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State Representative Randy Graf teed off his campaign against 10-term Congressman Jim Kolbe on Saturday, March 27. The former Green Valley golf pro has risen quickly in the conservative ranks of the state House of Representatives, serving as minority whip for the last two years and chairing the Southern Arizona campaign for the Protect Arizona Now initiative, which would deny state benefits such as library cards to illegal immigrants. (Can't check out the latest best-seller? It's because the damned furriners are grabbing all the copies!) Graf accuses Kolbe of being out of step with traditional Republicans with his support of abortion rights and a guest worker program, as well as his opposition to a constitutional ban on gay marriage--no doubt, because Kolbe himself is the only openly gay Republican in Congress.

Kolbe--who has not faced a serious challenge in a primary in, like, forever--easily won the GOP contest two years ago, grabbing almost 73 percent of the vote against conservative Jim Behnke. He went on to knock down Democrat Mary Judge Ryan with 63 percent of the vote in the general election. Kolbe garnered nearly 127,000 votes in the race against Ryan--more than any other congressman in the state. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is searching for a candidate willing to jump in the race on the remote chance that Graf wins the primary.


In Sabino, Mighty Sabino, The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Arizona Game and Fish officials announced they were indefinitely suspending the lion hunt in Sabino Canyon. Although they were unable to capture any lions last week, officers did bag one environmentalist, Rodney Coronado of Earth First, and one reporter, John Richardson of Esquire magazine, last week. A second Earth Firster escaped capture.

"I'll be using my criminal prosecution as a platform to put Game and Fish on trial to find out how they went about this," vows Coronado, who says he was in the forest to interfere with the capture or killing of the cougars.

Also last week, ecologist Daniel Patterson of the Center for Biological Diversity was forcibly ejected from a press conference after he attempted to correct a Game and Fish official who said that environmentalists should be picking up the tab for caring for the lions in a proposed Scottsdale facility, because they were the ones who insisted the lions be relocated. Patterson says he stood up to clarify that environmentalists had never asked for the lions to be relocated, only to have Game and Fish officials swiftly kick him out of the meeting.

"I was attacked," says Patterson. "I've been an activist for a really long time, and I've never had such an experience. Really, I'm still quite upset about it. ... I got manhandled. They smashed my head against the door. I still have a substantial cut on my forehead."

Patterson and others, including Gov. Janet Napolitano, maintain that state and federal officials have yet to conclusively prove the lions are a threat to people. The Animal Defense League of Arizona also questioned the rush to kill or remove the lions, citing a March 2 e-mail from Game and Fish official Tom Whetten, who wrote, "Except for not yielding to people once or twice, and being seen on numerous occasions this is a non problem. ..."


Tied in Knots

Backers of a resolution supporting a proposed federal constitutional ban on gay marriage fell one vote shy of the 16 necessary to get the bill out of the Arizona Senate. A second Senate resolution, to amend the Arizona Constitution to ban gay marriage, has yet to get a hearing in committee.


Cops and Robbers

Tucson Police Department detectives announced they had arrested three alleged members, including a 14-year-old suspect, of a burglary ring that had hit at least 20 businesses, mostly in central Tucson, since Dec. 1. The robbers, who appear to have seen one too many Quentin Tarantino films, would enter businesses heavily armed, wearing bandanas and demanding cash. Police were looking for another four suspects and said the ring could include as many as 10 members, who "should be considered armed and dangerous," according to TPD. Anyone with information about the gang is advised to call 88-CRIME.


Patriot Games

Tucsonans proved last week that unlike the Spanish, we will never back down in the face of terrorism. Responding to the Irish hooligans who vandalized the all-American A atop A Mountain by painting it green for St. Patrick's Day, Tucson City Councilman Fred Ronstadt led the charge to restore the letter to the patriotic hues of the U.S. flag. And this time, volunteers from Paint Kings and Dunn-Edwards Paint managed to get the color scheme correct, with blue on top, white in the middle and red on the bottom, so our community is no longer celebrating French colors. The Irish vandals remain at large.

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