Our Picks in Primary '06 

If you can't trust us, who can you trust?

What? Endorsements? But the primary election isn't until Sept 12!

Ah, but early voting begins today--Thursday, Aug. 10. (Funny how that sneaks up on you these days!) So we're making our '06 picks this week. Please note that these are primary endorsements; we'll be back with more for the Nov. 7 general election later this year.

The biggest race, of course, is the battle to replace retiring Congressman Jim Kolbe in Congressional District 8. But there's lots more: a Republican showdown in the governor's race, a Democratic showdown in the race for state school chief, and a whole bunch of legislative battles--which, because most districts are so lopsided, will settle those races, for all intents and purposes.

If you want to vote from home, the easiest way to get a ballot is to call the Pima County Recorder's Office at 740-4330. You can also order online.

By the way, if you're not registered to vote, you'd better do it soon. The deadline is this Monday, Aug. 14. Registration forms are available at most libraries, post offices and many government offices. For more info, the number again is 740-4330. The Recorder's Office, 115 N. Church Ave., will be open until midnight for you last-minute procrastinators.

Congress, District 8: Democrats

  • Gabrielle Giffords
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jeff Latas
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Francine Shacter
  • Patty Weiss

Democrat Gabrielle Giffords has always struck us as smart, hard-working and genuine. Since she was elected to the Arizona Legislature in 2000, she's learned to navigate the rough-and-tumble world of legislative politics and play a good game of defense in a GOP-dominated body. If Congress remains under Republican control in November, that experience will serve her well.

Giffords' environmental record is solid; just last year, the Sierra Club--which has endorsed her in this race--named her an all-star lawmaker for her opposition to lousy legislation. She's firmly pro-choice, having earned a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. And we're delighted to see that she got a zero on the scorecard of the right-wing religious cabal known as the Center for Arizona Policy.

We're not the only ones who have been impressed by her. With more than $800,000 raised since getting into the race, Giffords has shown she's got support from here to Washington, D.C. She's been endorsed by more than 15 unions, including the AFL-CIO, the Arizona Education Association, the Arizona Police Association, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, AZCOPS, AFSCME and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 99. She's got the support of EMILY's List, the Human Rights Campaign and Congressman Raul Grijalva.

In short, Gabrielle Giffords is backed by all the right people. We're happy to add our voice to theirs.

That's not to say that there aren't other good candidates in the race. Former newscaster Patty Weiss looks good on the stump and would make a formidable candidate going into the general election. And Jeff Latas, the anti-war Air Force vet, has a lot of great ideas.

But with the candidates so close on the issues, we're going with the one we know the best. Vote for Gabrielle Giffords in the Democratic primary.

Congress, District 8: Republicans

  • Frank Antenori
  • Randy Graf
  • Mike Hellon
  • Steve Huffman
  • Mike Jenkins

Sure, Republican Steve Huffman has a mediocre environmental record. And we certainly disagree with his promise to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Americans--particularly his goal of eliminating the estate tax--if he goes to Washington.

But we think that whatever conservative poses he adopts in the primary, Huffman is a political realist who has never been all that good at sucking up to the GOP's right wing. Huffman understands that sometimes taxes have to be raised. Witness, for example, how he led the way to support Pima County's decision to hike the sales tax for transportation earlier this year.

Huffman hasn't been one of those Republicans who shows a pandering interest in border issues. He's been much more interested in tax policy than sponsoring legislation to address the influx of illegal aliens in Arizona. And true to his business-friendly background, he hasn't pushed to punish companies that hire undocumented workers.

Huffman has supported abortion rights. In his 2004 legislative campaign, he was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that gave him a perfect score on its 2005 scorecard. Even the gay-rights organization Human Rights Fund said Huffman stood by them half of the time. And, hey, he's got the Jim Kolbe seal of approval, as well as backing from the GOP establishment--the Clicks, the Diamonds, the usual suspects.

Bottom line: Steve Huffman is the Tucson Weekly's kind of Republican--a country-club moderate.

