Recent Arizona history has provided us with plenty of grimly entertaining political characters: Used-car salesman Evan Mecham's first act on being elected governor in 1987 was refusing to sign into law Martin Luther King Day. Less than two years later, he was impeached by the state Senate. Current Gov. Fife Symington isn't in danger of impeachment, but he is in danger of incarceration - the bankrupt real estate developer was recently indicted for S & L fraud.
District Republican congressman, former TV sports broadcaster J.D.
Hayworth, fits right in with these notables.
two years in office, the freshman congressman has anchored more
mid-session shouting matches than anyone can remember. He also drew
attention by sleeping in his congressional office (he claims it was
to save money) and by taking to the floor of the House to deliver
rambling, disconnected bits of anti-Democratic vitriol - at 4 a.m.,
with no one in the place except a C-Span camera crew. In one
especially impassioned diatribe, he offered Contract With America
policy gambits on welfare, Medicaid and the environment - without a
single neoconservative, liberal, or anyone else in the chamber.
Hayworth's taped passion play drew sneers from
His re-election campaign hasn't been
free of controversy, either. In August, he had the embarrassing
task of firing one staffer who forged the congressman's name on
some campaign documents, a violation of state election rules.
Democrats tried to get his name off the ballot over the flap, but
His politics aren't that out of step with
either the 104th Congress or those of the mostly Republican 6th
District, which sprawls from the conservative suburbs of Phoenix
across cotton farms and ranches to Utah and New
Although the district also encompasses
Indian reservations, their Democratic leanings are usually offset
by low voter turnout (see story page 7).
voted to increase funding for the construction of logging roads,
expand salvage timber sales, open wildlife refuges to hunting and
fishing, soften clean water standards, and prohibit the
Environmental Protection Agency from studying the greenhouse
effect. But Hayworth's personal antics have taken a toll: Recent
polls show him running at about 40 percent in local approval
Even worse, the Democrats have fielded a
strong candidate to face him: a longtime Arizona political
operator, Phoenix attorney Steve Owens. The former head of the
state's Democratic Party and former chief of staff to
then-Tennessee Sen. Al Gore has been placed at the head of a slick,
well-financed campaign. While Owens hasn't focused on his own
strong environmental leanings, he often snipes at Hayworth's
less-than-stellar environmental voting
But Hayworth is undaunted. In a debate
with Owens earlier this month, Hayworth taunted his opponent for
supporting the creation of the new national monument in
Although Owens lacks Hayworth's
camera-ready bombastics, Arizona voters know him from years in
state politics. And television advertisements (paid for by the
AFL-CIO) showing a grinning Hayworth next to House Speaker Newt
Gingrich may be doing damage to the incumbent in a district that
appears to be looking left as November draws near.
Dave Plank writes from