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Democratic bid for Senate too close to call


No favorite has appeared, with the candidates’ similar stands on most issues.

Only one candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate has broken loose from the pack.

That would be Dave Moss, a perennial candidate and perennial also-ran, who appears destined to finish last in this four-way race.

Coming down the stretch, with just five days left before Tuesday’s primary election, the race among U.S. Rep. Sam Coppersmith, Secretary of State Richard Mahoney and state Senate Minority Leader Cindy Resnick is still too close to call and appears headed for a photo finish.

Subtle differences

All three potential Democratic primary winners have much in common on the issues. All support abortion rights, universal health care, campaign-finance reform, increased funding for education, and bans on military-style assault weapons. And all are critical of U.S. Rep. Jon Kyl, a Phoenix Republican who has locked up the GOP Senate nomination.

But Coppersmith has something the others don’t – the support of incumbent U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a Tucson Democrat who rocked Arizona’s political landscape last year by announcing he would not seek a fourth term.

Resnick, the only woman and the only Pima County candidate in the race, is considered an expert on health care issues at the Arizona Legislature, a role she wants to play in Washington.

Mahoney, a political maverick, promises to take on a corrupt congressional system that he says is caught up in self-dealing.

“Sam (Coppersmith) has everything going for him,’ said DeConcini. “He’s young, he’s smart, he’s independent and he’s a reformer. He can carry Republicans, and Democrats will stay with him.’

Crossover appeal

Indeed, Coppersmith proved his appeal to GOP voters two years ago when he knocked off incumbent Jay Rhodes, a Mesa Republican, in a Maricopa County congressional district that had a 12 percentage point Republican voter-registration advantage.

“Coppersmith has spread the myth he is a new Democrat. It is a myth we Republicans will expose,’ said Dodie Londen, state GOP chairwoman. “He most often votes with the old liberal Democrats and supports the Clinton tax-and-spend philosophy.’

But Coppersmith has taken fiscally conservative positions on high-profile spending issues. For instance, he was the lone Arizona Democrat to vote for the failed Penny-Kasich deficit-reduction proposal, which would have cut $90 billion from the federal bureaucracy over five years.

During his first term in Congress, Coppersmith backed the Family Medical Leave Act, motor-voter legislation, the North American Free Trade Agreement, legislation designed to ensure women have access to abortion clinics, and a $30 billion anti-crime bill.

“I am running for the Senate, because the politics of the past – politics as usual – can’t create the kind of future we want for ourselves or our kids,’ said Coppersmith. “Safety and security in our neighborhoods and schools is crucial for the development of our children, that is why I was a strong advocate of passage of the crime bill.

“The crime bill is not only tough, it is smart,’ he continued. “It not only contains tougher penalties for criminals, but also provides resources for after school programs, drug prevention and expanded community centers.’

Mahoney’s challenge

At this time last year, as DeConcini appeared to be gearing up for re-election, Mahoney made no secret that he was concocting a primary challenge that would paint DeConcini, a principle figure in the Keating Five scandal, as the ultimate Capitol insider.

Meanwhile, Coppersmith quietly backed the politically vulnerable DeConcini. That loyalty paid off after DeConcini surprisingly bowed out of the race and later declared Coppersmith the Democrat most likely to beat Kyl in the Nov. 8 general election.

Despite DeConcini’s absence from the race, Mahoney is running as a reformer. If elected, he has pledged to take a $50,000 pay cut, reduce office expenses by 50 percent, eliminate staff members and reject free mailing privileges bestowed to Congress. Mahoney also refuses to accept campaign contributions from political action committees.

“If the U.S. Congress doesn’t have its house in order, how can we expect the rest of the federal government to function properly?’ asked Mahoney. “We can’t reinvent government unless we overhaul Congress.

“The statistics on Congress are staggering,’ he continued. “Consider that almost a billion dollars was spent on congressional elections in 1992, that the growth of Congress has outpaced U.S. population 10 to 1, that the U.S. taxpayer spends on the average $5 million per lawmaker, that Congress exempts itself from just about all the laws it passes, and then ask yourself if you’re getting what you pay for in taxes.’

Nonetheless, Mahoney is not completely free of ethical controversy. He skirted the state’s resign-to-run law by not officially entering the race until the last year of his term began in January, though he had formed an exploratory committee months earlier. Mahoney said he didn’t want to step down as secretary of state because he was worried about whom Republican Gov. Fife Symington would appoint in his place.

Mahoney was scrutinized again when it was revealed that he used a state telephone line to conduct campaign business, something he criticized his predecessor, former Secretary of State Jim Shumway, for doing four years earlier. Mahoney has said he has reimbursed the state for all questionable calls not charged to his personal credit card account.

Nonetheless, Mahoney has practiced what he has preached in administering the Secretary of State’s Office. In 1992, Mahoney gave back 15 percent of his budget to the state by reducing staff by 7 percent, cutting his own salary by 11 percent and eliminating use of a state airplane and automobile. The following year Mahoney returned $1.2 million, or 28 percent of his budget, to the state general fund.