Congress, District 7: Republicans

  • Ron Drake
  • Joe Sweeney

No endorsement

Sweeney? We don't think so. But former Avondale mayor Ron Drake doesn't have the stones to debate Sweeney, which makes him a pussy in our book. And neither one is going to beat Democratic incumbent Congressman Raul Grijalva in November.

Governor: Republicans

  • Don Goldwater
  • Mike Harris
  • Len Munsil
  • Gary Tupper

None of these guys really want our endorsement--and we really don't want to be living in a parallel reality in which the Arizona Legislature gets its way more often.

But if we must: We'll go with Gary Tupper, who seems to have the fewest bad ideas and thinks conservative ideals include keeping the government out of the bedroom.

Not that he has a prayer, mind you.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Democrats

  • Slade Mead
  • Jason Williams

Slade Mead registered as a Republican just before winning a seat in the state Senate in 2002. During his two years as a lawmaker, Mead was as RINO as you could get, becoming the primary obstacle to a lot of bad Republican ideas.

After losing his GOP primary after just one term, Slade found a new home in the Democratic Party. He's now facing teacher Jason Williams for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Tom Horne.

We're going with Slade, just because he drove the GOP caucus so crazy during his one term, and he has the political experience to run the office.

State Representative, District 25: Republicans

  • Jennifer Burns
  • Roger Condra
  • Gail Griffin

Lawmaker Jennifer Burns is an anomaly in the Arizona Legislature: a Republican who holds one of two House seats in a Democratic district. And don't tell anyone, but she's a lawyer and moderate lawmaker, at least compared to many of her colleagues in the GOP caucus, who have developed considerable hostility toward her.

Enter former lawmaker Gail Griffin, a Sierra Vista real-estate agent and GOP activist who rolls in a much more conservative way. Griffin is running because even though she probably can't win in November, she could capture enough Republican votes to knock out Burns.

So we're endorsing Burns and Roger Condra, a former Pima County appraiser who now teaches high school. We don't imagine it'll make much of a difference to Condra's lackluster campaign, but we're doing it for Jennifer's sake.

State Senate, District 26: Republicans

  • Toni Hellon
  • Al Melvin

As both candidates in the Republican primary for the Senate seat in District 26 will tell you, there's a world of difference between Toni Hellon and Al Melvin. Hellon, a three-term incumbent in the state Senate, supports abortion rights; Melvin opposes allowing women to have abortions. Hellon opposes vouchers for private schools; Melvin supports giving public dollars to private schools. Hellon opposes making local cops arrest illegal aliens; Melvin wants to see cops spending time arresting them so they can be deported.

Given that breakdown, we have to go with Toni Hellon, an experienced and reasonable lawmaker.

State Representative, District 26: Republicans

  • Pete Hershberger
  • David Jorgenson
  • Lisa Lovallo
  • Carol Somers

We're giving the nod to incumbent Rep. Pete Hershberger, a moderate lawmaker who believes in spending on education, child care and health care; and to Carol Somers, the former lawmaker who racked up an impressive pro-business record during her one term before redistricting left her without a seat.

We also like Republican newcomer Lisa Lovallo and hope she sticks around the political arena.

State Senate, District 28: Democrats

  • Paula Aboud
  • Ted Downing

This was a close call in the TW editorial board, but we eventually decided on Ted Downing. While he spends too much time grandstanding (and nearly cost Tucson as much as $600 million with his crusade against Rio Nuevo), Downing has championed good legislation during his four years in the House. He has been fighting to ensure the integrity of the voting booth, has taken up the cause of ex-convicts who would be easy to demonize and even pushed legislation to stiffen penalties against the reprehensible scum who kidnap dogs and force them to fight.

Paula Aboud, who was appointed to the Senate seat after Gabrielle Giffords resigned to run for Congress, has acquitted herself well during her first session in the Legislature. By all accounts, she's studied the issues carefully, built solid relationships across the aisles and voted conscientiously. We're going with experience in this race, but District 28 voters will win either way.

