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GIFFORDS VS. PATON: 2010 SHOWDOWN

The marquee race of 2010 got rolling last weekend when state Sen. Jonathan Paton announced he was going to run for Congress against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.

Sure, Paton needs to win a GOP primary against three fellow Republicans—Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller and Andy Goss—but he'll have establishment support, beaucoup bucks, campaign experience and superior connections, so that race is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Giffords and Paton have tangled in the past; back in 2000, both of them ran for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives in a midtown Tucson district that was then evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Giffords won and Paton lost, but he would later win a House seat in District 30.

In his campaign announcement, Paton telegraphed many of the issues he'll be talking about in his campaign, including Giffords' support of the stimulus package and the health-care reform package. He also made a point of linking her to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which is a card we'll see played again and again between now and November.

Giffords, meanwhile, sent out a cheery notice welcoming Paton to the Big Dance and reminding everyone that they've been friends for a long time.

It was left to Giffords' surrogates to go after Paton. Luis Heredia, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, sent out a grammatically challenged press release alleging that Paton had gotten into the race following a personal appeal from former president George W. Bush.

In a statement to the media, Paton called the allegation a lie and said he's never spoken to Bush.

"The only president that I can say has ever encouraged me to run for Congress is Barack Obama—due to his failed policies supported by Gabrielle Giffords."

Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers had a more biting line of attack, sending out a bulletin blasting Paton for being part of a GOP majority that has failed to balance the Arizona budget, neglecting education funding, abandoning the universities, supporting tax cuts while the state was facing huge deficits and quitting the Legislature when the going got tough.

Paton laughed off the suggestion that he's a quitter, pointing out that just last year, Democrat Janet Napolitano abandoned her gubernatorial post and Giffords herself resigned from an Arizona Senate seat to run for Congress in 2006.

"You mean like Janet Napolitano and Gabrielle Giffords?" Paton asked. "That kind of thing?"


THE SPIN DOCTOR IS IN

Republican Jonathan Paton can take credit for creating at least one job while still a state senator: He's hired former Arizona Daily Star political reporter Daniel Scarpinato away from the Arizona Capitol Times, where Scarp was editing The Yellow Sheets since September of last year.

"He's the best," Paton said of his new communications director.

Scarpinato tells The Skinny that he jumped at the opportunity because he genuinely likes Paton and sees the gig as a new challenge.

He's sure to do a better job than Tom Dunn, the onetime blogger that was inexplicably put in charge of handling the press for Republican Tim Bee's hapless campaign against Giffords in 2008. When Dunn wasn't ignoring media requests, he was blowing opportunities to get his candidate some ink or TV time.


AND THE DOMINOS BEGIN TO FALL

Sen. Jonathan Paton's big announcement that he was going to jump into the District 8 race was prematurely leaked by state Rep. Frank Antenori of District 30, who had his own announcement on Saturday afternoon: He plans to run for Paton's Senate seat this year.

"A lot of folks are happy with me and they want to make sure that seat stays relatively conservative and doesn't get occupied by a softer, squishier Republican."

Antenori is also in the hunt for an appointment to the seat when Paton resigns later this year, but Antenori's conservative leanings don't exactly match up with the Pima County Board of Supervisors' liberal politics.

The Board of Supes has the final say over the appointment, but they have to pick from three names submitted by District 30 precinct committeemen.

Antenori suggests supervisors may be sorry if they don't pick him.

"I've done a lot to work with Pima County and protect them from a lot of the stuff that was going on in Phoenix," Antenori says. "I think the Board of Supervisors would much rather have a guy in the Senate that has been working with them than a guy who is working against them. I think they'd rather have a happy Frank Antenori rather than an angry Frank Antenori."

But Antenori quickly adds: "I'm not trying to threaten anybody, don't say I'm trying to threaten anybody."

Antenori is facing a challenger for the Senate seat: Republican Marian McClure, who represented District 30 for eight years before reaching her term limit in 2008, tells us she's "throwing her hat back into the ring."

McClure says she'll also be appealing to District 30's precinct leaders to try to get her name forwarded to the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

But even if she doesn't land the appointment, McClure says she's ready to fight Antenori in this year's Republican primary.

"I think the state of Arizona needs somebody with some experience, and that's why I'm running," McClure says.


ACCESS DENIED

The Tucson City Council voted last week to drastically cut outside agency funding by 60 percent, which will have a major impact on everything from arts funding to the Humane Society.

The cut of nearly $380,000 in annual funding could spell the end to Access Tucson, the non-profit agency that runs the city's public-access TV stations.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich tried to save Access Tucson by drawing money from Channel 12, the city's own TV station that airs glowing profiles of council members and televises council meetings. But the effort failed on a 3-4 vote, with Mayor Bob Walkup and council members Shirley Scott, Rodney Glassman and Steve Kozachik opposing the idea.

City Manager Mike Letcher said he'd return next month with a proposal to merge public access with Channel 12. The big question: What is Channel 12 management going to do when a guy with devil horns wants to broadcast a show in which he urinates on a ripped-up photo of the Pope?

Sam Behrend, executive director of Access Tucson, says the non-profit organization is looking at its options, but the future looks dim.


WAREHOUSE RELIEF

One of the many budget ideas floated by Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik earlier this month involved three downtown warehouses recently purchased by the city from the state of Arizona.

The warehouses, including the notable Steinfeld Warehouse, will be put up for sale to buyers who agree to use them in accordance with the city's downtown warehouse management plan.

Kozachik had suggested just selling them without regard to the warehouse plan that the city had spent years developing because the city might get more money, but he's since backed off that idea.

"There's been a lot of time invested in the warehouse district," Kozachik says. "It's not my place to kick the apple cart as the new kid on the block."


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

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