Son of Watergate

In the wee hours of June 17, 1972, G. Gordon Liddy slipped into his bedroom and undressed quietly in the dark, hoping not to wake his wife, Frances.

"Is that you?" Frances asked, as Liddy would recall years later in his autobiography, Will.


". . . Anything wrong?"

"There was trouble. Some people got caught. I'll probably go to jail."

Liddy was right. He wound up serving 52 months in prison -- longer than anyone else involved -- for his role in orchestrating the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that ultimately brought down a presidency when Richard Nixon tried to cover up his knowledge of it.

But a life of crime is not without its rewards. Of all the president's men, none has capitalized on his Watergate experience as skillfully, zealously and shamelessly as George Gordon Battle Liddy.

One country's crisis of confidence is one man's boondoggle. Liddy celebrates Watergate constantly -- on his nationally syndicated talk-radio show (weeknights 7 to 10, on KXAM 1310 AM here in metropolitan Phoenix), on his Web site (www.ggordonliddy.com), even on the license plate of his red 1994 Corvette ZR-1 (H20GATE).

Until recently, Liddy has used his Watergate infamy to sell only himself, through books, radio and speaking engagements. But now he's using it to sell a candidate for Congress, his son Tom, a Republican running for Arizona's first congressional district, which encompasses much of the conservative southeastern corner of metropolitan Phoenix.

Tom, the fourth of the Liddys' five children, turns 38 this month; he was 10 the year his father went to prison. He's got a good résumé (lawyer, family man, ex-Marine), good hair and a boyish nature -- the guy next door, his supporters say, except for his notorious dad.

Tom isn't flamboyant like his dad. These days, G. Gordon is as famous for his appearances on shows like Miami Vice and sales of his "Stacked and Packed" calendars (well-endowed, scantily clad women bearing large firearms) as he is for the Watergate break-in. Tom's got an unadorned calendar hanging on his fridge, and says he's never tried his father's infamous trick of testing his endurance by holding his hand over a flame 'til the flesh is charred.

The candidate says he's much more like his mom, a mild-mannered retired school teacher who taught her own children to hold their heads high no matter what, and to always give back to the community.

But he is G. Gordon Liddy's son in many ways. Tom is fiercely patriotic -- you can almost hear John Philip Sousa in the background when he talks -- and he's conservative like his father, too.

And like his dad, Tom Liddy is a utilitarian. Although he refused to be photographed for New Times holding a sparkler (Happy Fourth of July) because it might send the wrong message to children, Tom Liddy has no problem capitalizing on his felonious father's name to break into Congress. Dad's on-air pimps have brought a flood of $5 and $10 contributions from all over the country.

The son may not be willing to break and enter to get what he wants, but he seems to say what he thinks a particular voter wants to hear, and parts of his campaign shtick are so obviously rehearsed that he gets to the end of a paragraph and starts over again, like a Stepford wife in need of a tune-up. Whether Tom Liddy is talking about swiping a Christmas tree as a kid or abandoning his anti-tax stance to build a stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, he sounds like a man whose credo is "The ends justify the means."

It is June 17, the 28th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, and G. Gordon and Frances Liddy are hosting a fund raiser for Tom at their home in Scottsdale.

Dozens of people brave the dusty wind of the summer's first monsoon, wending their way back into master-planned Gainey Ranch, through not one but two gates, to the Liddys' large home, where the H20GATE Corvette is parked in the driveway.

Inside, the decor is nondescript, except for the firearms all over the place (including a lamp fashioned out of a rifle and bayonets) and the Watergate, Nixon-era and FBI memorabilia crowding the walls and bookshelves of the den. One wall is devoted to magazine covers starring G. Gordon Liddy: Liddy as a stick of dynamite, on the cover of Time; a shirtless Liddy, on the cover of Running; Liddy as part of a crowd celebrating Watergate's 10th "reunion" for The New Republic.

Admission to the event is a $100 contribution to Liddy for Congress; for an extra 50 bucks, a professional photographer will take a picture of you, flanked by Tom and G. Gordon.

