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Culling The Herd 

Your quickie guide to the September 10 primary election

If you're like two-thirds of the registered voters out there, you've got better things to do than participate in next week's primary election, so you can now go back to looking for love (or whatever) in the Uncensored section while you sip espresso at Epic Café.

But for those of you who care, we've put together this insightful look at those ambitious men and women so eager to serve us in Washington, the state Capitol and right here at home.

The ground rules are the same as always: If you haven't already voted in the comfort of your home, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. County officials have scrambled the polling places, so you might want to call 740-4330 to find out where you're supposed to cast your vote. If you've filled out an early ballot but haven't mailed it, drop it off at any polling place if you want it to be counted.


Congressional District 7 Democratic primary

JESUS, IS THIS A CL*STERF*CK or what? Eight Democrats are grabbing for the big brass ring of the southern Arizona's new congressional seat.

This one is boiling down to a race between former Pima County Supervisor Raúl Grijalva and state Sen. Elaine Richardson. It's Grijalva's ground war vs. Richardson's air war--Grijalva has troops, from unions to greens to the Pima County Interfaith Council, canvassing neighborhoods, while Richardson has raised more than a half-million bucks to put her mug out on the TV screen. Her most recent ad busts on Grijalva for voting in favor of granting a political contributor's firm a $3 million contract to count Pima County's manhole covers; but then again, Richardson is the one who gave away more than $100 million with her vote in support of the state's infamous alt-fuel debacle. Decisions, decisions.

The rest of the candidates--former state senators Jaime Gutierrez and Luis Gonzales, civil-rights attorney Jesus Romo, former state party boss Mark Fleisher, Yuma flight attendant Lisa Otondo, and political neophyte Sherry Smith--are fighting for a chance to finish third to eighth. The local parlor games have lately centered on a wager over which candidates will fill out the bottom four; at this point, our money is on Romo, Otondo, Fleisher and Smith.


Congressional District 7 Republican Primary

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE are actually three Republicans battling for the chance to get an ass-whuppin' this November in this heavily Democratic district. (A fourth, political suck-up Al Piña, recognized the futility of the whole thing and dropped out a few weeks ago, although his name remains on the ballot.) Former Yuma Mayor Ross Hieb, businesswoman Lori Lustig and perennial candidate Joe Sweeney are duking it out. Make your own call on this one, but we wouldn't surprised to see Sweeney, who at least has some name ID, grab second place.


Congressional District 8 Republican Primary

CONGRESSMAN JIM Kolbe is seeking a 10th term this year, but he has to be past Jim Behnke first. Behnke recently recounted Kolbe's many flaws on John C. Scott's radiofiesta, then concluded by saying: "I don't know what he thinks he can do to change his record in the next three weeks." Somehow, we get the feeling that Kolbe's not sweating it out.

The winner--that is, Kolbe--will face Democrat Mary Judge Ryan in the November general election.


County Board, District 5 Democratic Primary

WITH RAÚL GRIJALVA OFF and running for a congressional seat, two Democrats are fighting over the chance to succeed him. Richard Elias, appointed to the District 5 seat, has wrapped himself in Grijalva's coattails and promised to carry on his predecessor's legacy of neighborhood reinvestment and environmental protection. He demonstrated his commitment early in the campaign when he told the political animals at the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association to bug off when they invited him in for an endorsement interview.

Opponent Frank Felix, a former state senator who has worked a variety of administrative jobs at the UA, says Elias will carry on another Grijalva tradition: the dishing of pork to campaign contributors. He says the county needs major reform to regain credibility with the voters, not to mention the local editorial pages. That message is being driven home with the help of a number of nearly anonymous hit pieces that have begun to land in mailboxes this week.

This one comes down to trust. Do you trust Felix to say no to his Growth Lobby campaign sponsors when they come looking for payback? Or do you trust Elias to resist Pima County's insider-trading culture? We trust Pima County will continue to generate plenty of material for us no matter who wins this race.


