Community Jest

In the quest to be noticed -- and, ultimately, elected -- some candidates hand out the strangest things. Two campaign seasons ago, the well-coifed and ultimately unsuccessful Steve Owens, a Democrat, handed out combs to potential constituents in the Sixth Congressional District. This year, CD1 GOP hopeful Tom Liddy is giving away "Liddy for Congress" golf shirts -- free with a $150 donation. A few years ago, a guy in New York actually offered up tweezers with his name emblazoned on them. He lost, too. (The tweezers work well, though.)

And North Mesa constable Ed Malles, who's running for reelection this year, is offering his constituents "Get Out of Jail Free" cards.

The business-card-size handouts have "Get Out of Jail Free" and a drawing on one side. (They bear an uncanny resemblance to the orange Chance cards used in the Monopoly board game.) On the other side is a plug for Malles' campaign: ". . . a MONOPOLY on Hard Work!"

"I'm a really hard campaigner -- I go door to door . . . six days a week, not on Sundays. I do the entire precinct," Malles says of the hard work line. He adds that he does all of his campaigning on a bicycle.

And the card's flip side? "Just simply a joke."

Mark Morris isn't laughing. He's public relations director for Hasbro Games in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, the company that holds the Monopoly trademark.

"Clearly, it's not an authorized use. Monopoly is obviously a very important trademark to us," he says, after viewing a faxed copy of both sides of Malles' card. Morris says Hasbro never authorizes the use of trademarked Monopoly artwork for political purposes.

Morris is vague about the consequences. "We treat every situation uniquely," he says. "We'll probably be contacting [Malles], and what results in that I have no idea."

It's not surprising that a candidate for the position of constable would want to hand out good news -- even if it's fake good news -- since constables spend so much time handing out bad news. Constables are actually sworn peace officers, but mostly, they make deliveries: The job description includes serving eviction notices, orders of protection, subpoenas and other court orders. They repossess merchandise and collect debts. (Or at least try to.)

Qualifications are nil -- you've got to be 21 and live in your district -- and the pay is relatively high. Malles and his cohorts currently make an annual $44,170; as of January 1, those elected in November will make $48,294.

Over the years, the job has attracted some colorful characters, like Burt Alvord, a constable in Willcox in the late 1800s, who used his job as a front for his other profession: train robber. In the last decade, constables have been punished for snorting cocaine, running up delinquent parking tickets and driving their county-issued cars off duty -- like to a wedding. Earlier this year, West Tempe Constable Mark Hamblen admitted he didn't serve court papers for half of 1999. He resigned his position earlier this year, citing stress.

Ed Malles isn't the first Arizona constable to use unconventional campaign tactics. A few years ago, a Pinal County constable candidate used the platform, "I won't shoot your dog."

Malles says the "Get Out of Jail Free" cards are good conversation pieces. Folks tell him, "I could have used that last night," he says, or reminisce about time served decades ago. Teenagers ask if it's real. "They look at me and go, 'Does this work?'" Malles says, laughing.

Officially? No. But Malles says one constituent mentioned that his daughter recently used one of the cards to get out of a speeding ticket.

Wonder who that guy's voting for . . .