A few pols are present -- former GOP state legislators John Kaites and Stan Barnes (Liddy's campaign chair) and Larry Pike, Senator John McCain's 1998 campaign manager and part of Liddy's bulging kitchen cabinet. But for the most part, this is not your typical button-down, political-reception crowd. More like the crowd you'd see at the state fair. Guests rifle the bookcases -- The Catcher in the Rye and Real Men Don't Eat Quiche share the shelves with John Dean's Blind Ambition and J. Anthony Lukas' Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years, with a Watergate Hotel ashtray serving as a bookend.

One young guy with a hairbrush sticking out of the back pocket of his jeans pulls out a disposable camera and snaps a picture of a framed letter from then-President Nixon. An older gentleman sits on a sofa nearby, loudly telling two women the difference between laxatives and dietary fiber.

The Liddy men come down the stairs, glowing from the photographer's lights and the fact that the upstairs air conditioning unit is out. G. Gordon is formal in a too-big khaki suit and tie, smaller and more gracious in person than the reputation that precedes him. Tom wears a short-sleeved plaid sport shirt and his name tag on his back -- someone stuck it there so it wouldn't mess up the photos. They make their way through a standing-room-only crowd to the living room and stand beneath an enormous oil painting of G. Gordon in headphones, before a radio microphone.

Father introduces son.

"Fifty percent of what I say is because I am this man's father," G. Gordon admits up-front. He describes Tom as a "man of principle," a "natural-born leader," joking that credit for raising their kids goes to Frances, because "during their formative years I was locked up in prison where I couldn't do them any harm."

Gone but not forgotten. G. Gordon tells a story -- it's included in Will -- about a swim meet Tom attended as a kid in the '70s, while his dad was in prison. Tom's full name was on a roster, and folks started muttering, wondering if he was related to that Liddy. Tom overheard, and when he took his mark later that day, he had donned a tee shirt with the slogan, "Property of the Watergate Bugging Team."

G. Gordon beams as he retells the tale, then introduces Tom.

"I am so grateful that you all are here, giving me the bullets for the battle," the younger Liddy says. Then Tom abruptly stops sounding like his dad, who brags in his autobiography that he borrowed his uncle's loaded Colt Super auto at the age of 5.

"This is a special day," Tom says, "and not because it's June 17, but because tomorrow's Father's Day. And I'm just really happy -- (his voice cracks, he chokes back sobs) that I get to spend some time with my dad."

There's a collective, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh," the cue for an emotion-wrought candidate to gracefully accept his applause and move on with the party.

But Tom Liddy keeps going. Around his sobs, he tells the crowd about how his father never got to see him win his baseball championship. About how G. Gordon Liddy never shirked his responsibility to his family.

"He taught me patience, gave me life and taught me about God," he says, still teary.

Tom Liddy brings down the house. Together, he and his dad bring in thousands of dollars.

Last week, they did it again -- this time in Tennessee, with a guest appearance by rock star and G. Gordon Liddy pal Ted Nugent.

Liddy for Congress headquarters is housed in a Southern Avenue strip mall on the Mesa/Tempe border, sandwiched between a do-it-yourself dog wash and a Christian Science reading room.

On a recent Saturday, a dozen or so volunteers gather to collect signatures for Tom Liddy. The young Republicans eating Fry's doughnuts accessorize their Liddy for Congress tee shirts with Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren clothing; they mix with the jean-shorted G. Gordon groupies, who switch out their Harley-Davidson tees for Liddy ones.

Some more established GOPers are supporting Liddy, too. Peggy Rubach, a former Mesa mayor and current public-transit crusader, heads out with her pile of petitions, excited about Liddy's prospects.

"The similarities to 1982 are eerie," she says.

Rubach is referring to the 1982 election, when John J. Rhodes retired from his CD1 seat after decades and a crowd duked it out in the Republican primary. From a field of experienced, tenured candidates emerged a well-spoken, charismatic guy who'd just moved to Arizona from Washington, D.C. with his pretty young wife and kids: John McCain. McCain used CD1 as a launching pad for the U.S. Senate and, ultimately but unsuccessfully (so far), the presidency.

