Source: Arizona Daily Star (AZ)
Pubdate: Thu, 3 Sep 1998
Author: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services


PHOENIX - Attorney general hopeful John Kaites insists his opponent's
arrest 15 years ago makes him a criminal - even though prosecutors
dropped the charges.

At a news conference yesterday, Kaites defended a new TV commercial
which states that Tom McGovern ``has a record, not as a prosecutor but
as a criminal.'' It includes footage of McGovern that has been
doctored to show him behind bars with a beard.

McGovern, who set up his own news conference near Kaites' around the
same time, acknowledged the 1983 New Jersey arrest on weapon and drug
charges. He pointed out that the case was dismissed, and said
prosecutors believed he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong

But McGovern, while lashing out at Kaites for slinging mud, then
signed an affidavit saying he has never smoked marijuana. Attorney
General Grant Woods, who backs McGovern, also signed the affidavit -
even as he said the issue of someone smoking marijuana is irrelevant
to the question of who should be his successor.

McGovern placed the affidavit under Kaites' nose. Kaites smiled and
walked away.

Kaites, while attacking McGovern for his arrest record, dodged several
questions of whether he ever broke any laws, demanding a specific list
of crimes to which he could respond. Finally, asked if he ever
violated any provision of Title 13 - Arizona's criminal code - Kaites
responded, ``not that I'm aware of.''

His answer, while true, was misleading: His press aide, Kim Harris,
later admitted Kaites, while in high school in Pennsylvania, tried
marijuana ``once,'' adding that ``he didn't like it.''

That is similar to what happened with Bill Clinton, when asked about
his own background, responding that he never violated the laws of this
country. Clinton later admitted he smoked marijuana overseas.

The TV commercial attacking McGovern began running as the campaign
enters its last week and Kaites finds himself trailing 20 percent to
32 percent.

Kaites admitted yesterday the polls played a role, pointing out that
nearly half of all Republicans have not yet made up their minds for
whom to vote. ``They have a right to know a history of Tom McGovern,''
he said.

McGovern was charged with possession of a weapon after police,
investigating a bar fight in which McGovern was not involved, found a
pellet gun in his trunk. The drug charge stems from marijuana residue
found in the ashtray of the vehicle he was driving, a car McGovern
said belonged to his brother.

Prosecutors subsequently dismissed the charges.

Despite that, Kaites said McGovern is still a criminal - just not a
convicted criminal.

The arrest, he said, is as pertinent to Tuesday's election as ``if
O.J. Simpson were standing before you running for attorney general,
even though he has been acquitted.''

Under intense questioning, Kaites said the arrest is not what is
relevant ``but how that person comes clean when discussing the arrest

McGovern conceded he never thought it necessary or appropriate to
disclose the arrest when he declared his candidacy last year. A
Phoenix-area newspaper wrote about his arrest in February.

McGovern's lead comes despite the fact that, as of mid-August - the
latest report available - Kaites had spent nearly $293,000 vs. about
$222,000 by McGovern.

The primary winner will face former U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano,
who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady