Yes, even as the Hillary-Obama smackdown comes to an end, the local political season is just beginning.
While Republican John McCain is a pretty good bet to win Arizona's presidential votes, there are other questions yet to be answered: Can Republican Senate President Tim Bee beat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? Can political gadfly John Kromko reverse a long losing streak at the ballot box to return to the state House of Representatives? Can Republican Al Melvin take out Pete Hershberger in the Legislative District 26 Senate race? Is Joe Sweeney really running for Congress again?
If you're like most people, hearing those questions probably makes you wonder one thing: Who the hell are these people, and why do they keep sending me mail?
Don't worry: We're here to help.
This ol'-fashioned paper edition you're holding in your hands features a quick rundown of the congressional, legislative and local candidates running here in Southern Arizona.
But you may not want to hang on to this copy of the Weekly until November--and unless we're mistaken, a lot will happen between now and then.
So we've got something exciting for you: As part of our ongoing experiments in Way-New Journalism, we've launched an election Web site packed with expanded biographies of the candidates, breaking news from the campaign trail and links to all the Web sites you'll need to follow this year's races.
ScrambleWatch.com will feature up-to-the-minute news, analysis and--of course--that dirty gossip about the campaigns. And through the magic of blogging, you can join the fray!
Before you dig in, a few notes:
• The deadline to register to vote in the Sept. 2 primary is Aug. 4. Early voting begins July 31.
• You're also going to have a long list of ballot propositions to consider for the Nov. 4 general election, but the filing deadline for initiatives isn't until July 3. We'll be back with ScrambleWatch '08: PropWatch next month.
• Finally, credits: ScrambleWatch '08 is being produced by TW staffers Jim Nintzel and Mari Herreras; TW interns Josh Garvey, Claire Engelken and Kate Saavedra; and UA journalism students Taylor Avey, Aleksa Brown, Veronica Cruz, Megan Neighbor, Hank Stephenson and Lindsey Turner.
Giffords, who won the CD8 seat two years ago by 12 percentage points over Republican Randy Graf, faces a more moderate Republican in Bee, who is completing his fourth term in the Legislature.
Giffords has now had two years to establish her credentials in the district. She's made a point of working the political circuit back home when she's not in Washington.
She's also been one of the top freshman lawmakers when it comes to fundraising; at the end of March, Giffords had raised more than $1.9 million and still had $1.6 million in the bank--a significantly bigger haul than Bee's $752,000. (Bee still had $525K on hand at the end of the first quarter.)
But CD8 leans Republican, and the GOP is determined to take it back. In Bee, they have a candidate who has never lost in an election in Southern Arizona.
Overall, both lawmakers have fairly moderate records, although they have their differences on plenty of issues, such as abortion, free trade and ... well, we're sure there are other areas where they disagree, even if both will do their best to avoid taking too many stands that might possibly offend the moderate middle both will be targeting.
Voters can expect Giffords and Bee--who were schoolmates at Emily Gray Junior High back in the day--to remain civil to one another on the campaign trail.
But the candidates themselves will be overshadowed by the negative campaigns ginned up by the political parties and independent campaign committees. Between now and Election Day, look for Giffords to be painted as a leftist lackey of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while Bee is portrayed as a conservative clone of George W. Bush.
Nonetheless, two Republicans are battling for the chance to take on Grijalva: perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, whose whacked-out racist and anti-Semitic rants have the local GOP all but disowning him, and Gene Chewning, a local preacher who was clobbered in a 2006 campaign for the Arizona Legislature.
It's been a heck of a year for the Pima County Board of Supervisors, what with dealing with a long legal battle with the Pima County Democratic Party over the release of election databases, ongoing budget battles and even a lawsuit with Marana for control of a sewer-system plant.
In their most recent election cycle four years ago, these supervisors faced--at best--token challenges. But this year, Ann Day, Richard Elías and Sharon Bronson face fights to hang on to their seats.
Higgins admits he has no political experience compared to Day, who served in the state Senate before winning her board seat eight years ago. Higgins' background is in small business--as owner of the Sports Buzz Cuts chain, for example--as well as civic volunteer work.
Higgins says he was approached by other small-business owners who encouraged him to seek Day's office. He says his perspectives as a small-business owner influences his platform, as well as his volunteer work on Tucson's Small Business Commission, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) and with Catholic Community Services.
"I'm concerned how county policies have an impact on our working poor," says Higgins, who criticizes Day for supporting a proposed county sales-tax increase last year that was blocked by Supervisor Ray Carroll.
Day says she still has work to do for her district and the county. She says she's proud of working on such projects as the Regional Transportation Authority, and her current work on lowering property tax rates.
Water is the next big issue Day says she wants to be involved in by helping to create a water authority between Tucson and the county.
"When I first came on the board, I helped work to change the culture of Pima County," Day says. "It was a closed system, but I think we realize that when it comes to creating a water authority, we need to do it together."
The Sahuarita resident has no experience, but says he's in the race to win, even though he's facing Ramón Valadez, who has more than a decade of experience.
Valadez was appointed to his position in 2003 to fill Dan Eckstrom's political shoes. Valadez, a loyal soldier in Eckstrom's political machine, had built his political résumé by representing Tucson's southside in the Arizona Legislature and working for Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Robuck doesn't have those kinds of political roots. He moved to Sahuarita in 2003 and is an active opponent of Augusta Resource Corporation's proposed Rosemont mine. He told the Tucson Weekly that when he and several neighbors discovered their water wells were temporarily depleted after Augusta drilled for water on nearby property, he knew he needed to challenge the mine.
When he discovered the county did not require Augusta to do a hydrology study, and his calls to the county went unanswered, he thought running against Valadez was a good way to get his concerns addressed.
Valadez argues that the county has been the loudest voice against the mining operation and has worked to get the company to do a hydrology study. Much of this revolves around what he says is the biggest issue the region faces: water. He says dealing with that issue will be among the biggest challenges facing supervisors in upcoming years.
"It is not land that is going to drive growth, but water, or the lack there of," Valadez says. "I look forward to trying to find some creative solutions that allow us to be a sustainable community."
The Democratic challenger in the primary is no newcomer to local politics. Donna Branch-Gilby is past chair of the Pima County Democratic Party and most recently served as first vice-chair of the Arizona State Democratic Party.
Branch-Gilby was also active in the local Democratic Party's election-integrity battle with the county, and she accuses Bronson of being an obstructionist in her votes to keep voting database files from the party.
"I was and continue to be concerned about the board's undemocratic behavior. As a group, the board wasted time and money to keep election records closed. Sharon Bronson's actions were particularly troubling. She led in virtually every obstructionist move the board made throughout the process," Branch-Gilby writes on her campaign Web site.
While Bronson's GOP challenger has also been a vocal critic regarding election integrity, his focus is on budget and road infrastructure. Barney Brenner also happens to be a familiar opponent. The retired business owner took Bronson on in 2000. He intended to run against Bronson in 2004, but never filed. This time, Brenner says he's out to challenge Bronson on road-infrastructure issues and the county budget.
Brenner says he's followed several county road crews and discovered that some aren't repairing potholes correctly, causing the county to spend more money repairing roads than it should.
"These issues transcend party politics," Brenner says regarding his platform. "The county is misspending your county tax dollars and mine."
Regarding election-integrity issues, Bronson defends her voting record, and says the board had no choice under the Arizona Revised Statutes to force the issue to go to court.
"We had to obey the law," Bronson says. "And the secretary of state had said (the database files are) not public records."
Bronson says she is gearing up for campaign mode and is eager to reflect on her years in office. One success immediately comes to mind, she says--the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
"I was a key supporter," she says. "As we continue the process of implementing the plan and go further, that excites me."
Alvarez will face Republican Mary Ann Black in the November general. Black, a real-estate broker who has been active in Republican politics in the Sierra Vista area, lost to Arzberger by 15 percentage points in the 2006 general election.
With Alvarez making his play for the Senate seat and Burns retiring, there are two open House seats in LD25. Democrats hope to pick up a seat as part of their quest to take control of the Arizona House of Representatives.
The Democrats are fielding Patricia Fleming, who lost a 2006 bid for the office, and Richard Boyer, who lost a 2006 campaign for the Arizona Corporation Commission.
The two Democrats will face Republican David Stevens, who lost a House bid in 2004, and Timathy Davies in November.
Republican Al Melvin may have only lived in Arizona for six years, but he's already sent tremors through the political establishment. Melvin, who retired to Saddlebrooke after a lengthy career in the shipping business, used Clean Elections dollars to run a successful 2006 primary campaign that painted three-term incumbent Toni Hellon as a free-spending liberal who didn't adhere to the party platform. In the process of defeating Hellon, he alienated enough of her supporters that he lost the general election by fewer than 500 votes to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera.
The dust had barely settled when Melvin started his 2008 run. He's already qualified for Clean Elections and received a check for $12,921. He says his top issues are securing the border, improving education and lowering taxes.
In the GOP primary, Melvin will face Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has termed out of the House of Representatives after eight years representing District 26. Hershberger is already getting pounded by Melvin on gun control, abortion, illegal immigration, gay marriage and whether or not he is a "loyal, mainstream Republican."
Hershberger says he does vote against the majority of his caucus, often because they favor Maricopa County over Southern Arizona.
"I'm someone who is not afraid to stand up to leadership and represent Southern Arizona," says Hershberger, who wants to continue his work on children's issues and education issues in the Senate.
"I represent the district well," Hershberger says. "It's a moderate Republican district. That's exactly where I am."
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Cheryl Cage, who decided to run after Pesquiera announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election. Cage knows LD 26 voters; she ran Democrat Lena Saradnik's successful House campaign in the district in 2006.
The second Democrat in the race is Don Jorgensen, who has run a behavioral health-care company with a focus on helping alcoholics get sober. Like Cage, Jorgensen is familiar with the district from working on Saradnik's 2006 campaign.
The absence of a Republican incumbent has three rookies running for the two GOP nominations.