This year, the seat is empty for the first time, with incumbent Matt Salmon politely keeping his term-limit pledge. Again, there's a crowded field of established Arizona Republicans who will compete in the September 12 primary: former Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio, cable TV lobbyist Susan Bitter Smith, gadfly Bert Tollefson, and Jeff Flake, until recently the director of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. (There's a Democrat in the race, too -- state employees' union director David Mendoza -- but with scant exception, this seat has always belonged to the GOP.)

And again, there's a guy who fits the McCain profile: Tom Liddy moved his family to Arizona a few years ago from Washington, D.C., and to CD1 less than a year ago. Prior to running for Congress, McCain had worked as the Navy's liaison to the U.S. Senate; Liddy was an officer in the Marines and counsel to the Republican National Committee. Both Liddy and McCain consider themselves conservatives -- pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-military, anti-tax -- and talk a lot about reforming government.

No independent poll figures have been released, but political observers put Liddy in or near the lead. That could well be because of one more thing John McCain and Tom Liddy have in common: Both men have famous names, and neither has been afraid to use his notoriety to court donors and votes.

But there is a difference. John McCain was elected as a Vietnam-era prisoner of war, a man who survived unimaginable torture and bravely refused the early release he could have taken as the son of an admiral.

Tom Liddy and his supporters -- many of them from the McCain camp, although the senator hasn't endorsed a candidate in CD1 -- are counting on Liddy's notoriety as the son of G. Gordon Liddy to set him apart from the pack.

G. Gordon Liddy has become such a cartoon version of himself over the years that few recall the severity of his crimes and claims (as set forth in Will and other places). This is the former FBI agent who not only orchestrated the Watergate break-ins (one successful, the other not), he also agreed to participate in a never-executed plot to murder newspaper columnist Jack Anderson and planned a raid on the office of the psychiatrist of the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

G. Gordon Liddy originally proposed a $1 million plan (code name: GEMSTONE) that, for example, would use Nixon campaign funds to eavesdrop on the Democrats' campaign plane (EMERALD), sabotage the air conditioners at the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami (TURQUOISE) and dangle prostitutes before the Dems (SAPPHIRE).

In the end, Liddy's plan was funded at about $250,000, and GEMSTONE fizzled early, after the second Watergate break-in. By his own admission, G. Gordon Liddy had every intention of breaking more laws. He just got caught before he could.

And now CD1 voters are being asked to send this guy's kid to Congress?

But consider this: Watergate, the scandal not long ago regarded as a turning point in American history, the end of our country's innocence and the beginning of investigative journalism, is now retro. Kitschy, even. The last couple of years have begat two sleeper hits: the movie Dick -- a farce in which Deep Throat is revealed to be two giggly teenage girls -- and the Phoenix restaurant Nixon's, a political memorabilia-packed watering hole with the motto, "Question Authority. Grill America."

Is Watergate cool?

Not to everyone. Stanley Kutler, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and author of the book Wars of Watergate, calls G. Gordon Liddy "a cuckoo."

"He's not Watergate. That's the myth. He was involved in an illegal break-in. But Watergate is not just an illegal break-in. Watergate is about the arrogance and the abuse of power and the criminal activity of a president of the United States. Gordon Liddy was a spear carrier. The perfect Watergate book will come about 50 years from now, when Gordon Liddy probably will not have more than -- if he has one index entry, that will be a lot. That's how unimportant he is to the story."

The name Liddy is the last thing that should qualify someone to hold public office, the professor says.

"I would argue that the young man ought to walk around with his head down in shame. I understand one's love for a father, but one should be able to see their father straight on and to remember that his father, after all, is a convicted felon doing things that we don't approve of, namely breaking into people's private property."

But that doesn't mean his father's name won't get Tom Liddy elected, Kutler adds.

"In American politics, you use what you can. Politics today is all about celebrity. O.J. Simpson is a celebrity, okay?"

It's not that simple for Tim Casey. Casey, a lawyer with the Phoenix firm Snell and Wilmer, a former Maricopa County Republican Party official and a lifelong resident of CD1, is serving as Tom Liddy's campaign counsel.

When he met Liddy three years ago at a continuing legal education seminar, he had no idea Liddy was the son of someone famous.

