interest passionately, then you're damn right I'm going to do that. I'm not going to be scared to throw the hard punches."
Rose's first solo PR battle, in which he represented opponents of a controversial Grand Canyon development, offers a primer on Rose's art of war.
Canyon Forest Village is a one-square-mile development just outside Grand Canyon National Park proposed by a Scottsdale partnership. The developers want to swap more than 2,000 acres of private land in the Kaibab National Forest for the 600-plus acres of U.S. Forest Service land between the park and the town of Tusayan.
Rose represents the Grand Canyon Improvement District, a group of Tusayan area businesses opposed to the project. It is a client he took with him when he left Robb and DeMenna.
Rose has taken no prisoners in the battle. On billboards that went up last spring, Rose blasted Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt for his support of Canyon Forest Village. As the signs let everyone know, Babbitt was an attorney for the project back in 1991.
"He [Rose] plays on America's notion that everything is sick, everybody's out to get somebody. It's kind of just despicable," Tom De Paulo, a partner in the development, says.
One of De Paulo's partners is from Italy. "So they attacked with 'Don't sell the Grand Canyon to foreigners,'" he says.
"I won't even say he walks the edge; he goes way over the edge," De Paulo adds. "One of these days it'll catch up with him. We've all got to sleep at night."
Rose is unapologetic about making his client's case.
"When it comes to protecting the Grand Canyon, I hope that I would be more confrontational," he says. "I feel passionately that blading one square mile of the south rim [of the Canyon] is something worth fighting against."
Rose has brought his PR jujitsu to the aid of a number of other clients as well.
Earlier in 1998, Rose represented Michael LaMelza, a developer of a luxury campus for the elderly in Scottsdale facing opposition from neighbors. A report surfaced that the federal government had barred LaMelza from using HUD funds because he had misused almost $2 million at a nursing home in New Jersey.
Rose said it shouldn't matter what happened "3,000 miles away." And the neighbors "just don't want elderly folks in need in their neighborhood."
In late 1997, the board of the Glendale Elementary School District was badly in need of an image boost after it was accused of violating the Open Meetings Law. Some board members were videotaped meeting at one member's house and later settled with the attorney general's office.
Rose was paid more than $3,000 a month to shore up the district's reputation and conduct outreach programs.
But the one board member who turned the others in, Gail Poe, thinks Rose didn't do what he was supposed to do. She says Rose was brought in by the superintendent to "educate the public." What he did, she says, was spin control.
In the press at the time, Rose blasted a former Glendale principal for "running some kind of Keystone Kops operation, secretly filming board members during a social event."
"My own opinion is that the purpose of his appointment was political, and not the purpose that was presented to us in public, that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes," Poe says. Poe says Rose's work included writing letters to the editor that defended the board members accused of wrongdoing.
Around the same time in 1997, the Scottsdale Waterfront South Associates (SWSA), another of Rose's clients, won the city council's approval to convert 23 acres in the heart of Scottsdale into a theme park. SWSA's competitors in the bid process cried foul when they learned that city officials held private meetings with SWSA. Campana voted, along with the majority of the city council, in favor of SWSA. Rose had helped get Campana elected a year earlier, and had worked on Bielli's campaign before that.
Rose told New Times then that the complaints were "a joke" and the competitors had only themselves to blame for their loss. "They didn't do their job, and that's why city staff didn't recommend them," he said.
When the Phoenix Coyotes sought to build a practice ice rink in Scottsdale in 1997, opponents contended that the supporters of the rink harassed them. They even filed for protective orders in Scottsdale city court.
In response to the protective orders, Rose shot back in the media: "This is so extremely frivolous as to be comical. I'd be embarrassed to put my name in something like this." The rink's boosters also filed their own complaint with the attorney general's office, alleging dirty tricks by the other side. The practice rink was built over the objections of the rink's foes.
Rose has tasted defeat. Canyon Forest Village is inching forward despite his best efforts. The Scottsdale campaign for the transit tax went down to a solid defeat. The Cine Capri is a parking lot now. And Tom McGovern lost the attorney-general race.
But Rose got his clients good press each time. Nothing, so far in his career, has left him with much damage, personally or professionally.
If anything, Rose has gotten cockier, his friends say.
"The thing that's ramped up is his self-confidence," Bundgaard says. "As he gains success after each project, his confidence level increased, and that seemed to light a fire under his creativity. The more success he gets, the more he wants to do."
The clash over the Coyotes' practice rink turned out to be a warm-up for Rose's latest project, the Los Arcos Mall redevelopment. Rose is going up against some of the same players, and arguing some of the same points.
But this time around, the stakes are much higher: Rose's clients have a development on the line worth more than half a billion dollars. And Rose himself has become an issue as the conflict over the hockey rink heats up.
Alan Kaufman, the attorney representing NO PUCKS, is the anti-Jason Rose. As hard as Rose works for developers in Scottsdale, Kaufman works just as hard against them. The attorney, who once represented NBC Sports, says most of the Scottsdale City Council "never met a development--or a developer--they didn't like." Kaufman is a key member of the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak (COPP), which has opposed growth in the city on a number of issues, including the construction of the Coyotes' practice rink.
Kaufman and Rose squared off on Los Arcos after the Scottsdale City Council voted 4 to 3 to approve a stadium district for the limping mall in December.
The Coyotes' arena is the keystone to the $624 million redevelopment of Los Arcos planned by the Ellman Companies. It also includes a convention center, shops and a restaurant.
But neighbors and activists object to the plan. Many fear an increase in noise and crime. The intersection of Scottsdale and McDowell roads is already one of the most congested in the city. Perhaps most important, there are a number of people who simply don't want to leave their homes, which will be torn down by the development.
Under a new state law--sponsored by Rose pal Senator Scott Bundgaard and others--any two cities can form a special district and use the state sales tax from that area to help fund the construction of a public facility. That's how Mesa plans to pay for a new Cardinals stadium, and it's how Scottsdale hopes to get a new hockey rink for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Under the new law, half of the state sales tax collected from the special district goes back to the district. The Los Arcos developers estimate that could mean between $100 million and $150 million that would go to building the parking garages and infrastructure of the arena.
Everything in the district--the arena, the parking garages, the shops--also gets a property-tax break. The district also would be able to issue tax-exempt municipal bonds to help pay for construction costs, another way the taxpayers could end up helping pay for the project.
Arena opponents estimate the tax breaks add up to a public subsidy of $490 million--money NO PUCKS says will have to be made up elsewhere. The Ellman Companies haven't yet said how much it plans to seek in what it calls "public participation" in the project.
But the arena will keep tax dollars in the area, Rose contends. As it is now, Rose says, Scottsdale contributes about $250 million in sales taxes to the state coffers and gets back only about $12 million.
"Scottsdale subsidizes Arizona, to a great extent," Rose argues. "Rather than have that money go to Yuma or Nogales, it can stay in the city."
The City of Scottsdale hasn't done its own independent analysis, so no one knows for sure if the developers' estimates or the opponents' numbers are accurate.
Without the stadium district's funding, the developers say, there's no way they'll be able to build the arena, and no way to redevelop the area.
But first the developers need to form a district, and for that they need a second city to join Scottsdale. Carefree backed out earlier this month after citizens began to question the town's decision, made without public input. Other cities have been approached by the developers, but so far none has agreed to participate. Still, under the law, Scottsdale can team up with any other city in the state of Arizona--even one as far away as Flagstaff.
The night the city council voted for the project in December, Kaufman and NO PUCKS announced they would seek a public vote on the stadium district.
Four days after NO PUCKS filed its organization papers with the city, another group called Don't Let Los Arcos Die also organized. The group billed itself as citizens who said they wanted the arena and the new development, but its backers were the Coyotes and the Ellman Companies.
Kaufman says no public dollars should go to a private developer and a hockey team.
No one disagrees that the area needs help, Kaufman says, but the arena is the wrong solution.
"They [the city and the developers] keep saying they need this to draw people in from other cities," he says. "I came here from New York, and I can tell you, I didn't come here for hockey. People come here because it's a beautiful city on the edge of the desert, and we need to keep it that way."
