Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recent Arizona Governors' Hall of Fame and/or Shame

I promised you all some entertaining stories about Arizona politicians, so here is the "Recent Arizona Governors' Hall of Fame and / or Shame":

First up, we have former Governor Evan Mecham. Elected in 1986, he began his term as Governor in 1987. (Should I still use the title "Honorable" for a fellow who was impeached and resigned in disgrace? Just curious). While serving as Governor of our great state, he cancelled Martin Luther King Day, and also used (and defended the use of) the word "pickaninny" and made other racist remarks, provoking a "boycott" of the State by people in other states, which eventually cost the state an opportunity to host the Superbowl. In 1988, after serving only one year of his term, he was impeached for fundraising improprieties that had occurred during his campaign, and was removed from office in April 1988 before he could cause any more damage to the State's image and financial well-being.

The Honorable Rose Mofford, who was at the time of Mr. Mecham's impeachment the Secretary of State, by statute took office upon Mr. Mecham's removal from office. She was a very cool lady and was the first woman Governor of the State of Arizona. She restored Arizona’s image as a decent State, and governed with grace and good humor. She wore a "beehive" type hairdo and heavy fake eyelashes, and in 1988 she commissioned and sent out holiday cards with a caricature drawing of her as a toga-wearing "Goddess of Liberty" atop the state capitol – and showing lots of leg.... a real jaw-dropper! Sadly, she declined to run for another term after completing her "fill-in" term for Mr. Mecham.

For more on Ms. Mofford, including a photo of her famous hair, see this article at

For an even better photo, see her biography cover photo at You should probably buy the book. I'd be willing to bet it is fascinating!

Sorry, I couldn’t find a color photo (or even a very good quality photo) of the famous holiday card (maybe there is one in the book?); I did find a rather grainy black & white photo in the Tucson Observer archives, which I have reproduced here:

(You can follow this link if you want to go to the original source).

The card received national press coverage, as well – it was written up in Time magazine, although apparently with no photo. At the time, there was lots of talk about how "inappropriate" this card was and how awfully wrong Governor Mofford was to have commissioned it. If that was the worst they could say about her, well, compared to her predecessor and her successor, I'd say she did a mighty fine job as Governor. Also, I subsequently learned that these caricature cards are a holiday tradition for Ms. Mofford -- see this example on flickr.

Fife Symington was the successor to Governor Mofford. His campaign claimed that Mr. Symington was a successful businessman, and he promised to run the State like a successful business and solve the State’s financial problems. Sounds good, right? Well, his business ventures were so "successful" that he ended up filing bankruptcy in 1995, and (apparently based on statements made during the course of his bankruptcy case) he was later indicted and prosecuted in federal court for extortion, making false financial statements, and bank fraud. After his conviction in 1997, he was forced to resign. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to issues with a juror at trial; before he could be retried, he was pardoned by President Clinton in 2001.

After his pardon, Mr. Symington attended culinary school. More recently, Mr. Symington has appeared discussing UFOs on Larry King Live, and has claimed that he saw a UFO in March of 1997. Follow this link for more information.

With male governors like these "bad boys" with their impeachments and criminal charges as "bookends" to an uneventful yet amusing female Governor, is it any wonder that Arizonans subsequently have elected (so far) only women Governors after Symington? Jane Hull (Republican) followed Symington, and Janet Napolitano (Democrat) followed Jane Hull.

Welcome to Arizona politics. Now, aren't you sorry we didn't elect Senator McCain as our new President? Surely it would have been a more entertaining and eventful 4 years than Mr. Obama is likely to provide...



Gwen said...

Very entertaining research! I suspect doing the same for Missouri would be quite boring.

LegalMist said...

Glad you enjoyed the tales -- didn't require too much research (just some fact-checks for dates & such and searches for good photos), as I lived here during most of it and experienced it first-hand.

And who knows what skeletons lurk in the Missouri closet? Anyone know any good dirt on Missouri politicians?

Nan said...


Ever notice how every time a politician promises to run a state or a country "like a business" things start to fall apart fast?

Off topic, but your Pulitzer post intrigued me enough that I've decided to start reading through the list, too. I may or may not be ambitious enough to post reviews on my blog.

That damn expat said...

oh trust me, women are as bad as men. in politics i mean :-P

Anonymous said...

I know that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a real piece of work. I think his current approval rating rivals George W. Bush. Us "downstaters" ought to secede from the state. Maybe Missouri can annex us so we could have boring politicians too :)

Johnny Yen said...

Mecham was my personal favorite. He was always good for really bad statements.

I live in Illinois, where we've seen no fewer than 3 of our governors or ex-governors go to prison, and it's widely expected that the current one will join that legion.