"I didn't know who in the hell he was," Casey says. "Never, never connected the names. In fact, I didn't know about that for maybe a couple of years until I was at some political event and his father was there and [Tom] introduced me to his dad."

Casey and Tom Liddy were fast friends. "He's the type of guy that you want to sit down with and have a beer with," Casey says. He'd been approached by other CD1 candidates, but when Liddy asked him to join the campaign, he accepted immediately.

He readily admits that G. Gordon Liddy's notoriety gives Tom an edge. Casey is convinced his friend should walk away with all of the good and none of the bad.

"Tom is blessed, and he's cursed. His dad is a convicted felon, and many in the population believe that what he did was wrong," Casey concedes. But he adds, ". . . Tom is not his father. He was a young lad during Watergate, and he is not responsible for the sins of the father."

But he was shaped by those sins, and that's what makes Tom Liddy so special, says Casey.

"I want someone in there who has character that has been formed in the fire. And he has it."

Tom Liddy was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the same hospital as his mother.

One of his earliest memories of politics is from 1968, when his dad ran for Congress against Hamilton Fish Jr.

"I remember being schlepped around from dairy farm to dairy farm more than anything else," Tom says. Apple orchards, too. He was 6.

G. Gordon Liddy lost the primary by a narrow margin and was asked to run Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in the area. His reward: the title of assistant to the secretary of the treasury. The Liddys moved to Washington, and the family settled into a modest house in Prince George's County, Maryland, in a neighborhood with Air Force families and other civil servants.

After a year and a half, the senior Liddy accepted a position as the White House policy adviser on narcotics, bombing and guns.

"When your dad works in the White House, it's pretty cool," Tom says. "I went to the White House for a Christmas party. I remember I got to shake President Nixon's hand."

Soon, G. Gordon left the White House for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Tom says he was not privy to his father's so-called "dirty tricks," but he clearly recalls the day he learned his world would change. His descriptions of his father are far different from those in accounts from that time -- including G. Gordon Liddy's own autobiography, which is packed with macho talk and bragging.

"My dad took my sisters and my brothers and me aside, and he told us that soon there would be a lot written about him in the papers, and that we should always bear in mind that he's our father and that he loves us and that he will always be our dad and that we know him and we should build our impressions of him based on what we know personally, not on what we read in the newspapers or see on the television.

"He told us that times were going to get really tough for our family, and that none of us were adults, but if we all added our ages together we'd be one adult, and he said that we would have an obligation to help our mom, and we took that very seriously.

"And he also said something that I remember. He said that we should hold our heads up and remember that when he went to prison, he would have constitutional rights, and he'd get three square meals a day and that there are men in Hanoi that don't get that, and they're getting tortured every day, and they're the lucky ones, because the other ones are dead."

All of this was confusing to a kid who'd grown up revering his dad, a dad who taught him and his siblings about the evils of drugs and the joy of God.

"You know, when you're a little kid, the world's black and white," Tom Liddy says. "There's good guys and there's bad guys. There's cops and there's robbers. There's the Americans and then there's the Nazis. That's just what you do as a kid -- you play, and you play according to the way you learn about the world.

"And my parents, my mom and my dad, specifically taught us the difference between right and wrong. They taught us to revere police officers and firemen, school teachers, because they were the good guys. And the bad guys were the crooks.

". . . And then one day you come home for dinner, and your mom's crying her eyes out, just holding her head in her hands -- head red and eyes swollen, because my dad was sentenced to 20 years in prison. You go, 'Well, wait a sec, I thought those were the bad guys that happened to.' And I knew my dad was a good guy, because I knew him. He was a very active, a very present father. A lot of hugs, a lot of kisses, a lot of tickles. And I knew him better than anyone at the New York Times or the Washington Post could ever know him. So it never occurred to me that he was the bad guy. But it did occur to me that maybe this great country of ours was colored with hues other than black and white."

The kids visited G. Gordon Liddy sporadically, but Tom recalls that his dad wrote to him twice a week.

