District 25's Rudy Giuliani

Sudan campaigns for Congress amid connubial carnage

D uring his successful primary run against opponent Tom Reiser for the Republican nomination in Houston's 25th Congressional District two months ago, political newcomer Phillip P. Sudan Jr. blitzed local TV with a painfully corny ad designed to introduce the candidate to the electorate on the basis of what he is not.

As a pair of yokels pointed to a map of Africa, the voice tag proclaimed "Not the Africa Sudan!" Then came a drawing of a car. "Not your parent's sedan!" Then stick images of a man and woman. "Not Sue and Dan!"

Along the same lines, the 48-year-old attorney might want to take the divorce papers involving his first and second marriages and fashion a similar campaign pitch for use against Democratic incumbent Ken Bentsen this fall. Sudan's marital and family problems make New York City Mayor and Senate campaign dropout Rudy Giuliani's travails seem downright saccharine. After all, Rudy's significant others have never accused him of the tawdry laundry list contained in first wife Maggie R. Mackenzie's latest pleading in her continuing dispute with Sudan over the financial fallout from their divorce.

The Sudan family: Not quite Father Knows Best material.
The Sudan family: Not quite Father Knows Best material.

(Phil got some help from GOP jurist Eva Guzman, a Bush appointee, late last Friday. In a short ruling without explanation, Guzman dismissed most of Mackenzie's financial claims and scheduled a trial June 19 to decide attorney's fees and remaining issues. Mackenzie's attorneys say they will appeal.)

As for Sudan's political ads, imagine a stick figure drawing of a successful attorney frolicking with his receptionist in the family home's marital bed while the wife and two kids are away, an alleged situation that helped precipitate the couple's 1993 breakup. The voice on the imaginary ad could intone "Not the adulterous Sudan!"

Then there's the 1998 phone call where Sudan informs his ex-wife that he will no longer pay alimony and child support as agreed in their court settlement. Under pressure, the ex-wife signs an agreement to a one-time payment of $30,000 that she later renounces. "Not the brow-beating Sudan!"

Now focus on the divorce petition Sudan filed last year against current wife Tracy, citing personality conflicts, only to drop it shortly before mounting his race for Congress. "Not the unstable, politically expedient Sudan!"

How about this touching scene: Sudan allegedly drops Carly at Maggie's Houston house three months ago, with only the clothes on her back. He reportedly refuses to allow her to pick up her possessions, including stuffed animals, that are at his home. According to Maggie, he was angry that Carly would not stay away from her. "Not the heartless Sudan!"

Cut to a close-up of the candidate's pricey campaign headquarters in the Rice University area's Village shopping center. Then spotlight a raft of personal checks for his largely self-financed campaign.

In his latest Federal Election Commission report April 1 Sudan lists a piddling $6,846 in contributions from supporters while he lent his campaign $1.2 million in personal funds. (Phil, by the way, instructed campaign staff not to bother using his closest friends as sources for campaign donations, since he could carry the load himself.) The announcer's tagline: "Not the spendthrift Sudan!

Then, as in the first ad, a smiling, smooth-talking Phil takes front-and-center on camera to proclaim who he really is. For that he can use a script based on his own court pleadings against Maggie.

"Hi, I'm Phil Sudan, the victim of a greedy, vindictive ex-wife who is desperate for money. Don't award her a cent, but do give me your vote! After all, I've worked for some of the most admired Houstonians of our time as a lawyer, including NFL Oilers-turned-Titans owner Bud Adams and the Coastal Corporation of Saddam Hussein-schmoozing Oscar Wyatt. They loved me, you will too."

Then a pregnant pause. "In my court filings, I've issued a blanket denial of all those lies she's told about me. But even if there is a grain of truth in any of them, look at the positive side.

"Don't you want a congressman who can go to the United Nations and say, 'forget all our financial commitments? Take a onetime payment of $30 million, or we'll condemn that East River shack you occupy and bounce you out of the country right now, treaties be damned.'

"Do you really think Elian Gonzalez would go back to Cuba if we just stacked up his favorite clothes and stuffed animals outside the Wye River plantation and kept waving them at him?

"And what's the real solution to campaign finance reform? Simply make all aspiring politicians use only their own money to run for office. Why worry about soft money when you've got your own hard cash? Be your own special-interest group!"

Then Sudan can close with a quote from his campaign brochure blurb, contributed by Tracy shortly after she and hubbie dropped the dueling divorce petitions against each other last summer.

"When Phil shared with me that he was interested in running for Congress, I assured him he had my full support. Phil is a compassionate, dedicated man of integrity. He is an adoring husband and father. I know the citizens of the 25th District will be as proud of him as we are."

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