State Representative, District 28: Democrats

  • David Bradley
  • Steve Farley
  • Matt Heinz
  • Ted Prezelski

Incumbent Rep. David Bradley has done a very good job in his four years at the Legislature. He deserves a fourth term.

Rep. Ted Downing's decision to seek the Senate seat leaves the second House seat in District 28 open. We're going with Steve Farley, for the same reasons we endorsed him in last year's City Council race. Farley is a policy wonk who gives a lot of thought to the issues and comes up with imaginative solutions. And in his recent work with the Regional Transportation Authority, he showed he could work across the political aisle.

We also like the other two candidates. Ted Prezelski, brother of District 29 lawmaker Tom Prezelski, is a longtime Democratic activist who would do a good job at the Capitol, while newly minted physician Matt Heinz has brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to his first run for public office.

State Representative, District 29: Democrats

  • Betty Liggins
  • Linda Lopez
  • Tom Prezelski
  • Patricia Anne Puig

Experience matters, especially if you're a Southern Arizona Democrat in a GOP-controlled Legislature that often panders to Phoenix and its suburbs. You've got to know how to work the system and how to make a stand when operating from a position of weakness. Both Tom Prezelski and Linda Lopez have been fairly effective at doing so, and we can't think of any substantive reasons why they shouldn't be given another term.

The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club gave Prezelski an A in both 2004 and 2006, and he has consistently supported the positions of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters. Lopez, the House's assistant minority leader, has similar environmental credentials, as well as solid backing from Planned Parenthood and a history of support from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

Prezelski and Lopez have advocated for greater education spending--in a state where such spending often seems woefully inadequate--and were involved in extending the critically important Rio Nuevo tax district. In effect, they've followed through on their stated priorities.

"I think I've been pretty effective in advocating for Tucson," Prezelski said. "I've been very vocal about issues like local control, making sure that the decisions that affect our community aren't made in Phoenix--that they're made here in Tucson."

Liggins and Puig each have backgrounds in health care, and while it's commendable that they want to apply their practical experience in the field toward a political agenda, they don't stand out as compelling alternatives to the incumbents.

Interestingly, Puig expressed a desire to work with Prezelski, while Liggins confessed that she'd rather work with Lopez. Puig said Lopez rarely makes an appearance in the district, signaling to her that the assistant minority leader "has more important things to do." Liggins, on the other hand, said Prezelski, who in late June lodged an unsuccessful court challenge to get her knocked off the ballot, has "behavior problems." She was referring to an incident in which he allegedly stole a girlfriend's money, which in turn launched a fraud investigation that went nowhere.

Prezelski may have to make up a lot of ground if he wants an endorsement for "Boyfriend of the Year." However, he and Lopez are still safe bets for the Legislature.

State Representative, District 30: Republicans

  • Frank Callegari
  • David Gowan
  • Marian McClure
  • Jonathan Paton

Rep. Jonathan Paton has accomplished a lot for Southern Arizona in his first term. While many of his votes are too conservative for our tastes, we can't deny he's been an effective lawmaker in getting funding for both the University of Arizona and UA South in Sierra Vista; protecting the privacy of medical and cell-phone records; and crafting legislation that targets coyotes who smuggle illegal aliens across the border. Plus, we admire his decision to volunteer for Army service that will take him to Iraq for the next six months.

Rep. Marian McClure has been a voice of common sense in the GOP caucus. We particularly like how she's fought to rein in payday lenders, though there's still work to be done there.

Their challengers, Frank Callegari and David Gowan, don't seem to understand the problems facing Southern Arizona or the legislative process. Callegari's notion that state prisoners should be housed in tents is stone-age dumb. (Who's going to guard them?) And Gowan's tendency to blame all the problems of the state on illegal immigration is a simplistic approach that suggests he has a simple mind.

Vote for incumbent House members Jonathan Paton and Marian McClure.

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