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WEDGE ISSUE

Democratic Sen. Bill Brotherton, with the support of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, popped out legislation last week that socks companies that hire illegal immigrants with fines of up to $5,000.

The business community isn't too thrilled by the idea, but we're not sure they have the juice to stop it. In the old days, they could have just yanked the chains of their Republican lackeys, but the Clean Elections program has lessened their influence, at least when it comes to illegal immigration.

Members of leadership in both parties predict the idea of employer sanctions will get mixed reviews if it gets to the House of Representatives.

House Majority Leader Steve Tully said the GOP caucus has "a wide variety of people's views on how we ought to address illegal immigration. Certainly, we have members who will support that law. My views are a little different."

Tucson Democrat Linda Lopez, House assistant minority leader, said the Democratic caucus "is split on that. Unless we have a comprehensive package, I don't think I can support employer sanctions."


ANCHORS AWAY!

Former KVOA Channel 4 newscaster Patty Weiss--if that is indeed her real name--made it official last week, jumping into the Democratic primary for the Congressional District 8 seat being vacated by Republican Jim Kolbe.

Weiss' announcement came one day after her peeps released a poll of 350 general-election voters that showed that her favorables were at 52 percent, and her unfavorables were down at 14 percent.

The poll, which had a mammoth margin of error of 5.2 percent, also showed that in a head-to-head race against Republican Randy Graf, Weiss has the support of 41 percent of those surveyed, while 34 percent were pulling for Randy. The Weiss campaign pointed out that Gabby Giffords, the Democratic front-runner (at least before Patty decided to pursue the seat), was neck-and-neck with Graf, with both pulling roughly 34 percent.

We're hardly surprised by the discovery that a lot of people have warm feelings for Patty--three decades of appearing in people's living rooms every night will work wonders at building familiarity and trust. Still, we're not sure a poll this early means much--although feeding it to the media was probably smart politics on the part of the Weiss team.

The release was designed to build up Weiss' credibility and distract the media just before Giffords was formally kicking off her campaign earlier this week. (Well, either that, or the timing was just a coincidence.)

It's curious what wasn't released: namely, any primary numbers that showed how Weiss stacked up against Giffords--or the rest of the Democratic field--in a head-to-head race.

Then again, given the sample size of 350 people--43 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic and 18 percent independents--any results from a party subset wouldn't be all that reliable, anyway.

On the campaign-organization front, Weiss has tapped attorney Tom Chandler, a longtime local Democrat, as her campaign chair. She's also grabbed former Arizona Daily Star reporter Rhonda Bodfield Bloom to handle the wild jackals in the press corps.

A formal kick-off for the Weiss campaign is in the works for next week.

Giffords had some announcements of her own: endorsements from Congressman Raul Grijalva and Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and U.S. secretary of the interior.

On the GOP side of Scramblewatch '06: Graf had a big week, touring Arizona with Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is certainly making a name for himself on the subject of illegal immigration. Graf also landed the endorsement of 25 of his right-leaning pals in the state Legislature, which would be a powerful statement if Graf were seeking to unseat Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker. But seeing as how none of the Graf caucus members actually live in CD8 (or even Southern Arizona), we're not sure the endorsements do much more than skeeve out moderate voters of both parties.

Graf also picked up an endorsement from the state lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. In a statement announcing the endorsement, FOP prez Bryan G. Soller praised Graf's "proven record of strong leadership and proven experience in dealing with the criminal justice system, law enforcement and the Fraternal Order of Police."

Also jumping into the pool this week: Mike Hellon, ex-husband of state lawmaker Toni Hellon and ex-GOP national committeeman.


SURE LOSERS

State Rep. Ted Carpenter, R-Phoenix, got so hopped by Tancredo's visit to the Capitol that he blurted out his own plans to run for governor this year.

Never heard of Carpenter? Neither have many of his statehouse colleagues. We don't know who the GOP is serving up as sacrificial lamb this November, but it sure as hell ain't going to be Ted Carpenter.

Also: Democrat Jeff Chimene, the lefty progressive last seen coming in third in the three-way 2004 primary to be served up as sacrificial lamb to Congressman Jim Kolbe, has filed paperwork to run for the Arizona Senate against Republican Tim Bee in GOP-heavy District 30. Bet that anti-war stuff is gonna sell real well in Sierra Vista.


ROAD BLOCK

Another ripple of opposition to the RTA's Regional Transportation Plan rolled across the political waters this week when persistent RTA critic Ken O'Day, president of the Campbell-Grant Neighborhood Association, launched a Web site condemning the proposed urban streetcar traveling between the UA and downtown, as well as various proposals to widen streets such as--well, can you guess? That's right, Grant Road.

The site--www.tucsonrealplan.com--connects the RTA in one way or another to every boneheaded decision made by local pols in the last 20 years--which is a pretty long list, when you think about it. O'Day also links to a bunch of letters to the editor.

O'Day is operating under the banner of Tucson Needs a Real Transportation Plan! (which could get him into copyright trouble with the infamous manga-pop band of the same name we heard a couple of months ago down at Club Congress). He doesn't plan to take campaign contributions, but he did manage to persuade his neighborhood association, on a 11-6 vote, to oppose the transportation plan.


NEARING THE FINAL CURTAIN

Scottsdale Republican David Burnell Smith lost another round in his ongoing fight to hang on to his seat in the Arizona House of Representatives after being ousted by the Clean Elections Commission for overspending in his 2004 campaign. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a ruling last week that Smith had to vacate the seat, but the state Supreme Court has agreed to stay the order while they take a look at the case.


CHEAP DATE

Wanna see a free flick? Producer Aaron Russo--best known for producing films like Trading Places and The Rose, and who came off as more than a little nuts when he ran for governor as a Republican in Nevada eight years ago--has written, directed and produced a new political documentary, America ... From Freedom to Fascism.

The complimentary screening is being sponsored by the We the People Foundation, an outfit that describes itself as an education nonprofit "committed to educating Americans about their fundamental rights, the Constitution and the essential principles of liberty." Sounds pretty lefty to us.

You can check it out at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Crossroads theater at Grant and Swan roads. Russo will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening.

More by Jim Nintzel

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