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Stacey Pawlowski, a wife, mother — and a heck of a Republican fundraiser — dies

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"There they had me licking envelopes until I bitched after, like, two days and I said, 'I'm not sitting here licking envelopes,'" Pawlowski said. "So my boss said, 'Fine, you can come to the White House with me' . . . And, all of a sudden, I'm sitting in a room and she's, like, 'You do not speak.' Which, you know, is hard for me. But I'm sitting in a room with a pad [of paper] and there's Fitzwater, Sununu, Lee Atwater, the president, the vice president — Bush and Quayle at the time. And I'm just like, 'Hi!'"

Another pivotal experience: Her father refused to give her much spending money for school, so she did telemarketing for USC. "I give good phone," she said, by way of explaining her fund-raising abilities.

Later, running her own political fundraising business, she'd force candidates to "give phone," too. She pointed out the window of her north central home, to the guesthouse out back, where she officed.

"I mean, I've had congressmen over at my house, making phone calls only when they misbehave." That meant failing to call the list of potential donors she'd given them. Pawlowski described saying to the likes of former congressman Matt Salmon, "'You don't want to come to my house.' And Matt Salmon's like, 'No I don't. No I don't. I'll make the calls.'

"I make it painful" for those who didn't listen, she said. "Like, 'We'll make four hours' worth of calls,' and then they're like, 'Shit, I'm never doing that again.' I'm like, 'Good! So you'll behave and now we'll just do one hour at a time.'"

Pawlowski's first job, as a fundraiser for the Arizona Republican Party, paid $24,000. She moved back in with her parents. They charged her $300 a month for room and board, and she was required to be home every night at 6 for dinner.

"If I didn't show up, the next day my dinner would be wrapped in Saran Wrap in front of my cereal bowl. It was awesome . . . Then you'd be like, 'Oh, shit. I forgot to call Mom.'"

It was 1992; John McCain was running against Claire Sargent, post-Keating Five. Pawlowski wasn't particularly frightened — or impressed — by his temper, though she did see him slam his fist on a desk and demand 70 percent of the vote.

"They say he's got a temper — I don't think it's a temper, per se, no more so than the other guys I've seen."

"So, I just distinctly remember his saying, 'I want 70 percent of the vote!' but Phil Gordon said the same thing," she said of the Phoenix mayor, one of the few Democrats she'd worked for.

"Phil Gordon actually takes it one step further and says, 'I want to know the 30 percent who voted against me.' Like he's going to go and convince them next time. Which is funny, I think, because you're always going to have 20 percent who disagree with you on one side, 20 percent who disagree with you on the other side and your whole thing is to fight over 60 percent, you know?"

It was never all work and no play, Pawlowski recalled. She learned that from her days working with Republicans in D.C.

"Even when Lee Atwater had a stroke and was in a wheelchair cruising around, they would start happy hour at 3 o'clock," she said. "I was coming off of college so I was a big beer drinker . . . And I kind of learned that a lot of political decisions — slogans, for example, the design of signs, for example — came from going to dinner and having drinks with people."

The war stories go on. Pawlowski drove Dan Quayle around in her Jetta ("I love him. He's much smarter than spelling potato wrong.") She knew Karl Rove and Haley Barbour and had to "zip it" when she was fundraising in more conservative states, where her salty language and progressive views on abortion didn't play so well.

Eventually, she started Capital Connection in 1996, with McCain as her first client. She immediately broke records, with a dinner that brought in almost $750,000.

She parted ways with McCain and worked for Steve Forbes. ("Flat tax — mmm. Such a good idea. Love that idea.") He still sent her birthday cards. Eventually, she worked more for causes than candidates, like the Arizona Meth Project and the homeless campus in downtown Phoenix.

In 2005, she married Scholz, who's not at all involved in politics. Among other things, he's a trained chef. By May 2006, she was pregnant. She did a lot of pre-natal genetic testing because she was over 35 and a lot of worrying over the fact she was having a boy. ("'Are you shitting me? I'm going to have a boy? Am I going to be a good boy mom? But I forgot I work in politics that's 98 percent men, so clearly, I can be a good boy mom.")

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.