Skinny HANDICAPPED ACCESS: Former car dealer D. L. Culiver has already dropped $150,000 into his Republican candidacy for state treasurer, with a chunk of that cash going to Washington consultant Gary Rogers, former field director for the creepy Christian Coalition. Culiver has promised he'll spend as much as necessary to buy this second-string office.

We hear this wealthy political neophyte was considering the governor's race, before someone pointed out to him that the GOP nomination was already sewn up by current Gov. Jane Dee Hull.

Culiver's major qualifications for treasurer: administrative experience from running his car dealership, along with the money to buy the job.

Meanwhile, his principle GOP opponent, conservative state Sen. Carol Springer, has raised about $30,000. Her fundraising efforts are currently frozen because the Legislature is in session.

In the meantime, we're recognizing the unintended consequences of well-meaning campaign reforms. First we passed a "resign-to-run" law, which forced incumbents to resign their seats if they declared their intention to run for another office before the last year of their current term. State Sen. John Kaites tried to get around this restriction by raising big bucks for an "exploratory committee" for the attorney general's seat. Now he's in trouble with underlings in the AG's office--one of which happens to be his GOP primary opponent, Tom McGovern--another big-bucks dude ready and willing to spend plenty of dough to win the top seat.

After we passed the resign-to-run law, we decided to purify our politics by forbidding incumbent lawmakers from raising any money while the Legislature was in session. Combine this with campaign-finance limits that exempt rich candidates under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and is there any wonder that most of our state offices are held by stale upper-crusts like the recently convicted former Gov. J. Felonious Whiteguy III?

Reformers made two unforeseen errors. They failed to fully recognize how all these restrictive laws have disabled experienced potential candidates from seeking higher offices, thus tipping the playing field to wealthy layabouts. And at about the same time, legislators figured voters would find a way to choose between candidates besides paid advertising. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to anticipate that our two miserable, out-of-town-owned dailies would abdicate their responsibility of covering politics.

It's time to reform the reforms--cumulatively, they're handicapping candidates who deserve a shot at the office. The Springer-Culiver race is a prime example.

INCORPORATE WELFARE: Give District 9 state Rep. Bill McGibbon credit--he can certainly get a bill out of the state House of Representatives. Over the whining of Tucson Mayor George Miller and the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, House Bill 2519 passed 33-24, with six of the negatives coming from Tucson area Democrats--apparently the total extent of Miller's influence. The bill breathes new life into future incorporations by repealing the six-mile "disenfranchisement zones" around existing municipalities and further recognizes Tortolita and Casas Adobes retroactively in case the towns lose their current court case against the City of Tucson.

The bill is in for tougher times in the Senate, as there is no McGibbon to hammer it through. However, if he and House Speaker Jeff Groscost really want it, they'll make their move at the end of the session, when they could muscle a trade-off for something the senators want.

The bill's major opposition doesn't really come from Tucson-area Democrats and Miller, who are basically irrelevant, but from Maricopa interests who've muscled the GOP types against it. Seems there may be a few more anti-development Tortolitas waiting in the wings up there.

Several local Demos, including District 11 Rep. Carmine Cardamone, have also stated that while they couldn't buy the whole incorporation package, they'd be happy to vote for a bill that took care of Tortolita. Apparently Miller and a few of his clones, like Councilwoman Janet Marcus, are the only ones scared of the impact of teensy-weensy Tortolita on Tucson's future.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION REACTION: When state Sen. Scott Bungaard (R-Berlin, circa 1938) began pushing a bill that would put before voters a proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would forbid any affirmative action programs in state government, he ran into a lot of resistance.

Among the opponents were the administrators of Arizona's three universities, who feared the amendment would be so far-reaching that it would prevent the universities from continuing outreach programs that have helped boost minority attendance in our colleges.

As some lawmakers announced their objections to the plan, Bungaard became so obsessed with his pet project he managed to sour--perhaps permanently--his relationship with several of his colleagues in the statehouse.

Bungaard polled constituents in the districts of senators opposed to the plan to learn the voters' stance on the issue. He's yet to release the poll's questions or responses, and has declined to reveal who paid for the survey.

Bungaard's little scheme backfired, however, when word leaked about the polls to the targeted senators, who were flat-out enraged by what one called a "disgusting" maneuver. As a result, the measure died when it went before the full Senate.

But Bungaard has not yet been deterred from his quest to purify government. He's declared he intends to lead an initiative drive to put the question on the November ballot.

One good thing about Bungaard's new strategy: It'll be expensive, so the backers of the plan will finally have to come out of the shadows when they file campaign finance reports--so we'll at least have some idea of who Bungaard's pals really are.

YOU WON'T HAVE VICKI COX-GOLDER TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE: Last week, The Skinny reported on the upcoming Legislative District 12 clash in northwestern Pima County. With Rep. Freddie Hershberger calling it quits, several Republicans--including radio-talk-show host John C. Scott and real estate brokers Vicki Cox-Golder and Steve Huffman--were preparing to join incumbent Rep. Dan Schottel in the race for two House seats.

Well, as The Weekly was rolling off the presses, we got a fax from Cox-Golder, announcing she was withdrawing from the D12 race "for personal reasons."

We're not ones to pry, of course, but we were left wondering: What is it we don't know she don't know we don't know?

