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POLLISH SAUSAGE

From the Scramblewatch '06 desk: The first two polls of the Congressional District 8 race are out--and the early news is pretty good for Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.

In the poll of 500 likely voters commissioned by her own campaign, Giffords led Republican Randy Graf by a staggering 19 points. Giffords had the support of 54 percent of the voters, while Graf was down at 35 percent.

The Giffords poll, conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, also showed that Giffords was seen favorably by 51 percent of the voters, while Graf was seen favorably by 32 percent. Even worse news for Graf: 39 percent viewed him unfavorably.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, was conducted between Sept. 13 and Sept. 18.

A few days later, the morning daily and KVOA Channel 4 released their own poll, conducted by Zimmerman and Associates and Marketing Intelligence, which showed Giffords with a 12-point lead over Graf: Giffords, 48 percent; Graf, 36 percent. That poll, taken between Sept. 16 and Sept. 19, also has a margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Zimmerman poll showed that Giffords was holding her base--84 percent of Democrats were sticking with her--while Graf had only 67 percent of GOP voters. Another huge gap for Graf: 55 percent of voters registered with neither major party were supporting Giffords, while only 21 percent were supporting Graf.

Graf has downplayed the significance of the polls, saying that the fractious GOP primary brought down his numbers.

"Obviously, we came through a very difficult primary," Graf says. "A lot of things were involved in that, and the fact that their primary was a little more civil has something to play in that. I don't think the voters know Gabrielle Giffords that well or know me that well, and I'm hoping we'll have an opportunity to get some head-to-head debates."

Graf campaign manager R.T. Gregg said he was encouraged by the tighter margin in the Zimmerman poll. He said he was anticipating the upcoming release of the next Tucson Weekly/Wick Communications Poll.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing what your poll does, because in every poll, we get closer and closer," Gregg said. "We'll have this thing won by next week."

Want to know if that happens? Check back at TW's blog on Sunday, Oct. 1, when we'll be announcing the results of our poll.

The big question of the week: Were Randy's low poll numbers the reason that the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its ads? The NRCC had gone up with an ad hammering Giffords as a tax-and-spender, but split town shortly afterwards.

We can only speculate, because those big shots at the NRCC don't comment on strategy. And it could be they're just mad that their guy, Steve Huffman, lost the GOP primary.

Whatevs. At the end of the day, it means Graf needs to start raising money, because he came out of the primary broke. We hear he's picked up Julee Dawson, who was raising money for Huffman. Hey, that was the one thing that actually went right with that campaign. Plus, Graf's got new co-chairs: attorney John Munger and developer David Mehl.

That money will be key to going after Giffords with TV spots to try to bring down her numbers.

Giffords is said to be doing a good job on the fundraising front, too, which is important for her, because one day after the NRCC left town, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also pulled the plug on its advertising campaign.

Will the national gangs roll back into town? Guess that depends on whether the race tightens next month. We bet the TV stations would love to see them return.

Elsewhere on the Scramblewatch beat: Giffords has agreed to a half-dozen debates with Graf, all between Oct. 17 and Oct. 27. We'll fill you in on the details as the dates approach, but we're sure you can check the candidates' Web sites between now and then if you wanna know more.


CIVIL DEBATE

GOP Congressional District 7 candidate Ron Drake has finally gotten around to reading up on ballot initiatives, after getting beat up by the Weekly editorial board for not knowing anything about Proposition 107 during his meeting with us.

Proposition 107, aka Protect Marriage Arizona, would amend the state constitution to ban alternatives to marriage for gay couples. It would also prevent local governments from offering benefits to the domestic partners--gay or straight--of employees.

Surprisingly, Drake's campaign manager, Terry R. Krukemyer, said his candidate is refusing to jump on the bandwagon and support the measure, like many of his Republican cohorts are.

While Drake agrees that marriage should be the exclusive preserve of the straights, he doesn't think local governments should be precluded from extending certain benefits to people living in sin. It's a blanket provision on something that ideally would be left to communities to decide, Krukemyer said.

"Let's say I had a small town that was kind of a beatnik town where, you know, the people there--it became a haven for gay people, let's just put it that way. And don't take it in any kind of derogatory manner, but just like a lot of gay people live there," he told the Weekly. "And people like that town and the way they work. Well, guess what? Those people would like their political entity to offer same-sex benefits, and this statute would disallow that."

According to Krukemyer, Drake also came to the generous conclusion that businesses could be hurt if such an amendment were to pass. Even though Proposition 107 wouldn't prohibit private companies from offering benefits to domestic partners, it does block municipalities from establishing registries that some companies use to determine eligibility.

"Ron's attitude with same-sex couples is it's nobody's business what you want to be," Krukemyer said. "You know, it's America; it's a free country. But if you're a business, and you have same-sex couples in your company as part of your benefit package--you want to make sure the nonworking partner of your business (employee) is covered--that's your prerogative."


BRISTLING

Elsewhere in our Best of TucsonTM issue, we note that Congressman Raúl Grijalva's overwhelming popularity is related to that wild mustache of his.

We're not the only ones who noticed. Last week, The Hill newspaper ran a piece about how few members of Congress dare to grow facial hair. Prominent among the rebels: Grijalva.

Grijalva's mustache is described as "spectacular, trailing down around his mouth and dipping into a perfect frown in brown, gray and caramel."

The story also notes that "advisors have told him to trim it so it doesn't hang down over his lip. Others insist he lose it, or at least control it, saying, 'We've got to slick you down.'"

But what would the Fab Five say?


OVER THERE

State Rep. Jonathan Paton, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, finally got his orders and shipped out earlier this week. Paton will be spending a few days at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, before heading for a six-month stint in Iraq.

That means Paton won't be here to campaign against Democrat Clarence Boykins. But given the overwhelming GOP voter-registration advantage in Legislative District 30, he probably doesn't have too much to worry about--especially since he got more votes than any other state representative in the Sept. 12 primary.

Hey, Paton: Keep your head down and get back home safely. Someone needs to chew on TUSD's ass.

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