My letter to Senator Jesus Higuera

Please see the note at the bottom of this post.


May 25, 1988

Senator Jesus “Chuy” Higuera
Arizona State Senate
State Capitol
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Senator Higuera:

I noticed your comments in the morning newspaper and thought it was about time that I wrote to you.

First, I want to tell you that I sincerely appreciate the friendship and support you extended to me several months ago. You may not recall the incident, but it is still fresh in my mind.

While waiting for Governor Mecham to arrive to deliver his state of the state address, I was standing off to the side on the floor of the Senate chambers. You walked over to me, gave me a warm pat on the back, shook my hand and thanked me for my efforts.  You told me you understood how tough my job was and expressed your concern that I may have arrived too late to fix the situation.

Not one Republican has extended this degree of friendship. Art Hamilton is the only other member of the Legislature who has gone out of his way to thank me for trying to calm the storm. Quite frankly, the lack of understanding on the part of the Republicans disappoints me.

Second, I don’t believe Governor Mofford purposely neglects Hispanics, but you are completely correct in saying she gets bad advice and is blamed for the actions of her senior staff. For example, we hired Elena Gonzales in February to work as the Ninth Floor receptionist. I thought she was perfect for the job. There were not enough Hispanics on the Governor’s staff and, more importantly, she had never been involved in political campaigning. She was probably a Democrat, although we never asked her about her party affiliation.

One day after Evan Mecham was convicted by the Senate, Elena was fired by Governor Mofford’s staff. No warning, no thanks, and no explanation because she was considered part of the Mecham administration. She was handed her last pay check and told not to come back. This was a terrible injustice to a quietly competent worker.

Keep up the good work.

Sincerely,

Ken Smith

cc: Governor Mofford


Note:

“Elena Gonzales” is not the real name of the receptionist mentioned above. I changed the name here before posting to protect her privacy. She was then in her mid-twenties, so I would assume she is still alive and well, working somewhere in Arizona. Some of the anti-Mecham claque may also still be alive and they are probably still as vicious. No need to threaten Elena’s job prospects, even 25 years later.

I was told that the order to immediately fire Elena was given directly by Andy Hurwitz, who was Governor Mofford’s chief of staff.

The article mentioned above in which Senator Higuera was quoted was prompted by some criticism that Governor Rose Mofford was not hiring Hispanics. As I said to the senator in my letter, I am certain that this was coming from Mofford’s staff, not from Governor Mofford herself.

In the last several months of Governor Mecham’s time in office, I began to spend more and more time with Rose Mofford, who was then Secretary of State and would become governor if and when Mecham was removed from office. I don’t know why it was so, but Mecham and Mofford rarely talked to one another, even though they were only one floor apart in the state capitol building, and neither of the two had a bad word about the other. Even though they rarely met, Mecham and Mofford appeared to like and respect each other.

Somehow, I became the go-between. I met with Rose Mofford almost daily to keep her informed of current issues, in the event that she became governor. When impeachment and removal from office looked inevitable, she asked me to remain on the ninth floor on her staff to help with the transition. I said yes, of course. But, her executive staff that appeared out of nowhere, and over which Mofford seemed to have little or no control, wanted me gone immediately.

It is no exaggeration to say that Rose Mofford was dreading the prospect of becoming governor. She told me that she liked being Secretary of State, liked the job, liked her staff, and did not want to be governor.

On the day before Secretary of State Mofford would be sworn in as governor, I met with her in her office for a half-hour to discuss pending issues. I was startled when I saw tears in her eyes. They were not tears of sadness, but rather frustration about being pushed into a job she did not really want.

From that day’s meeting, I am convinced that Rose Mofford was blind-sided by Democrat operatives who soon took charge of her life and duties as governor. She had asked me to meet with her as soon as possible after she had moved into the governor’s office. But, I never talked to her again. My phone calls and messages were not returned and I’m sure that this was done by order of Andy Hurwitz.