PERHAPS THE ONLY WAY TO GET COVERAGE IS TO DROP OUT OF THE RACE: The Tucson Citizen found the announcement by GOP candidate Vicki Cox-Golder that she was pulling out of the District 12 House race newsworthy enough to place it on the front page of their metro section. So how do we get them to give the same amount of coverage to those who really are running?

When Democratic state Rep. Art Hamilton, the longest-serving minority leader in Arizona history, announced his candidacy for secretary of state, we got nothing. State Sen. Carol Springer of Prescott is running for state treasurer, but nobody's covering that. Talk-show host John C. Scott has announced his Republican candidacy for the same District 12 seat Cox-Golder has declined, and what did the Citizen give us? Nada.

In fact, neither Scott nor the other GOP candidate in the District 12 race, Steve Huffman, were mentioned in the article about Cox-Golder; nor was the fact that incumbent Freddie Hershberger wasn't running. Hershberger, in fact, wasn't mentioned at all. But the two Democratic candidates--Mark Osterloh and Andy Morales--were mentioned.

The story, written by Pamela Hartman, quoted Pima County Republican Party Chairman Joe Pennington, who said he believed incumbent Dan Schottel was running again, and added he'd "heard rumors of several very strong candidates." Duh.

Pamela, next time ask him who those candidates might be. Joe, next time mention some names. The story is about them, not you. Citizen staff, get a clue. And try to tell us who's running before they pull out next time, will ya?

KOLBE QUITTING? Earlier this week, former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy announced he would challenge U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe for the Congressional District 5 seat. But Skinny sources tell us Kolbe, a Republican, may end up giving up the seat to take an office in--get this--the Clinton administration. Rumors are rife that Kolbe is in line to become Clinton's secretary of commerce.

If Kolbe takes the post, it could lead to a lively GOP primary. So far, only Sierra Vista City Councilman Harold Vangilder has announced he's running for the Republican nomination. But with Kolbe out of the way, several local Republicans are likely to climb into the ring, including Pima County Supervisor Mike Boyd, Republican National Committeeman Mike Hellon, state Sen. Keith Bee and state Rep. Bill McGibbon.

MONEY FOR NOTHING: As our two daily rags down-size the reporting staffs and lose penetration in a market where they essentially have a monopoly, we're told that the annual net profit of the Star/Citizen is about $45 million. That gets split between the Pulitzer-owned Star and the Gannett-owned Citizen.

This cozy arrangement is the result of a special federal law that created the joint-operating agreement to keep the afternoon paper around--even if nobody reads it. Think about that one next time you read an editorial in either rag about the evils of special-privilege legislation.

JUST WHAT THIS CITY NEEDS--MORE STINKING BILLBOARDS: Karl Eller, after a respite while he made millions with Circle K and newspaper giant Gannett, is back in the unsightly billboard business. Skinny sources tell us that Eller has purchased Whiteco, the big visual polluter in town.

Whiteco, which is currently in court on three different lawsuits with the City of Tucson, has lost two cases in the first pass, and has those under appeal. We're told that Eller, for whom the UA entrepreneurial school is named, feels his great connections with the UA will allow him to turn Whiteco around locally.

Unless the UA is ready to slap boards on campus and maybe sell ad space in classrooms, we can't see Eller moving much of anything around here. Even the cementhead faction on the Tucson City Council led by Mayor George Miller is hostile to that crappy industry, and there's no hope that the city will back off.

And we're also told that Eller is so far out of touch with reality that he's bringing back Manny Molina to honcho his local operation.

It'll be fun to watch the dailies and Inside Tucson Business brown-nosing Eller when the formal announcement is made.

BIG BROTHER WANTS TO KNOW WHAT BRAND OF SANITARY NAPKIN YOU PREFER: We note with admiration that Point of Contact, the newsletter of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, is attacking the grocery industry for its increasing use of unsightly billboards in our community.

The newsletter points out that Fry's has been using this scenery-desecrating, sleazy ad medium to promote its "V.I.P." discount card, and Safeway and Smith's are now doing the same. The cards are nothing more than a way to keep tabs on your personal buying habits--information that will prove valuable to all sorts of mega corporations bent on selling you their expensive, non-nutritious processed food crap. More Choco-Bunny Fru-Frus, anyone?

We suggest consumers fight back by paying in cash, and by filling out a new application form for these cards every single time they go to the grocery store--using a different alias each time, of course.

WANDA, MEET FERGIE: We're delighted to see The Desert Leaf, that epitome of foothills faux whose editors are fond of shamelessly profiling their own advertisers, is now running a column by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and part-time spokeswoman for all things Weight Watchers.

What a brilliant journalistic coup--why, just the other day at high tea we were remarking how dreadfully dull Tucson's white upper crust is these days, how terribly out-of-touch they all seem. Really, it's as if they've ingested too much stucco or something and, as a result, are dreading a particularly painful bowel movement. Or perhaps they're merely still mourning the loss of dear Diana, as is every man, woman and child on this planet.

Whatever the cause of the local ennui, however, the Duchess is certainly an appropriate columnist for The Desert Leaf. Much more so, we believe, than that pointless, overpaid slut, Wanda Johnson, whose long-running column appears opposite Her Royal Tubbyness in the Leaf's most recent edition. Wanda's had nothing new to say in a decade, and it's time that sacred cow retired.

Meanwhile, we hope the Leaf reprints those naughty photos of Fergie cavorting nakedly with that commoner sometime soon--we could all benefit from her lively, upper-crust example. TW

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