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SCRAMBLEWATCH 2010: LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

While we've yet to be persuaded that an off-year election means all that much, the walloping of Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the local thrashing of Tucson City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff (and the close call of her colleague, Karin Uhlich) have caused Republicans to smell blood in the water in Southern Arizona.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' vote last week to support a sweeping health-care reform package has conservatives convinced that Giffords is now easy prey in 2012. Republicans Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller and a couple of other guys you've never heard of are vying to challenge Giffords in Congressional District 8.

Amidst all the turmoil, state Sen. Jonathan Paton released a slick video for his state Senate re-election campaign that has powerbrokers in Arizona and Washington, D.C., hyperventilating that the GOP may finally have a viable candidate to run against Giffords.

The ad highlights Paton's roots in Tucson, his military service and his various accomplishments at the Arizona Legislature. Check it out for yourself below.

Calls have been pouring in to draft Paton to run. Well, is he or isn't he?

Paton remains noncommittal. He tells The Skinny: "Everybody's bugging out about Congress, but I'm a little more interested in the special session about the budget and whether the Wildcats could go all the way to the Rose Bowl."

Paton's ad and the accompanying speculation have driven the Kelly campaign into a kind of desperate turbo-spin mode. John Ellinwood, a local blogger at Gila Courier who is developing his political consulting skills, wants everyone to know that Kelly has landed the endorsement of Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and is raising lots of dough. Kelly had collected $170,000 as of Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, Giffords reported having nearly $1.4 million on hand.

If Paton runs, it's pretty much certain that the GOP political establishment—locally and nationally—will coalesce around him; that translates into money and ground troops. Given Paton's voting record, the Kelly people will find it difficult to run to Paton's right, and there's no advantage to running to his left in a party primary.

Giffords trounced her previous GOP opponents, who also came from Legislative District 30, by 12 percentage points in her 2006 and 2008 campaigns. But national mood plays a big part in congressional elections, and those young folks who turned out to support Barack Obama in 2008 may not be there in 2010. Plus, CD8 remains a swing district, with more Republicans than Democrats, so there's little doubt that Paton would give Giffords a run for her money (which she has proven that she can raise in large quantities).

Paton clearly has congressional ambitions, but he might find it more advantageous to wait until 2012, after the district is redrawn following the 2010 Census. We're also hearing rumors that Giffords is harboring higher ambitions herself and might want to run for a Senate seat in 2012, especially if Sen. Jon Kyl decides to retire. That would leave an open seat in CD8, which might be easier for Paton to capture.

If Paton did decide to seek the congressional seat, we're sure that District 30 Rep. Frank Antenori would have a keen in interest in Paton's Senate seat. Whether Frank would have to take on his seatmate, Rep. David Gowan, remains to be seen.

But with at least one open House seat in District 30, former state lawmaker Marian McClure would have a pretty good shot at that comeback she keeps making noises about.

Additional content at The Range.


WALKUP'S PARTY PROBLEMS

Speaking of blogger/political consultant John Ellinwood: The conservative Republican had some fun at Mayor Bob Walkup's expense at the GOP celebration on Election Night.

Ellinwood approached Walkup, who was talking with Rep. Frank Antenori and a few other Republicans, to profusely—and sarcastically—thank the mayor for his efforts on behalf of the GOP slate in the city election.

Walkup did no campaigning for the GOP candidates and even declined to endorse them, which had Republican Steve Kozachik making some harsh comments about Walkup during the campaign. Wonder how long it will take those wounds to heal?

We can say this much: Party alliances won't mean much on this City Council, but we do look forward to some intriguing alliances in the months to come.


MINI-DORM MANIA

The Goldwater Institute was crowing last week about winning a round in Pima County Superior Court against the city of Tucson in its lawsuit on behalf of mini-dorm developer Michael Goodman.

As the Tucson Weekly has reported, the city of Tucson tried to slow down Goodman's efforts to transform neighborhoods north of the University of Arizona into out-of-control party zones by stretching zoning regs to their limit in his construction of student housing.

Last week, Judge Paul Tang said Goodman—who poured at least $10,000 into an independent campaign committee to attack Democrats during the City Council election season—was free to seek damages that he suffered as the result of an anti-demolition law that the City Council passed and later repealed. It's a test case of the Private Property Rights Protection Act, passed by voters as Prop 207 in 2006.

Assistant city attorney Michael McCrory says Goodman might not see a big payday from taxpayers.

"We have a long way to go before we go to awarding damages," said McCrory, who is representing the city in this lawsuit, as well as other litigation Goodman has against the city regarding his Feldman's and Jefferson Park neighborhood developments.

Since the anti-demolition ordinance has already been repealed, McCrory says Goodman no longer has any present damages. Next comes the discovery phase when the Goldwater Institute will have to come before Tang and show specific damages.

McCrory says he plans to bring up a whole slew of legal issues regarding Goodman's claim, statutory interpretations and the question of whether damages can legally be awarded.

"We're not terribly upset by this ruling," said McCrory, who expects to be back in the courtroom on the case early next year.


ISN'T THAT SPECIAL?

State lawmakers are creeping closer to a special session to address the $2 billion shortfall in the current budget year. We hear they could swing into action as soon as next week.

Don't expect them to try to fix the entire shortfall; that will have to wait until the regular legislative session starts in January.

Instead, look for lawmakers to do some basic fixes to repair problems created when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed big chunks of the GOP budget in September. There may be some spending cuts as well.

We hear that Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives are ready to make big cuts, but Brewer and some folks in the Senate may not be ready to go as high as they are.

Speaking of the Legislature: We have our policy differences with Sen. Al Melvin, but we'd like to wish him the best of luck and a speedy recovery in his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.

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