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Arizonans Rocked By Symington Verdict

Reeling from scandal, state prepares to move on

PHOENIX (AllPolitics, Sep. 4) -- For the second time in a decade, Arizona voters are being rocked by ethical wrongdoing and resignation in the state's top political post.

"What we need is an honest governor in this state," groaned Tucson resident Fred Ortiz to The Associated Press. "Enough is enough. There's too much corruption."

Ortiz' comments followed Wednesday's stunning verdict in the fraud trial of Fife Symington, the two-term governor who must step down after a jury convicted him of lying to banks about his finances to obtain millions of dollars in real estate loans. His resignation will take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.

In the end, the combative and dogged Republican, who had faced years of investigations, was philosophical.

"Every once in a great while, there is salvation in surrender," he told reporters Wednesday. Fighting back tears, he said, "I have never been one to linger and I don't intend to start now."

In 1987, then-GOP governor Evan Mecham was impeached from Arizona's statehouse after charges were brought related to a campaign loan. However, Mecham was later acquitted.

Arizona's media was well-prepared for the state's renewed bout of political trauma. Two local papers, The Arizona Republic and The Tribune, cranked out extra editions.

"It is a major story and we have made a huge commitment throughout to cover it extensively and this was the culmination," Republic vice president Pam Johnson told AP.

Several afternoon papers delayed their closings to wait for the verdicts, which were read at 1:19 p.m. PT.

"That is the longest I have ever held off on a story," John Moeur, managing editor for the Sierra Vista Herald, told AP. "It was entirely too important."

Meanwhile, Arizona's Republican secretary of state, Jane Hull, prepared to assume Symington's duties.

"I want to reassure Arizonans that I will meet the challenge with great determination, enthusiasm and dedication," she said in a statement. "I am ready to get on with the business at hand."

A fifteen-year veteran of the Arizona legislature, Hull, 62, is reputed to be conservative yet pragmatic. She has indicated she will seek re-election when Symington's term expires next year.

After a 16 1/2-week trial, Symington was convicted on seven counts of bank fraud, and acquitted on three counts. The jury deadlocked on 11 other counts, on which the judge ruled a mistrial. Symington faces up to 165 years in prison and $6.25 million in fines, but is expected to serve just five to 15 years behind bars.

"I leave this office knowing that I have done my best," said a wistful Symington. (256K wav sound)

In Other News:

Thursday Sept. 4, 1997

Buddhist Nuns Admit Destroying Documents
Supreme Court Keeps Prop 209 In Force
Focus On Gore: Can He Survive The Heat?
Arizonans Rocked By Symington Verdict
Miami Voters Decide City's Fate
Congress To Dedicate Saturday To Diana

E-mail From Washington:
Reagan Also Made Fund-Raising Calls From White House
Congressional Dems Vow Slowdown

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