Election '88: the Mountain West
ARIZONA Apparently eager to avoid repeating the scenario that gave them the ill-fated former Gov. Evan Mecham, Arizonans have placed on their ballot a constitutional amendment that would require all statewide executive officers to be elected by a majority vote.Skip to next paragraph
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With ``no hot races to speak of,'' according to Phoenix political consultant Alfredo Gutierrez, Arizonans are turning their attention to ballot issues.
One would provide for runoffs in cases where none of three or more candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote. The measure is a legacy of Mr. Mecham, who won the governorship with 40 percent of the vote in a three-way contest in 1986. The embattled Republican was removed from office last April by the Senate of this Republican state after being impeached by the House for personal use of public funds and for thwarting an investigation of a death threat by one of his appointees.
Voters will also decide whether to make English the ``official'' language of the state. With neighboring California having overwhelmingly approved a similar measure in 1986, supporters and opponents alike had thought the measure would sail to easy victory - until recently.
Earlier this month U.S. English, a national organization supporting ballot measures like Arizona's, was engulfed in controversy over a two-year-old memorandum by the group's founder. The memo warns of an America where an educated, English-speaking, Anglo minority would be overcome by poor, fast-breeding, non-English-speaking non-whites.
Opponents of such measures - also on the November ballot in Colorado and Florida - say the memo reveals a racist underpinning to the ``official English'' movement. Veteran newsman Walter Cronkite resigned from the advisory board of U.S. English, as did the group's president, former White House aide Linda Chavez.
Two-term Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D) is expected to have very little trouble retaining his seat over Republican challenger Keith DeGreen, an inspirational speaker with no political background. Senator DeConcini, one political observer says, ``has done an extraordinary job of transcending party lines.'' He is one of a sizable number of Democratic senators from GOP states who, as often as not, are comfortable voting in line with the conservative outlook of their constituents.
With neither a gubernatorial nor a United States Senate race this year, Colorado is another state where ballot measures are receiving extra voter attention.
Like Arizona, this Rocky Mountain state will vote on an ``official English'' measure, with most observers expecting it to pass despite heated opposition from Hispanics. The measure had been stricken from the ballot by a federal district judge because it did not appear in both English and Spanish, but it was recently reinstated by a court of appeals.
Perhaps the most controversial measure would resume state funding of abortions for indigent women, a practice that was stopped after a 1984 ballot question passed by less than 1 percent of the votes cast. ``This measure could get more votes for and against than all the candidates for president,'' says Dan Sloan, a political scientist at the University of Colorado. He adds that the measure has a good chance of passing, because the taxpayer groups that were the catalyst for the 1984 measure have not focused on this year's question.
Coloradans will also decide tax limitation measures similar to those rejected in 1986. This year the ``Taxpayers' Bill of Rights'' amendment would require taxpayers to decide almost all tax increases, cut the state income tax by about 10 percent, and limit residential property taxes to 1 percent of market value.
The state is expected to maintain an even split between Democrats and Republicans in its six-member US House delegation. Democrats, however, hold out some hope of wresting the Sixth Congressional District from Republican incumbent Dan Schaefer. Their candidate, former Republican Martha M. Ezzard, is widely known and got a recent campaign assist from actor Robert Redford.