Rose and Bob Kaufman, the Ellman Companies' vice-president, (no relation to Alan Kaufman) have been working the neighborhoods surrounding Los Arcos for weeks. They've held open houses, met with local business owners and negotiated changes in the proposal in response to feedback. For example, Rose says, the developers have added a health-care facility to the plan because people in the Los Arcos area said it was important. Rose has also been running TV spots advocating the arena on local cable TV.
Rose contends that his clients' plan is the only way to save the Los Arcos area.
"What's going to happen when Sears leaves on February 13? . . . [W]ithout the arena, the mall is dead. When that mall is dead and gone, I don't know what they're going to do."
Both sides gathered signatures to force a vote on the issue, which has been set for May 18. Along the way, the two camps have bickered over everything from invalid signatures to claims of dirty tricks to who really represents the Los Arcos neighborhood.
And the feud has expanded to include Rose himself.
Alan Kaufman says Rose acts like he's at war, and that's keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement. "Can we resolve our differences? Yes, I think we can. But if Jason Rose continues to operate the way he has, the answer is no . . . Jason himself may not be an impediment, but he is the lightning rod."
Rose replies that he and the developers have met with people from the Los Arcos neighborhood many times to address their concerns. He's willing to negotiate, he says, but he'll fight when he has to.
And this time, politics is getting personal in a way Rose doesn't like. Ironically, Rose--who raised the specter of Babbitt's conflict of interest on Canyon Forest Village--is a target of the same charge over his friendships with elected officials.
Rose's close relationship with Campana--as her friend, campaign manager and her daughter's former boss--came under scrutiny again when it appeared she had a financial interest in Rose's restaurant, Nixon's.
Campana was listed as an investor in the restaurant on invitations when it opened. But today, Rose and Campana both say she was not an investor. It was her boyfriend, Phoenix heart surgeon Lee Ansel, who was involved, and he was recently bought out to avoid any appearance of impropriety, they say.
Before she voted on the stadium district, Campana asked the city attorney whether her relationship with Rose was a conflict of interest. According to the attorney, there was none.
Campana dismisses any suspicions about her friendship with Rose.
"I really was never an investor in [Nixon's]," Campana says, although she implies some connection when she adds that the buyout of Ansel was "Jason's call, and that was fine."
Cassidy Campana says she left Rose and Company because of the complaints over Rose's ties to her mother.
"I think that the projects he works for in Scottsdale are too important for him to get dragged down by something that isn't true," she says. She remains an investor in Nixon's.
Bundgaard also has seen no reason to abstain from policy decisions on his friend's projects. Bundgaard chaired the Senate Finance Committee when it approved a state tax break worth as much as $300 million for the Scottsdale Waterfront project.
Bundgaard was also listed as an investor on the Nixon's invite, but like Campana, he backed out when that was questioned.
Bundgaard says his friendship with Rose had nothing to do with his support of the theme-park designation, which passed the committee unanimously. "Jason and I happen to be friends," he says. "That project stood on its own merits."
Senator Chris Cummiskey, a Democrat who also sits on the finance committee, voted for the Waterfront, but says Bundgaard never made his ties to Rose known. "That's just sort of the status quo around here, unfortunately," he says.
Rose concedes he's flubbed the PR for his own project when it comes to the fallout over recruiting politicians as investors.
"I made a mistake," he says. "When we started, we were a little naive and thought that it was a great idea to get elected officials to invest in Nixon's. As it turns out, elected officials are not a great source of capital, and there is the potential for conflicts there."
As for his friendships with Campana and Bundgaard, Rose says it's just going to happen in his line of work. "Some people work with pipes, some people build semiconductor chips. I work with people who make public decisions . . . that's the arena that I'm in."
Rose's biggest problem may be his inability to get out of his own way, say friends and enemies alike.
Kevin DeMenna puts it this way:
"With Jason, it becomes jihad. As long as the premise for the jihad is in the facts, he succeeds. When he drifts, it's just jihad. And emotion rarely carries the day."
