Whether former Gov. Evan Mecham is in or out of politics, his 15-month tenure as governor and sudden removal are likely to have strong reverberations in Arizona politics for years, lawmakers say.
Some of the senators who voted at his impeachment trial to remove the first-term Republican from office last week hope Mecham will fade from the political scene and take the recent rough-and-tumble out of Arizona politics.Mecham himself isn't yet tipping his hand. He says he wants to run for re-election in the May 17 recall vote that was aimed at removing him, if the election is still held and if he is allowed to be on the ballot. Arizona courts are expected to decide those issues.
The former auto dealer also says he is writing a book and would like to hit the lecture circuit to take his conservative political message nationwide.
Also facing him is a May 19 criminal trial, postponed Friday from April 21, on charges of concealing a $350,000 campaign loan.
The Senate convicted him Monday of trying to thwart an investigation of an alleged death threat and of misusing $80,000 from the governor's protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership. However, senators failed to muster the two-thirds vote to bar him from holding any future public office.
"I believe that the political career of Evan Mecham is done with. I do not believe he will ever hold elective office again, and I do not believe that he will be a major factor in politics in this state again," said Sen. Greg Lunn, who voted to convict the governor on both counts.
But in the days after his ouster Mecham packed them in at public appearances, and he was introduced as "the people's governor" at one meeting in a conservative GOP stronghold in suburban Mesa.
He said he plans to keep making public appearances but added it would be premature to consider running for any public office other than governor.
"I think he ought to run for the state Senate," joked Minority Leader Alan Stephens, who voted to convict the governor. "I'd like to have an office next to him."