"He wanted to know why you got the B in science instead of the A. He wanted to know why you didn't clean up your room when mom said, 'Clean up your room.' He wanted to know why mom was taking the trash out when you were supposed to. And that's what his job was. But he also praised us when we got A's and praised us when we hit home runs or got blue ribbons. Just a very typical dad, except he was physically separated from us for five years."

But life wasn't easy. Frances taught school. Her salary was hardly enough to feed six mouths, and luxuries like Christmas were out of the question.

"My dad went all out. He always put the radishes and the carrots and the cookies and milk out, and there'd be footprints on the rug where Santa's feet would be covered with ashes.

". . . What I remember about my dad being in prison wasn't what I didn't get. What I remember is my mom crying. My oldest sister would have to stay up and wrap the presents, because she couldn't do it alone, and we didn't have any money, and one year my mom sat down and explained to us -- she put five kids on the couch -- and explained to us that Christmas is really about Jesus Christ.

"It's about God loving us (Tom starts sobbing), and it's about how we have to love each other and treat each other well. It wasn't about toys. She told us we weren't going to have a Christmas. And that was tough. As a parent, it's tough to think of your mom doing that. We were okay. We were like, 'Mom, don't be ridiculous. We don't care about presents.' We gave her a hug."

Christmas trees cost a dollar a foot, so the kids chopped a tree down in the woods near their home and got caught by the cops.

Some cousins helped out with money that Christmas, and the neighborhood Air Force families cared for the Liddys -- called them "prisoners of Watergate" -- but Tom says calls from White House associates were rare. A bag of groceries might have been viewed as an obstruction of justice.

And what about Richard Nixon?

"President Nixon was very busy running the country," Tom says. ". . . Believe me, I had my spaghetti and my hot dogs. I would rather my commander in chief be dealing with the Russians and the Chinese and the economy."

He adds, "My dad did hear from President Nixon when all was said and done, at an appropriate time, many years later, something my dad and my whole family are very, very grateful for."

Early on, Tom Liddy fought his playground detractors with his fists, but soon got interested in politics.

"In 1972 I probably pulled a McGovern bumper sticker off a VW wagon once or twice. I'm not sure that that counts as working for the Committee to Re-Elect the President," he laughs, figuring his first real effort was handing out Ford/Dole leaflets in 1976.

In 1977, days before his dad's release, Tom Liddy told a Washington Post reporter that he intended to study law and get into politics. He did both. He continued volunteering on campaigns -- he worked the signature machine for Ronald Reagan in 1980 -- and, after a stint in the Marines and a year teaching seventh-grade English, got a law degree from his dad's alma mater, Fordham. With a few years' experience and his high school sweetheart-cum-wife, Stacy, in tow, Liddy moved to Arizona. He says he was just following his family (G. Gordon and Frances have lived in the Valley part-time since 1984), but it's obvious that Tom Liddy is here for the politics.

But why? Why would a child of Watergate want to run for public office?

Tom says he wants to improve life for people who are suffering financially, the way he and his family suffered while his dad was in prison. And he wants to beef up the military and improve public education.

Public service has always been a part of life in the Liddy family, says Sandy Liddy Bourne, Tom's eldest sister. She was almost elected to the Virginia legislature in 1995 and says she plans to run for office again. She now works on environmental issues for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington, D.C.-based association of conservative state legislators.

Liddy Bourne recalls that her maternal grandmother rolled a ball for women's rights through New York City; her mother used to draw political cartoons for the local paper. Her paternal grandfather -- "a perfect gentleman" -- brought Volvo to the United States.

"Public service is something we were raised to do," she says.

Watergate had a lot to do with that.

"One of the things people don't understand is that we as children saw the negative side of political life. And with the strength and family values given to us by both of our parents, but most importantly our mother, we really can see and help a lot of others through a great deal of difficulty," Bourne says.

Don't forget Frances' influence, Liddy Bourne cautions.

"Tom is not an identical person to my father," she says. "Tom and I and all of us are a wonderful blend of the best of both of our parents."

Liddy Bourne tells a story about her brother.

"There was a time when Tom was in elementary school -- he was probably acting up or something, I don't know -- but a teacher said to him, 'If you don't behave, you're going to go to jail like your father did.'