There's no better example of Rose as holy warrior than the highest-profile job of his career so far: Tom McGovern's run for attorney general. Despite being tapped by incumbent Grant Woods as his hand-picked successor, McGovern was widely expected to lose the GOP primary to a party fixture, state senator John Kaites. Kaites had been running hard for the post, raising money and winning favor and endorsements with his work in the Legislature. McGovern had to make up serious ground just to draw even. The race turned into the ugliest contest of the 1998 election.
Rose helped make it that way. He brought his talent for political street fighting to the McGovern team.
"Jason advocated a much more aggressive approach on both defense and offense. . . . He must have asked me three times if I was prepared for what this was going to get like," McGovern says. "It was even more rough-and-tumble than I ever dreamed of."
Rose wrote a direct-mail piece called "A Tale of Two Candidates" that contrasted McGovern's and Kaites' records in excruciating detail. The piece--and the mass of documentation assembled by the campaign to support it--became the foundation that allowed McGovern to ridicule Kaites for his insisting he was tough on crime.
But it also drew fire for misstating a Kaites position on juvenile justice, and McGovern was accused of mudslinging.
The fallout, however, was nothing compared to the blitz Kaites unleashed a week before the primary. Kaites called McGovern a criminal for a long-dismissed charge of marijuana possession. A repeatedly broadcast TV spot showed a computer-altered photo of a bearded McGovern behind bars, even though McGovern was never tried on the charge and said he had never smoked pot.
The McGovern team responded with an expert counterpunch, which Rose says came from Grant Woods. McGovern showed up at Kaites' press conference waving an affidavit he wanted Kaites to sign, swearing Kaites had never smoked marijuana himself. Rose stood in the background, holding a thick binder that he hoped Kaites would think held some sort of political dirt. It turned out the binder was empty.
Kaites dodged the issue at the press conference, but later admitted to the Arizona Republic that he had smoked marijuana once.
"That will probably be one of the high points of my career," Rose says. "John Kaites had plenty of notice that we were going to do it, and he still looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Tom McGovern had the guts to stand up to him, and Kaites caved."
Rose still hasn't forgiven Kaites for the ad, and says he probably never will.
"John Kaites is going to be on a Nixon's menu for the rest of his life," Rose says. "It was despicable. What would be honorable for Kaites to do would be for the rest of his life [to] go out and raise $200,000 and run pro-McGovern spots. He can't apologize enough to Tom."
But Rose's aggressive tactics fell out of favor in the general-election campaign against former U.S. attorney Janet Napolitano, McGovern's Democratic opponent.
Rose advocated a hard-hitting campaign against Napolitano. "I wanted to be more aggressive right after the primary," he says. "There was another camp that said, 'No, we're up 20 points, let's play defense.'"
McGovern sided against Rose. "I ultimately decided not to take any more of the aggressive modes in the campaign," McGovern says. "The worst thing she ever called me was inexperienced, and the worst thing I ever called her was a liberal."
Though they speak fondly of each other, McGovern and Rose still differ over whether going negative against Napolitano would have changed the outcome of the race, which Napolitano won by a slim margin.
"I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again, but there's one thing I can say I was right about, and I was not in favor of playing defense," Rose says.
McGovern, however, chalks up his loss to the damage done by Kaites' campaign: He spent most of his money in the primary, and after that, a lot of Republicans stayed home rather than vote for him.
"Kaites' effort broke up the party, divided the party, and left us exhausted," he says.
McGovern believes he did as much as he could to win, but doesn't think that it was enough for Rose.
"I think Jason would say to this day that I didn't go after it hard enough," he says.
Rose's campaigns tend to get personal, in part, because his whole life is wrapped around his work; he's so driven, friends say, that he does little else.
"He's like the Energizer Bunny for months on end, and then he'll just check out for two weeks and go somewhere random--London, the Grand Canyon, Zion--but even there, the guy's run, run, run," Bundgaard says. "I feel like I better say all these nice things now, because the guy may have a heart attack by age 30."
Rose's whole life away from work seems like a full-blown campaign, with highlights and photo ops. Take, for example, his engagement to Pawlowski.
Rose popped the question in Paris. At the top of the Eiffel Tower. In front of an applauding crowd.
In his downtime, Rose has traveled to Egypt with Pawlowski and to London with Bundgaard. He spends his weekends hiking in the Grand Canyon.
