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GABBY'S MANTLE

A bunch of Democratic candidates for state and federal office turned up at Hotel Congress on Sunday, Oct. 28, for an afternoon of politics, live music and barbecue. The final speakers were U.S. Rep. Ron Barber and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona, who made their closing arguments to the crowd and urged them to volunteer to get out the vote.

But the real star of the day was guest DJ Gabby Giffords, who spun 20 minutes of tunes that included Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run," the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and (of course!) Calexico's "Crystal Frontier."

The crowd went wild for Giffords, pushing forward to snap photos of her as she danced behind the DJ table with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

Earlier in the week, Giffords found herself in the center of a minor controversy in Barber's race for re-election against GOP challenger Martha McSally.

McSally told The Washington Post last week that she thought she had a shot at unseating Barber because Southern Arizona voters "elect unique people to represent us in this district—Mo Udall, Jim Kolbe, Gabby Giffords.  I resemble Gabby Giffords more than the man who worked for her."

That brought a retort from Kelly on behalf of Barber's campaign: "Martha McSally is no Gabby Giffords. Time and time again, she has refused to give a straight answer when asked directly about the most important issues facing Southern Arizona. When someone points out how she changed her position on an issue from August to October, McSally complains that politics isn't fair. But when she talks to the Tea Party, she toes their line, spouting their policies on everything from health care to women's rights and Social Security. ... Martha McSally may share Gabby's gender, but Ron Barber shares Gabby's values."


NOT INTENDED TO BE A FACTUAL STATEMENT?

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Jeff Flake and his allies have doubled down on their efforts to destroy Democrat Richard Carmona's character—which tells us that they're worried that Carmona's reputation as a maverick is capturing the support of voters.

Carmona capitalized on the support he used to enjoy from Republicans by releasing a TV ad that repeated the praise that Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl heaped upon him during his confirmation hearing for the job of U.S. surgeon general.

McCain called Carmona's life story "the living embodiment of the American Dream," while Kyl said Carmona could be described as "a man for all seasons" whose "unique background will serve him well and serve us well."

Even though the 30-second spot includes a note that the comments were made in 2002, McCain and Kyl were hopping mad about the Carmona campaign's decision to remind voters of their words of praise, especially since they'd like to see Flake win. They released a joint statement calling the ad "deeply dishonest.

"It is shameful for Richard Carmona to try to deceive the voters in this way," the senators said. "It shows that he has no credibility, and it says everything the voters of Arizona need to know about Richard Carmona's fitness for office."

Kyl went so far as to tell the Weekly Standard that when he was recruiting Carmona to run for Congress in Southern Arizona when Republican Jim Kolbe retired (back when Kyl didn't have such big doubts about Carmona's "fitness for office"), Carmona was only interested in whether he'd get a car and housing if he were in Congress.

"I thought his response was odd and a little off-putting," Kyl told the Standard.

Carmona responded earlier this week by releasing a handwritten letter he received from Kyl after a meeting in Phoenix.

"For someone who's 'not so political,' you leave an audience in awe!" Kyl gushed. "Thanks for all you did for me in Phoenix last week. I look forward to continuing our discussion at your convenience."

Carmona tapped former U.S. senator Dennis DeConcini to back him up in the dispute—and DeConcini reminded voters of a Kyl spokesman's explanation that a bogus statement by Kyl about Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor "was not intended to be a factual statement."

"While I'm sure that Senator Kyl would like a Republican to replace him in the Senate, playing down his previous recruitment of Dr. Carmona in the Weekly Standard to that of an isolated phone call, is not only understated, it's not a factual statement," DeConcini said in a press release.

"Dr. Carmona's ad helps illustrate how false and disingenuous these character attacks have become. I've known Dr. Carmona for nearly 30 years. He's fielded calls from both parties to serve. For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have sung his praises as a fair-minded leader in our community. Trying to brand him as one thing or the other ignores his decisively independent history.

"My friends, Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, do not believe their laudatory statements given during Dr. Richard Carmona's confirmation hearing to become surgeon general have any bearing in the race for U.S. Senate: I  wholly disagree," DeConcini concluded. "Dr. Carmona was the same person then as he is now. What has changed is party politics."


EXPECT DELAYS

As we reported in "Dark Money Trail" (Page 15), businessman Mike Farley has a beef with Pima County over the future of the intersection of Kolb and Valencia roads.

The short version of the story is something like this: Farley would like to build a shopping center at the intersection. But the county's latest plans for improving the flow of traffic there disrupt Farley's ability to build the shopping center he envisions.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the county's plans are less expensive than Farley's preferred option and move traffic more efficiently.

Farley says that his proposal is cheaper and more efficient.

We're not traffic engineers, so we can't say who's right and who's wrong. But Farley has been so frustrated by his dealings with the county that he has created Arizonans for a Brighter Future to collect anonymous political contributions in order to run negative ads against Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in hopes of electing Republican challenger Tanner Bell and changing the balance of power in the county.

Farley says that he's not trying to change the balance of power to help his own development; instead, he's standing up for his friends in the business community who have told him how difficult it is to get something done here.

You can believe whatever you want to believe when it comes to all of that, but Farley's entrance into politics has meant that improvements to the Valencia-Kolb intersection will be delayed.

That's because Huckelberry recently decided to kick the decision on the future of the intersection to the Regional Transportation Authority. Last month, he sent the RTA all the planning documents that the county had assembled and let the RTA know it could make the decision about how to proceed.

Huckelberry says that Farley's creation of an independent campaign to unseat Bronson "has put us in a position where we can't continue with the project. No matter what we do or what we would select as an alternative, we would be viewed as biased." But it also makes it harder for Farley to round up enough votes to get his way, if the county's assessments of the cost and traffic volumes are correct.

Farley says Huckelberry's decision to hand the project to the RTA means work at the busy intersection will take longer to get done.

"My reaction is one of sadness, because I believe the taxpayers are getting hurt here," Farley said. "What in this world isn't politicized? ... There's an election coming. Hold off until after the election."

More by Jim Nintzel

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