Governor Democratic Primary

THIS RACE HAS BELONGED TO Attorney General Janet Napolitano from day one. The only Democrat to win a statewide race since 1992, Napolitano has shored up core Democratic constituencies--labor, environmentalists, teachers, Baptists--while positioning herself smack dab in the middle of the road for the general election.

Her biggest challenge has come from Alfredo Gutierrez, a former hell-raising lawmaker-turned-lobbyist who has done a left-wing soft-shoe all summer, hammering Napolitano as a sell-out and failed leader. That strategy has him winning a whopping 20 percent of the Democratic vote in the most recent poll done by the Arizona Republic. Just think what he could do in the general!

But Alfredo's doing better than Tucson doctor/lawyer/political activist Mark Osterloh, whose campaign has chiefly served to discredit his own primary conviction. As one of the great minds behind the state's Clean Elections program, Osterloh has maintained that giving all candidates equal amounts of money would drive out special interests and allow voters to make better decisions--namely, picking guys like him. But, even though he's had the same amount of money as Napolitano--somewhere around $410,000--he'll still be lucky to break double digits on election day.

Maybe the problem is the built-in name recognition that incumbent politicians have. Here's an idea for a new initiative: How about forcing candidates to run under assumed names, like Mr. Brown or Ms. Blue? Can't you hear the argument over who has to be Mr. Pink?

Or maybe we could use the same criteria they used for the Independent Redistricting Commission: Nobody who has had any involvement in politics in the last three years is eligible to run. That'll take the politics out of politics! Sorry, Osterloh, but under that scenario, even you can't run.

Speaking of Clean Elections, did you all get your "Vote for Arizona!" pamphlet in the mail last month? To help your sort through candidates, it contained brief statements from the candidates themselves about why they should be elected: education funding, blah, blah, blah, healthcare, blah, blah, blah, leadership, yada yada yada. Here's a tip to candidates for next season's edition: if you're going to stress your support for education, try writing in complete sentences. That means both nouns and verbs.

We almost forgot: There's one other Democrat in the gubernatorial primary, at least technically. Mike Newcomb, a 37-year-old physician, figures he's ready for the top job after working on two losing campaigns in the last two years. Newcomb says this is no vanity campaign--it's not about him, but the ideas he brings to the debate. It would be a more compelling argument if he would only say something that the other challengers haven't. Newcomb failed to collect the necessary 4,000 $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding, saving the state about $410,000. Still, he may finish ahead of Osterloh.


Governor Republican Primary

FORMER CONGRESSMAN MATT Salmon has held a lead throughout the campaign. Salmon, who has been plotting his gubernatorial run since he came home from Washington in 2000, promises to balance Arizona's teetering budget and to veto all tax increases. He's going to cut the fat in state government and has even dedicated a watchdog portion of his website to exposing waste. His only problem is actually finding the waste; he's yet to identify a single example beyond the alt-fuel debacle engineered by his East Valley pals. (Salmon himself ordered an alt-fuel vehicle, although he canceled it once he realized the political cost outweighed the potential vehicular savings.)

His strongest opponent, Betsey Bayless, is a competent government administrator who has grabbed the endorsements of most of the state's big newspapers, which equals the kiss of death in a GOP primary. Still, recent polls showed that almost half the Republicans surveyed still hadn't made up their minds, so Bayless must have as good a chance as Alfredo does.

The same can't be said for State Treasurer Carol Springer, a former state lawmaker from Prescott who, in the face of the state's budget woes, offered her trademark schoolmarm scolding about limiting the role of government. Springer flapped her arms a lot, but her campaign never left the ground. It didn't help that she couldn't manage to qualify for Clean Elections until after early voting had started a month ago. How could a savvy political veteran take so long to qualify? Mark Osterloh did it way back in May.