Mahoney also played a key role in instituting election law changes, such as mail-in registration and early voting, that helped create 500,000 new Arizona voters between 1990 and 1992.

According to Mahoney, Congress needs to be grabbed by the neck and shaken – and he’s the guy to do it.

“One of the problems in federal land is that they talk about reducing government spending, but none of them live by what they say,’ he said. “You can’t go to other parts of the government and say, `I want you to take the hit.’ Congress needs to take a hit.’

Mahoney said a budget commission, patterned after the base-closure commission, should be established to recommend ways to balance the federal budget deficit. He said the commission’s recommendations should be implemented unless overturned by two-thirds majorities in Congress.

“Congress, by its very nature, is unable to undertake serious efforts at budget control,’ he said.

Grass-roots approach

Despite being far behind in raising money, Resnick is mounting a serious challenge. As of June 30, Coppersmith and Mahoney had more than $300,000 in the bank, compared to just $8,573 for Resnick.

Resnick, who disdained fund raising until the legislative session ended April 17, said she has now collected about $75,000, which she says is sufficient to mount a low-budget campaign with headquarters in her home.

“I believe in grass-roots politicking,’ said Resnick. “I think you ought to shake the hand of every single individual who is going to vote in the next election, and I think you ought to remember them when you vote in Congress.’

Resnick was first elected to the Arizona House in 1982 and to the state Senate in 1990, representing District 14, or central and east Tucson. She was appointed chairwoman of the Health Committee for the National Conference of State Legislators in 1992.

She said she entered politics 14 years ago because, as a mother, she was worried about the future for her four small children.

“We just couldn’t afford the doctors. I realized then that the way government treats families and people was way off track and I decided to do something.’

Resnick believes the most important component of health care reform, and what has been missing from the federal debate, is the notion of community health clinics. She said such preventive medical services could be placed in elementary schools to serve children and their families.

“It is those kind of community-based systems that will reduce costs on the uninsured, underinsured side,’ she said.

Resnick said federal campaign finance reform is long overdue.

“People in Congress talk a good game, so long as they don’t upset anyone who is about to donate to them during a legislative session,’ she said. “That’s why decisions are never made. There is too much money in the political system.’

In announcing his candidacy earlier this summer, Moss, a Democrat best known for his hard handshake, booming voice and shoot-from-the-hip rhetorical style, blasted DeConcini and his hand-picked heir.

“I will not be the voice of big money like DeConcini promises to get for Coppersmith,’ he said, referring to Coppersmith as a DeConcini “clone’ and as “Sam Goldsmith.’

Moss, a former West Virginia coal miner, is pro-labor and anti-NAFTA. He opposes abortion and gun restrictions.

“I am the only candidate in this race, either Republican or Democrat, that is 100 percent for guns,’ he said. “I was born with a gun in my hand.’

Moss said that after the assault is complete on the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, there will be a movement to curtail First Amendment free speech rights.

“First they take our guns, next they’ll take our tongues,’ he said.



Top priority: Safety in neighborhoods and schools; education

Age: 39

Political affiliation: Democrat

Educational background: Received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard College in 1976, received a law degree from Yale in 1982

Occupation: Between college and law school, served as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department, practiced business and real estate law in Phoenix and formerly served as president and director of Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona

Political experience: Elected to the U.S. House two years ago, upsetting a Republican incumbent in Congressional District 1. He is a member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.


Top priority: Congressional reform

Age: 43

Political affiliation: Democrat

Educational background: After receiving a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton, he received a doctorate in foreign relations from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Arizona State University.

Occupation: Served from 1980-89 as an associate professor of international studies at the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale. Wrote “JFK: Ordeal in Africa,’ which was nominated for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in history.

Political experience: Elected Arizona secretary of state in 1990, worked on the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Morris Udall in 1976, was a speech writer for presidential hopefuls Gary Hart and Paul Simon in the 1980s.


Top priority: Jobs

Age: 70

Political affiliation: Democrat

Educational background: Graduated from a West Virginia military school

Occupation: Semi-retired businessman who formerly owned Tortilla Flat, a tourist town in the Superstition Mountains

Political experience: A perennial candidate who has four times unsuccessfully sought the governor’s office. Served as Jimmy Carter’s Arizona finance chairman during the 1976 campaign.


Top priority: Health care

Age: 45

Political affiliation: Democrat

Educational background: A 1967 graduate of Rincon High School; attended Pima Community College and the University of Arizona

Occupation: A 12-year state lawmaker

Political experience: Resnick served four terms in the state House before being elected to the state Senate in 1990. Since 1992, she has been the Senate’s minority leader. In the early 1980s, she co-chaired the Pima Health Care Coalition, which pressured legislators to create the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System by threatening to take a health-care initiative to voters.

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