"And Tom stood up and he said, 'You have no right to talk to me like that.' And he was sent to the principal's office."

Frances came to school and listened to the story from the principal, the teacher and her son. The principal told her Tom shouldn't have talked back.

Liddy Bourne recalls, "My mother said, 'Well, you should not have spoken to my son that way.' And they had suspended Tom, and she said, 'We will take the suspension with pride.'"

Frances had to work all day, so a neighbor agreed to watch Tom during his three-day suspension. Tom was the "big, tough guy on the block," accustomed to defending himself with his fists when his classmates called his dad a jailbird.

The neighbor had a son with Down syndrome.

Liddy Bourne cries through the rest of the story.

"Tom and the boy became very close friends, and Tom, then, when he played, he would take his friend with him, and he would say, 'This is my new best friend, and you're all going to play with him.'"

Tom and the boy remained close for years; inspired by the friendship, Tom later volunteered with Special Olympics.

"The beauty of it was that this boy no longer just had a family member supporting him, he had a friend in the neighborhood, and that speaks to Tom's heart," Liddy Bourne concludes, sobbing.

A gentle observation: The Liddy kids sure do cry a lot.

"It's because that time was a character-building time," she says.

Her father's name? "It's a double-edged sword. But that said, it opens the door. It provides opportunities to get things done."

For some crowds, like the one that gathered at his parents' home, or the conservative Arizona Republican Assembly that met last month in Prescott, Tom Liddy flaunts his famous name. For others, he downplays it. (Despite repeated promises from the campaign, neither G. Gordon or Frances Liddy returned messages asking for comment for this story -- including an answer to the question, "How can a convicted felon keep firearms in his home?" G. Gordon spoke just briefly for this story at the fund raiser at his home, and Tom refused to be photographed alone with his dad or to give New Times photos of the two together.)

Bottom line, Tom Liddy: Was what your father did wrong?

"Wrong? Wrong, that deals with morality. It was illegal, I would say. Clearly, it was illegal. And you know, I just feel that I wasn't put on this earth to judge my parents. . . . Knowing what I know now, I probably would have handled things differently. But I think it's unfair, to not just my dad but to everyone involved, to prejudge. I don't know what my dad knew at the time, and certainly the country was in a completely different situation, in the middle of the Cold War, with the riots and all that sort of stuff; I just feel that it's not appropriate for a son to judge his father."

So, Tom Liddy is asked, do you differ from your dad on the issues?

Tom is coy. Oh, there are dozens, he says, including bedtime when he was 11.

Joking aside, father and son differ on at least one major issue -- education. Tom is far more supportive of public education, especially pay increases for teachers. His standard line, which he repeats every chance he gets (often more than once in a sitting):

"Stacy, my wife, is a teacher. My mom was a teacher. Stacy's mom is a teacher. My great-aunts Anne, Loretta and Margaret were teachers. My grandmother on my mom's side was a teacher. My granddad on my father's side was a teacher before he became a lawyer."

And Tom was a teacher, for a year before he joined the Marines.

His strong support for public education -- generic talk about increasing teachers' pay and local control of schools -- sets him apart not just from his dad, but from most of the Republicans vying for the CD1 primary.

Otherwise, there are few places where the candidates differ much, which has made for some boring debates. One area where they diverge is using taxpayers' dollars to build a stadium for the Arizona Cardinals. (DiCiccio supports the stadium; Bitter Smith and Flake do not.) Despite Tom's anti-tax talk (he wants to do away with the marriage and death taxes and sharply reduce the capital gains tax), he supports paying for the stadium.

Could his support have something to do with the fact that Cardinals employees are among his top contributors, and Nicole Bidwell, daughter of the team's owner, is married to Larry Pike, one of his unofficial advisers?

Absolutely not, Liddy says. "It would be an insult to even mention it."

Liddy says he's all about straight talk (a phrase borrowed from John McCain), but after listening to Liddy at a recent debate sponsored by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, one Jeff Flake supporter dubbed Liddy "the king of doublespeak."

Moderator Grant Woods asked the candidates whether they thought George W. Bush should choose a pro-choice running mate.

