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BITTERSWEET INDUCTION

If there is an afterlife in which the departed can witness the goings-on here on Earth, Chris Limberis was pissed last Friday, Oct. 13. Really, really pissed.

The attention-shy reporter, who passed away last November at the age of 47 after a fierce battle with leukemia, was inducted into the Arizona Newspapers Hall of Fame last Friday. About 60 people attended the induction ceremony, part of the Arizona Newspapers Association annual convention in Scottsdale. Three others--Elvira Espinoza and Luis Manuel Ortiz of La Voz, and Brendan FitzSimons, a longtime Wick Communications publisher--also earned induction.

While the induction ceremonies were joyous occasions for the other three inductees (as well as the two inductees into the Arizona Interscholastic Press Association Hall of Fame), who were present with family and friends, Limberis' induction was bittersweet. His brother, Paul Limberis, flew in from Colorado just for the ceremony. Also present, along with some of Limberis' former Weekly and Arizona Daily Star colleagues, was his close friend Beth Borozan.

ANA Executive Director John Fearing showed a brief slide presentation featuring various family pictures of Limberis, ending with a slide of Dave Fitzsimmons' touching "Tucson Boulevard" cartoon, published in the Star shortly after Limberis' death. Fitz's words from the cartoon provided the inscription for Limbo's Hall of Fame plaque: "He loved three things: afflicting the comfortable, comforting the afflicted, and Tucson."

While we could go on about the induction ceremony, we won't. We'll just say this: We miss the hell out of Limberis around here. If you're a regular reader of The Skinny, chances are, you miss him, too. As we said when we memorialized Limbo shortly after his death: Chris was only a so-so writer, and he could be a pit bull when he got attached to a topic--he would not want to let it go, no matter what. He was also weirdly private; his home voicemail was literally full for years straight, and he forbade co-workers from visiting him in the hospital when he was sick.

But he was one of the best pure reporters this town has ever seen--if not the best. We know The Skinny has not been the same since his death. Nor has the Weekly. Nor has journalism in this town as a whole. Bad guys are getting away with more now, because with his death, years of institutional knowledge, relationships and public-records knowledge were lost forever.

He is missed, and we're grateful that the ANA added Limbo to its Hall of Fame--even if Chris would have shuddered at the recognition. It's deeply deserved.

The Star's Bobbie Jo Buel was kind enough to write a letter supporting Limberis' nomination. She summed it up nicely when she said: "We don't have many reporters in the Arizona Newspapers Hall of Fame, but Chris deserves to be there. He's proof that you do not need a big title to have an important influence on Arizona journalism."


A MILLION HERE, A MILLION THERE

Democrat Gabrielle Giffords continues to dominate Republican Randy Graf in the Congressional District 8 fundraising race.

Giffords raised nearly $633,000 between Aug. 23 and the end of September, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this week. Graf raised just $169,676 in the same period.

Overall, Giffords had raised nearly a million dollars more than Graf: $1,767,291, compared to his $773,782. She still had $376,645 on hand as of Sept. 30, while Graf had $254,684.

"We're going to have the resources we need to communicate our message and to get out our vote, and that is even considering the onslaught of negative and misleading ads that Randy and his out-of-state allies are going to pollute the airwaves with," says Giffords campaign manager Rodd McLeod, who tells The Skinny that the campaign has now surpassed the $2 million mark.

Graf campaign manager R.T. Gregg notes that the candidates weren't that far apart in cash on hand. "That means she's spent an awful lot," says Gregg. "Our name ID is higher than hers, which is part of what you're buying with advertising. I think we're spending more efficiently."

The Graf campaign has now passed the million-dollar mark, says Gregg, who adds that a recent fundraising letter signed by six Republicans, including auto dealer Jim Click, attorney John Munger and state lawmaker Steve Huffman, has gotten a "phenomenal" response.

But Gregg said he didn't know if Huffman, who was Graf's chief rival in the primary, has actually cut a check for Graf.

"I know that he has returned some of his contributions, and those people have turned around and given that money to us," Gregg says. "Is that a contribution from Huffman? Kinda sorta."

