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
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIV
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • DEVELOMENT DIRECTOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness is seeking a qualified Development Director to manage the fundraising success of our growing organization, including the team-driven implementation of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • SAN JUAN BASIN ENERGY CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is seeking a full-time San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer located in Farmington, New Mexico. The San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer focuses...
  • WILDLIFE PROGRAM MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) is looking for a passionate, experienced, and motivated Wildlife Program Manager to lead campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife and...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes."- Billings Gazette Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, &...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR
    Western Colorado Alliance is hiring for 4 positions, 2 Full Time Community Organizers, 1 Part Time Community Organizer and a Part Time Membership Coordinator. For...
  • BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Thorne Nature Experience is looking for a Business Operations Director who will work in partnership with the Executive Director and Thorne's Directors and Managers to...
  • WILDERNESS CONSERVATION CORPS - OREGON
    The Siskiyou Mountain Club is hiring interns for the 2020 Field Season. Interns utilize non-mechanized tools to complete trail restoration and maintenance while gaining job...