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THE MAN WHO USED TO BE KING

Terry Goddard feature

It is easy to get in touch with Terry Goddard these days. If you phone him, he phones you right back. If you ask to meet with him, he easily finds the time.

When you arrive at the high-rise office on Central Avenue where he practices law, he comes into the lobby himself to greet you. He is alone, where as a mayor and a gubernatorial candidate he was usually surrounded by aides. He is a tall man, but without attendants he seems taller than before, and as abandoned as the sole tree to have survived a forest fire.

In his cubbyhole office at the end of a hall, he reflects on the way he is enjoying gardening again, now that the campaign is over. He says, "It has been so long since I have been able to do something for me."

His words are ebullient and relieved, but his voice is flat. Although he smiles, it never comes into his eyes, and his complexion is a little gray. The thing his friends are saying about him is that he's tired--that the strain of campaigning as a career can't be erased in weeks or even months.

Perhaps there is more to his listlessness than fatigue, though. You begin to suspect it when his voice picks up speed. He starts recalling the ways that Phoenix grew and changed during the six years he was mayor, the way downtown began to shimmer with the likes of Herberger Theater Center and Arizona Center. He begins running down a list of commissions that didn't exist before he threw his support behind them--the Phoenix Arts Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Phoenix Excellence in Education Commission, and more.

Then he switches tacks and explains the project that holds his attention now as a private-sector lawyer, a project that seeks to put together low-income housing for Phoenix and other cities. An actual lilt has come into his voice. "What I am interested in is not just the financing but the design and the construction techniques," he says. "I have gone all over the country and all over the world looking at communities that are building affordable housing, and it doesn't work very well. I think the private sector could do a much better job."

It is the old Terry Goddard talking, the Terry Goddard whose enthusiasm for improvements and new ideas is his primary fuel. In the years since 1980, when he first burst upon the public consciousness by leading a citizen initiative to earmark gas-tax funds for the development of public transit, it has been his sense of how things could be that has made him come alive. It's not difficult to see that he misses being called upon to lead the charge.

"It is a terrible dislocation," says Mike Sophy, a longtime supporter who has worked on all Goddard's campaigns. "A year and two months ago, he was one of the most popular and effective political animals in this state. He was working long hours and making things happen that he cared about."

But if a love for public policy and projects has brought meaning to Goddard's life, some observers believe it also helped him to lose the governor's race.

There are many reasons he lost, and any campaign insider is quick to list them a little defensively. The reasons include an opponent who outspent Goddard nearly two to one and an inexplicably unfocused Goddard campaign. ("In the general election, I would struggle to tell you what the message even was," says Chris Hamel, a strategist brought in by Goddard to help plan the run-off after Goddard lost to J. Fife Symington III in November.) They include lousy timing, which found the Gulf War and AzScam knocking news about the governor's race off the front pages and the air. ("I met with the TV stations early in January, before the war and the sting, and they were planning to run three or four stories a week on the governor's race," remembers Goddard's press aide Jim West. "They ended up running three or four stories total.")

There are other factors, though, that people close to the Goddard campaign discuss a little less, probably because discussion makes their candidate appear not as viable for the future. These are not reasons of strategy or fate, and thus are not likely to disappear.

They have to do with the inflexible way Goddard leads, and the way he cannot help envisioning the future in the black-and-white terms of the reformer. They suggest that Goddard's stiffness and stiff-neckedness--sometimes exhibited as an admirable ability to take principled stands, sometimes as an inability to listen to others--leapt into the management of his campaign and contributed to his defeat.

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Deborah Laake