Graf is also getting help from independent campaign committees, such as the Minuteman Political Action Committee, which has already paid for ads calling Giffords soft on border security. We hear the Minutemen will be back before Election Day.

The latest independent committee to weigh in on Graf's behalf: Americans for Honesty on Issues, a so-called 527 nonprofit that appears to be running attack ads in nine races across the country. The spots here target Giffords for supporting citizenship for illegal immigrants. Giffords has said she believes illegal immigrants who have been in the country for several years should be able to apply for citizenship if they can speak English and pay a fine or back taxes.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that the group is headed up by Sue Walden, a Houston power lobbyist who was BFF with now-disgraced Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas and a big fundraiser for the Bush campaign. Walden was also an adviser to Kenneth Lay, the former Enron boss who was facing a long stretch behind bars before he died earlier this year.

So who's paying for the ads? We don't know. The group is a 527 nonprofit, so donors do not have to be disclosed before the election. Walden didn't want to talk with the libs at the Times.

Graf is also getting support from the National Right to Life Political Action Committee, which reported spending a whopping $33 on an ad last month.

Giffords, meanwhile, is getting some assistance from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which sent out a mailer busting on Graf--and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl--for opposing abortion rights.

Elsewhere on the Scramblewatch '06 beat: The candidates are finally meeting in debates, although The Skinny's deadline prevents us from giving the lowdown on the first Giffords-Graf throwdown. Still, you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that Randy said that Giffords was soft on border security, while Gabby said that she did not support amnesty. (We'd also wager that Libertarian David Nolan said it was time to cut spending and bring home the troops, while independent Jay Quick--well, does it really matter what he said?)

Gabby, Randy and the gang will get at it again and again next week. You can see them at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 23, in a debate co-sponsored by the Council of Senior Citizen Organizations and Pima Council on Aging, at Oasis, on the third floor of El Con Mall.

Later that day, at 5:30 p.m., they'll be down south in Cochise County, at the Buena Performing Arts Center, 5225 Buena School Blvd., in Sierra Vista.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, they'll get together at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road, for a debate co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Jewish Community Relations Council, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, LULAC and YWCA of Tucson. Wonder if Russell Pearce will be there?

Education would appear to be the topic on Thursday, Oct. 26, in a debate co-sponsored by the Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Board Association, Arizona Federation of Teachers, Flowing Wells school board and Tucson Citizen. We're betting that Randy blames most of the state's education problems on all those illegal immigrants. Find out at 7 p.m. at the Flowing Wells High School auditorium, 3725 N. Flowing Wells Road.

If you don't feel like going out to see any of this live, you can watch them duke it out from the comfort of your own living room on Friday, Oct. 27, when the candidates sit down with Bill Buckmaster on KUAT Channel 6's Arizona Illustrated at 6:30 p.m.


MEANWHILE, IN THE LOW-RENT DISTRICT

Back in August, Republican Ron Drake, who hopes to defeat Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, assured us that his fundraising would pick up once he beat Joe Sweeney in the GOP primary. The former mayor of Avondale was confident he'd have $600,000 to fuel his ambition to knock out the incumbent.

Well, the checks aren't coming in yet. FEC reports covering activity through Sept. 30 show that Drake has raised only $112,023 and had less than $12,000 in the bank.

Grijalva, meanwhile, had raised $549,083 and had more than $205,000 remaining in his campaign account.


FREE MINDS, FREE MARKETS, FREE PUBLICITY

Some Libertarian candidates--like gubernatorial hopeless Barry Hess and U.S. Senate hopeless Richard Mack--have been whining quite a bit these days about how they're not getting enough media coverage for their doomed campaigns.

Let's see if we can get this straight: Libertarians believe in the invisible hand of the free market sorting out everything from education to health care.

But when they can't find a market for their ideas and can't raise enough money to fund their campaigns, they start squealing about how the press should provide them with the same coverage that other candidates get.

Call us crazy, but it sounds like a cry for welfare to us.

More by Jim Nintzel

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