The Skinny

MOVING ON UP: Back when John McCain thought he was Luke Skywalker and Steve Forbes thought he was a contender, Gov. Jane Dee Hull made the fateful choice to sign on with the Bush campaign. And, thanks to Pat Buchanan's unexpected strength in Palm Beach, Fla., we suspect Dubya will soon be moving into the White House.

Folks called Hull all kinds of names for backing Bush rather than favorite son McCain, but her choice is looking smart these days: She picked a winner, and at a most fortuitous time.

Arizona's term limits prevent Hull from running for governor again, so she's a lame duck. Democrats have essentially captured the state Senate. The alt-fuel estimates keep rising. Even with a slight hike in the sales tax, the state's educational system still needs a lot of work.

It's a good time to consider a new job in Washington--and we hear Hull's already calling in her chit. Don't be surprised to see Jane run once the new Bush administration starts handing out appointments.

AZ EXODUS: More hot rumors in GOP circles: U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has just won re-election to a six-year term, is another contender for appointment to a new Bush administration. We hear he's holding out for U.S. attorney general.

That raises a timing question, as the governor gets to appoint Kyl's replacement: Does Bush name Kyl first, allowing Hull to pick his successor, or does he name Hull first, leaving the choice of junior senator to Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, who would become governor should Hull resign?

And how about our senior senator? Does John McCain ask for a post in the new administration or does he stay in the Senate?

Keep in mind that foxy state Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan has been touted as a potential secretary of education in a Bush White House.

Seems like some job opportunities may be opening up. Perhaps Mike Boyd is sending out his résumé.

LINE DANCING: Just weeks after the passage of Prop 106, the initiative that took redistricting power away from state lawmakers, the state Committee on Judicial Appointments is already accepting applicants for the five-member committee that will now draw Arizona's political boundaries.

The Committee on Judicial Appointment will eventually forward a slate of nominees to five high-ranking elected state officials, who will choose the finalists through a complex process that closely resembles a game of Pakistani Parcheesi. We expect smart politicos on both sides of the fence are encouraging their shills to send in applications.

The Skinny is also told that opponents of the new system are already planning legal action to have the new law tossed out--which might be a difficult case to make, since Prop 106 amended the state constitution.

TOTAL RECALL: Campaign 2000 saw the Democrats win an additional seat in the state Senate, bringing the Senate to a 15-15 tie.

The win came in the unlikeliest of places: District 30, a heavily Republican area in Mesa, where alt-fuel mastermind Jeff Groscost, the now-disgraced former Speaker of the House, lost his bid for a state Senate seat to ASU professor Jay Blanchard. He probably wouldn't have even been in the race had it not been for the state's new Clean Elections program, which provides public financing for political campaigns. That's one bright spot for Clean Elections, although we're betting that Blanchard serves only one term, unless he has a political epiphany and converts to the GOP.

Sen. Randall Gnant, a moderate Republican from Scottsdale, was quick to cut a deal with the Democrats that made him Senate president. As part of the deal, two Pima County senators look like they'll be heading up some powerful committees. Sen. Ruth Solomon of District 14 is slated to become the new chair of the Finance Committee, while Sen. Elaine Richardson of District 11 will head up the Judiciary Committee.

Some Republicans are pretty pissed about Gnant's maneuvers. There's talk in Maricopa County about starting a recall against him before the session even starts in January. The effort sounds like a lot of work for minimal gain; by the time a recall election could be held, the 2000 session would likely be over and term limits will force Gnant out the following year.

Folks in Green Valley are also considering a recall against Tim Bee, who hasn't even been sworn in to his District 9 post. Bee, who coasted to office on his brother Keith Bee's name ID, was among the Republicans who broke from the caucus to support Gnant.

STAR NETO: The Arizona Daily Star's showcase, $70,000-plus-a-year columnist Ernesto Portillo Jr. is a nice guy. He's soft-spoken and polite, if a little shallow on the workings of local government and politics. But don't, DO NOT, ask Neto precisely when he moved out of his parents' house on the west side to somewhere near Ina and Oracle roads on the northwest side. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Neto has told us all about moving back to Tucson from San Diego in his tear-soaked columns. And on October 13, he told us how he moved to the northwest side--it's his wife's fault, he wrote--and how he hadn't seen any blacks and that the only Hispanics he saw in his new neighborhood were gardeners and garbage haulers. He even said he couldn't get good tortillas like the ones at the Anita Street Market. Now, there's a news flash.

Neto candidly worried to The Skinny that his column might have seemed racist, but described his references to tortillas as merely "a lament."

But then he grew testy when The Skinny had the temerity to ask when he moved. Inquiring minds would like to know, since Neto hasn't bothered to change his voter registration address from mom's and dad's in Precinct 17 on the heavily Hispanic west side.

"I don't remember," Neto replied twice to questions of when he moved. "Why do you want to know?"

Interesting, because Neto also wrote an ever-so-touching day-after-the-election piece about preparing his ballot with his wife and their nine-year-old daughter at the kitchen table, with the daughter participating in the worthwhile Kids Voting USA program. Did he then tell his daughter that Daddy really still wished he were living on the west side, so he kept his voter's address there? Did he explain that he would have to drive 30 minutes to cast his ballot in a far-away precinct?

Neto, 44 and not aligned with any party, according to voter registration records, turned Netito with The Skinny. The petulant yet powerful columnist embarked on a stern lecture to a Skinnyite, proclaiming he was somehow sandbagged. He even called one of our big boss men to complain that The Skinny initiated contact with him under false pretenses.

Neto's mom is a longtime executive secretary at the Star. She has run the place with efficiency and grace. His dad is a politically active former radio station owner who also has a respectable newspaper column. Young Neto needs to take a few more lessons from his parents. We media sharks complain loudly about opportunistic address-changing candidates; we should be more gracious and honest about our own meanderings.

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