Attorney General Republican Primary

IT'S ANOTHER GOP THREE-WAY (and doesn't that sound hot and sexy!) in the race to become the state's top lawyer. Just as the 1998 AG contest did, this race has turned into the nastiest race on the ticket. What is it with these Republican lawyers?

Former Arizona Senate President John Greene nearly got tossed off the ballot by the Citizens Clean Elections Commissions because he neglected to file his finance reports, but ended up just paying a $10,000 fine. Although Greene's campaign blamed the mess on some "old lady working the books," the blunder led the Arizona Republic to actually un-endorse him. That could be a real problem if Republicans listened to the Republic's editorial page.

The Republic endorsement went instead to Foster Robberson, the Lewis & Roca attorney who's played the outsider card. Although he wants to be the state's top law-enforcement officer, Robberson has his own contempt for the law, at least in these parts: he's erected his campaign willy-nilly across Pima County, in violation of sign codes. When one campaign worker pointed out that some were illegal, Robberson replied with contempt: "Let 'em sue me." That must be how they say, "Let them eat cake" up in Maricopa County.

Then there's Andrew Thomas, the self-proclaimed "true conservative" in the race. That principled position hasn't stopped him from accepting political welfare from Clean Elections, which he has used to mail out a nasty hit piece hammering his opponents for their links to abortionists, sex offenders, homosexuals and--God save us all--liberals. A former staffer at the AG's office, Thomas complains that Arizona's soft laws on child molestation only call for lengthy mandatory prison terms and lifelong registration that posts the location of sex offenders on the Internet.

Thomas has also proposed drafting citizens to walk neighborhood streets as vigilante patrols. We're not sure what Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio thinks of Thomas tryinjg to infringe on his citizen's posse with an AG sturmabteilung. Admit it: doesn't Thomas kinda remind you of Rolf from The Sound of Music?

Vote for whoever you want. We'll be voting for that dirty rotten liberal Democrat Terry Goddard in November.


Secretary of State Republican Primary

HERE'S A RACE WHERE ALL three candidates are running under the Clean Elections program. As a result, none of them have nearly enough money to build their name ID, leaving some 66 percent of high-propensity voters undecided, according to a recent poll by Phoenix PBS affiliate KAET-TV.

If we were going to unendorse anyone this year, it would have to be Jan Brewer, a former Maricopa County supervisor and state lawmaker who has been dogged by scandal since before the race began. During last year's World Series, Brewer grabbed the tickets to the county's luxury box, which normally would have been auctioned off to raise funds for the United Way. County officials tried to justify the snatch by saying that the World Series was not a Major League Baseball event. What about the children, Jan?

After Brewer launched her SOS campaign, she ran into more trouble from her neighbors down in Rocky Point, Mexico, where her family owns a condo in the seaside Las Conchas development. Las Conchas association leaders said she hadn't paid some $14,201 in dues that cover trash collection and road upkeep. Brewer contends that a Mexican court said she didn't have to pay the dues, conveniently ignoring the fact that other members of the seaside community cough up their fair share. Is this someone we want a heartbeat away from the governor's office?

Then there's Sal Diciccio, a former Phoenix city councilman who has been on the attack against Brewer. Sal's most memorable radio ad has a guy who sounds like Richard Nixon scheming with Brewer to raise taxes. Does that kind of amateurish shtick work? God, we hope not.

With these two pounding on each other, we're rooting for local gal Sharon Collins, a onetime GOP mayoral candidate who most recently worked for Gov. Jane Dee Hull's southern Arizona office. She's bright and has worked her ass off; besides, the other candidates in the race really suck.

The winner will face Democrat Chris Cummiskey in November.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Republican Primary

INCUMBENT STATE Superintendent Jaime Molera, appointed to the office by Gov. Jane Dee Hull after Lisa Graham Keegan quit to go to work for an education think-tank, is a darling of the Republican Party, and not just because he's bright and ambitious. In case you hadn't noticed, he also Hispanic--which happens to be the rapidly growing ethnic slice being courted so frantically by GOP. Molera has the GOP establishment on his side and has even traveled to the White House to get down with homie-in-chief George W.

