September 30, 1987
By LAURIE ASSEO
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — Gov. Evan Mecham sought to distance himelf Tuesday from a nationwide anti- recall fund-raising letter that urged people to help him fight “militant liberals and the homosexual lobby.”
The letter, mailed this week with Mecham’s signature to thousands of targeted conservatives, asked people to move to Arizona or at least help the Mecham Finance Committee raise $1.2 million within 45 days.
The controversial Republican governor said in an unusual early evening news conference that he was asking the committee not to mail out any more copies of the letter.
“It isn’t like I’d say it,” he said.
The governor’s office gave three versions of how the letter was signed.
Press secretary Ken Smith first told reporters that he had checked with Mecham and that the governor had confirmed he signed the letter. Later, Smith said the letter was signed with Mecham’s signature machine and that the governor had authorized its use.
But minutes later, in a telephone conversation with reporters, Mecham denied having approved the signature.
“I don’t know who approved using the signature machine but we’ll look into that,” Mecham said. “I didn’t write the letter and I don’t remember, as I read the letter, I don’t remember having seen the content before.”
The letter said: “You see, right now, I’m under attack from some of the most powerful and dangerous liberal groups in the nation. … If they destroy me it will be a sad day for conservatives everywhere and most of all for America.
“Without your contribution I will risk being crushed by the millions of dollars the militant liberals and the homosexual lobby plan to spend against me.”
The letter was labeled “bizarre” and “scary” by some of the governor’s leading opponents.
“Is Mr. Mecham trying to set Arizona up as the far-right conservative resort?” asked Ed Buck, founder of the Mecham Recall Committee. “Is this an invitation for the Ku Klux Klan to move to Arizona? … It’s a little bit scary.”
House Minority Leader Art Hamilton, D-Phoenix, called the letter “some of the most bizarre literature I have had the good fortune to read in my 15 years in office.”
However, House Speaker Joe Lane, R-Willcox, said he considered the letter to be harmless “standard campaign puff.”
The Mecham Recall Committee needs 216,746 valid signatures of registered voters by Nov. 3 to force Mecham to face a recall vote. The group says it has about 226,000 signatures and hopes to get 350,000 to provide a cushion in case many signatures are thrown out.
Mecham has been controversial since before he took office in January for, among other things, rescinding a Martin Luther King holiday for state employees and defending the use of the word “pickaninny” when referring to a black child.