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ROCKET SCIENTIST IGNITES

When Congressman Raúl Grijalva, of Southeast Arizona's CD7, had a debate with Sarah Palin-endorsed rocket scientist Ruth McClung last week, the Tea Partiers came out to support their rising star.

Libertarian candidate George Keane and independent Harley Meyer also attended the debate, but the partisan populace paid them little attention as Grijalva and McClung went at it over immigration, jobs, healthcare, education and the federal budget.

A few hundred supporters, several of whom got so worked up they had to remove themselves from the rhetoric, packed the cafeteria of the Pima Community College Desert Vista campus to the brim. "Ruth! Ruth! Ruth!" was the favored chant over "Viva Grijalva!"

McClung repeatedly pounded Grijalva on his call for an Arizona boycott over SB 1070.

"First and foremost, we need a Representative who will never ever ever call for a boycott of our state in a recession," she said.

Grijalva stood strong on his support of some of the more controversial recent efforts of Congress, saying he was proud of his vote for the federal healthcare bill and that the stimulus was necessary.

"If the stimulus hadn't been in there, two more million people would have been out of work and the recession would have been a depression," he said.

But he did, once again, back off his support of the boycott, saying it was "a strategic mistake made as a consequence of how many of us felt at the time."

During his closing statement, the shaken Grijalva took on an audience member, who repeatedly interrupted him, yelling "Liar!"

"Courtesy and decency sir, that's all we ask for," said Grijalva.

We're hearing a lot about polls—some of which have been done by Democrats—that show a very tight race, which we blame on one thing: Grijalva's boneheaded call for a boycott. Sure, it doesn't help that unemployment is sky-high in Yuma and anti-incumbency fever is in the air, but Grijalva has brought this trouble upon himself.

It takes a special talent to lose a district as lopsided as CD7. We'll see whether Grijalva has that talent on Nov. 2—and if he's reelected, we'll see if he learned anything from all this.


CAGE MATCH

When Dave Perry, editor of the Explorer newspaper, finally got his LD26 Senate debate between state Sen. Al Melvin and Democrat Cheryl Cage together after more than three months of negotiations with Melvin, he wasn't about to let it get away from him.

Perry ran the long-awaited debate with an iron fist. When the crowd members started to get too rowdy, Perry threw up his hands and yelled right back.

The two-hour debate, which was hosted at BASIS charter school because Melvin refused to debate at a public school, covered everything from education funding in all-day kindergarten, school tuition tax credits and Proposition 100, to the future of Arizona state parks, nuclear power and the gas tax.

The highlight, though, came when Melvin was rebutting Cage's criticism of his refusal to debate at a public school. The senator wandered off topic to complain about her cameraman in the audience.

"This cameraman here, I was informed by my opponent, was bought and paid for by her," he said. "This is a tactic that the Democratic Party is using throughout the state of Arizona. ... They prefer (to debate) in a public school where they can stack the deck against Republicans and then they take the tape and they slice and dice it to see if they can come up with a hit TV piece."

Cage responded that the tape "is going to be on my website in its entirety and I offered Mr. Melvin a copy. As a public servant, you should not be afraid to be videotaped. It's really important that the person (voters) elect to this office is not afraid to say what they believe on videotape or on tape recording."


SEALS OF APPROVAL

As Election 2010 draws to a close, the usual cast of characters has issued endorsements, but there are a few unexpected endorsements worth mentioning again before you head to the ballot boxes.

In her second attempt at unseating Republican state Senator Al Melvin, Democrat Cheryl Cage has picked up a load of GOP defectors.

The aisle-crossing Republicans include former state Rep. Pete Hershberger; Bruce Dusenberry, the chair of Arizona Town Hall; and a former mayor of Marana, the late Ora Mae Harn.

Former UA president John Schaefer also joined the Cage camp, along with the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs and the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers. She's also picked up the support of the usual lefty organizations like the Arizona Education Association, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.

No notable Democrats have saddled up to Melvin, but he did get the usual support of the Arizona Right to Life, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Rifle Association, to name a few.

Schaefer also threw his support behind Democrat Todd Camenish, who is running against Republican Sen. Frank Antenori in Legislative District 30.

"We need legislators who will put policy before politics, and base their decisions on facts and not dogmatic ideology," Schaefer said in a press release.


CD8 DEBATE FEVER

We don't have much room to check in on Congressional District 8, where Democratic incumbent Gabrielle Giffords is facing Republican challenger Jesse Kelly.

But we'll have plenty about the race this week at The Range, our daily dispatch at daily.tucsonweekly.com. Check it out to see new campaign ads, the news from the Sierra Vista debate, a link to Monday's Tucson debate and a whole bunch more.

And don't forget: Your last chance to see a debate between the candidates is on KUAT-TV's Arizona Illustrated on Channel 6 at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22. Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster will moderate the half-hour forum.


GOODBYE, JORGE

Condolences to the family and friends of state Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, who represented the west side of Tucson for the last eight years.

The soft-spoken lawmaker's passing last week at a much-too-young 57 silenced one of the Arizona Legislature's most progressive voices.

Garcia's recent campaign for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission demonstrated that he didn't bend to political trends. He was the only candidate in the race to call for increasing the state's alternative-fuel standard, which mandates that 15 percent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2025.

While that standard might be forward-thinking in backwards Arizona, it lags significantly behind those of many other states. By standing for a substantial increase in the use of solar power (which ought to be simple enough in this sunny state), Garcia was the lone ACC candidate to push to bring Arizona's approach to generating energy into the 21st century.

That's the kind of thinking we need to compete for the green jobs of the future instead of the service jobs of the past. For his courageous stand on this and many other political issues, Garcia will be sorely missed.

"The people of Southern Arizona have lost a tremendous advocate and he'll be sorely missed at the Legislature," says Rep. Matt Heinz. "He put solving problems ahead of partisanship, always."


Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel

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