But his chief opponent, Paradise Valley lawyer Tom Horne, doesn't seem to have gotten the memo about big-tent inclusiveness. He's poured nearly a half-million bucks of his own money into a bid to unseat Molera, spending nearly all of it on a negative campaign accusing Molera of failing to institute the state's ban bilingual education passed by voters two years ago.

Horne's demagoguery on the issue was exposed as appalling hypocrisy when Molera pointed out that the Paradise Valley School District, where Horne has been a school board member for nearly a quarter-century, had a higher-than-state-average percentage of students seeking waivers. A few days later--and just a few days before the start of the school year--the program was suddenly dismantled. Coincidence? Perhaps...but we still think Horne is a bad, bad man exploiting children to further his political ambitions. Don't vote for him under any circumstances.

We think Keith Bee, a former state senator from eastside Tucson, is also in the race. If anyone spots him, please give us a call.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Democratic Primary

ROD RICH. JAY BLANCHARD. Who cares?


Corporation Commission, Seat 1, Republican Primary

THIS ONE PITS INCUMBENT Jim Irvin, who has spent far too much of his six years on the commission dodging indictment, against bright Republican lawmaker Roberta Voss. Given that she's yet to come under federal investigation, she's our pick.

The winner will face Democrat James Walsh in November.


Corporation Commission, Seats 2 and 3

VOTERS EXPANDED THE Corporation Commission two years ago, so politicians are naturally rushing in to fill the void. Three Republicans, all former or current lawmakers, are vying for two seats: Jim Buster, Lowell "Mike" Gleason and Jeff Hatch-Miller. Buster's big claim to fame was a long list of anti-environment legislation, so he's naturally the lobbyist for the Department of Environmental Quality these days. Gleason and Hatch-Miller have no claim to fame. Choose and lose!

The two winners will face Democrats George Cunningham and Roland James.


State Treasurer Republican Primary

IT'S NOT LIKE ANYBODY CARES about a lower-tier office like State Treasurer, but there are two Republicans duking it out: Richard Petrenka, a longtime staffer in the Treasurer's Office, is facing state Sen. David Petersen.

Petrenka has 14 years of experience in the office and the endorsement of nearly every county treasurer in the state. Petersen is a lawmaker from Maricopa's East Valley who says the state treasurer should monitor every piece of legislation to make sure the alt-fuel disaster is never repeated. One little flaw: Petersen himself voted for alt-fuels, as did most of the East Valley Kool-Aid drinkers, including Rep. Jeff Groscost, who created the program. If he was too dumb to see problems with it as a lawmaker, why should we think he would do any better as treasurer?

For this office, we'll take the guy with the green eyeshade over a political opportunist who needs a baby-sitter. Consider this an un-endorsement for Petersen. Vote Petrenka.

The winner will face state Sen. Ruth Solomon in the November general.


State Legislature

District 26, State House Republican Primary

DISTRICT 26, WHICH includes the Catalina Foothills and the Oro Valley, has four Republicans seeking two seats in the state House of Representatives. Three of them, Carol Somers, Pete Hershberger and Steve Huffman, are already serving in the House, but ended up in the same district thanks to the new legislative lines that were approved earlier this year.

Somers has worked hard through her freshman term, although the redistricting dumped her into a district where voters are more familiar with her opponents, Hershberger and Huffman. Hershberger, whose mother and father both served in the Legislature, has a legacy thing going, while Huffman, a local real-estate sharpie, has a tendency to fire off nasty negatives just before election day. Must have learned that while earning that Eagle Scout badge.

