The Range

Wonder Woman

Hey, Republicans! Who ya gonna put up against Gov. Janet Napolitano next year?

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, one of the few Republicans who had even shown an interest in taking on Napolitano, said last week he was skipping the race, although he was quick to add that he believed Napolitano is "beatable." Just not by him. Or maybe the fact that he was trailing Napolitano by 25 percentage points in a February poll by Phoenix PBS affiliate KAET-TV had absolutely nothing to do with his decision to spend more time with family.

Romley's decision came about a month after Congressman J.D. Hayworth chickened out of challenging Napolitano. Hayworth, who was trailing Napolitano by 16 points in KAET's poll, decided that Arizona voters needed him in Washington at this crucial time.

GOP state chair Matt Salmon, who lost to Napolitano in 2002, assures us that the Republican Party is brimming with qualified candidates eager to challenge Napolitano. Salmon's most recent dark horse: Marilyn Quayle, wife of former one-term VP Dan Quayle. Marilyn's plus: She brings instant name recognition to the race. Marilyn's minus: The name recognition comes from being married to a guy best known for misspelling "potato."

Republicans are also dropping Surgeon General Richard Carmona's name, but we know all he wants to do is come back here and play sheriff after Clarence retires.

The GOP's biggest problem in recruiting a candidate: All the A-list Republicans don't think they can beat Napolitano, so they're willing to sit it out until the seat opens up in 2010. The B-list contenders, by definition, are all a bunch of no-name wannabes, has-been chumps or former governors who left office in disgrace but remain delusional enough to believe they have a shot at a comeback.

Why is Napolitano so popular? Partly, it's the GOP's fault: With conservative lawmakers proposing unpopular ideas like allowing guns in bars and opposing popular ideas like all-day kindergarten, they constantly manage to make Napolitano look good to liberals and necessary to moderates. Nice work, fellas!

Job Path in Marana

Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr. was indicted on federal charges of trying to shake down Waste Management. (Wait a second--we thought those Waste Management types were supposed to be the ones doing the shakedown. Could the feds have gotten it all backwards?)

Judge for yourself: Federal prosecutors allege that Sutton, a phone-book ad salesman who was first elected to the Marana Council in 1995, tried to force Waste Management to pay his associate, Rick Westfall, up to $60,000 a month in return for them keeping quiet about overloaded trash trucks.

Sutton, who has lawyered up with Michael Piccarreta, expressed confidence he'll beat the charges in court.

Congressional Cagematch

It's a Social Security Smackdown! Republican Jim Kolbe takes on Democrat Raul Grijalva in a no-holds-barred battle over the future of America's retirement system.

You probably don't recall, but a couple months back, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid brought a gang of Democrats through Arizona, campaigning against Bush's risky scheme to allow younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security accounts in exchange for lower future benefits.

Kolbe called Reid out, challenging him to a debate over Social Security's future. The Democrats, who were more interested in rallying the troops than getting all wonky over policy, didn't bite.

But now, Grijalva--bolstered by the news that polls show that nearly two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bush's plan (if indeed there is one)--is ready to debate Kolbe.

See 'em go head-to-head from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, May 2, at Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino Del Sol in Green Valley.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Declaring his Minutemen Project a success, organizer James Gilchrest announced plans to leave Cochise County and organize a blockage of senior citizens in lawn chairs stretching along the entire U.S./Mexico border. Kinda like Hands Across America, except not so much in the spirit of brotherhood. But first, he's off to Washington to share tales of adventure with Congress.

Gilchrest turned over command of the Minutemen to Civil Homeland Defense, an outfit headed up by Tombstone Tumbleweed publisher Chris Simcox. We here at the United Federation of Planets salute our fellow make-believe military organizations and urge them to uphold the Prime Directive.

Incidentally, Border Patrol officials say April apprehensions in the Tucson Sector increased outside the 20-mile Minutemen Project zone.

Up at the state Capitol, activists upset by anti-illegal-immigration legislation and the Minutemen are threatening to boycott a Phoenix Cardinals game scheduled this fall in Mexico City. Lotsa luck--we've been boycotting them for years, and we still can't get rid of those losers.

Meanwhile, maverick Arizona Sen. John McCain took time off from his Social Security tour with President Bush to team up with Sen. Ted Kennedy to introduce a new immigration reform bill that already has the GOP's right wing completely flipping out. The McCain-Kennedy legislation would fine illegal immigrants but allow them to remain in the country while establishing a guest-worker program.

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