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Visions of Victory and Vengeance

Max Hawkins, the Svengali of Arizona politics, is certain Evan Mecham will be the next governor of Arizona.

"It was like a Greek tragedy when the legislature impeached the little guy," Hawkins says. "And now it's going to be a Homeric victory when the voters return Evan to office.

"You're familiar, I'm sure, with Homer's classic tale of the return of Ulysses after a long and harrowing journey and many adventures, aren't you?

"You'll recall that Ulysses, upon his return, found his country in turmoil and being run by a gang of thieves," Hawkins purred. "He slew the worst of them, tossed the rest out, and brought a return to good government." For years, Hawkins has been Mecham's wiliest political adviser. He's been the strategist behind the throne. It was Hawkins who actually convinced Mecham to run for governor in the last election, and it was Hawkins' brilliant but ruthless campaign tactics that helped Mecham upset Burton Barr in the Republican primary.

Mecham and Hawkins didn't merely upset Barr. They took the man who had been the most powerful politician in the state and destroyed his credibility. Independently wealthy, but rendered unelectable by his defeat, Barr now serves as an unpaid adviser to Terry Goddard.

For a brief time, Hawkins and Mecham ran the state. It was snatched away from them, almost before they realized they were under siege.

Hawkins retains vivid memories of the days leading up to Mecham's impeachment and departure from the governor's office. But he insists that he doesn't remember every name and incident from those days out of a spirit of plain vengeance.

And just because the names come so readily to Hawkins' mind is no reason to assume these individuals are targeted.

"There was Fat Tony West," Hawkins says, almost hissing the name. "He was the worst sort of human being who doesn't deserve to breathe the air with the rest of the decent people." West was a powerful state senator at the time and one of Barr's closest political friends. West publicly lectured Mecham during the impeachment on self-help books that Mecham should read in order to become a better person. It was a performance memorable for its heavy-handedness.

West, who was targeted by Mecham's supporters, declined to run for another term in the Senate.

"There was Jim Skelly . . . " Hawkins said, letting the hated name hang on the air.

Skelly chaired the Mecham hearings in the House of Representatives and had several rousing confrontations with Mecham.

Skelly, too, has announced that he is not going to stand for re-election.
"And there was Joe Lane . . . " Hawkins said, almost tossing the name on the air as if it were something to be shot down.

Lane, who was Speaker of the House, voted for the Mecham impeachment to go ahead.

Lane was defeated at his next election by Mecham supporters. "And now Joe Lane works as a lobbyist for Phelps Dodge," Hawkins said. "Old Joe's finally wearing the copper collar." That left only a few names for Hawkins to account for.

"Ralph Milstead's working for Rosie Mofford now," Hawkins said of the former head of the Department of Public Safety, who was a key witness at the impeachment.

"The word I get is that neither of them even show up at their offices for work anymore." Hawkins spoke of the groundswell of devotion that greets Mecham wherever he goes to campaign.

"People rush up to tell him what a bad deal he got and how they want to vote him back in as governor. They press money in his hands for his campaign. These people love him and want him back in office." The question remains whether there will be enough Mecham supporters out there to give him a primary victory. Hawkins is certain of that.

"Sam Steiger won't get the votes because he's a Libertarian," Hawkins predicted. "Republicans won't vote for him. Fife Symington could spend $10 million and not get elected. Voters in Arizona simply won't vote for a man with white eyebrows.

"And Fred Koory is simply a bad joke who is Bob Corbin's stooge." How does Hawkins figure that Mecham will win the primary?

"There are a lot of people out there who won't tell the pollsters or the media know how they're going to vote," Hawkins predicted.

"When these people get the chance to pull the ballot, they're going to remember what a bad deal Evan got from the politicians. They are going to return the little guy to office as their way of getting back at these legislators who keep taxing them beyond their power to bear it." Hawkins is busy these days preparing the next issue of Evan Mecham's campaign newspaper for publication.

Every other candidate in the race awaits the newspaper's appearance with trepidation.

It's been demonstrated in the past that Hawkins and Mecham have a unique idea as to what constitutes freedom of the press.

They take their best shot at their opponents and ignore concerns about libel. But why should they worry?

It's inconceivable that any politician thus wounded would take Mecham to court over a falsehood--no matter how irresponsible--that was printed in a campaign newspaper.

So Max Hawkins keeps working toward his goal. He won't rest until Evan Mecham is back in the governor's office.

Evan Mecham is really back again. Only this time, you can call him Ulysses.

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Tom Fitzpatrick