Long before Wisconsin decided to waste… taxpayer time and money on an attempted recall of its Governor, Arizona became only the second state to attempt such a feat. Evan Mecham holds the dubious honor of being the only sitting Governor to be recalled and impeached in the same term. Unlike Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, the efforts to remove Mecham were not based on partisan politics, but on grievous misdeeds by an elected official.
Evan Mecham cancelled the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday… days after his inauguration in January 1987. His explanation to the press was, “King doesn’t deserve a holiday…You folks(blacks) don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.” Mecham remained defiant as national civil rights groups boycotted Arizona and the NFL refused to hold the Super Bowl in here. Mecham also publicly declared black children could be called “pickaninnies” and that high divorce rates in Arizona were the fault of working women. Other Mecham missteps include;
- Nominating three government officials facing criminal indictments, including one for capital murder
- Using taxpayer money to hire private investigators to search his offices for listening devices
- Publicly mocking Japanese diplomats visiting Phoenix
- Vetoing budgets from the Republican controlled legislature for not supporting his nominees
- Using a $350,000 private loan for his campaign and not reporting it to state officials
- Loaning $80,000 of public money to his auto dealership
Mecham was not attacked solely by Democrats… Leading Republicans like Congressman Jon Kyl and Senator John McCain called on him to resign. The recall effort began in August 1987 and gathered the requisite number of signatures in less than one month. Mecham used every tactic at his disposal to prevent verification, but over 315,000 signatures had been collected, more than the number of votes that elected him. The recall was set for May 1988, Republican John Rhodes agreed to oppose Mecham.
The Arizona House of Representatives filed articles of impeachment… against Mecham for the illegal loans. Mecham was tried and removed from office in February 1988 before his recall election could be held. Mecham defended his record until the day he died, February 21, 2008. His arguments are not supported by history. Once Arizona established the MLK holiday, the devastating effects of the economic boycott came to an end. In 1996 the NFL awarded Super Bowl XXX to Tempe, bringing over $200,000 million in revenues to the state. Arizona Secretary of State Rose Mofford became Governor upon Mecham’s removal, the first woman to hold the office.