Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth formally launched his campaign against Arizona Sen. John McCain on Monday, Feb. 15, showing up in Tucson at the end of a long day of speeches around Arizona.
Hayworth is not holding back his punches against McCain, dismissing Arizona's senior senator as too liberal for the state because he opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thinks it's wrong to waterboard terrorists like the underwear bomber and supports "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
Hayworth called his campaign "a classic political confrontation: John McCain and the Washington establishment on one side, and we the people on the other."
In Tucson, we the people added up to about 100 folks at El Presidio Park, many of whom identify with the Tea Party movement, although The Skinny did not see Tucson Tea Party leaders Trent Humphries and Robert Mayer in attendance.
Hayworth has captured a few high-profile endorsements, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has never been much of a fan of McCain, and Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox, who announced he was giving up his own campaign against McCain to support Hayworth. (Given Simcox's lousy polling numbers, that move will probably save him several gallons of humiliation on primary day.) And might we even see Joe the Plumber coming to Arizona to help Hayworth as St. Sarah of Alaska comes to the rescue of McCain?
McCain has kept the support of the members of Arizona's congressional delegation, although the Hayworth challenge has him moving further to the right than ever. This race will expose all the weird contradictions that exist within the modern Republican Party and its ongoing love/hate affair with government. Frankly, we can't wait to watch it all unfold.
If nothing else, the GOP primary should encourage Democratic City Councilman Rodney Glassman to take the gamble of getting into the race on the chance that Hayworth pulls off an unlikely upset, or in the hopes that McCain alienates enough conservatives that they don't support him in November.
Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives were in such a rush to pass a massive tax-cut bill that they didn't even wait to get a fiscal analysis before deciding to vote for it.
The tax-cut package, which is heavily weighted toward Arizona's wealthiest residents, is now stalled, with Senate President Bob Burns saying he wants to settle this year's budget issues before turning the Senate's attention to the so-called Arizona Jobs Recovery Act.
But the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has finally crunched the numbers.
In fiscal year 2012, the cost will be $171 million. By the time it's fully implemented in 2017, the annual price tag will climb to $941 million.
That's a pretty big drop in state revenues, especially when you consider that the state's current shortfall for the upcoming budget year is somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion, and Gov. Jan Brewer has already submitted a budget that does away with health care for hundreds of thousands of people, gets rid of all-day kindergarten, eliminates GED and adult-education programs, axes programs for gifted students in public schools, reduces treatment for the mentally ill, reduces state support of universities, and so on.
But Republicans insist that rather than adding to the state's structural deficit, the cuts will generate such business growth that new tax revenues will make up for any losses.
Rep. Frank Antenori says he doesn't buy the JLBC numbers, because they don't consider the big economic bounce that will come as businesses rush into Arizona. The JLBC estimates, he says, "don't take in dynamic return. They don't take in economic growth. They don't take in the return on investment."
Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry says Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to save hundreds of millions of dollars by cutting the health-insurance coverage of hundreds of thousands of Arizona workers is the wrong way to go.
Brewer wants to ask voters to rescind the Healthy Arizona proposition they passed in 2000. (For more on that, see "Don't Got You Covered" on Page 13.) That prop required the state to give health-care coverage to anyone under the federal poverty line, which is now $18,310 for a family of three. Before that passed, Arizona residents who earned more than one-third of the federal poverty level were ineligible for state coverage.
Hamer says reducing that coverage would have dire consequences for the state's health-care industry.
"If you're taking 300,000 people off of health insurance, it doesn't mean they won't receive care," Hamer says. "Federal law requires that care be provided in the emergency room for people who go there for health-care needs. It's going to be covered one way or another. That's a highly inefficient, extremely expensive way to provide care."
Hamer says the emergency-room visits will end up increasing costs for hospitals, which will lead to a "hidden health-care tax."
"What winds up happening is those costs are passed on to private insurance; private insurance passes those costs on to the private sector, and the cost of insurance goes up, which means fewer businesses can afford to provide coverage, which means that fewer Arizonans will have coverage," he says.
Republican Jesse Kelly, who hopes to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in November, first has to get through a four-man primary that includes state Sen. Jonathan Paton and political newcomers Brian Miller and Andy Goss.
Kelly was declared the winner of a debate among the four candidates held last week at Ironwood Ridge High School, where about 500 people turned out to get a look at the candidates. Roughly half the folks who cast a vote after the debate said they liked what they saw from Kelly, while only about 20 percent said they thought Paton came out on top.
But if Kelly votes in the August GOP primary, it will be the first time he's ever cast a vote in anything other than a general election in Pima County.
Kelly has only voted in three general elections, in November 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Kelly only recently registered as a Republican, but as an independent, he could have voted in primaries if he had wanted to. But he says none of the candidates on primary ballots measured up to his standards.
"I get out there to vote when I find someone who excites me to vote," Kelly says.
Kelly chuckles when asked if Republican Randy Graf, the conservative firebrand who was on the primary ballot in Congressional District 8 in both 2004 and 2006, was just not exciting enough for him.
"Yeah," he says.
Kelly also sat out bond elections and the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election that established a half-cent sales tax in Pima County for roads and public transit. Why didn't he vote?
"I don't have any clue," Kelly says. "I don't remember why I sat that one out."
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