If they lose, and of course he doesn't think they will, Greg Beesley says the Tax Limitation Coalition will be ready with yet another petition.

"The next one will be a hell-raiser," he hints, refusing to divulge the particulars.Not that the current one hasn't stirred up its share of fire and damnation. As Beesley notes with pride: "I don't want to brag, but we have two major politicians and two major parties on the ropes."

Beesley likes petitions. He's been doing them since he was in his mid-20s, fighting a long list of conservative foes from fluoridation to abortion. The anti-fluoridation referendum was successful, as was a drive to defeat land-use planning. Other petition drives have failed, including a Professional Politician Limitation Act, and a 1980 effort to place a lid on property taxes. This year's petition-drive, to get initiatives A, B and C on the ballot, was his ninth.

Until this year, Beesley has stayed in the background in these campaigns, taking care of a great deal of the nitty-gritty details but remaining fairly anonymous.

"I probably sat back and got all the glory and he did all the work," says H. Austin Belnap, the former legislator who was always cited during those years as the driving force behind the petition drives.

Belnap, an ultraconservative, has known Beesley since Beesley was 12. "He's honest, trustworthy and a great American," says Belnap.

Beesley's political philosophies didn't really gel until he found himself in Vietnam in the late '60s. Drafted when he dropped out of the University of Utah to get married, Beesley says it was in Vietnam that he learned what "just plain apathy" can do to a country.

"In Southeast Asia I watched a benevolent dictatorship and a flourishing economy be destroyed because of non-participation by itscitizens. So when I got home, I decided I had to get involved."

Although he used to be a member of the John Birch Society, Beesley says he dropped out because "they weren't aggressive enough for me. They study philosophical issues. . . . But you can only study those things for so long before you need to get out and do something."

He thinks of himself not as a conservative but a "progressive." The conservative label "hooks you up with Republicanism," he explains. He says he worked to get Gov. Norm Bangerter elected, but adds, "I've been a party outcast for years."

He says he decided to start the latest petition drive because he could sense that the public would be receptive. "When you've been around populist movements for as long as I have, you can just feel it," explains Beesley, sitting in the bare-bones offices of the Tax Limitation Coalition, in a generic little office complex on 33rd South.

Although he did not know talk show "communicast-er" Mills Crenshaw prior to the winter of 1987, a friend suggested that the two get together. As unassuming as Crenshaw is flamboyant, Beesley has nonetheless found himself facing crowds during countless debates and public appearances during the last few months.

"I'm not a public person, and I don't want to be," says Beesley.

A general contractor by trade, Beesley says he hasn't worked for 18 months, spending time instead on the petition drive and the initiative battle. To continue feeding his eight children he says he took out a second mortgage and sold "some equipment."

`I don't think anyone in this state can understand fully the sacrifices Greg Beesley has made," says Crenshaw. "He's done it for the principle of it, as opposed to those people who use public monies to protect their own private interests."

Beesley is looking forward to Nov. 9, when the election is over and he can go back to doing what he likes best _ watching his sons play football. And if he loses, of course, there will still be that next petition drive to run. . . .