October 15, 1987
By LAURIE ASSEO
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — The group trying to force a recall election on Gov. Evan Mecham said Thursday it has topped 300,000 petition signatures, while Mecham again denied his administration is in turmoil and scoffed at former Sen. Barry Goldwater’s call last week for him to resign.
“I don’t think that he knows very much about what’s going on in state government,” Mecham said during a call-in program on KTAR radio.
“Barry and I go back a long ways,” the governor said, but added, “It’s kind of easy for somebody to give him some information that isn’t really factual.”
“I can’t conceive of anything that would even come close to getting me to resign,” Mecham said.
Mecham also reiterated that he had no connection with a letter, drafted for the Committee Against the Recall of Ev, that Mecham’s office denounced on Wednesday as being offensive.
The letter, which described Jesse Jackson as a “sanctimonious bigot,” purported to carry the signature of retired Army Gen. John Singlaub, a backer of the Nicaraguan Contras, but Singlaub said the signature was a fake.
Mecham said he knew little about CARE, which was formed to support him during the recall movement. “At a time like this, you never know what comes out of the woodwork,” the governor said.
Jim Bernier, executive director of CARE, said the letter was a draft written at his request by another man. It had not been sent to anyone, he said.
Meanwhile, the Mecham Recall Committee said it had gathered 302,287 signatures by Thursday, and founder Ed Buck said he believed the group could top its goal of 350,000 names by the Nov. 3 filing deadline.
The committee needs 216,746 valid signatures of registered voters to force Mecham to face a recall vote; it wants a cushion in case many names are thrown out.
“We realize that our job is not done,” Buck said at a news conference, adding that the more signatures are filed, the less likely it would be that the effort could wind up in a major court battle.
However, Buck said that a “healthy legal challenge” to the signatures’ validity could tie up the recall effort for up to two years, noting that that occurred in 1972 when an effort was mounted to recall then-Gov. Jack Williams.
During the radio show, Mecham insisted, “There really isn’t any turmoil going on in my administration. The turmoil is primarily in the minds of the media and a few people” who oppose him.
The governor said this week’s resignation of special assistant Donna Carlson and the possibility that another special assistant, Sam Steiger, could be charged with extortion, did not constitute turmoil in his administration.
“The ninth floor (Mecham’s office) isn’t under siege. There is a siege mentality, but it’s with the press,” the governor said.
Steiger faces a court hearing on Friday on whether he should be charged with extortion and soliciting the acceptance of a bribe. He had been accused of trying to influence the vote of a state Parole Board member.
The CARE letter that Mecham had repudiated on Wednesday sought help from “every true conservative in America” and said Mecham “is being attacked in a recall move by the likes of Jesse Jackson, militant homosexuals, radical feminists and lesbians and the Arizona Communist Party.”