Mecham acquittal a liability for GOP

June 17, 1988

By Doug MacEachern
Mesa Tribune

PHOENIX — The acquittal of former Gov. Evan Mecham creates serious political liabilities for his Republican Party, particularly for the national GOP convention in August and for Arizona candidates this fall, political observers said after the jury’s verdict Thursday.

As a result of Mecham’s vindication on felony charges alleging he filed false campaign documents, the former governor is free to attend the GOP national convention in August as a delegate and he almost certainly will attract unwanted media attention, said Dr.“ John Geer of the Arizona State University political science department.

“The Republicans have got to be very upset,” said Geer. “When they do the convention coverage this year, reporters on the (convention) floor will all be looking for him.”

Mecham was selected as an at-large delegate to the convention at a state party gathering earlier this year. As a result, Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich almost immediately threatened to challenge Mecham’s credentials if he had been convicted of the felony charges against him.

A spokeswoman for Gingrich in Washington, D.C., said the was unavailable for comment but would issue a statement sometime today.

Geer also suggested the Mecham controversy already may have cost U.S. Sen. John McCain a chance at being tabbed as a running mate by GOP hopeful George Bush “McCain lost a little prestige in not being able to keep (Mecham) from going to the convention,” said Geer. “McCain’s name was bandied as a vice-presidential candidate until Mecham was named as a delegate”

McCain, who at one time said he may not attend the convention in New Orleans if Mecham goes, said after his selection he would “respect the decision” of state party members.

Mecham’s acquittal also “allows him to stir up passions” as the state’s fall election season approaches, said Tempe political pollster Michael O’Neil.

Because the acquittal gave Mecham “some vindication,” the former governor “is in a position to make some noise, to be a burr in the saddle” of legislators, said 0’Neil, particularly GOP leaders who opposed him during his impeachment travails O’Neil noted that Mecham may focus on opposing the re-election of House Speaker Joe Lane, R-Willcox, who initiated impeachment proceedings.

Mecham also has expressed support for the ongoing recall campaign being waged against Attorney General Bob Corbin, also a Republican.