Senate president, others who voted for Mecham’s ouster defeated in primary

September 14, 1988

Associated Press

PHOENIX — In a primary that could be called “Evan Mecham’s revenge,” the Senate president, House speaker and five other Republican incumbents who voted for the ex-governor’s impeachment were defeated in the first primary since his ouster.

Senate President Carl Kunasek was beaten Tuesday by Mecham supporter Jerry Gillespie in what some had viewed as a David-and-Goliath race.

House Speaker Joe Lane, a Republican who started the impeachment process against Mecham last fall, lost to Mecham backers Lloyd Fenn and Warren Shumaker. Two candidates were picked in each House race.

“If I lose tonight it’s Mecham that did it, but I don’t think it’ll happen,” Lane said earlier.

“I think we’ll be in for some surprises probably before the night’s over,” Mecham told reporters as the results rolled in. “When it’s over there will be quite a number of changes. Nobody will get everything they want.”

Lane had predicted Monday that the primary would be “the demise of the Mecham gang. … But I wouldn’t bet any money on it because I’ve been surprised once before by the Mecham folks.”

House Majority Whip Jane Hull and Sens. John Hays and Doug Todd — all Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Mecham — were renominated.

But Republican Sen. Peter Kay of Phoenix lost to Tom Patterson, as did Sen. Jack Taylor. Both incumbents voted to convict Mecham.

Reps. Bob Hungerford, Bob Broughton, Don Strauch, who voted for impeachment, were defeated. Rep. Betty Rockwell, who cast her vote for impeachment, was apparently renominated, but a recount was expected.

Sen. Wayne Stump of Phoenix, one of the former governor’s strongest supporters in the Senate, narrowly defeated challenger Jack Kearney.

Some key Mecham backers lost their bids for the Legislature. His former press secretary, Ron Bellus, was trounced by former Senate President Leo Corbet in north-central Phoenix.

Trent Franks, a former House member who was named by Mecham to head the Governor’s Office of Children’s Services, lost his House bid, and Rep. Gary Giordano, a Mecham supporter, lost his north Phoenix seat.

The Mecham supporters were banking on voter dissatisfaction over the former governor’s April 4 Senate impeachment conviction and an election-year tax hike approved by the GOP-dominated Legislature.

Two lopsided congressional races completed Tuesday’s ballot.

In District 1 in eastern Maricopa County, Democrat John Fillmore overwhelmed Thane Read for the right to challenge first-term Republican Jay Rhodes in November. Fillmore garnered 20,720 votes, or 76 percent, to Read’s 6,469 votes, or 24 percent.

In southern Arizona’s District 5, two-term GOP incumbent Jim Kolbe just as handily defeated his challengers, including Mecham’s controversial nominee for state liquor superintendent, Alberto Rodriguez.

Kolbe had 38,169 votes, or 78 percent, to political newcomer Walt Weber’s 5,855 votes, or 12 percent; Rodriguez, whose nomination was withdrawn, had 5,077 votes, or 10 percent.