Young. Sharp. Good-looking. Republican Pat Gillis was a liberal's worst nightmare. At the tender age of 24, he ran for the Oregon statehouse in a lunch-bucket district on Portland's east side, and beat the incumbent Democrat by 2,500 votes.

It was 1984, the year Ronald Reagan annihilated Walter Mondale, and Democrats everywhere were drowning in the Republican riptide. With his relentless grin and his conservative message, Gillis seemed to personify the new generation of Reaganauts who were seizing the reins of power from the withered grasp of liberals, even in a tie-dyed town like Portland.

Then WW broke the news that Gillis had forged a letter of support from the AARP. A few weeks later, WW discovered that Gillis didn't have a master's degree from Lewis & Clark College, as he had claimed in the Voters' Pamphlet. It also turned out he'd played both sides of the fence on issues like property taxes and the Citizens' Utility Board, taking whichever position would appeal most to the crowd he was addressing.

Furious Democrats demanded that Gillis resign. No way. The letter from the AARP, he said, was based on genuine comments--he just changed the format. He honestly thought he had earned a degree from Lewis & Clark--he walked at graduation, after all, and received a diploma. The registrar's office just never told him he was a few credits shy.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian ran a photo of Gillis in the House chamber with his feet up on his desk. A retired Reed College math professor named Thomas Dennehy was so outraged by the photo that he mounted a recall drive and turfed Gillis out of office.

The first few years after that were tough. At one point, he worked at his parents' frozen-yogurt stand. Today, however, Gillis, 44, has clawed his way into respectability. He lives in Greenwich, Conn., and works for Leaders magazine, traveling the world interviewing international political and business leaders. He is married, the father of two young daughters. He wears bifocals. When WW caught up with him, he was just back from Belize and on his way to Yemen.

"I'm glad it happened the way it did," he told WW. "If that had not occurred, I never would have gone to the East Coast, never met Elizabeth, never been afforded the great opportunities I've had.

"Things happen for a reason--the good Lord has a plan."

Gillis has even managed to stay active in politics. Last year, he was elected to the representative town meeting of Greenwich.