In memory: Sam Steiger

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Five-term Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger passed away September 26th at the age of 83. Reporter Don Harris talks about Steiger, who may best be remembered for shooting a couple of burros.

Ted Simons; Sam Steiger, a five-term Republican Congressman from Arizona, passed away September 26th at the age of 83. Steiger held many elected offices in Arizona, but he may best be remembered for a shooting incident in 1975. It's something "Arizona Horizon" had a chance to ask him about over the years.

Video: In 1975 he shot two burrows he says were on the attack. A columnist report he shot them in the bump.

Sam Steiger: Bernie WYNN started that lie. Everybody bought the story. You can't kill a burrow shooting it in the Rajneesh end. I guarantee it. I dropped these two burrows as they were running at me. And I shot them in the head.

Sam Steiger: I could find the cure for cancer with this. They'd still remember me as the guy who shot burrow. I want to you know I haven't shot a burrow in two or three weeks.

Reporter: Were you in fact in real danger?

Sam Steiger: Of course I was in real danger or -- I wouldn't have slain the little beasts if I wasn't in real danger. What happened was there was 100 burrows terrorizing the neighborhood for about three years, and nobody was doing anything about it. They had been run off from so many people's gardens they were aggressive, and they learned they could intimidate people. And when they would run back at people the people would leave. I didn't leave when they ran at me.

Reporter: When asked what legacy he would like to leave, he answered just how you'd expect him to answer.

Sam Steiger: Not for shooting those damn burrows. I really don't dwell on that. I don't care. I really don't care. And I'm not being cavalier about it. I will be remembered for the painting the crosswalk or shooting the burrows, and that doesn't bother me.

Ted Simons: Joining me now to talk about Sam Steiger is Arizona capital times reporter Don Harris who years ago covered Steiger's career for "The Arizona Republic." It's good to see you again.

Don Harris: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Who was Sam Steiger?

Don Harris: He was funny, he was controversial, he was colorful. The best part of him, he was quotable. And he left us some great quotes. And you know, he was very likeable unless your name was John Conlan. John I don't think liked him too much.

Ted Simons: Talk about that. People will hear that -- every time there's a rough primary, oh, we gotta remember what happened in the '70s. What happened in the '70s?

Don Harris: Well, they didn't like each other. Period. And they were both congressman, both Republicans running for the senate domination. And Conlan threw out a phrase something about vote for me is a vote for Christianity. Well, Steiger was Jewish. And Goldwater jump in addition to that and basically said, you're throwing religion, anti-Semitism into this. That really colored the race quite a bit.

Ted Simons: And a bruising race to the point that the democrat wound up winning.

Don Harris: Well, yeah. And Steiger won by about 10,000 votes out of about 200,000. And, yes, DeConcini won. I had talked to people who thought the reason Steiger won was because he was more colorful and likeable. I did cover the very first debate between Steiger and DeConcini, and DeConcini made his opening remarks and they were typically bland I guess you could say. And he said he hoped that any animosity could be behind them, there would be no more name calling, let's focus on the issues. Sam got up and said, I agree with Dennis but I can't help it if he's a tool of organized labor.

Ted Simons: And off they went. We should note earned a purple heart in the Korean War, was decorated veteran. Obviously many years, a lawmaker for many years, and rode some highs, was part of the Mecham administration.

Don Harris: He was. He was part of that and will controversy followed Sam wherever he went. And he was accused of making a threatening telephone call to somebody on the board of pardons and paroles. And he -- I remember the quote distinctly, Sam said "that conversation never took place." A couple days later a tape recording of the conversation surfaced. And he was charged with extortion, eventually it was overturned.

Ted Simons: Also painted a crosswalk in downtown property, we talked about the shooting of the burrows there. The colorful character aspect. What is his political legacy and do we see -- we look on this program essentially we sometimes shake our heads at what politicians do. It seems like back in the old days there was a lot of that kind of stuff going on just folks speaking their mind and who cares what happens.

Don Harris: That's right. And Sam -- I believe Sam was quoted as saying he would always tell the truth, mostly, anyway, because if you lied, then you had to pay attention to what you said and he says I'm too lazy to remember. So I try to tell it the way it is.

Ted Simons: What about his political legacy? With a do you think?

Don Harris: He was an Arizonan even though he was born in New York. I think with just -- the fact he shot the burrows, there was kind after side light to that, he said he shot them because they were charging him but there were reports they were shot in their hind quarters.

Ted Simons: And he said you can't kill one if you shoot it in the highland quarters. It must have been a lot of fun covering something like this.

Don Harris: It was. There was a debate, DeConcini-Steiger debate in Yuma back before when it was shot around the state. So The Republic sent me out there to cover it. It was fairly calm. One of the panelists wanted Steiger to disclose his financial wherewithal, and he said, well, I won't tell you how much I've invested but I can tell you where, but I'm still not as wealthy as Dennis. One of the sidelights, this is a Yuma station, KVUL I believe it was. The station manager was the emcee, the moderator. Lou Dobbs.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Don Harris: So there's hope for people in small markets.

Ted Simons: And there's home for all of us I suppose. Thanks for having. We appreciate it.

Don Harris:Reporter;

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