The Skinny


We've mentioned before that the state Senate race in Legislative District 26 looks like it'll be one of this year's liveliest campaigns.

LD 26, which stretches down from SaddleBrooke through Oro Valley and across the Catalina Foothills, is now represented by Democrat Charlene Pesquiera, who pulled off an unexpected upset in the GOP-leaning district in 2006. Pesquiera, who got into the race on little more than a lark, beat Republican Al Melvin, a rock-solid conservative who managed to clobber the more moderate Republican incumbent, Toni Hellon. But Melvin proved a bit too conservative in a Democratic year; he lost to Pesquiera by fewer than 500 votes.

Melvin dusted himself right off and started his 2008 run nearly as soon as the final vote was announced. He's already qualified for Clean Elections and received a check for $12,921.

In the GOP primary, Melvin will face Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has termed out of the House of Representatives after eight years representing District 26. Hershberger is already getting pounded by Melvin on gun control, abortion, illegal immigration, gay marriage and whether or not he is a "loyal, mainstream Republican."

Democrats--who are hoping that Melvin wins the primary, because they see him as the weaker candidate in the general election--have found a candidate to replace Pesquiera, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election: Cheryl Cage.

"This election cycle is one of the most important in my lifetime," Cage says. "We have decisions to make about our water, our growth (and) our educational system. I also want to make sure the Arizona economy grows by using what we have in abundance. We have a great opportunity for solar and alternative-energy businesses to be based here."

Cage is familiar with LD 26; she ran Democrat Lena Saradnik's successful House campaign in the district in 2006. When Saradnik stepped down earlier this year after suffering a stroke, Cage's name was one of three submitted to the Pima County Board of Supervisors to replace her, although she knew she wasn't really in the running. The seat went to former Amphi School Board member Nancy Young Wright, who is running for the House alongside Democrat Don Jorgenson.

Republicans Vic Williams, Trent Humphries and Marilyn Zerull are competing for the two Republican nominations in the House race.


You wouldn't think a sewer-treatment plant would be any great prize, but the fight continues between the town of Marana and Pima County over the Marana Wastewater Reclamation Facility. (Wonder why nobody in local government wanted that building named after them ...)

The county built the WRF, but Marana says it belongs to them based on a 1979 agreement between the county and the town that stipulates that if either party ends the agreement, ownership of the sewer system reverts to the town.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says that part of the agreement covers the pipelines, not the treatment plant. But Marana is making a play for the building, including an effort to annex it into Marana's town limits.

The Board of Supervisors moved to block the annexation by declaring the treatment plant and some nearby land to be Pima County's newest park--a designation that Marana is now challenging in court.

Why the stink over a sewer plant? Marana says it can build a more advanced treatment plant--but officials also want to use the treated wastewater from the plant to win recharged water credits from the state, so they can pump more groundwater.

Lawyers for the county have filed one of the most amusingly incomprehensible bits of legalese we've seen since Brad Schwartz's murder-for-hire trial wrapped up: "Knowing the county would not consent to Marana control of the Marana WRF-produced effluent without proportional compliance with set-asides for satisfying obligations under SAWRSA and Conservation Effluent Pool, Marana concocted a scheme to annex and claim ownership of the Marana WRF through an interpretation of the 1979 IGA, which by its term only related to sewer pipes and the provision of sewer service within Marana's town limits."


The folks from Union Pacific seem mighty worried about the idea that they'd actually need to have a public meeting if they decide they want to drop a 6-mile-long switching station into the middle of a community--like they currently are planning to do up near Picacho Peak.

Rep. Jonathan Paton has sponsored a bill that would require railroads to participate in a public meeting with the state Department of Transportation before they'd be able to build a new facility, so the public would have a chance to weigh in. Paton sponsored a similar measure last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano. This measure got some special treatment this week in the Senate Rules Committee, when a representative from the railroads was allowed to testify about the constitutionality of the bill. The railroads maintain that the states have no authority to regulate them. It's been decades since anyone besides a rules-committee lawyer testified in front of the committee, which is charged with determining whether legislation is constitutional.

The bill passed the committee and is now going to a vote of the full Senate.


Here's a political parlor game being played down at City Hall: What if Gov. Janet Napolitano were to appoint Mayor Bob Walkup to the U.S. Senate? Napolitano would get to pick a Republican to replace John McCain if our senior senator were to win the White House. Given her own political leanings, she'd be looking for a moderate, and they don't come much more mod than Mayor Bob. This is the guy who can't even bring himself to endorse Republican state Sen. Tim Bee in the race against Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

If Mr. Walkup did go to Washington, the Democratic Tucson City Council would get to pick his replacement--and there's no requirement in the City Charter that it be a member of the departing mayor's political party.

All things considered, we think former Congressman Jim Kolbe would make a better pick to replace McCain. He's competent, knows the landscape--and probably couldn't win a statewide GOP primary.


Has Wal-Mart finally found a way to open at El Con Mall? El Con neighbors learned at a recent meeting that good ol' Wally Mart was negotiating with Macy's to take over the department store's now-vacated space at the west end of the mall.

Would that activate the restrictions of the city's Big Box ordinance? If Wal-Mart remained within the footprint of the existing building--even if they tear it down--the world's favorite retailer might be able to sidestep the Big Box rules.


Cultures will sinfully collide next Thursday, May 8, as the members of the Pima County Republican Cigar Club crash the weekly Drinking Liberally get-together at the Shanty, 401 E. Ninth St., at Fourth Avenue.

Republican Vic Williams, an organizer of the cigar club and a candidate for the aforementioned LD26 House seat, says the two groups will be "building consensus, one scotch and one cigar at a time."

Stop by for a relaxing drink yourself anytime after 6 p.m.