Trent Humphries, who owns his own computer-repair company, has made a name for himself--or, more properly, "Framer"--while blogging at ArizonaEighth.blogspot.com in 2006. He says that led him to decide to run for the House.
"You can sit there and snipe at problems for a long time, but there comes a time when you're young enough and idealistic enough to step up and do something," says Humphries, whose main issues include health care and education.
Vic Williams, who moved to Arizona after a successful career in the warehouse biz, is currently vice-chair of Legislative District 26, previously served as treasurer for the state party and organizes the party's cigar club.
Marilyn Zerull, who has worked as a government researcher, a kindergarten aide and a dispatcher for the Regal Carpet Cleaning company, is a Republican activist who has served as a GOP precinct committeewoman.
"Every day, when I read the papers or watch the news, I get more and more mad," Kromko says. "The city, county (and) state are out of control, and it seems like people don't know what they're doing. ... So sometimes, one person, by pointing things out, can make a difference."
Lopes says he's "puzzled" by Kromko's decision to run, because "I've never had any indication from John that he has any problem with the job I'm doing."
The two Democratic winners of the primary will face Republican Kent Solberg and Green Party candidate J.D. "Duke" Schechter.
• Rep. Tom Prezelski, who now holds one of the House seats.
• Physician Matt Heinz, who works at Tucson Medical Center. This is Heinz's second campaign for a House seat; he came in third in a four-way primary race for a House seat in 2006 in District 28.
• Environmentalist Daniel Patterson, a former staffer with the Center for Biological Diversity who now works for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Patterson has served as president of the Santa Rita Park Neighborhood Association, has been on the city of Tucson's Planning Commission and pens a local blog.
• Ephraim Cruz, a former New York City police officer and Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent whose battle with the federal agency was chronicled in the Tucson Weekly in a series of stories by Tim Vanderpool.
• Patricia Puig, who came in fourth in a four-way primary for the LD29 seat two years ago.
• Gil Guerra is a precinct committeeman who is making his first run for major office. He's so dedicated to the race that he's going to quit his job with the UA's Facilities Management Department that he's had for the last decade.
• At 24, Eric Bustamante is the youngest candidate in the race, but he's got political experience, having been an organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party in 2006. "I never thought I would run this early, but I figured, why wait?" Bustamante says. "I'm young and really energetic."
The two winners of the primary will face Republicans Juan Ciscomani and Pat Kilburn.
Paton will face Georgette Valle, an 83-year-old retiree from Green Valley who previously served in the Washington State Legislature.
• Former Green Beret Frank Antenori made his debut on the political stage two years ago with an unsuccessful run for Congress in District 8. Antenori is now an engineer with Raytheon.
• Sharon Collins has previously made unsuccessful runs for the state representative, mayor of Tucson and Arizona secretary of state. Collins now works for state schools chief Tom Horne.
• David Gowan, a magazine distributor, has lost two previous bids for Arizona House of Representatives in LD30.
• Doug Sposito, a Sonoita-area homebuilder, lost a 2004 bid for the LD30 seat.
The two winners of the GOP primary will face Democrat Andrea Dalessandro, who relocated from New Jersey to Sahuarita after retiring from a career in accounting.
Republicans have an eight-way primary, while four Democrats are fighting for the three nominations.
• State Rep. Marian McClure hopes to bring her experience in serving Southern Arizona's District 30 in the Arizona House of Representatives to the Arizona Corporation Commission. The eight-year veteran of the House is a 16-year resident of Arizona who looks to balance the needs of both consumers and power companies.
• Bob Robson is speaker pro tempore of the Arizona Legislature and the chair of the Rules Committee. He served eight years on the Chandler City Council.
• Rep. John Allen has served for four years in the Arizona House of Representatives.
• Barry Wong has served on the corporation commission previously, acting as a commissioner in 2006 as he finished Marc Spitzer's term. He's run his own law office since 2000. Prior to that, he served for eight years in the Arizona House of Representatives.
• Rick Fowlkes previously ran unsuccessfully for the ACC as a Libertarian.
• Joe Hobbs, a senior technical engineer with AT&T, has little political experience beyond being a precinct committeeman in the Republican Party, but says that he understands the duties better than any other candidate.
• Keith Swapp has little political experience, but he's been on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Armed Posse and he's flown blood for the United Blood Services with a volunteer group called Flights for Life.
• Bob Stump is another current state representative in the running. He's on the House Water and Agriculture Committee and chairs the House Health Committee. He enjoys new water infrastructure and keeping rates low, and dislikes security fraud. He also pays at least a little lip service to clean energy.
• Paul Newman served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1993 to 1999, and narrowly lost a bid for the Corporation Commission 10 years ago. A lawyer and former public defender, he's served on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors since 2001.
• Sandra Kennedy is a former state lawmaker who has run her own Denny's franchise for the past 13 years. She says she'll be an advocate for solar energy.
• Sam George served as Arizona's deputy secretary of state between 1990 and 1994.
• Kara Kelty is an environmental activist who has served on the Flagstaff City Council.