PRIMARY POOP: When is the Arizona primary going to get some respect? Back when GOP lawmakers moved up the date to the end of February for the 1996 campaign, they said we'd now have a voice in the presidential selection process. Then Arizona Republicans went and embarrassed themselves by voting for nerdy Steve Forbes.

Little wonder, then, that in our second outing on the national political stage, nobody cared much what happened here. Instead, all eyes were on Michigan, where Sen. John McCain pulled off another upset victory over the forces of reborn reformer George W. In the days leading up to Tuesday's election, McCain was comparing himself to Luke Skywalker on his mission to blow up the Death Star. Evidently, he was able to use The Force to bring out a lot of Democrats and Independents in the Wolverine State.

With estimates showing that about half of the million voters who came out for Michigan's GOP primary weren't Republicans, it's obvious McCain's strategy of playing to the middle paid off. But there are a bunch of states on the horizon with closed primaries, where Republicans will decide the race. Those contests will likely prove tough for McCain, who has trailed behind Bush among Republican voters.

Still, the win gives momentum to McCain and forces Bush to fight for the nomination. And the more W. fights, the more half-witted he appears to be. His campaign team must be horrified when his tongue twists soundbites into a botched line like, "He can't take the high horse and claim the low road."

McCain has come to symbolize an anti-establishment reform movement, tapping a resentment among voters that Washington is controlled by lobbyist and corporate dollars. Of course, his sincerity to challenging these special interests -- beyond Big Tobacco, anyway -- is open to debate, as you can see in this week's feature story on page 16.

PROTECTION RACKET: It's hard to believe that, even as they make noises about their desire to protect Arizona's vanishing desert, state lawmakers and Gov. Jane Dee Hull are still bitching about President Bill Clinton's decision to protect 1,500 acres of federal land in northern Arizona.

While she was signing the Legislature's alleged growth-management plan, Growing Smarter Plus, Hull took time to blast Slick Willy's decision to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and the Agua Fria National Monument near Phoenix.

And they wonder why we doubt their sincerity when they say they want to do something about the runaway development of our vanishing desert.

DIALING FOR DOLLARS: We were happy to read in the morning daily that U S West has a way to block those annoying telemarketing calls. Seems the phone company can identify incoming telemarketing calls before your phone rings and shunt the call off to a prerecorded message that tells 'em not to call back.

Unfortunately, the service costs $6.95 a month -- or more than $83 a year. That's a hefty fee to pay to block unwanted sales pitches. We think the Corporation Commission should force U S West to offer the service for free, but what are the odds that will happen?

The Skinny has its own way of dealing with telemarketers: indulge in a little phone sex with the caller. We like to start out by asking what the pest is wearing, then use our imagination as the conversation continues. They usually hang up pretty quickly, and after a while, the calls stop coming in. Give it a try sometime!

HISTORIC -- BUT MISSED -- OPPORTUNITY: More than 60 years ago, El Encanto, Colonia Solano and other subdivisions along Broadway Boulevard east of Country Club Road were outside the Tucson city limits. In 1939, the residents of these areas sought to become a separate town called "Santa Catalina" to ensure that the residential character of their neighborhoods would be preserved.

While the City of Tucson adamantly opposed the incorporation effort, it had the support of over 80 percent of the affected property owners. They submitted petitions to the Pima County Board of Supervisors asking that the town be established. Under state law, the large number of signatures meant the new town would be born once the Supervisors accepted the petitions.

Before the Supervisors acted, Pima County officials announced that the plans to pave the dirt portion of Alvernon Way between Broadway and Speedway would be canceled if the town incorporated. That led to many supporters withdrawing their signatures, leading to the collapse of the effort.

After the recent City Council vote on the El Con issue, The Skinny wonders if the residents of those neighborhoods would like a second chance to form their own community?

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