Controversial letter gives recall a shot in the arm

September 30, 1987

Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — A group seeking the recall of Gov. Evan Mecham said Wednesday it got a shot in the arm from the furor over a Mecham fund-raising letter that blamed the effort on “militant liberals” and homosexuals.

“The phones are ringing off the hook – the place is bizarre,” said Ed Buck, founder of the Mecham Recall Committee.

“Back on track,” Buck said, quoting from a recent “Doonesbury” cartoon that portrayed the recall campaign as being rejuvenated after the cartoon governor blamed the movement on homosexuals.

On Tuesday, Mecham sought to distance himself from the letter mailed by the Mecham Finance Committee to 25,000 people nationwide.

The letter, which sought to raise $1.2 million in 45 days, asked supporters to move to Arizona or at least send money to the governor.

“That’s right, I want you to sell your house, pack your belongings, quit your job and come to the most beautiful state in the Union,” the letter said. “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. … If they destroy me it will be a sad day for conservatives everywhere and most of all for America.

“In a day and age when militant gay leaders are feeding the nation a steady diet of their ‘alternative life-styles’ and they stand before the nightly news cameras demanding that the taxpayers pay for their AIDS treatments, I feel it is important for conservatives to stand up for traditional American values,” the letter said.

The Republican governor told reporters he had not seen the letter, written on the gubernnatorial letterhead, and that a signature machine was used to sign it without his authorization. Earlier, press secretary Ken Smith had told reporters the governor said he read the letter and signed it personally.

Mecham said he asked his finance committee not to mail the additional 20,000 copies that were planned to be sent.

He said the letter was “a little bit rough” and was not as he would have written it. The governor said he had approved the overall concept of a fund- raising campaign, although he insisted it did not mean he is convinced he will have to face a recall vote because he believes many petition signatures will be invalidated.

The Recall Committee must gather 216,746 signatures of registered voters by Nov. 3 to force Mecham to face a recall vote next year. The group has 226,000 signatures and wants 350,000 to provide a cushion in case some are thrown out.

Buck, an acknowledged homosexual, apparently sparked Mecham’s initial references to the recall movement as “a band of homosexual agitators and dissident Democrats.”

Buck said phone calls to the recall committee had slowed down, but the controversy over the letter “is definitely new impetus to the recall.”

“Most of the response we’re getting is disbelief,” Buck said.

State GOP Chairman Burton Kruglick refused to comment Wednesday on the letter. Former state Republican Chairman Tom Pappas, never particularly a Mecham backer, said he now is convinced the governor will have to face a recall vote unless a large number of signatures are thrown out.

“They (the Recall Committee) will have more signatures than they can imagine now,” because of the letter, Pappas said. He said he won’t sign a petition “out of pure party loyalty.”