Arizona Supreme Court cancels gubernatorial recall vote

April 13, 1988

Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — The state Supreme Court canceled the gubernatorial recall election, denying Evan Mecham a last, desperate chance to return to office in what could be the final word to 15 months of political upheaval.

The court did not provide a detailed explanation of Tuesday’s 4-1 decision, which means the new governor, Democrat Rose Mofford, would serve out Mecham’s term through 1990.

The 65-year-old former secretary of state became governor on April 4 when her Republican predecessor was convicted on impeachment charges by the Senate.

The court said that since Mecham already has been removed, the regular order of succession must take precedence over the state Constitution’s recall provisions.

Mecham Recall Committee founder Ed Buck, who had favored holding the election, said his reaction still was one of relief.

“I’m a little bit disappointed because I think a recall election would have given us the opportunity to put Evan Mecham behind us once and for all,” Buck said, “because Evan Mecham would have received so few votes that he and his supporters would see how weak Evan Mecham really was.”

The former governor said he planned to make a statement this evening about his plans.

“We’ve been handed a bucket of lemons and we’re going to make a barrel of lemonade,” Mecham told supporters in Mesa. “There isn’t anything in the law, in the Constitution, that says that the Supreme Court can cancel this election.”

Mecham was removed last week from the ballot in the May 17 election, which was called after nearly 400,000 Arizonans signed petitions last year. He would have faced a court battle if he decided to attempt a candidacy.

The recall was challenged by two taxpayers who contended it was no longer necessary and would be a waste of money. Their attorney, Andrew Gordon, told the court Tuesday, “The purpose of the recall has been fulfilled. … Recall is the people’s alternative to impeachment.”

Mrs. Mofford returned to Phoenix on Tuesday from Washington D.C., where she had been lobbying for the Central Arizona Project and for the state bid for a federal atom-smasher.

“I can see that the Constitution is working in Arizona, working well,” she told reporters. “I’m glad to be home and looking forward to moving ahead in Arizona.”

However, Republican recall candidate Jack Londen said he would consider challenging the Supreme Court decision in federal court. He said he thought the decision violated his due process rights as a candidate and taxpayer.

“I’m shocked,” Londen said, adding that he believes the Constitution allows voters to recall a governor and choose the next one.

Mecham, 63, was convicted by the Senate of trying to thwart a death threat investigation and misusing $80,000 from the governor’s protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership.

He still faces a May 19 criminal trial on charges of concealing a $350,000 campaign loan.

Republican recall candidate John Rhodes, the 71-year-old former U.S. House minority leader, issued a statement saying he was disappointed but was willing to support Mrs. Mofford.

“Like the little boy that Abraham Lincoln told about, ‘I’m too old to cry, but it hurts too much to laugh,”‘ said Rhodes, who had planned to hold a fund-raiser Tuesday night in Washington D.C.