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  Gillespie, Jerry
CANDIDATE DETAILS
AffiliationRepublican   
NameJerry Gillespie
Address
Mesa, Arizona , United States
EmailNone
WebsiteNone
Born 00, 1951
Died 00, 2011 (60 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last Modifed00
Apr 14, 2011 08:03am
Tags Very Conservative - Disabled - Latter Day Saints (Mormon) -
Info But most people who knew Gillespie and served with him, including opponents and supporters alike, liked him and respected him for his convictions, his honor, his candor and his sincerity, whether they thought he was courageous or woefully misguided.

Gillespie died earlier this month at age 60. The cause of death was not disclosed. He served one two-year term in the state Senate representing northeast Mesa before he was defeated by former Congressman Matt Salmon.

Salmon and Gillespie both supported similar conservative ideals, with Salmon's support for the King holiday the main exception.

But the smooth, well-spoken Salmon stood in sharp contrast to the blunt, take no prisoners style of Gillespie. Salmon won a bitterly-fought Republican primary election in 1990 to sidetrack Gillespie's career.

"We didn't see eye to eye on some things, but the guy was a good-hearted man," Salmon recalled after Gillespie's death.

Gillespie had polio as a child, wore a brace and had a pronounced limp. But friends said he never complained about his physical problems and preserved through them.

Former Mesa legislator Karen Johnson said Gillespie was a staunch supporter of Mecham. She said his election to the state Senate in 1988 shocked Arizona's political establishment when he defeated Senate President Carl Kunasek in the wake of Mecham's impeachment.


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Controversial former Sen. Jerry Gillespie dies

by Jim Walsh - Apr. 11, 2011 05:36 PM
The Arizona Republic

More than 20 years later, the late state Sen. Jerry Gillespie's brief and controversial political career still looks, well, brief and controversial.

Gillespie was an ardent supporter of impeached Gov. Evan Mecham and opposed the Martin Luther King holiday. He worked for a former Green Beret presidential candidate who was linked to White Supremacists.

• Offer condolences

But most people who knew Gillespie and served with him, including opponents and supporters alike, liked him and respected him for his convictions, his honor, his candor and his sincerity, whether they thought he was courageous or woefully misguided.

Gillespie died earlier this month at age 60. The cause of death was not disclosed. He served one two-year term in the state Senate representing northeast Mesa before he was defeated by former Congressman Matt Salmon.

Salmon and Gillespie both supported similar conservative ideals, with Salmon's support for the King holiday the main exception.

But the smooth, well-spoken Salmon stood in sharp contrast to the blunt, take no prisoners style of Gillespie. Salmon won a bitterly-fought Republican primary election in 1990 to sidetrack Gillespie's career.

"We didn't see eye to eye on some things, but the guy was a good-hearted man," Salmon recalled after Gillespie's death.

Salmon concedes he was barely acquainted with Gillespie when he ran against him. He learned much more about him after the election, through a friendship between the two men's' daughters, and also through the love and admiration that Gillespie's children expressed at his funeral.

"I was thinking, if I knew (then what I know now), I wonder if I would have run against him," Salmon said.

After the election, Salmon said he agreed to fight for two of Gillespie's passions, the developmentally disabled and reform of state Child Protective Services.

Gillespie had polio as a child, wore a brace and had a pronounced limp. But friends said he never complained about his physical problems and preserved through them.

Former Mesa legislator Karen Johnson said Gillespie was a staunch supporter of Mecham. She said his election to the state Senate in 1988 shocked Arizona's political establishment when he defeated Senate President Carl Kunasek in the wake of Mecham's impeachment.

Gillespie never was accepted by much of Mesa's Republican establishment, however, with some people describing him as an embarrassment. When Salmon beat Gillespie, an Arizona Republic columnist praised Salmon, giving him kudos for his victory and describing Gillespie as a "destructionist."

But Johnson said she and Gillespie were allies.

"I thought he had a lot of courage," Johnson said, describing him as "a bull in a China shop" during his term in the Senate term. "He was a work horse. He was a bulldog."

Salmon, who eventually went on to serve in Congress, lost the governor's race to Janet Napolitano in 2002. He now operates Upstream Consulting, a lobbying firm with offices in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

Former House Speaker Mark Killian, also a Mesa Republican, said Gillespie was a flashback to conservatives from decades earlier who lived in less politically correct times. He put Gillespie in select company by comparing him to the late Ezra Taft Benson, a former president of the Mormon church, and the late Barry Goldwater, the legendary senator from Arizona who was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 Presidential election.

"We were all in the same boat but we used different oars," Killian said. "He was very direct and sometimes people took offense to that and others said 'that's cool.' You never had to guess where Jerry was on our issues."

Killian, now a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, said Gillespie never took himself very seriously.

"I would categorize him as a very happy person. He didn't tell a lot of jokes, but he was funny," Killian said.

Gillespie and Salmon agreed on virtually everything, but Salmon "would say the same thing with honey," Killian said. "Style is sometimes just as important as substance."

Retired Mesa politician Tom Freestone said both he and Gillespie were conservatives, but Freestone disagreed with Gillespie's hard-right politics.

"I think Jerry tried hard and did his best. He had a good heart on him," Freestone said. "I didn't always agree with his politics or approach."

While Gillespie remained affable and amiable even toward his political detractors, his name is often mentioned in connection with a dark side of American politics and frequently appears as a footnote in references to the militia movement and other fringe groups.

After he lost his Senate seat, Gillespie worked as the Arizona director for the 1992 presidential campaign of controversial former Green Beret Col. Bo Gritz, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a "Christian Identity" candidate with ties to White supremicist groups.

In 1994, Gillespie worked with Gritz in trying to launch an ill-fated Christian nation "covenant community" called Almost Heaven near Kamiah, Idaho. The community was to serve as a vanguard for likeminded patriots making a stand against the "New World Order."

News reports at the time described Gillespie as business partner or a business manager of Almost Heaven.

"There's no evil intent, as many people would like to believe," he told the Associated Press in 1994. "I'm bringing my family up there and I intend to make it my home."

Another article describes how Gillespie moved his his wife and five children there and lived in a three-story log home.

However Gillespie and Gritz had a falling out in 1997 over land dealings, and Gillespie returned to Mesa. Almost Heaven eventually fell apart, and Gillespie later testified against Gritz in a kidnapping case stemming from a child custody feud.

While quiet on the political front later in life, Gillespie continued to advocate for conservative causes and toward the end of his life aligned himself with the Tea Party movement.

Gillespie ran a central Mesa insurance office, Gillespie Insurance Services, with his daughters helping him, according to his Web site. He started as a Farmer's Insurance agent but later worked as an independent agent.

Mary Gillespie, his wife, served on the Mesa Public Schools governing board.




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  05/05/1992 Mesa, AZ City Council At Large Lost 12.71% (-8.91%)
  03/31/1992 Mesa, AZ City Council At Large Primary Won 9.57% (-5.29%)
  11/08/1988 AZ State Senate 21 Won 52.59% (+5.19%)
ENDORSEMENTS
AZ US President - Nov 03, 1992 AFP James "Bo" Gritz