Governor plans to keep low profile

October 29, 1987

By Deena M. Higgs
Mesa Tribune

Because reporters badger Gov. Evan Mecham with repeated questions about his political turmoil, press secretary Ken Smith said Wednesday he will keep the governor away from many public appearances.

Since Monday, the governor’s office has canceled most of Mecham’s appearances, including a special tribute to Arizona at Disneyland scheduled for today.

“If I think the governor’s presence will disrupt the event, then I’ll keep him out,” Smith said. “If it looks like a bunch of people are going to distort or change the nature of it. I’ll keep him out. I was asked if we are going to set the agenda — you bet.”

The normally talkative governor has been unusually tight-lipped this week, answering only, “No comment” or “No questions answered today.”

It’s not uncommon for Mecham to cancel appointments because of state business, but never before has he kept such a low profile.

Usually, wherever Mecham goes, three to five television crews and about 30 reporters follow. Known as “the pack,” the reporters arrive with Mecham, tape record every word, then leave with Mecham.

Such “media events” detract from the event’s purpose, Smith said, and it is “disappointing and embarrassing to the people involved.”

He said if Mecham’s appearances turn into “the continuing saga” of reporters asking the governor questions about resigning or impeachment, Smith will keep Mecham away.

“I fiat ain’t gonna do it,” Smith said.

Smith. 57. who replaced Ron Bellus as the governor’s press secretary in September, said the final straw was last Friday when Mecham signed an executive order against discrimination on behalf of the Office of Affirmative Action. But the press wasn’t interested in the signing, Smith said.

“As the governor was leaving, every reporter there left,” Smith said. “It obliterated the signing of it.”

Wednesday morning, Smith said the governor would be at an award presentation at Disneyland recognizing Arizona. But he warned if reporters asked political questions, officials would be told to throw them out.

Several hours later, Smith canceled Mecham’s trip to California. Tuesday, Smith canceled the governor’s appearance at an afternoon awards luncheon with the Arizona Administrators Association and a Wednesday tour of the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station.

The governor also canceled an appearance at a Friday luncheon with the West Valley Forum, leaving his calendar light.

Smith said he may cancel the governor’s speech at the Arizona Indian Affairs Commission Friday because the event is too important to Native Americans.

Mariel Antonino, an assistant in Mecham’s public affairs office, said the governor needs time off to catch up on state business.