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click to enlarge Senator John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting in Marana.

J.D. Fitzgerald

Senator John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting in Marana.

McCain Fatigue

Does Arizona's senior senator have reason to worry next year?

There's a lot of chatter in the political parlor room about the possibility that Arizona Congressman David Schweikert might decide to challenge Sen. John McCain in next year's Republican primary.

We hear Schweikert is talking to some of the big-money independent groups who have fat wallets and little love for McCain—the Club for Growth and their ilk. And we hear that McCain's numbers are pretty bad, so Schweikert and his potential allies think the race is winnable.

We don't have great data, but Public Policy Polling noted way back in May that of 300 Republican primary voters surveyed, 37 percent said they supported McCain while 51 percent said they'd prefer "someone more conservative." About a month ago, a Rocky Mountain Poll of 226 Republicans showed McCain with the support of just 38 percent of GOP voters, with 47 percent undecided.

Just how accurate are those surveys? They were small sample sizes to be sure, but we're hearing that McCain isn't doing all that hot in polls that haven't been released.

It's certainly no secret that McCain and the hardcore Republican base don't get along. They've been unhappy about his ever-shifting positions on immigration, gun laws, taxes and other issues near and dear to their hearts. They've censored and rebuked him in various arenas and he's pushed back, trying to put his own people in charge of various precincts with mixed success. You could certainly see the tension this summer, when McCain complained that a Phoenix rally with Donald Trump would fire up the "crazies" and Trump soared in the polls after calling McCain a "loser" for failing in his 2008 White House bid and dismissing his stint as a Vietnam POW with the observation that McCain was "a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, okay?"

As long as State Sen. Kelli Ward remains McCain's strongest challenger, he remains likely to win his primary. It's not that she couldn't win, but Team McCain can cite her embrace of chemtrail conspiracy theorists, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and other oddballs to push the narrative that's she's not serious enough for the U.S. Senate.

But Schweikert, a former state lawmaker who has continued burnishing his conservative credentials during his three terms in Congress, could scramble the equation. He certainly fits the bill of "someone more conservative" that GOP voters told PPP they were searching for.

Not that McCain would be a pushover: He relishes a good fight and will raise plenty of money to go on the warpath against any and all challengers. And if Ward stays in, the anti-McCain vote can go two different directions.

Who might be the biggest winner of a tough GOP primary? Democrat Ann Kirkpartrick, who is giving up her seat in the sprawling Congressional District 1 to run for Senate.

Objection Overruled

Judge rejects GOP claim that last month's city election was illegitimate

Earlier this week, just hours after Democrats Shirley Scott, Paul Cunningham and Regina Romero were sworn in for new four-year terms on the Tucson City Council, Pima County Superior Court Judge Gus Aragon ruled that he would not order a new election or declare two of three Republican candidates to be the real winners of the election. Aragon's basic reasoning: It was too late to challenge the election. As The Skinny reported last week, GOP candidates Kelly Lawton and Margaret Burkholder had sought to have the election results tossed out because a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling had declared the city's system of holding ward-only primaries and then citywide general elections unconstitutional one week after the voters had gone to the polls and they had won their wards, even though they lost citywide.

But Aragon said that the challenge to the election should have come before ballots were cast, saying that the court found that "plaintiffs' delay in filing this action after the general election was unreasonable. This delay in light of plaintiffs' knowledge of the existing system is unfair and prejudicial to defendants Cunningham, Scott and the City of Tucson."

Aragon noted that the Republican candidates had agreed to run under the existing system and even took city matching funds related to running citywide elections.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said via email that the city "is pleased with the decision by Judge Aragon to dismiss the election contest. With respect to the Ninth Circuit decision that was the basis for this election contest, the City will be filing its Petition for En Banc Rehearing by the end of the week." The GOP candidates could appeal Aragon's decision.

Special Presentation

Documentary on Rosemont Mine parent company gets TV airing this weekend

No worries if you didn't get a chance to get to the Loft Cinema in recent weeks to see investigative journalist John Dougherty's documentary about Hudbay Minerals, the new owners of the proposed Rosemont Copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.

You'll now have the chance to see it in your home: Flin Flon Flim Flam, which explores Hudbay's history in its native Canada, as well as its operations in Latin America, will show at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, on KGUN-9.

A few points of full disclosure: The film was paid for by Farmers Investment Company, which owns pecan groves in Sahuarita and whose owners, Dick and Nan Walden, are opposed the plan for a mile-wide open-pit mine in the Santa Ritas, although they did not have editorial input into the film. Dougherty's journalism nonprofit, the Arizona Center for Investigative Journalism, serves as a fiscal sponsor for your Skinny scribe's own nonprofit, the Arizona Watchdog Alliance, which funds Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's guests are former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and Democratic strategist Rodd McLeod.

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