On May 7, 1975, my first son Sean, was born and home life became child oriented. Connor was born 11/08/77 and that doubled the need to be home and playing with the kids. I continued on as a full time litigator at the growing law firm, which we moved to a new building in the late 70’s. Professional life and the family consumed a lot of time but the situation in Phoenix and in Arizona was fluid and it seemed that we were on the verge of shucking off the hold of Charter Government in the City. I was drawn to doing as much civic stuff as I could, given the opportunity to make change. I spent a fair amount of time with my friend Rosendo Gutierrez working on the struggle to get minorities onto the School Boards and the City Council, eventually participating in Rosie’s campaigns for the City Council, his work there, and then his (unsuccessful) campaign for Mayor of the City. My wife, Susan, was teaching at Phoenix Union High School and the bilingual program in which she taught was under fire from conservatives though it was doing incredible amounts of good in the community. We both spent some time in the community defending and improving that program. Susan stopped teaching once both boys were born, so she could be a full time mom.
With Judge Raul Castro having resigned as Governor in 1976, the Secretary of State (Wesley Bolin) succeeded him – and Bolin’s Assistant (Rose Mofford) became the acting Secretary of State. Rose had run the place for years as Bolin was in his mid 80s. Bolin assembled a few staff (Bill Reilly from APS was his Chief of Staff) and began a tour as Governor that lasted only about 6 months. While such was occurring, Dino DeConcini (who had been Castro’s Chief of Staff) asked me to head his campaign to become the next Governor of Arizona. We raised money and hired some staff for that venture but fate intervened… On a Saturday morning, while Dino and I were at a meeting with Chicanos por la Causa people in South Phoenix, my best Friend (Ted Williams) called Ted was Director of the Health Department and had just been informed by Department of Security (State Police) folks that Governor Bolin had died early that morning. Bolin had caught a chill on a helicopter ride examining flood threatened dams on the SRP waterways and had perished in the night. Only a week before, Dino had met with Attorney General Bruce Babbit. Babbit stood next in line to be Governor, if Bolin were to die, and Babbit had indicated that, if Bolin were to die, Babbit would “run downhill”, meaning Babbit would serve as Governor as the Constitution required – but would then run for the Attorney General’s office in which he had been serving for several years. It was 7am in the morning but I jumped in my car and raced to Babbit’s home in Central Phoenix. When I reached the door, Hattie Babbit answered the door and said: “You are too late. He has gone to the mountains with Ron Warnicke, Paul Eckstein, and Bob Allen”, all three of them being Harvard classmates of mine and Babbit’s, class of 1965.
With three or so days, the quartet returned and Babbit said that he had changed his mind and would now run for Governor instead of Attorney General… Babbit had money and name recognition and would have over a year as an incumbent Governor so his candidacy posed a strong challenge to Dino’s candidacy. Several of us got in a plane and flew down to Tucson at night. We met with Dino’s father (Evo, former Supreme Court Justice) and brother Dennis, later Senator from Arizona) plus some Tucson pols who had been key in the Castro Campaign. Evo and I urged a shift to Dino’s running for Secretary of State and his spending his time to reinvigorate a disorganized Democratic Party. Dino and essentially the entire group wanted Dino to run for the Attorney General’s slot being vacated by Babbit – and that was the late night decision which was made. We ran that campaign for A.G. over the next months and were said by the polls to be ahead. I went into the A.G.’s office (being run then by Jack LaSota as acting A.G.) and examined files and budgets. The place seemed to me to be awash in difficult problems. In the campaign, we were opposing Bob Corbin, a County Supervisor and far right Republican. A week before the ’78 election, at a late night meeting in my conference room at my law office, we were so far ahead that we decided to remove $10,000 from our last week’s media buy. At 11pm at night, I drove North on Central Avenue and at a stoplight stopped next to Tony Mason, Esq., who had been in the meeting. Both of us were separately driving to El Tovar Lodge for a Town Hall Meeting the next morning, a several hour trip. Tony rolled down his window and said to me, ” I think we have just made a big mistake”. He was right, while we drove North, Bob Corbin fired his campaign manager, took on Phoenix Mayor Tim Barrows as campaign manager, jetisoned some ill advised TV Commercials showing Corbin on a white horse with 2 sixguns, doubled his media budget for a lot 10-second TV spots. Corbin won the election by a very slim margin, starting a Republican “spiral of office holder success” which continued for the next 40 years in Arizona.
