One of the kinks of the deadlines for campaign-finance reports is that the pre-primary reports are due just days before the primary election—so there's not much of an opportunity to let voters know much about who's financing the candidates before the final votes are cast.
We don't have enough space here to go into everything that we've stumbled across in the reports that were filed last week; we'll be dropping some tidbits this week on The Range, our daily dispatch.
But we do want to talk about an odd turn of events in the race to replace the retiring Ann Day on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
By the time you're reading this, we'll probably know who won the Republican primary in that race—and so this particular item might be moot. But we think it's worth noting that two Republican candidates, Mike Hellon and Stuart McDaniel, have filed separate complaints with the Pima County Elections Department. They both want an investigation into an independent campaign that's boosting one of the other candidates, Ally Miller.
Reports filed with the Pima County Elections Department show that developer Mitch Stallard, who wrestled with the county over the development of the upscale La Encantada shopping center at Campbell Avenue and Skyline Drive, dropped at least $10,000 on TV and newspaper ads boosting Miller's candidacy. That's fine.
But here's the gripe from Hellon and McDaniel: They point out that Stallard's independent campaign is being handled by TagLine Media, which was also handling Miller's campaign earlier this year.
TagLine has been in the center of the county races. The consulting firm's GOP clients this year have included Miller, Sean Collins (who challenged Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll in the GOP primary), Tanner Bell (who is challenging Supervisor Sharon Bronson) and Fernando Gonzales (who is challenging Supervisor Richard Elías). TagLine is also working with Arizonans for a Brighter Future, the nonprofit business league dedicated to tossing out the incumbents on the Board of Supervisors.
Hellon says that TagLine can't work for both Miller and the independent campaign, because the law prohibits coordination between independent campaigns and candidates.
"TagLine Media is running both Ally Miller's campaign and Stallard's independent campaign out of the same offices and using some of the same materials," Hellon says. "It's apparently a blatant violation of campaign-finance laws requiring independent expenditure to not be coordinated with the campaign. If they're producing the material for the campaign and for the independent committee, that, by definition, is coordination."
McDaniel echoes the same complaint.
"There's not a wall of separation there," McDaniel says. "TagLine produced all of Ally's material and took all of her photographs."
But TagLine's Deb Weisel says the candidates are barking up the wrong tree. Weisel says she cut off the candidates in early July in order to work with the various independent campaign committees.
"I'm not working for any of (the candidates)," Weisel says. "I sent them all letters. Actually, Ally had quit long before the other ones, because she knew that I was probably going to start working for an independent, so she just did her own thing."
Miller's most-recent campaign-finance report, covering activity between June 1 and Aug. 17, shows no expenditures to TagLine.
Even while she was working for Team Miller, Weisel says she did very little for the candidate, who wrote most of her own material.
"Really, it was just design work," Weisel says. "She's a pretty confident person."
Weisel believes the complaint will not result in any penalties.
"We're following the law," Weisel says. "There was a lawyer involved and everything—a campaign lawyer, and he said, 'Just make sure you send them a letter, and there shouldn't be any problem at all.' I'm really just a vendor, but we covered our tracks, and we really have nothing to worry about."
Deputy County Attorney Daniel Jurkowitz forwarded the complaints to Amy Chan, the state election director in the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.
In his letter to Chan, Jurkowitz wrote that "only your office has jurisdiction to conduct an investigation and reach a reasonable cause determination regarding the allegations."
Miller, who has said she plans to blackball the Weekly over reporting about her allegations on the campaign trail, did not return a phone call.
Congressional District 2 Republican candidate Martha McSally, who was widely favored to win this week's GOP primary, has released a poll showing that she trails Democratic Congressman Ron Barber by 5 percentage points in the November general election.
The survey of 400 likely general-election voters, conducted by OnMessage Inc. on Aug. 7 and 8, showed that Barber had the support of 50 percent of the voters, with 45 percent supporting McSally. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
McSally spokesman Bruce Harvie said that the campaign is "very excited" by the poll results.
The 5-point spread is a lot closer than the 13-point lead Barber held over McSally in a July poll released by Team Barber.
Barber campaign manager Jessica Schultz threw cold water on the poll.
"This is the same campaign that approached our campaign before the special election with polling numbers saying we were trailing Jesse Kelly," Schultz said. "They were clearly wrong then."
Harvie said that OnMessage Inc. is "one of the most highly respected firms in the country, and we stand behind the poll."
Even though the poll shows McSally trailing, it's not surprising that she released the survey. Team McSally needs to create some good news, because she's trailing Barber in the fundraising race, and the National Republican Congressional Committee and other outside groups are already looking to spend their money in the neighboring Congressional District 1. Earlier this month, the NRCC reserved $900,000 in air time to boost Jonathan Paton in the congressional district, which includes Marana, Oro Valley, Flagstaff and most of eastern rural Arizona.
GOODBYE, MARY SCHUH
The Skinny is saddened to report the passing of Mary Schuh, a longtime local-government watchdog with the Pima Association of Taxpayers who stepped up to run for the Amphitheater School Board in 2000, when the board was in desperate need of reform.
Schuh died last Saturday, Aug. 25, from complications related to treatment for lymphoma. She was 78.
Our condolences to her husband, Jim, and their five kids and four grandkids.
Nancy Young Wright, a former state lawmaker who served alongside Schuh on the Amphi School Board, remembers that Schuh was "fearless."
"She was dogged and determined and smart and funny," says Wright, who is now seeking a seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors. "I'm really going to miss her."
Wright remembers that Schuh was skilled at piercing the arcane details of budgets and other government actions through humor.
"She never really quit," says Wright.
Ken Marcus, another friend of the family, said that "the community has lost a big advocate."
Marcus said that Schuh had an amazing institutional memory of local politics and could often remember key details from the past when new issues arose. "She had a lockbox up there in her memory," Marcus said. "She never took anything personally and always had a keen wit about her."