PHOENIX, Ariz. — Former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater has criticized Gov. Evan Mecham’s first 10 months in office and says the embattled Mecham, a fellow Republican, should resign.
Goldwater also said that Rose Mofford, a Democrat who’s Secretary of State, was “one of the greatest women that ever got into politics” and added that “if the governor was smart, he’d quit and let Rose be governor.”
As secretary of state, Mofford would succeed Mecham if the governor resigned.
In a wide-ranging “bull session” marked by Goldwater’s characteristic bluntness, the 78-year-old Republican patriarch spoke Thursday to about 75 students at Arizona State University.
“I don’t like some of the things he’s done,” said Goldwater, who didn’t list any specifics. “I think until you understand the man better you can’t understand why he does these things. He’s a very, very religious man and I think he honestly feels that he has an 800 line straight up to God.
“I told him one morning, I said, ‘Ev, before you use that line, why don’t you call some of us … that were in this business and find out what we think – and then get the word from upstairs.”‘
Mecham, who is in Taiwan on a trade-related tour of the Far East, is the target of a recall drive. Organizers have criticized his recision of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday declared by his Democratic predecessor for state executive-branch workers and his stand on various policy issues.
Ken Smith, Mecham’s press secretary, said today, “There seems to be almost a feeding frenzy of calls for resignation without a close look at the support he has. It doesn’t make sense.”
“I think I got Mecham elected,” Goldwater said, referring to his early support of the governor and his appearance in a series of campaign ads.
“There were three people in the race, and I thought I’d rather have Mecham than the others,” he said.
The man whose name is inexorably linked with conservatism offered ringing endorsements of Mofford and fellow Democrat and Carolyn Warner; both of them have been mentioned as potential contenders for Mecham’s job.
Goldwater praised Mrs. Warner, the former state superintendent of public instruction who lost to Mecham in a three-way race last fall.
“I happen to know Carolyn Warner very well and I happen to think she’s a good woman,” Goldwater said.
But Smith said even Warner, who is considering a run against Mecham in a possible recall election, has acknowledged that the Republican governor could win if more than two candidates run against him.
In that case, Smith said, “Why on earth would the governor seriously entertain a suggestion that he resign?”