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LET'S MAKE A BACKROOM DEAL!

The GOP primary in Congressional District 8 is a crowded affair: Republicans Jonathan Paton, Jesse Kelly, Brian Miller, Andy Goss and Jay Quick are all fighting for the chance to take on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in November.

For weeks, the district has been abuzz with rumors that Kelly's team tried to make it a little less crowded by persuading Miller to drop out of the race.

Adam Kwasman, manager of the Kelly campaign, says that's not the case. He says Miller's presence in the race actually benefits Jesse, because "Miller is taking votes away from Paton."

But Miller's campaign manager, Sam Stone, says that Kwasman had a different perspective when they met for lunch a few months back. At that time, Stone says, Kwasman tried to talk Stone into persuading Miller to drop out of the CD8 race and instead run for the Arizona Legislature.

"He went so far as to offer to raise Brian $50,000 to run against (Republicans) Terri Proud and Vic Williams in (Legislative District 26)," Stone says.

Why would the Kelly camp want Miller out of the race? Stone says polls done by the various campaigns show that "Paton has a marginal lead over Brian and Jesse, and that Brian and Jesse are splitting a fair number of votes between them. Both appeal to a sort of anti-establishment, anti-incumbent mood that's in the country right now."

Kwasman admits that he did meet with Stone "to discuss Miller's political future. ... It was complete kibitzing."

But Kwasman flatly denies offering to raise any money.

"I would love to have $50,000 that I would be able to offer," he says.

Stone says that Kwasman also offered him a job with Kelly's office after the election. But Stone didn't take the offer too seriously.

"Personally, I don't think there's any circumstance under which Jesse Kelly is likely to win, either in August or November," Stone says.

Kwasman denies offering Stone a job.

"I said that Sam's great at what he does, and I'd love to have him on board," Kwasman says. "That's different from making an offer."


DUCKING DEBATES

Republican state Sen. Al Melvin has declined a challenge by his Democratic challenger, Cheryl Cage, to a series of one-on-one debates before the November general election, saying he can't fit it into his schedule.

"I told her I'm busy," Melvin says. "I'm going door to door."

Cage, who lost the Legislative District 26 Senate race to Melvin in 2008 by fewer than 2,000 votes, says she thinks Melvin won't debate her because he would have to defend his "abysmal" voting record.

"I mean, it's completely against what the voters of LD26 want," she says. "He voted for payday-loan people to stay in business, and 63 percent of our constituents voted against that. He voted 100 percent of the time against public education, and we passed Prop 100 by a 2-to-1 margin."

Though the two will not debate one-on-one, they will attend several candidate forums alongside other legislative candidates in the coming months.

Melvin says voters can also learn about the candidates on their own.

"I would encourage people to look at her website and look at my website," Melvin says. "You know politics is education—there are many different ways for the voters to see the positions of the candidates."

But you won't be seeing Melvin's positions on KUAT's Arizona Illustrated or in the editorial pages of the Arizona Daily Star and The Arizona Republic.

Melvin says he and other Southern Arizona Republican lawmakers are issuing a boycott of the major local media outlets until the news organizations add at least one "center-right" person to their editorial boards.

"They're totally slanted to the left," he says. "There is nothing fair and balanced about it, and we're not going to be a party to it."

Though they are still talking to reporters from the papers, Melvin says they will not have anything to do with the editorial boards—and will not participate in endorsement interviews.

"The outcome is so obvious from the beginning that it makes no sense for us to participate (in the endorsement process)," he said.


GETTING BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

Green-turned-independent Dave Ewoldt has beaten Democrat-turned-independent Ted Downing's effort to get him tossed off the November ballot.

Both men are running against Democrat state Sen. Paula Aboud in midtown Tucson's Legislative District 28. And both are eschewing party labels.

Downing, who represented LD28 as a Democrat in the House of Representatives for two terms before losing a primary race to Aboud for the Senate seat in 2006, has a big gripe: Aboud and her companion, Terri Berg, helped Ewoldt make the ballot by passing his petitions.

Aboud didn't return a phone call from us, but Ewoldt says that Aboud and Berg offered to carry some petitions for him, because they'd been talking throughout the spring about the burdensome requirement that he had to collect 655 signatures to make the ballot.

Ewoldt actually could have qualified with just 46 signatures if he had remained a Green, but he decided that he'd have a better shot if he embraced the independent label.

"The Greens are still looked at by Democrats as spoilers," Ewoldt says. "They're looked at by Republicans as tree-hugging feminazis."


DISASTROUS DOWNTOWN DEAL

The Tucson City Council has settled a year-long legal dispute by handing over $750,000 and at least $125,000 in subsidies to downtown developers Scott Stiteler and Don Martin.

The city entered into a predevelopment agreement with a partnership that included Stiteler and Martin back in December 2008. The idea was to give the developers land in exchange for private investment and redevelopment downtown, with a provision calling for the city to pay damages if a development agreement couldn't be reached.

Last summer, the deal completely fell apart, partly because of complaints from the Rialto Theatre Foundation. Rather than trying to salvage the deal, Stiteler and Martin walked away and then demanded compensation.

Stiteler and Martin will get $750,000 from the city's strapped budget after they've shown that they've spent three times that amount fixing up their own properties on Congress Street. They'll also get $125,000 in permit-fee waivers for that work, and a special, below-market-rate deal on parking spaces in a new city garage. That element of the deal has the new Rio Nuevo board hopping mad, because they want that revenue to help pay for the parking garage.

The city will get money for a piece of downtown land that it's selling to Stiteler, and the developers will give $50,000 to Skrappy's Youth Club.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich considers her support for the predevelopment agreement one of the biggest mistakes of her first term, but says there was "enormous pressure" to approve it.

"I wouldn't support that kind of provision in the future," Uhlich says. "Unfortunately, it's a lesson learned."

Uhlich calls the settlement "the best we could make in this situation."


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