Liddy responded only that it would take courage.

"He's getting ready for Congress," Woods quipped.

Here's Liddy on some additional issues:

Growth: He does not support the Sierra Club's Citizens Growth Management Initiative, criticizing it as a "crude surgical tool" that fences him in. "Growth, I think, needs to be controlled locally, not from the Sierra Club in San Francisco or a bunch of politicians in Washington."

(Actually, the coalition that wrote the initiative is local, not from San Francisco.)

If elected, Liddy says he will explore the possibility of amending both the state constitution and the federal enabling act that created Arizona so that state trust land does not have to be used to fund education, but can be preserved in some instances.

Federal funding of light rail: "I don't believe there is such a thing as federal money. I believe it is our money. The federal government doesn't have any money. The only money it has is our money. And I have no problem using our money . . . for our priorities. And if the people of Arizona want to use our tax money to spend on light rail, or on highways or whatever, if that's what they choose to do, then as their servant, I will do it."

Tobacco lawsuits: If Americans don't like smoking, they should ban it, he says. The lawsuits are unfair; using the courts circumvents the democratic process.

Hate crimes legislation: Doesn't support it.

"If someone knocks me over the head because he wants to grab my wallet, the crime is assault. He intended to hit me, and he hit me . . . . I don't believe the crime should be increased or decreased based on my race or my sex, or on his screaming an epithet or not."

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: The folks in charge say it works; that's good enough for Liddy. He agrees with Colin Powell that having openly gay people serve in active combat units is disruptive.

Campaign finance reform: He supports the recently passed 527 legislation increasing disclosure for individuals who fund nonprofits that support campaigns, but says it's far too narrow. Liddy says you cannot outlaw individual soft money contributions, but does believe it would be constitutional to outlaw corporate and labor union soft money.

"I would probably be in favor of that," he says.

Liddy is against Clinton's national monument designations, medical marijuana initiatives and an Internet tax.

And he's definitely against gun control.

Tom Liddy pulls up outside his headquarters in a huge purple Suburban to rally the doughnut-munching troops.

Liddy, who's wearing a campaign polo shirt and Ralph Lauren khaki shorts, is somber. He asks for everyone's attention. The leader of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, died yesterday, Liddy tells the largely blank faces, and he fears the instability of turnover could lead to further turmoil.

"Just pray for all of the people in the Middle East," Liddy says, somber as a minister, his voice wavering. "I just ask you to keep that in mind, because it's weighing heavily on my mind."

And don't forget to take some bottled water with you, he adds.

Liddy dons Oakley sunglasses and climbs into the Suburban with two campaigners, off to walk door-to-door in Chandler.

The neighborhood is quiet, the houses far apart, the day already hot at 9:30 a.m. But Liddy is cheerful; he wants to go to the houses with the biggest American flags, but Dave Crete, who holds the maps, leads the group to the houses with registered Republican voters. (They're usually the same.)

Liddy and company find such a house at the end of a cul-de-sac. Three men -- a father and his grown sons -- are working on their cars. Tom introduces himself and shakes all he can find, an elbow sticking out above the open engine of a Neon, then leaves them to their work.

The men follow him onto the street.

"What's your stand on gun control?" one asks.

Liddy gives him a thumbs up. "I'm pro-Second Amendment."

"Shoulda figured," the guy responds. "Where's your dad?"

Back East, Liddy says, then tells a story about the time a burglar broke into the Liddy home while G. Gordon was in prison. Frances scared the intruder away with a gun.

"Nobody tells me that a woman owning a handgun doesn't deter crime," Liddy says.

"Yeah, I read that in your father's book."

A few feet away, Crete -- a former chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party -- says he's known the other candidates longer, but likes Liddy the best.

What sets him apart? His stands on the issues? His experience? Nah, says Crete. He just thinks Liddy has the most integrity. And anyhow, he'll get the most done in Washington, with that famous name of his. Just look at how much Sonny Bono accomplished, Crete observes.

A few signatures closer to his goal, Liddy bounds over to Crete.

"Dad and two sons rebuilding the air compressor on their motor. Liddy voters," he says, and gives another thumbs up.

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