The fourth candidate, Stuart Watkins, is a political newcomer who has no chance of winning office. But Watkins has qualified for Clean Elections funds, so he's had money to pay for a campaign, which has revolved mostly around handing out wooden nickels with his name on 'em and mailing out postcards decorated with his vacation snapshots and rambling messages about increasing education spending. With all the incumbents spending lots of privately raised funds for their re-election campaigns, Watkins has gotten more than $37,000 in matching funds. That's a lot of wooden nickels.


District 27, State Senate Democratic Primary

THE OLD SLY POLITICAL FOX John Kromko is back, seeking a return to the state Legislature where he served from 1976 to 1992, when he stepped down to challenge Ed Moore for the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Kromko is on quite the comeback trail; earlier this year, he led the effort to squash the city's proposed half-cent sales tax hike. Now that the ban on running for office has been lifted--he got into some hot water over campaign-finance filing irregularities during a Justice of the Peace run in 1996--he's ready to serve us again in Phoenix.

He's facing Jorge Garcia, a decent enough fella who grabbed Kromko's House seat after his departure, serving two terms until he decided to move up to the state Senate in 1996. Unfortunately for him, that was the same year Elaine Richardson decided to move up. Just like in Highlander, there can only be one--and it wasn't Jorge. It probably won't be this time, either.


District 27, State House Democratic Primary

IN DISTRICT 27, WHERE NO incumbent is on the ballot, we've got a whole crew of losers who have failed in their previous attempts to win local office.

Olivia Cajero-Bedford, who lost her House bid two years ago, has royal blood; her mother, Carmen Cajero, served in the Legislature for a couple of decades, so Olivia must have some qualifications herself. Right?

Jesse George served in the Texas Legislature before moving to Arizona and has chaired the county branch of the Democratic Party. He lost a race for county treasurer two years ago.

Sally Ann Gonzales represented most of the area in the Legislature until two years ago, when she lost her campaign to move up to the state Senate to Ramon Valadez. Now she wants the House seat back.

Peter Hormel, who ran for county attorney on the Green ticket two years ago, has changed his stripes to a Democrat. An attorney in the county's indigent defense department, Hormel is bright rising star, which probably dooms his effort.

Phil Lopes is a longtime Democrat who lost his House race sometime back in Jurassic era.

Val Romero, a barbecue system salesman who works as a part-time DJ, loses a race just about every election season; he's run for mayor, Tucson City Council and the Legislature. His most remarkable suggestion was revitalizing downtown by building a football stadium so the Arizona Cardinals could play an exhibition game. (At the rate the stadium site selection is going in Maricopa County, perhaps the team could relocate here for the regular season.) Don't feel bad if you decide not to vote for Romero--we're sure you'll get another chance next year.


District 28, State House Democratic Primary

MIDTOWN DISTRICT 28, A Democratic stronghold, is the land of the retread. Three of the five candidates have sought to ascend the Olympian heights of Mount Capitol in the past, only to tumble to defeat.

Dave Bradley might just make it to the top this time. The director of La Paloma Family Services, he's continued to expand his political network, but may face some resentment for abandoning his job as chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party just as the campaign season was getting underway.

Ted Downing won the Democratic primary in his campaign for the House two years ago, only to lose in the general in a district that was evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The goofy UA prof is banking on his relatively decent name ID in the new district to carry him to the top.

UA law school grad Sam Ramirez lost a House bid four years ago as a Republican, but has changed his political stripes for this year's campaign.

Joe Pyritz, a former KGUN news cameraman/sports guy, made a good career move by becoming a press flack for Pinal County. Now he's made a bad career move by jumping into a race for the state Legislature.

And then there's Bruce Friedemann (CIA KILLED JFK!), best known wandering the UA area in a dress and putting up conspiracy-laden flyers (THE HOLOCAUST NEVER HAPPENED!) He promises to represent the people of District 28 (GOVERNMENT COVER-UP!) in finding the answers to questions that everyone else is afraid to ask (TRUST NO ONE!). The truth is indeed out there.

The winner will face Republican Ed Poelstra in November.

More by Jim Nintzel

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