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SURVEY SAYS ...

A couple weeks back, The Skinny predicted that religious conservatives would have an easy time persuading voters to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and all other forms of civil unions.

A recent poll by Maricopa County PBS affiliate KAET-TV suggests otherwise, though we'll remain skeptical until we see the results repeated. In the survey of 390 registered voters taken last month, just 41 percent said they supported the proposed amendment, while another 49 percent said they opposed it, and 10 percent didn't know.

The numbers got even worse for the initiative when the survey asked about a provision banning domestic partnerships and civil unions: A full 57 percent were opposed, while only 36 percent supported the plan. A final question showed that 60 percent opposed the Protect Marriage Arizona proposition, while just one in three supported it.

The KAET poll also showed that Gov. Janet Napolitano enjoyed a 69 percent approval rating.

President George W. Bush, in the meantime, is slipping, with just 43 percent of those surveyed approving of his job performance and 52 percent disapproving. Oddly, Bush gets his highest marks--49 percent--from his handling of the War on Terror and Hurricane Katrina. Guess stacking FEMA with political hacks only upsets half of Arizona.

Bush had lower approval ratings for the Iraq War (37 percent), his handling of the economy (37 percent) and his response to rising gas prices (18 percent). Of course, that was before he made that heartfelt appeal for conservation last week. How'd that go again? Oh, yeah:

"We can all pitch in by using--by being better conservers of energy. People just need to recognize these storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to (awkward pause) maybe not drive on a trip that's not essential, that would be helpful."

George and Dick must have had a good giggle when they were scripting that one!


PAT ANSWERS

The San Francisco Chronicle is doing a hell of a job of getting to the bottom of what really happened to Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals player who was killed in Afghanistan after he gave up his NFL career to enlist in the Army Rangers and fight against al-Qaida.

When Tillman was killed back in April 2004, the Army first reported he perished in a gunfight with enemy forces. His Silver Star commendation noted that "through the firing Tillman's voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground."

But the truth proved far less storybook and a lot more grim, as the latest Chronicle story noted. Tillman was actually killed by friendly fire while repeatedly screaming "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat fucking Tillman, dammit." He only stopped yelling when he was shot three times in the forehead, according to records obtained by the Chronicle. Check it out yourself at the paper's Web site, www.sfgate.com.

It's a powerful and tragic tale, made worse by the Pentagon's phony account of an enemy firefight. It appears the facts of Tillman's death by friendly fire were well known even as Army brass were spinning a bogus story about Tillman's glorious heroism against the enemies of our nation. And the Army's contradictory investigations into the incident stink.

Sen. John McCain has been pushing for an investigation into Tillman's death and the subsequent cover-up. Tillman's family deserves to learn not only how and why their son died, but why the government felt compelled to lie about it.


CLEANED OUT

State Rep. David Burnell Smith of Maricopa County, who is facing ouster from office because Clean Elections officials allege he overspent on his 2004 primary race, is due to exhaust his last administrative appeal this week. The Clean Elections crew is expected to declare his office officially vacant.

But Smith--who is viewed by many of his legislative colleagues as evidence that life does indeed exist on other planets--has already filed suit to keep his seat in Maricopa County Superior Court, so don't expect him to go gentle into that good night. He'll be looking for an injunction or some other legal maneuver to keep him in office while he fights the commission's decision.

Setting the record straight: The Skinny goofed last week when we reported that Clean Elections was passed by voters in 2000. It was passed in 1998 and first used by candidates in 2000.


BUCK STRETCHERS

Speaking of publicly financed elections: Democrat Steve Leal is coming under fire for taking up to $42,452.31 in city matching funds for his Ward 5 re-election campaign even though he doesn't have an opponent this November.

Leal's decision to use city dollars, first reported a month ago in the Weekly ("Walker Stumbles," Sept. 8) and picked up last week by Arizona Daily Star reporter C.J. Karamargin, has Republicans complaining that the four-term incumbent is squandering taxpayer dollars on yard signs and junk mail.

The morning daily's editorial page even got into the act last week, sticking Leal with a thorn because "there are better uses for $85,000 from the city general fund." Uh, except Leal is only eligible for half of that, since it's a matching funds program. The councilman has to raise the other half of it from private contributors (which he already has, by the way). We're sure a correction will be coming any day now.

Leal says he needs the money to talk about city issues and because he fears that an independent campaign committee may take shots at him, along with the other two Democrats on the ticket. Of course, by taking the money, he gives those same independent committees an issue to hammer him on until Election Day. Man--it's like the proverbial black fly in your Chardonnay!

Of course, Leal will be using the money to help get out the vote--which, since it's a citywide election, will boost the fortunes of fellow Democrats Karin Uhlich and Nina Trasoff, who are making a big deal over the fact that Republican opponents Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt are bypassing the matching-funds program and therefore can spend as much as they want on their campaigns. Leal's decision to use city funds gives the GOP candidates a pretty good retort: The matching-funds program isn't such a hot idea if it allows participating candidates to spend badly needed tax dollars even if they don't have a race.

Other news from the campaign trail: Uhlich, who hopes to unseat Dunbar in Ward 3, has hired David Steele of Strategic Issues Management Group. Steele has tangled with Dunbar before, when he helped the late Andy Nichols beat her in a 2000 State Senate race.

A final note: Our apologies to any of you who went out to the cancelled Pima Association of Taxpayers candidate forum we plugged last week.


ABSENTEE-MINDED

Tired of standing in long lines on Election Day? Have a driver's license with an address different from the one where you're registered to vote? Does the idea of remembering to take your wallet when you go to the polls really bother you?

If so, then early voting--now underway--is for you! Escape the new hassles created by Prop 200 by simply phoning 884-VOTE and ordering an early ballot. Operators are standing by!

Not registered to vote yet? Deadline is Monday, Oct. 10. Find registration forms at post offices, libraries and other local government offices. Be sure to bring a DNA sample to comply with the terms of Prop 200.

More by Jim Nintzel

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