See Dick Run

Independent gubernatorial candidate Dick Mahoney is fond of taking moments from his opponents' past and declaring them unfit to serve in the governor's office.

Mahoney, a former Democrat who served as Arizona Secretary of State from 1991 to 1994, says Democrat Janet Napolitano's failure to pursue a child pornography case while Arizona U.S. Attorney shows she's soft on crime, even though she issued warrants in nine out 10 child porn cases. In the incident Mahoney mentions, Napolitano maintains prosecutors wanted more evidence before proceeding.

Mahoney targeted Republican Matt Salmon as both a lobbyist who will only serve special interests and a Mormon who won't enforce polygamy laws. Salmon pointed out the latter complaint is equivalent to saying Mahoney won't pursue cases against Catholic priests who sexually abuse members of their flock.

What if Mahoney was subjected to the same standard he holds his opponents to? For all of his talk about ending corporate welfare and investing in education and health care, just two years ago Mahoney supported an effort that would have amounted to the biggest tax giveaway to wealthy Arizonans in the history of the state.

Mahoney chaired the Arizona Taxpayer Alliance, a group that ran an initiative drive to ask voters to do away with the income tax in Arizona. (Salmon also supported the proposition.) The effort was tossed off the ballot as unconstitutional because it blended too many topics on one ballot question.

But if it had passed, the initiative would have eliminated roughly 45 percent of the state's revenue, without any kind of plan of how it would be replaced. It would have also eliminated the only progressive feature in the state tax code.

Although most people like to complain about their income taxes, the vast majority of Arizonans pay more in sales taxes than income taxes. The state income tax, while not as progressive as the federal income tax, is still mostly paid by the state's wealthiest citizens. In 1997, according to figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the top 1.4 percent of filers (those with more than $200,000 in federal adjusted gross income) paid 17.3 percent of all state income taxes; the top 11.2 percent (income of more than $75,000) paid 42.7 percent.

In fact, a 1999 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that Arizona's income tax was among the best in the nation for low-income families, who could earn up to $23,600 before they owe any income tax.

If revenue from the income tax had to be replaced with a higher sales tax--the most likely alternative next to a wholesale slashing of half of the state budget--low-income Arizonans would have been hammered by the change.

Mahoney has backpedaled away from the campaign he chaired in the last election cycle.

"You couldn't do it now," says Mahoney. "It's not possible."

But if it made long-term fiscal sense just two years ago, why doesn't it make sense now?

The answer: It didn't make sense then. It was just a crusade that would have gotten Mahoney's name out in front of people as he prepared his campaign for governor.

But then, Mahoney doesn't have much in the way of long-term vision. If he did, he would have seen the dark clouds about Fife Symington's head and run for re-election to his Secretary of State post. If he had held onto that--and he would have made a formidable incumbent--he would have moved into the governor's office when Symington resigned. Had that happened, Mahoney might be finishing his second term, rather than running his pathetic, nasty campaign, which has yet to break double digits in any poll, despite the fact that he's spent close to $400,000 in Clean Elections funding. (Last week, Mahoney told the press that he was troubled by the Clean Elections program because it was encouraging candidates to run negative ads.)

With his attack ads, Mahoney has become a suicide candidate, strapping explosives to himself and pulling the pin to see what kind of damage he can do. Last week, the Arizona Republic's editorial page compared him--unfavorably--to a cockroach.

It's little wonder that one of his first TV ads showed him following a parade and scooping up the horse shit. He needs all he can get.

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