The Skinny


This week's special election brought Gabrielle Giffords back to Tucson for a visit.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, flew into Tucson last Saturday, June 9, to attend the get-out-the-vote concert and rally at the Rialto Theatre for Democrat Ron Barber, who was facing Republican Jesse Kelly in the June 12 special election to complete Giffords' term.

Giffords watched Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta and Calexico—her favorite band—from backstage, where she got to see Calexico do a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," a song she picked as a wake-up number for the astronauts on one of Mark Kelly's shuttle missions.

She and Mark Kelly came out to address the crowd before the Calexico performance—and then came back during the finale of "Guero Canelo," where they swayed alongside the band with Barber and his wife, Nancy.

Giffords, who is still struggling to find her voice after being shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, said little on Saturday night, other than thanking the crowd for a warm welcome when she took the stage.

Mark Kelly did the speaking, encouraging the crowd to support Barber, who was Giffords' district director when she represented Congressional District 8.

"For us—for Gabby and I, and members of the Giffords family—this is more than just an ordinary election," Mark Kelly said. "This is a little bit about closure. This is closure on Gabby's career in Congress. It wasn't when she resigned in January. I really truly believe that it's this coming Tuesday."

On Sunday, June 10, Giffords and Mark Kelly visited the offices of Barber's campaign and the Pima County Democratic Party to thank volunteers for their hard work.

At Barber's office, Giffords had brief one-on-one meetings with a number of the volunteers, smiling and thanking them for helping to get out the vote.

Mark Kelly told The Skinny that Giffords continues with physical and speech-rehab therapy six days a week.

"She still works very, very hard," he said. "This rehab is a long, long process for her. As you know, she suffered a devastating injury, and it's going to take some time before she can get back to work. And she's motivated to do that."

Giffords remains eager to return to Tucson, he said.

"Gabby has Tucson running through her blood," Mark Kelly said. "We will be living here full-time at some point. She'll be back here, and hopefully she'll be doing some kind of public service. We don't know what that will be, but she's looking forward to getting back."

The couple is exploring the idea of creating a Gabby PAC to support the issues that are important to Giffords.

"We don't know exactly what it will be, but she wants to continue to focus on those issues that have been very important to her—(like) veterans, renewable energy," Mark Kelly said, "those things she focused on when she was in Congress."


Arizona Senate President Steve Pierce shook up the Rio Nuevo Board last week when he told chairwoman Jodi Bain and failed mayoral candidate Rick Grinnell that their services were no longer needed.

Pierce replaced Bain and Grinnell with Fletcher McCusker, the CEO of Providence Service Corporation and one of the private sector's driving forces behind downtown's rebound; and Chris Sheafe, a longtime local developer.

The Skinny applauds both choices. We may not always agree with their politics, but both men understand what it takes to work collaboratively to improve the community.

GOP state Sen. Frank Antenori and his Tea Party acolytes have been on the warpath over the new appointments. They're complaining that auto-dealer Jim Click betrayed the GOP base by asking Pierce to give Bain and Grinnell the boot. Meanwhile, Bain and Grinnell have been portraying themselves as too darn honest to go along with the corruption required to work with the city.

There's a lot of talk about how Bain, Grinnell and other members of the Rio Nuevo Board were finally going to unveil the audit that showed where all the money was wasted—so they had to be silenced. That's great spin, but here's the real bottom line: Bain and Grinnell were among the board members who focused on filing lawsuits against the city rather than improving downtown. We've heard all of this talk about audits and investigations for years, so color us more than a little skeptical.

As chair of the board, Bain got constantly sidetracked into obscure legal battles. The Rio Nuevo Board's latest lawsuit, over repairs to the Tucson Convention Center, managed to blow up months of mediation with the city of Tucson to resolve differences and get started on those desperately needed TCC renovations. Seriously: Bain once held an emergency meeting of the Rio Nuevo Board at a Beyond Bread. Who does that? And she didn't exactly build a lot of trust by spending as much time with the board behind closed doors in executive session.

As for Grinnell: He demonstrated what a nitwit he was with all of his talk of how our friends at the Rialto Theatre ought to just shut their doors. We're not sorry to see you go, Rick.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, a Republican who has been a fierce critic of the Rio Nuevo Board, said that he, too, was happy to see Bain and Grinnell go. Bain, he said, "showed an absolute tin ear when it came to developing credibility with the community."

Koz is hoping the new board will collaborate with city officials to improve downtown.

"I hope this is a sign that the leadership of the Republican Party recognizes that the economic development of Tucson should not be a political football," Kozachik said. "To the extent that the city of Tucson is successful, it helps the region and the state. Let's just depoliticize the whole thing and put people in place who are serious about making Tucson a success economically."

We think Koz has it right: Nobody is excited about the lost opportunities that came with Rio Nuevo. But downtown Tucson is on an upswing, and it's time for the Rio Nuevo board to get behind that momentum instead of hindering it.


U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona does not have to worry about a Democratic primary after all. His little-known opponent, David Ruben, has dropped out of the race after realizing that he did not collect enough signatures.

Meanwhile, former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton, who is now seeking the Congressional District 1 seat, is suing to knock one of his GOP opponents off the ballot. Paton is alleging that Gaither Martin failed to properly list his residential address on his nominating petitions.

If Paton is successful in his lawsuit, he'll still face two other GOP newcomers—Doug Wade and Patrick Gatti—in the GOP primary for the district, which includes Oro Valley and Marana, as well as Flagstaff, the rural areas of eastern Arizona, and the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

The CD 1 Democratic primary pits former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick against Democratic newcomer Wenona Benally Baldenegro.