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BALLOT BUZZ

Oh, The Skinny is so delighted. Two years ago, the most exciting political contest was the race for county assessor. We were moping around so much from June to November that the boss was worried that we needed to get back into therapy.

But this year, we've got a real congressional race, a full-on fight for the U.S. Senate between Republican Jon Kyl and Democrat Jim Pederson, a fun-filled, four-way GOP primary for governor and enough propositions to keep the political junk running through our veins from now until November.

The ballot is so crowded, in fact, that our brethren at the dailies are wringing their hands over the possibility that people won't be able to get through the whole ballot in the five minutes allotted.

Meanwhile, TV stations are just salivating over those checks that will be pouring in from political committees.

A total of 10 different groups have turned in initiative petitions. If all of this stuff makes the ballot--and we're expecting a few court challenges to emerge in the coming days--we're going to be able to decide whether to ban gay marriage and straight domestic partnerships, snuff out smoking in most public places, reform the convoluted state trust land program, do all our voting by mail, hand out million-dollar checks to lucky voters, increase the minimum wage, tax smokers to pay for early-ed programs and so much more!

On top of that, lawmakers have put another eight props on the ballot, mostly aimed at illegal immigrants. There are measures that would block those migrants from taking adult-ed courses, getting subsidized child care, being let out of jail on bail or winning any punitive damages in lawsuits. Plus, we'll decide whether English should be our official language. Tell us something: Why is it that the most fervent supporters of that prop always seem to have the most trouble writing complete sentences?

Lawmakers also want you to decide whether judges should be able to put first-time meth users behind bars.

There's so much to decide that it's almost like being a member of the Legislature ourselves, without having to sit through all those boring committee meetings. Ain't we got fun!


SURVIVOR: GOP PRIMARY

Republican Mike Harris, the Phoenix businessman who is delusional enough to imagine he can take out Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, failed in his bid to eliminate one of his rivals last week. Evidently unable to find a stooge to his dirty work, Harris filed suit against Phoenix contractor Gary Tupper, but Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields ruled that Tupper had enough signatures to remain on the ballot.

We're wondering why Harris even bothered. Tupper, who got into the race because he was disgusted by how state agencies dealt with his son's mental illness, is Harris' best chance to avoid coming in last.

Tupper, who says he became a Republican "because I am a capitalist," does stand out as the pro-choice candidate in the race. He says social issues such as abortion are eroding the GOP's base.

"Because I choose not to deprive a woman of her liberty and choice ... I am no longer considered a Republican by some, because I support a person's right to believe in something other than what they believe," Tupper said in a recent speech.

That kind of talk has probably finished him off in the GOP primary. On top of that, Tupper, who has bypassed the Clean Elections program, isn't exactly setting the fundraising world on fire. He reported no activity in his latest campaign-finance filing, covering activity through May 31. His previous report, which included fundraising through the end of 2005, showed that he'd raised $11,060, including $9,480 he'd loaned the campaign.

Harris, who has also declined to use Clean Elections, has raised $133,649 as of May 31, including $123,089 he'd lent his own campaign. He had spent $126,623, including $58,499 with an Ohio political consulting firm and $25,000 with a Washington, D.C., polling firm.

Harris has been telling audiences he anticipates being able to raise millions of dollars for his campaign. Well, at least he's broken the $10,000 barrier.

How bad is Harris' political judgment? In May, he signed on as co-chair of the Stop Taxing Our Property Committee, which was a late-launched, half-assed effort to gather enough signatures to ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to freeze property values and otherwise limit property values. Forget about the policy issues involved; it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that a volunteer effort to gather more than 200,000 signatures in four months was doomed from the start.

But we're sure those political consultants who are cashing Harris' checks are telling him to just keep spending his money, because he has a great chance!

Republican Len Munsil, who is emerging as the GOP front-runner, had spent $79,403 of the $453,849 he got from Clean Elections, with $20,440 going to Maricopa County political consultant Nathan Sproul, who is also consulting for the ballot prop that would ban gay marriage and domestic partnerships. Coincidently enough, that particular ballot prop came from the Christian conservatives at the Center for Arizona Policy, which Munsil headed up before he launched his gubernatorial campaign.

The fourth Republican in the race, Don Goldwater, hadn't qualified for Clean Elections funding as of press time.


SWEENEY ONE, DRAKE ZERO

Perennial candidate Joe Sweeney will be on the ballot for the Republican primary in Congressional District 7, much to the dismay of Republican Ron Drake, the former mayor of Avondale who has the mad dream of unseating Congressman Raúl Grijalva this November.

An Avondale resident, Alan Lageschulte, filed suit to disqualify Sweeney's candidacy, but it turned out Sweeney's petitions were good enough for government work, as they say.

Drake, who denies having anything to do with the legal challenge, now has to overcome Sweeney's well-established name ID for the chance to get squashed by Grijalva in November.

So why is Drake--a political unknown in most of the heavily Democratic CD 7--turning down opportunities to take on Sweeney face-to-face? Drake declined to appear with Sweeney on KUAT-TV's Arizona Illustrated. Bad move for two reasons: No. 1, it's Drake's best opportunity to reach voters and show the differences between him and Sweeney; No. 2, it makes Drake look like a wuss. Does he really fear that he'd lose votes by appearing side by side with Sweeney?

Drake has warned Sweeney that he's gonna raise a half-million dollars for his campaign. We'll see how far along he is when reports are filed later this week, but at the end of last quarter, he had raised less than $40,000.


ANOTHER SCRATCH

The District 29 House Democratic primary got a little less crowded earlier this week when Ernest Bustamante, a budding political consultant, got tossed off the ballot for insufficient signatures.

However, neighborhood activist Betty Liggins survived a challenge to her candidacy.

Liggins will be facing off against incumbents Linda Lopez and Tom Prezelski, as well as challenger Patricia Anne Puig, in the Sept. 12 primary in the south-central district.

Republican Bruce Murchison will face the two winners of the primary.

None of the candidates had qualified for Clean Elections funding as of press time.

More by Jim Nintzel

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