The Skinny


The recent budget squabble at the Arizona Legislature neatly demonstrates the split within the state's Republican Party. After the state Senate passed a budget with the expectation that the more conservative House of Representatives would trim spending, GOP moderates in the House revolted against their own leadership and teamed with Democrats to pass a budget that was even higher than the one sent over by the upper chamber.

While GOP House mods could have made book with the Democrats many times in recent years, they've previously been held in check by the simple fact that there were more cons than mods in the GOP caucus. Plus, cons regularly threaten mods with primary opposition or other punishment to get their way; witness how Pete Hershberger and Tom O'Halleran were stripped of their committee chairmanships earlier in the session when they defied House Speaker Jake Flake.

But this year, leadership leaned just a little too hard--and the blowback erupted when the mods realized they could pass whatever they wanted if they teamed with Democrats.

Now comes the big question: Will mods face the wrath of cons? Lots of noise is being made about making the mods pay in the September primary, especially if the conservative national organization Club for Growth wades in with a big wallet.

But that's another gamble on the part of the cons. If they don't knock off the mods, the mods may realize that the cons don't hold that much power anymore--and at that point, major power shifts at the Legislature may be underway.


For a local example of the schizo split within the Republican Party, take a look at lawmakers Randy Graf and Marian McClure in Republican District 30, which includes the Tanque Verde valley, eastern Tucson, Green Valley, Sierra Vista and other areas of Cochise County. Graf stands for the moral conservatives who love guns and unborn babies and hate illegal immigrants and gays, while McClure represents a more moderate branch that's OK with repealing archaic sex laws and spending taxpayer money on kids and education.

Over the last year, a blood feud has opened up between Graf and McClure. Last month, as the House leadership got rolled by Republican moderates over the state budget, Graf sent out an e-mail to precinct committeemen snitching out McClure for siding with the mods. Graf, although he's decided to challenge Congressman Jim Kolbe in the September GOP primary instead of pursuing re-election to the state House, is backing two other conservatives in the hope they'll take McClure out in the September primary.

As part of the effort to oust McClure, the political leadership in Legislative District 30 decided to take a cue from their cave-dwelling brethren in the East Valley and endorse candidates for various offices as a kind of purity test. Candidates had to get at least 66 percent of the vote to earn the District 30 seal of approval.

Last month, the District 30 precinct leaders had their first big endorsement meeting. Some unopposed candidates, like Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll and Sen. Tim Bee, won endorsements by acclamation.

Although Graf outpolled Kolbe 56 to 44 percent, he didn't get enough to win the vaunted endorsement. If Randy can't even win a contest that's pretty much fixed in his favor, he's clearly got an uphill climb against Kolbe.

McClure, meanwhile, came in dead-last among four candidates for the two District 30 seats, drawing about a fourth of the votes. That's a pretty humiliating showing that's exacerbated tensions between McClure and D30 conservatives.

Republican Bruce Ash, who was also seeking a District 30 state House of Representatives seat, did pretty well in the endorsement sweepstakes, drawing support from roughly half the PCs. It was good news for the political newcomer--at least until he realized he didn't live in District 30. Thanks to a strange quirk in redistricting that nobody seemed to notice, Ash's Tucson Country Club home somehow got shifted into Demo-friendly District 28, a hotbed of pinko leftwing lunacy. Wonder if Ash will deliver signatures next week?

Meanwhile, we hear about another late entry into the race: Jonathan Paton, the political instrument of terror for the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, has joined the hunt for a District 30 House seat.


Democrat Eva Bacal, a former multi-term member of the some of the most tumultuous TUSD governing boards and now a lawyer in the state attorney general's office of civil rights, is weighing a run for Congress against 10-term Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe--er, we mean the winner of the Kolbe-Randy Graf primary.

Bacal's entry would give her goofy husband, Martin Bacal, a cookie as he prances around in search of relevance. His status was severely diminished when Democratic Pima County precinct committeemen split a statewide meeting early, costing him his seat as a member of the Democratic National Committee. Whoops!

Political experience is nothing but political baggage for Eva Bacal. Joining Bob Strauss, Tom Castillo and Raúl Grijalva, she was on some notoriously bad and brutal boards at TUSD. Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons best captured that bunch in his mid-1980s drawing that showed board members trying to kill one another.

Her TUSD role did her absolutely no good back in 1984, when Bacal was put up to run against Reg Morrison for the Pima County Board of Supervisors in District 4, which is wrapped up in Kolbe's Congressional District 8. Of course, that was 20 years ago, so her name ID may have faded somewhat.

The post-political Eva signed up for mother-daughter law school. She and Susy Bacal studied together at the University of Arizona College of Law. The family then cashed in a couple of political chits. Eva got her job with the AG, and Susy became Judge Susy as a Pima County justice of the peace.


The city of Tucson's battle against the looming billboards of Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising is headed for the Arizona Supreme Court.

When we last checked in on this battle against the hideous erections that Clear Channel insists on dangling in front of our faces, the billboard company had outmaneuvered the city's efforts against a long list of billboards that violated city code in one way or another. Using a new law conveniently provided by the Arizona Legislature back in 2000, Clear Channel attorneys argued that the city lacked the authority to pursue the legal case.

City attorneys maintained that the new law had essentially been invoked retroactively, which had not been the intent of lawmakers. Heck, even billboard lobbyists at the time of passage said they didn't think the law had a retroactive effect. Of course, once the billboard lawyers got into court, they were singing a different tune.

The intent of lawmakers didn't mean much up against the actual language of the law, at least according to both Pima County Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals. But the city appealed the ruling one more time to Arizona Supreme Court, which last week agreed to hear the case. Briefs from all parties are due later this month.

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