Shortly after this debacle, Tom Irvine and I went to Dennis DeConcini in Tucson with some poll numbers and voting statistics. We participated in the decision which Dennis made to run for the Senate seat. Jocko Conlon opposed Sam Steiger in the Republican primary for that seat and they beat each other up badly. Dennis won that seat by a small margin and very soon after became embroiled in a Panama Canal fight in the Senate, where in a large faction opposed turning the Panama canal over to Panamanians.
In 1980, something occurred that changed my life in an amazing and unforeseen way. The folks that I had been beating up on regarding theoir role in Charter Government (the Charter Government principals) decided that they were aging out and that they should bring into existence a leadership training institute. They decided that it would be a very intensive “civics course, with a full day every month devoted to instruction by the highest level of government and private sector industry leaders. For example, on education day, there would be finance, teacher union, School District heads and students, plus a field trip. On Corrections day, there would be top officials from the DOC, inmates, advocates, Judges, Probation folks teaching the day. On electric day, there were flights over the dams and visits to Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, plus top executives from APS and SRP. The class was 45 persons and only 5 of us were democrats – and I got selected to be one of the minority. Class sessions were no holds barred debate marathons and I made some friends with the folks from the other side of the aisle. It was an exciting and intellectually stimulating time and the connections on the other side of the aisle have helped me in many ventures since, not to mention the understanding of just how things work and get done in this area.
In late 1981, I had a bad break. I had just finished two years as legal counsel to the Democratic Party of Maricopa County (Rosendo Gutierrez was the Chairman) and I was heading home at 10pm after a tumultuous meeting. A fellow named Lloyd Sherk was a chef at the Impeccable Pig Restaurant in Scottsdale and he was headed home at the same time – but he had a snootful of liquor in him. I was driving a new sportscar with a sunroof I had had specially installed in it. Sherk was driving a ten year old Cadillac Sedan. He crossed into my lane and hit me head on doing 45mph. I was doing 30 and the collision occurred at 7th Street and Missouri, 14 blocks from home but only 4 blocks from a fire station. I came to in great pain and there was a firefighter with a big mustache right in my face. I could smell gasoline. He said, “don’t worry buddy, we are going to cut you out of this car. My sports car was a small twisted ball of wreckage. Mr. Sherk blew 0.18 on the drunkometer breathalyzer, had been driving on a suspended license, and his car was unregistered. I was a long time in the hospital in 1981 as the sunroof had nearly cut off my ear and given me one heck of a slice on the left side of my face. My right knee had hit the gear shift and exploded and they spent a lot of time sewing my ear and face and then operating twice on the knee. I was in and out of the hospital for months and on crutches for about 8 months. As I lay in the hospital, I decided that I needed to step up my extra curricular life and decided to take out a City Initiative Petition to reform the City Charter and get rid of Charter Government. After some research, I chose the Portland/San Diego plan of 5 elected at large and 5 elected from districts (sort of a senate/house split) that would give districts some say and allow some folks to run City-wide. I raised some money, opened a little office, hired some signature gatherers, and watched the Charter Government folks go crazy. The Mayor (Margaret Hance) created a Charter Reform committee to put the slows to my efforts and picked Jon Kyl, a lawyer from the Jennings Strouss Firm to head it. He later became a U.S. Senator… At some point, when it became clear that the Charter Reform Committee was a delay tactic, Pat Cantelme from the firefighters union called me. He said that if I would alter my plan to be a straight 7-Wards plan, then they would back me. I refused and there was an immediate filing of a competing petition by the firefighters calling for a ward system. They had a young fellow named Terry Goddard (son of a former Governor) head their effort, spent a lot of firefighter time and money, and soon Terry and I were debating on talk shows which plan was better. Charter Government opposed any change, but the firefighter plan won in a very close election. By 1981, we had a new City Charter. The Charter Government people who had spurned my plan were now aghast at the result. I was summoned to a meeting in the Plaza Club with the editor of the paper and a bunch of Bankers and real estate guys who strong-armed me, trying to get me to run a repeal effort. They heavy handedly indicated that, if I declined, then they would put me on some sort of a blacklist and make my life tough. I declined. They got Chuck Theisen, a Mercedes Dealer, to run the repeal campaign – and it failed badly. Since about 1982, Phoenix has been a City with 8 Wards.
