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CRASHING THE PARTY

Party chairs are basically political cheerleaders. They're there to smile, boost the party spirit and raise money to help win elections.

They're not so much there to weigh in on contentious, party-splitting issues or to stir up an angry swarm of voters to target their state's U.S. senators. No quarterback wants a cheerleader to start calling his plays.

We mentioned last week how Arizona Republican Party chairman Randy Pullen was calling the immigration-reform lovechild of Sen. Jon Kyl and Sen. Ted Kennedy one mighty ugly baby.

Pullen's first shout-out on his blog was: "On behalf of the more than 1 million registered Arizona Republicans ... " which is a pretty cocky mandate coming from a guy who won by all of four votes in a election that involved all of 812 party members.

Pullen blogged that the Kennedy-Kyl plan was "an overcomplicated answer to problems it'll never adequately address and will do more to encourage illegal immigration than to discourage it."

It was a whirlwind week from there. Pullen held forth at party headquarters with tales of angry peasants storming the castle with torches, pitchforks and, in one case, a simple drawing of a hand flipping Republicans the bird.

If you ask us, the party would have been better served if Pullen had just told the Minutemen wing to give peace a chance. For every one of them who leaves, a moderate can probably be pulled back into the party.

Instead, Pullen jumped into the fray, urging his loyal blog brigade to contact every single U.S. senator and tell them to just say no to the Kyl package. Then it was off to TV land, where he got quality screen time with Chris Matthews and Brit Hume to complain that the grassroots saw the bill as a big ol' surrender to lawlessness or whatever.

Then the real party establishment, with the help of political operative and former Arizona Republican Party executive director Nathan Sproul, struck back with that new tool of Satan, the robocall. Republican voters were told that they should call party headquarters and tell Randy Pullen to stop attacking Jon Kyl.

The pro-Pullen crowd say it backfired, with Republicans calling HQ and praising Randy for standing up to Kyl and his terrible plan. Nonetheless, Pullen backed down a bit by the end of the week, posting a "special message" on his blog to praise Jon Kyl's conservative credentials and urge those who opposed his immigration plan to keep it clean.

"I'm very concerned about the direction that some criticism has taken, most especially toward U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, who has served our state and our nation with great dedication for two decades now," Pullen said.

Yeah, that should patch things right up.

Or maybe not. We hear the GOP establishment--as well as the Republican National Committee--remains mad-dog pissed at Pullen for essentially turning the party from a tool for electing candidates into an immigration PAC. Here's something to watch as campaign finance reports are filed over the rest of the year: Who's giving money to the state party now? And how much help are they getting from the RNC?


RESIGN TO RUN

Most state politicians would consider it a good week if they just called one U.S. senator a traitor, but that wasn't enough for state Rep. Russell Pearce.

Our most quotable lawmaker followed up his complaint that Jon Kyl had betrayed his country and sold out to the amnesty gang with a demand--yes, a demand--that Sen. John McCain resign because he's been so busy on the White House campaign trail that he's missed six solid weeks of votes.

Is this really a good use of House spokesman Barrett Marson's time?

McCain's defenders say there's nothing important happening in Congress right now, so nobody has missed him. But we noticed that he got back to Washington to cast a vote last week, anyway.


BALANCE SHEET

The latest on that state-budget deal: House Speaker Jim Weiers did manage to bring his budget back from the dead, although we hear the Senate remains concerned that the week it spent dead has left it with severe brain damage, and they might have to put it to sleep.

In the meantime, the Senate budget has been sent to the laboratory of mad scientist Russell Pearce--or maybe it's just the House Appropriations Committee. We expect Russell will give the Senate budget a fair and reasonable hearing.

The Legislature needs to work out a budget agreement with Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has already said she'd sign the Senate budget. We'll see how much more Weiers can squeeze out of her before his own caucus says they've had enough. Deadline: the end of June, which is also the end of the fiscal year.


BUSTING THE BOSS

The state Senate made some adjustments last week to the employer-sanctions bill that the House sent over back in March. The new bill, which no longer requires every employer in the state to sign an affidavit stating that they won't hire illegal workers, has undergone a name change from "Fair and Legal Employment Act" to "Legal Arizona Workers."

What a coinkydink! That's the same name as the employer-sanction initiative that state Rep. Russell Pearce is now out circulating petitions for.

We're wondering how the House and Senate will reconcile the bill--and whether Gov. Janet Napolitano will sign it.

You know the Arizona Chamber of Commerce can't be happy with this one, but it passed with solid bipartisan support on an 23-4 vote.


SCRAMBLEWATCH '08: COLLINS MIX EDITION

Have you heard that Republican Sharon Collins, who is now working as a chief deputy to state schools chief Tom Horne, wants to run for the Arizona House of Representatives next year? Collins, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor of Tucson, the state House and secretary of state, is treading into the uncertain waters of District 30, where Senate President Tim Bee is being termed out. (GOP types are talking up Bee as the man to take on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.)

That leaves an open Senate seat that both Marian McClure and Jonathan Paton will covet--and since McClure is also termed out of the House, there will be at least one open seat in LD30, which includes Tucson's eastside, Green Valley, Sierra Vista and parts in between.

Collins, who also worked for Gov. Jane Dee Hull, is now working on Horne's pilot program to expand the use of laptop computers in high school classrooms.

Other Republicans thinking about running in District 30: Former Green Beret Frank Antenori, who captured 4.3 percent in the GOP congressional primary won by Randy Graf last year, and David Gowan, the magazine salesman who has lost two shots at the House seat so far.

And what about that Randy Graf? Would he be interested in that District 30 Senate seat? The Democrats sure hope so ...


STRIVE JIVE

Mark your calendars, political junkies! Congressman Raúl Grijalva will welcome fellow congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois to talk about immigration reform. Gutierrez, who has teamed up with Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake to co-sponsor the House version of immigration reform, the STRIVE Act, is scheduled to be at El Pueblo Neighborhood Center, 101 W. Irvington Road, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 3. Details: 622-6788.

"We're going to talk about the Senate plan, what's in the STRIVE Act and answer questions," Grijalva says.

More by Jim Nintzel

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