Even whiffle ball--played with a plastic bat and ball, and usually lots of beer--is deadly serious to Rose. He's played every year in the Whiffle Ball World Championship, and his team, "Nastiest Breaking Stuff," won the first championship by a single run in 1994.
"We were the antichrist of the whiffle-ball tournament," Rose's friend and teammate Ed Jankowski says. "Whiffle ball is one of the most serious sports on the planet, and only those in the inner circle of whiffle ball know that."
And Rose is the best whiffle ball pitcher on the planet, Jankowski insists. "Jason can throw a ball that releases from his hand and stays an inch off the ground, and that's a strike in whiffle ball," he says. "He can throw balls that break an inch from your head."
Rose was born to play hardball, friends say.
David Lipschultz, a high-school friend who is now a writer for Smart Money magazine in New York, says Rose hasn't changed too much. He was on student council, hung out with a lot of different people. He was always involved, Lipschultz recalls, and always on overdrive.
"Jason's very good at ingratiating himself, if you can dig his modus operandi. He's a schmoozer: always has been, always will be," Lipschultz says. "From high school on, you really see a lot of your friends go through a lot of changes in their lives. Jason is still almost exactly the same person."
Rose doesn't talk much about his family life, except to say his parents are "great people who did a good job" and that he and his father are still close friends today.
Rose went to Brophy College Prepatory for a year, and then transferred to Arcadia High School. He says he found out at Brophy, "I wasn't quite as good a basketball player as I thought." He was cut three times from the Brophy teams. He switched schools and switched sports, and ended up playing varsity baseball as a second baseman for three years.
Rose majored in diplomacy at Occidental, and studied in Jerusalem and Mexico. His senior year, he worked on the campaign of Tom Campbell, a moderate running in the GOP primary for Senate. Though not technically the first campaign he'd ever worked on--in high school, he'd put up signs for Grant Woods--it was here that Rose found his calling.
He went from his college campus to fund raisers in Beverly Hills, where he got to see his candidate munch hors d'oeuvres with the rich and famous. He caught the buzz right then.
Rose wrote a letter to the campaign manager and to Campbell--"still probably the best thing I've ever written," he says--essentially slamming the campaign's ads and offering his suggestions. "I told them, 'I don't know why you're doing this,'" Rose recalls. Campbell never got back to him about the letter. And then Campbell lost.
But Rose wasn't deterred. Instead, he says, "I thought, 'Hey, I might be able to make a few bucks doing this.'"
There are other things Rose says he wants to do with his life, but they're all still big adventures. He wants to buy a Winnebago and tour every national park when he's 35. He wants to be on Jeopardy!. He wants to open a Nixon's in every state capital, maybe one in China. He's been meeting with some venture capitalists about taking a Nixon's franchise to Sacramento.
Despite his ambition and intelligence, the reviews are mixed on Rose's future in Arizona politics:
His friends think he's already made it.
"For a long time, this city and this state have been ruled by a Star Chamber," says Bundgaard. "There's a lot of history here, old money, a very tight inner circle. And it's kind of nice to see other young guys breaking that paradigm and getting good things done in our community."
Others think Rose plays it a little too fast and loose, and that he's headed for a fall.
"Everything he's got going is like a house of cards," a GOP insider says. "He's getting by on the skin of his teeth each time, but that's the way of lobbyists and consultants."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"Look at the McGovern ads he did," another consultant says. "It's slick; it's beautiful; it makes all the sense in the world on the surface . . . [but] there's no message except 'I'm not John Kaites . . . I'm going to take my good looks and do good with them.' It's not real. It's what he thinks real is. That works when you're selling cheese, but when you're selling a candidate, people need more."
Rose's friend and mentor, Kevin DeMenna, thinks Rose just needs to grow up a bit.
"He hasn't disciplined many children, hasn't made many mortgage payments. . . . If you're a blue-collar guy, worried about making the mortgage, it's tough to relate to a 28-year-old. He has a natural ability, but he doesn't have the experience."
DeMenna's prescription: "A wife, children and a more diversified existence. . . . I've told him this many times. At some point, he has to make the decision to get a life."