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MILEAGE MONEY

Republican Jonathan Paton, one of four GOP candidates who hope to take out Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in November, cashed in a lot of miles on his final campaign-finance report as a state senator.

Paton, who announced on Jan. 17 that he'd be running for Congress instead of pursuing re-election to the state Senate, is closing out his state Senate campaign account, which had $12,220 in it at the start of year.

As part of the wrap-up, Paton reimbursed himself for $8,350 in mileage expenses, in five payments: $250 on Feb. 4, $3,000 on Feb. 9, $3,000 on Feb. 19, $1,100 on March 4 and $1,000 on March 24.

At the standard reimbursement rate of 54 cents a mile, that comes out to 15,463 miles.

Paton, who resigned from his $24,000-a-year job as a state senator on Feb. 22, says the reimbursements cover the miles he drove around the district in 2009 to Green Valley, Sierra Vista and other areas in between to meet with constituents.

"I thought I was going to be running a Senate race, and I didn't want to pay myself back as much as I owed myself, because I could use that money for other stuff, like messaging," says Paton. "When I realized I wasn't going to be running for re-election, I finally reimbursed myself."

In an earlier campaign-finance report (covering Nov. 25, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2009), Paton claimed $5,527 in mileage expenses and $5,262 in other traveling expenses.


FAMILIAR FACE JOINS TEAM GIFFORDS

Speaking of Congressional District 8: Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has hired political consultant Rodd McLeod to guide her re-election effort.

McLeod, who recently left a gig running Democrat Terry Goddard's gubernatorial campaign, knows his way around CD 8. He oversaw Giffords' first campaign in 2006, when she won a crowded primary race by double-digits and went on to win the general by 12 percentage points.

However, considering the dramatic shifts in the national moods over the last four years, McLeod has his work cut out for him.


GOSS OUT OF GAS

The GOP primary that will decide which Republican will face Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords got a little less crowded last week when Andy Goss dropped out.

Goss, an Army vet who was featured in a Wall Street Journal article because of his suggestion that members of Congress sleep in barracks when they're in Washington, D.C., was never a contender, although he provided occasional moments of comic relief on the campaign trail.

Goss' exit leaves four Republicans in the race: former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton, political newcomers Jesse Kelly and Brian Miller, and onetime independent candidate Jay Quick. GOP voters will decide the Republican primary on Aug. 24.

As he exited the race, Goss endorsed Kelly.

"It is the voters of Southern Arizona who will decide this race, and it is obvious that in 2010, a well-financed establishment candidate is not the answer to beating Gabrielle Giffords," Goss said last week at a press conference. "Jesse has demonstrated an exceptional ability to both raise money and organize the significant grassroots network required to reach all corners of District 8."

Kelly said Goss' endorsement meant that "all the conservatives in District 8 are unified in one campaign."

Paton says he's sorry to see Goss drop out of the race, but he doesn't expect that the decision will have much of an impact on the campaign.

"He was fun to have on the campaign trail," Paton says.

If you're interested in seeing what the CD 8 Republican candidates have to offer, they'll be appearing at a forum from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, at Desert Christian School, 7525 E. Speedway Blvd.


WINNOWING THE HERD

CD8 candidate Andy Goss wasn't the only candidate to give up a campaign in recent days: Both Arizona Treasurer Dean Martin and businessman Buz Mills announced that they were suspending their campaigns against Gov. Jan Brewer, allowing Brewer to cruise through the rest of the GOP primary.

Martin said last week he was giving up his campaign because he felt a primary challenge was too much of a "distraction" to the state.

"The Obama Administration's lawsuit is a blatant attempt to divide us and I will not be part of the problem," Martin said. "Rather, I intend to be part of the solution."

Martin's poll numbers among GOP voters had sunk from 20 percent in March to 12 percent in June in a series of Rasmussen surveys, while Brewer's had soared from 20 percent to 61 percent. He had only recently qualified for $707,000 in Clean Elections funds, which he's still free to spend as long as he's just "suspended" his campaign.

Earlier this week, shooting-range owner Buz Mills, whose most recent campaign-finance report showed he had spent $3.2 million of his own money on his campaign against Brewer, said he was suspending his campaign as well. In a roundabout way, he blamed illegal immigrants for the inability of his campaign to gain traction.

"SB1070 has regrettably taken the focus off of job creation and fixing the state budget," Mills said in a statement. "So even though the chasm between Brewer's policies and mine is dramatic, SB1070 has politically mitigated those issues. I have therefore decided to suspend the campaign."

The most recent Rasmussen survey had Mills' support at 16 percent. He was smart enough to see that he wasn't going to be able to buy the election, even with Martin out of the way.

At least the TV stations got a bit of a stimulus out of his big-spending campaign.


MCCAIN VS. HAYWORTH: THE MAIN EVENT

The big event of the 2010 primary season has arrived: The debates between U.S. Sen. John McCain and challenger J.D. Hayworth are this weekend.

Yes, little-known challenger Jim Deakin will be there, too, but the fight is really between McCain and Hayworth, who has been softened up by months of McCain's TV ads and mailers, which portray the former congressman as an opportunistic huckster who never encountered a pork project he didn't want to fund with your tax dollars.

Since Hayworth hasn't been able to raise anywhere near enough money to counter McCain's barrage, the debates represent Hayworth's last chance to present himself as a viable candidate. Look for him to highlight McCain's own occasional support of pork, connections to lobbyists and flip-flops on everything from border security to cap-and-trade legislation.

The Phoenix debate will air from 7 to 8 p.m., Friday, July 16, on Phoenix TV station KTVK Channel 3.

The Tucson debate will air from 7 to 8 p.m., Saturday, July 17, on KUAT Channel 6. Moderating will be Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster.

Political junkies will also want to tune into Arizona Illustrated on Monday, July 19, for a forum featuring the three Republican candidates running for two House seats in Legislative District 26—Rep. Vic Williams, Terri Proud and Wade McLean—and again on Wednesday, July 21, for a forum featuring Republican candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Margaret Dugan, John Huppenthal and Beth Price. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 6.

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

More by Jim Nintzel

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