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FINANCIAL TROUBLE

Is City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff turning into the underdog in the Ward 6 City Council race?

The short answer: No, of course not. Most Tucsonans still don't know who her opponent, Republican Steve Kozachik, is. And even among those who do know who Kozachik is, some still don't know how to pronounce his name.

On top of that, we still have partisan elections in Tucson—at least this year. And there are still seven Democrats for every four Republicans in Tucson.

But the latest campaign-finance reports suggest that Nina does have a weak spot: As of Aug. 12, Kozachik had raised $41,536, while Nina had only raised $32,426.

Sure, there's lots of time for Nina to raise money, and she only needs to raise about $50,000, total, to max out under the city's matching-funds program, which prohibits participating candidates from spending more than roughly $100,000.

But her slow pace so far suggests one of two things: Nina either isn't as organized as she ought to be, or she's having trouble getting people to fork over contributions.

Neither is good news for Trasoff, who doesn't just need to worry about what Kozachik will do to lift his own name ID between now and Nov. 3. She also needs to be concerned about how badly she'll be beat up in the fight over the Public Safety First initiative, which, if passed, would mandate that the city increase the numbers of police and firefighters over the next five years.

Incumbent Democrats aren't too excited about the measure, which could cost the city as much as $50 million a year once it's fully implemented. But the GOP challengers are embracing it as a club they can use to portray the incumbents as soft on crime.

The initiative will be well-funded. The Tucson Association of Realtors dropped another $100,000 into the campaign on July 2, according to campaign-finance reports filed with the city last week. The committee had nearly $94,000 in the bank as of Aug. 12.

And there's still the question of whether an independent campaign or two will wade into the city races, as we've seen in recent years. Nina herself raised the possibility a few weeks ago at a council meeting.

The key to GOP victory is a pretty simple formula: Get Republicans to turn out, and drive down Democratic participation. If there's one thing that the tea parties around town have shown, it's that the GOP base is fired up to go after Democrats. That leaves us with one question: Are Tucson Democrats fired up about keeping Nina on the council?

Meanwhile, in Ward 3, Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia is showing some solid organization in his race against incumbent Democrat Karin Uhlich. Buehler-Garcia has collected enough $10 contributions from city residents to qualify for matching funds, which will double the $26,029 that's he's gathered in contributions.

Uhlich has already raised $45,185, and has also qualified for matching funds.


IN SICKNESS ...

Sen. John McCain came to the defense of his old pal-pal, the well-known Facebook pundit Sarah Palin, on one of the Sunday chat shows over the weekend.

This Week host George Stephanopoulos asked McCain about Palin's weird outburst regarding how the "America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

Of course, as those of us in the reality-based community know, there were no such death panels in the bill, although there was a provision that Medicare would cover the cost of a consultation about end-of-life options. It sure would be swell if we lived in a world where everyone lived forever, and we were free of such worries, but so far, neither Republicans nor Democrats have been able to deliver that. Until that happens, perhaps having Medicare cover the cost of a doctor-patient consultation over some of the toughest decisions that people ever have to make might be a good idea.

Conservatives, however, have been reluctant to give up on the "death panels" as a key problem with health-care reform legislation—and even though the claim has been thoroughly debunked, McCain essentially enabled them by claiming that one day, death panels would be darn near inevitable, whether or not they were included in this particular bill.

"Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing and decisions made such that are made in other countries?" McCain asked Stephanopoulos.

It's a nutty argument, but it does demonstrate that Republicans are willing to continue saying just about anything to distort the debate.


POLISH UP YOUR PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES!

Speaking of our ongoing health-care debate: A local bunch of conservatives have been pretty riled up about their inability to confront Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a town-hall meeting. They're ticked off that Giffords instead had a Congress on Your Corner event, where she talks with people one-on-one, even though she's been doing that kind of meet-and-greet since she was first elected.

The tea-partiers were so incensed, in fact, that they crashed a downtown movie night with their protest signs, because Giffords was sponsoring a showing of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The irony there hardly needs to be underlined.

Well, Giffords has now scheduled three town halls, so get ready for the fireworks. Giffords will be at the Buena Performing Arts Center, 5225 Buena School Blvd., in Sierra Vista, from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 31.

Giffords will then host two town halls on Tuesday, Sept. 1. The first will be at the West Social Center, 1111 Via Arcoiris, in Green Valley, from 9 to 11 a.m. Later in the day, she'll be in Tucson at Saguaro High School, 545 N. Camino Seco, from 6 to 8 p.m.


HAIL HIGHTOWER

Author, radio commentator and hell-raisin' Tucson Weekly columnist Jim Hightower is coming back to town to fire up the Democrats.

Hightower, whose most recent book is Swim Against The Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, will be joined at this here hootenanny by Tucson City Council candidates Karin Uhlich, Richard Fimbres and Nina Trasoff.

The party is from 6 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 30, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. If you can't afford a $35 ticket, stop by afterward for a book signing. Got questions? Call 326-3716.


PARK IT

Congressman Raúl Grijalva will be joining Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado at the National Parks Family Expo at the UA's Centennial Hall this Saturday, Aug. 29.

The day will include a chance to learn about national parks and other family-friendly fun from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by a screening of the film The National Parks: America's Best Idea at 4 p.m., and a panel discussion with Grijalva and Udall and moderated by Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster on the "State of the National Parks" from 5 to 6 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Arizona Public Media, the Morris K. Udall Foundation, Friends of Saguaro National Park and the Western National Parks Association.

More by Jim Nintzel

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