Arizona: Harvesting a bumper crop of bombast

 

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.

Arizona's 6th District Republican congressman, former TV sports broadcaster J.D. Hayworth, fits right in with these notables.

In 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 Democrats.

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 failed.

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 Mexico.

Although the district also encompasses Indian reservations, their Democratic leanings are usually offset by low voter turnout (see story page 7).

Hayworth 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 ratings.

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 record.

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 Utah.

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 Phoenix, Arizona.

The following sidebar article accompanies this feature story:

- Brown air could lead to greener state politics

This article is part of a feature package - about the 1996 election - that includes these other articles:

- Greens prune their message to win the West's voters

- Colorado: Environment wielded like a hammer in tight Senate race

- Utah: A liberal wilderness lover may prevail

- Montana: A scrappy Republican tries to cut down a green Democrat

- California: A 28-year-old talks the talk to green voters

- Montana: For veteran Baucus, it seems to be in the bag

- Washington: Greens storm the suburbs

- Nevada: Who hates nuclear waste most?



High Country News Classifieds
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!