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IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GLORIOUS WAR

The sleepy election of '07 got interesting for about 72 hours last week, when former state lawmaker John Kromko signed up as a write-in candidate for the mayor's race on the Green Party ticket.

It appeared that Kromko, who is also the mastermind behind the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights initiative on the November ballot, was working out some sort of arrangement in which the Green Party nominee, Dave Croteau, would back out of the race. Kromko, provided he could get 111 write-in votes, would then carry the Greens' banner in the November race against incumbent Republican Bob Walkup, who faces no Democratic opposition other than doomed write-in candidate Michael Toney.

Alas, it was not to be. Over the weekend, Kromko decided a hopeless mayoral run wasn't worth the time or trouble. He figured he'd have to raise at least $40,000 to be competitive, which was more money than he'd ever raised for a previous campaign.

"I didn't want to get into a race where I had no chance," Kromko says.

We're disappointed that we won't see the Walkup-Kromko debates. We'd love to see the Green candidate complaining about a Democratic council giving money to JobPath while the Republican candidate explained why it's a good idea to feed the Pima County Interfaith Council's pet program.

But Kromko isn't going away. He'll remain on the political stage to push his initiative, which would repeal the $14 monthly trash fee, ban home delivery of treated effluent and block any new water hookups once Tucson Water is delivering 140,000 acre-feet of water each year--roughly the city's annual allotment of Central Arizona Project water--unless voters OK a higher limit.

Kromko chuckles about news reports that the Growth Lobby is already lining up against the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights.

"Why can't these guys be for something for a change?" he asks.

Kromko filed a campaign-finance report with the City Clerk's Office earlier this week that reveals that he spent only $4,684 getting the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights on the ballot. The bulk of that--$3,380--was paid to a petition coordinator and three signature gatherers.

The biggest contributor to the campaign, as of Aug. 6, was Kromko himself, who lent the campaign $2,000. The rest of his contributions have come mostly in $50 checks.

That's a bargain campaign compared to the $70,013 spent by Wal-Mart on the Consumer Choice initiative, which would have overturned the city's ban on grocery sales in big-box outlets. That effort was rejected because City Attorney Mike Rankin concluded that zoning law couldn't be amended through the initiative process.

Wal-Mart funneled the $70K through the political consulting firm Zimmerman and Associates. Hey, next time, they should consider using Kromko. He seems to be the low-price leader in that arena. ELECTION MONTH IS HERE

Early voting in this year's primary elections begins Thursday, Aug. 9.

OK, so that news isn't all that exciting. The only races to vote in are in Ward 1, where Democrats Regina Romero, a Grijalvalista who has worked in county and city offices, and Ken Green, a neighborhood activist and pastor, are facing off to replace Councilpunk José Ibarra; and Ward 2, where Democrats Rodney Glassman and Robert Reus are battling it out for the chance replace Councilwoman Carol West. (See "Lopsided Contest," page Page 15.) The Ward 1 primary will basically settle the race, because the Republicans couldn't find a candidate; the winner of the Ward 2 primary will face GOP candidate Lori Oien in November.

Us? As an independent, we're requesting a Green Party ballot so we can write in John Kromko anyway. It's just wishful thinking, but what the hell.

To get your early ballot, call 884-8683.


STRAIGHT-TALK EXPRESS BACKS INTO REVERSE--AGAIN

A few weeks back, former Congressman Jim Kolbe predicted on KUAT Channel 6's Arizona Illustrated that Sen. John McCain would bounce back in the presidential sweepstakes, because he's the kind of guy who sticks to his principles and doesn't flip-flop like the other GOP contenders.

Guess Kolbe wasn't paying that much attention to McCain's embrace of guys like Pat Robertson--once derided by Arizona's maverick senator as an "agent of intolerance"--or McCain's decision to vote for the Bush tax cuts after he voted against them. And where does he stand on gay marriage again?

Last week, McCain abandoned comprehensive immigration reform in favor of a get-tough strategy now being pushed by a coalition of GOP senators, including Arizona's Jon Kyl.

McCain's change of heart is particularly amusing when you visit his Web site and see that he proudly posted a May editorial from the New Hampshire Union Leader that said that McCain "still fights to lead his party where he thinks it ought to go, rather than follow the base where it hopes he will go.

"That leadership raised its head this past week as McCain emerged as the only Republican presidential candidate to back the Bush-Kennedy immigration reform bill.

"McCain knows very well that the bill is unpopular with the Republican base. But he believes it is the best option. Instead of pandering to the base, he has opted to support the bill and try to convince the base that it is the best immigration reform we can get."

Ah, those were the days.

McCain has clearly recognized that his stance on comprehensive immigration reform was killing him among GOP primary voters. But if he hopes his last-minute conversion is going to win them back, we've got a cakewalk in Iraq we'd like to sell him.


SPEAKING OF TOUGH ON BORDER SECURITY

After the Bush administration announced that it would start pulling National Guard troops off the Arizona-Mexico border, Gov. Janet Napolitano said she wanted to keep them there.

Napolitano says the troops, who have helped out around Border Patrol offices, built fences and occasionally manned checkpoints, have been a big help in securing the border.

The troops were always meant to be a temporary measure while the Border Patrol got busy hiring more agents.

Napolitano's call to keep the troops is smart politics. Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have been calling for National Guard troops on the border for years. Napolitano's request to keep them there helps her look like she's tougher on illegal immigration than George W. Nice triangulation, Janet!


THE BIG SLEEP

Arizona's economy has cooled so much that it's now underperforming expectations.

The latest report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee--which includes preliminary numbers from the end of the last fiscal year, which ended June 30--shows that the state ended up coming in about $226 million below the forecast for the year. That's not a big deal for the '07 fiscal year, because the bean counters expected a $529 million surplus, so we're still ahead of the game there.

The big problem looms in the new fiscal year, because lawmakers expected to use much of that surplus to balance this year's budget, which had a projected surplus of a little less than a million bucks.

As the JLBC wizards note, it's still too early to tell if having less money to carry forward into the fiscal year will present a problem. Much of that depends on the economy; over the last few years, the projections have tended to be conservative, with state revenues outpacing expectations. If that trend continues, then lawmakers may be spared the trouble of mid-year budget cuts. A clear picture--or at least a trend--won't emerge for at least a few more months.

More by Jim Nintzel

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