This may well mean that presidential candidates will be dropping in from time to time and buying TV ads, but we're not buying this idea that they're going to care about our issues. The candidates will spew the standard stump speech of the day and toss in a local shout-out about illegal immigration or whatev.
You only need to look at how Florida is jumping even earlier and hear the talk that the Iowa caucus may take place in December 2007 to realize that the primary system is officially out of control. The parties need to get together to set up some sort of rotating regional system, and state lawmakers need to quit acting like such buttheads in the race to go first.
Here in Arizona, Napolitano wisely avoided any chance that the state could find itself a last-minute kingmaker if the races were tight later in February. That could have proved disastrous for the nation.
Here's what's Arizona Republicans have done: In 1996, they picked Steve Forbes, who had spent the most on TV ads. In 2000, they went with favorite son John McCain. And in 2004, George Bush faced no legit challenge.
Democrats didn't even play in the primary for the first couple of go-rounds. But in 2004, the state was in play. Underdog Howard Dean built up a great organization, and then lost to John Kerry--who had barely stepped foot in the state--after Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire.
Yes, that's right: No nonincumbent candidate has ever won the presidency after winning the official Arizona primary. It's the Arizona Curse!
We're starting to wonder: Can McCain still hold the Arizona GOP in 2008?
Toney's lawsuit--he estimates that he's spent 600 hours on the legal effort--suggests that the city has broken the law when it comes to implementing the Rio Nuevo project. We suspect that if lawmakers really felt that City Hall hasn't been playing by the rules, they wouldn't have extended the district during the 2006 legislative session, but we'll see what the judge says.
In the meantime, Toney, who lives in a homeless shelter and has no phone, wants us to cover his write-in campaign, which has zero support from the Pima County Democratic Party. (Democrats didn't field a candidate this year.)
After giving the matter some thought, we've decided that write-in candidates need to at least have a phone or an e-mail address to be considered credible by our political desk. (Note to other borderline candidates: That rule is a minimum requirement and is subject to change at any time. We're looking your way, Joe Sweeney.)
So: Sorry, Michael. We will not be covering your campaign unless, by some miracle, you get enough write-in votes to make the November ballot.
But our high standards aren't shared by everyone out there. For example, the Westside Coalition of Neighborhoods has invited Toney to join a candidate forum next week at El Rio Neighborhood Center.
It's a generous gesture--and quite curious when you consider that the neighborhood gang initially neglected to invite the Ward 4 candidates who are actually on the November ballot.
Ramon Olivas, one of the forum's organizers, says the failure to invite Democratic incumbent Shirley Scott and Republican challenger Dan Spahr was just an oversight on the group's part. He said the candidates were subsequently invited to the event.
Spahr, who first pointed out to us that he was snubbed, told us he'd heard from the group earlier this week and would be attending.
If you want to see the candidates, the forum is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6, at El Rio Neighborhood Center, 1390 W. Speedway Blvd.
But there's still a place to turn to for news bulletins from an alternative dimension: The Arizona Republican Party. Party boss Randy Pullen lives in a world where Mexicans are smuggling guns into U.S. schools and Arizona Republicans stand firmly with President Bush on immigration issues against those no-good Democrats.
Pullen combines these unlikely scenarios with such a weird mix of shopworn political phrases that you gotta wonder if newly arrived press guy Brett Mecum cut his teeth working for The Onion: "Democrats' politics of hate." "Surrendering to terror." "Abysmal record of higher taxes, higher spending." Really, guys: These are pretty simpleminded loads you're shoveling.
In one of Pullen's latest bulletins, he complains that Arizona is fourth-highest in the nation in uninsured kids, then blames Gov. Janet Napolitano for--get this!--trying to expand child health coverage to households earning up to three times the federal poverty limits. Republicans blocked that measure--and the Bush White House is throwing more roadblocks in the way of expanding federal support for insuring kids--yet Pullen knocks Napolitano for not "concentrating more resources on children of families who truly can't afford insurance."
Um, Randy? The GOP leadership didn't offer any alternatives during the last session when they shot down Napolitano's plan--and they've blocked all sorts of efforts to expand health-care coverage for kids in the past.
But Pullen's serious problem isn't that he's eroding his credibility with absurd charges that have zero basis in reality, or that he has a press guy who feeds him a big bowl of frosted cliché flakes every morning.
The real problem is, of course, illegal immigration. Pullen rode into office with the support of the illegal-immigration crowd and turned on both Jon Kyl and John McCain when they gambled on immigration reform earlier this year. That more or less earned him the enmity of the business end of the GOP.
But even for Pullen, there's a step too far on illegal immigration: The LAW initiative, or Legal Arizona Workers, the hardliners' wet dream of shutting down any employer who's busted even once for knowingly hiring an illegal worker. We think that's a tad harsh, but, hey, we're not the party of business.
Pullen has denounced the initiative, saying that the new law passed by state lawmakers this year should be given a chance to work.
That's a dangerous break with what's left of his backers. Given that Pullen only won the chairmanship by four votes, how much support can he afford to lose?
We're sure of this: His enemies are starting to gather. We hear from them all the time.