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- Phoenix Points of Pride
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In its relatively short history, Arizona has experienced no shortage of political milestones, defining moments, or shameful antics. For instance, more than 80 years before Bush vs. Gore, the state faced its own contentious court battle for chief executive. A gubernatorial battle broke out in 1916 when Arizona’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt, demanded a recount when his challenger, Thomas Campbell, was declared the winner by 30 votes. Hunt refused to vacate the governor’s chair, and both men took the oath of office. The Arizona Supreme Court eventually settled the case, declaring Hunt the winner. However, both men would go on to serve multiple—and individual—terms as governor.
By the 1960s, Arizona’s political titans were working hard to transform the Grand Canyon State into a national player. Morris “Mo” Udall took office in 1961 after winning the U.S. House seat vacated by his brother, Stewart, who had been appointed Secretary of the Interior by President John F. Kennedy. The Udall brothers, Representative John Rhodes, Senators Barry Goldwater and Carl Hayden, and Governor Paul Fannin formed a bipartisan group of political giants who reached across party lines and used their collective power to turn the state from a never-has-been into a united political power.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been scandal. When former car dealer Evan Mecham was removed from office in 1988, it extinguished a political firestorm that ignited almost as soon he was sworn in a year earlier. During his brief-but-infamous tenure, Mecham rescinded the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, defended the use of the word “pickaninny,” blamed working women for increasing divorce rates, and managed to insult minority groups from Asians to gays. With Mecham’s impeachment came one bright spot, though: Arizona swore in its first female governor—and only the 10th in U.S. history—Rose Mofford. Strangely, it wasn’t her first time in the chair. During the early days of Governor Bruce Babbitt’s 1988 presidential bid, Mofford served as acting governor while he campaigned out of state.
In fact, true to the state’s Wild West roots, women have enjoyed a great deal of independence and opportunity in Arizona. They were granted the right to vote in the year of Arizona’s statehood in 1912, eight years before the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan made history—and fulfilled a campaign promise—when he appointed the first female Supreme Court justice, Arizonan Sandra Day O’Connor. Following her groundbreaking confirmation, O’Connor emerged as one of the most influential voices on the Court, serving as a swing vote in many of its most controversial and closely watched cases, from abortion to affirmative action. Nearly two decades later, in 1998, Arizona made national headlines again when voters elected the country’s first all-female line of succession: governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. The media dubbed the unprecedented lineup the “Fabulous Five,” which included then-Attorney General Janet Napolitano, who would later serve as governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
Another important constituency is beginning to emerge. The release of the 2000 U.S. census heralded a demographic shift and potentially strong new political voice in Arizona. Latinos accounted for 25 percent of Arizona’s population that year, and that number is increasing 88 percent a year. Latino voters will likely flex ever-more-considerable political influence in the coming decades, which is why they are being courted by both Republicans and Democrats. This swing group could prove to be a deciding voice as the once staunchly red, conservative Arizona begins to turn purple.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition