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You think your governor is a scumbag? Check out this guy! Evan Mecham of Arizona.

evanmecham

How’s this for a plot? A local TV celebrity and used car dealer with delusions of grandeur keeps running for Governor, largely as a joke since he has no hope of getting elected. Then in one election a split in the opposing party means the car dealer, to everyone’s surprise, actually gets elected. Except he has no experience, a paranoia complex, bizarre views on political issues, and an annoying penchant for making embarrassing racist gaffes on statewide TV.

It’s not the plot of a book. It actually happened in Arizona in the 80s. The car dealer’s name was Evan Mecham, and when you read his Wikipedia page you’ll understand not only what a real piece of work he was, but why he was impeached and run out of office on a rail after serving barely a year in office. Here’s a choice excerpt:

“An initial irritant for the lawmakers were some nominations to executive offices by Mecham that were considered low quality and were made without consulting legislative leaders. Among these nominations was Alberto Rodriguez as superintendent of the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, while he was under investigation for murder. Other questionable nominations included the director of the Department of Revenue whose company was in arrears by $25,000 on employment compensation payments, an appointee for head of prison construction who had served prison time for armed robbery, and a former Marine, nominated as a state investigator, who had been court-martialled twice.

In November 1987, a Phoenix-area convention bureau claimed that Mecham’s policies on Martin Luther King Day had caused the cancellation of 45 conventions worth over $25 million. One of these cancellations was a National Basketball Association convention in Phoenix. In response to the cancellation, Mecham was quoted to say “Well, the N.B.A. I guess they forget how many white people they get coming to watch them play.”

Mecham was eventually impeached and removed from office on charges of obstruction of justice. Sometimes our political system does work–when all other options have been exhausted!

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