My identification with the Castro crowd and then the DeConcini crowd made me friends with a lot of southern Arizona democrats – but (busy with Dino) I had “sat out” the Babbit campaign for Governor in which many of my democratic lawyer friends in Phoenix had been much involved. In the early 80’s, though, Babbitt thought past that fact and began to involve me in the sort of things I had been doing before, correctional reforms and educational issues. In the early 80s, I ran the Governor’s Commission on Computers in Education for Babbit, compiling statistics as to how many school districts were using computers in the classrooms and at what cost with what results. Babbitt then hired a pair of Southerners, Bill Jamieson from North Carolina (leaving the Carter administration) and Ellis MacDougall from Georgia. Bill ran the Department of Economic Security here and was a very religious episcopalian and became a Deacon then, on leaving Arizona in the early 90s, became a Minister in Atlanta. Ellis MacDougall was a feisty, firey passionate reformer of the Corrections Department. Ellis was newly divorced and, when he came to Arizona, he had a lady friend and was interested in creating a social life that would fit with his 24/7 work in the embattled Corrections Department. Ellis and Babbit made me the head of Arizona Prison Industries Board of Trustees, a seven person Board. Ellis put together a men’s cooking group comprised of Joel Nilsson of the Republic Newspaper, Ned Creighton of the conservation Capitol Times newspaper, Bill Jamison, Ellis, me, and Charles Case, a bankruptcy judge. The guys met once a month and cooked the meals, with the wives eating the food. It was a great way to stay up on what was going on in State Government. By the mid 80’s, Prison Industries (known as ARCOR) was working with the Corrections Department hand in hand, and was making 21 products and selling furniture, milk, mattresses, etc. and serving up crops, jeans, fencing and the like for the Department. Things were looking pretty good – but a late 80’s election was coming from which Bill Schultz, the apartment tycoon, would suddenly withdraw, leaving me and Bill Jamison hanging out there as his key insiders. That departure of the strong democrat running for Governor would result in a Pontiac Dealer from Glendale, a right wing odd fellow, becoming Governor. Things were about to go to the dogs in Arizona… big time.
Greetings, Dave. Thanks for the walk along memory lane. Here is an update: I joined Bruce from my job at HEW in July 1977. Prior to that I had worked in the Carter administrarion in Georgia. I am actually not a southerner but a 4th generation Arizonan who was reared in Northern California. I returned to Arizona after the Navy in 1969 and worked for CODAC in Phoenix. I moved to Shreveport, LA to start a CODAC in that city before moving to Georgia. From there I continued an odessey that eventually returned me to my Phoenix starting point. After six years with Governor Babbitt I left to start the firm that became a partnership with Alfredo. I was ordained in 1989, but didn’t have a paid job with the church until 1992. I also did a six-month stint with Governor Mofford during her transition transition. After Eddie lost to Symington I decided it was time to leave Arizona and accepted a position with an old friend at the Institute for Servant Leadership in Asheville, NC. Kennon and I still live in Asheville, about 40 minutes away from our daughter Suzanne, her husband and our four grandchildren. But through it all I kept my Arizona roots watered by serving on the PinWest board for 19 years, and now have an apartment in Tucson where my granddaughter is a freshman at the UA . She is the fifth successive generation of my family to attend an Arizona university, starting with my grandmother at Tempe Normal Teachers College.
I hope our paths cross on one of my visits. Peace, Bill
She is the
Washington DC in 1977 f
Correction: I joined Bruce in July 1978 not 77. And, please excuse my typos. I am writing this with my clumsy 75-year old thumbs on an iPhone while child makes minding three grandsons.