IT'S ONLY JUNE, but already this week we begin our serious coverage (rather than the usual sniping in The Skinny) of the Tucson City Council races.

What's the rush? If we start now, won't people be sick of election articles by election time?

That could be, but this is actually a better time to follow the candidates than in the autumn. At this point, before they get into the campaign groove and become obsessed with spin control, they're a bit more likely to speak candidly about where they stand on the issues, assuming they have a stand at all.

Best of all, as the Weekly's senior writer, Jim Nintzel, points out, just about any of the major-party candidates could be a winner. Look at Ward 4. Incumbent Fred Ronstadt would seem to have a huge advantage over any challenger. He already has the job, he hasn't gotten into any high-profile screw-ups, and even though he's a Republican, people in Tucson automatically rally around anything named Ronstadt, even if it's a bus depot. But if anybody can show Fred to be mostly gas and hot air, it's challenger Gayle Hartmann, who has all the right positions on the hot-button issues among local liberals.

A campaign whose outcome is not foreordained is a lot more fun to watch. Let the entertainment begin.