Utah Republican and Democratic Party leaders said Monday that the ouster of former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham a one-time Utahn on two counts of wrongdoing was a bad day in political history. (See main story on A1.)
"It's disappointing that it would happen to any politician; it's extra disappointing that it would happen to a Republican," Moody said."I think it's a sad time when a former Utahn, regardless of what political party he's from, comes to such a demise," Democratic Party chief Randy Horiuchi said.
Mecham, who grew up in Altamont, Duchesne County, was convicted by the Arizona Senate for obstructing justice and misusing state money. He also faces a criminal indictment for concealing a $350,000 campaign loan.
The Arizona Republican's governorship was viewed with some disdain by Republicans with whom Moody has met, including party leaders in the Republican National Committee.
"In talking to Republicans nationally, they've indicated some mistakes the governor has made that have not tended to help him," Moody said.
But some of the blame must be shared by the Republican Party in the Grand Canyon state, who permitted Mecham, "a sacrificial lamb," to win the governorship in a split vote with two other candidates and 40 percent of the electorate, Horiuchi said.
"There's a political lesson to be learned with this whole episode, and that is that the major political party must put its best candidate forward," he said.
Moody said, however, Mecham's association with the Republican Party reflects on his party no more than the indictment of Democratic New York Congressman Mario Biaggi, convicted of accepting illegal gratuities, reflects on the integrity of the Democratic Party.
Mecham was frequently criticized for making numerous public gaffs, such as defending his use of the word "pickaninny," and he had a troubled relationship with the press, a relationship he never fully understood, Moody said.
"Anytime anyone is in a political office, he has to understand the press needs access and the press plays a role," Moody said. "Anybody in a public role must understand that there is a responsibility to communicate with the public and, at times, the governor didn't do that."
Horiuchi pointed to Mecham's rescinding of Martin Luther King Day in Arizona and the numerous racial comments made by the former governor as "symptomatic of when you are a newcomer to the process and you create so much controversy in such a short time that people lay in waiting for you."
Arizona senators voted down the "Dracula clause" that would have prohibited Mecham from running for office in Arizona again, but Horiuchi ventured that Mecham, after seeking the governorship in four previous elections before winning the seat 15 months ago, would run in the May 17 recall election.
"It's hard to take away the allure" of power from an ambitious politician, Horiuchi said.