The Skinny


Republican Len Munsil, the former head of the Center for Arizona Policy, continued to solidify his gubernatorial campaign last week by landing the endorsement of 29 state lawmakers. (According to the Arizona Capitol Times, two additional lawmakers are secretly supporting him, but they're not ready to come out of the closet yet.)

The announcement followed Munsil's earlier endorsement by four of Arizona's eight congressmen: John Shadegg, Jeff Flake, Rick Renzi and Trent Franks. Wonder if Jim Kolbe will join that pack?

Munsil is also the only Republican to qualify for Clean Elections funding, picking up a check for $453,849 earlier this month.

Munsil's show of "overwhelming force," as he called it on his blog (, squeezed Jan Smith Florez, a former Santa Cruz county attorney and state appeals court judge, right out of the race. Florez's decision to abandon her doomed effort follows a similar move by candidate John Greene, a former Senate president who was also bright enough to be able to decipher the handwriting on the wall that spelled out "sure loser."

Munsil's biggest hurdle in unseating Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano: a long history of conservative rhetoric that's unlikely to win over the moderate middle. Last week, for example, he found himself explaining to Capitol Media Services' Howard Fischer what he meant when he said, as editor of the Arizona State University student newspaper, that gays and lesbians were engaged in "the ultimate self-destruction" of their "bodies and souls."

Munsil told Fischer that "in younger days, I probably used rhetoric that was inappropriate and possibly offensive." These days, he believes gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as everybody else--including, evidently, the right to engage in sinful behavior that will ultimately land them in the boiling pits of hell! Hey, free will and all that.

Munsil appears to be the only Republican with any kind of momentum. Don Goldwater, nephew of the legendary Barry Goldwater, remains in the race, but has yet to gather the minimum 4,200 $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding. And given his lack of an existing political network or any kind of political charisma, we have our doubts that he'll make it that far.

Meanwhile, GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Harris continues to contend with domestic issues. Harris had already been busted by that prolific Howard Fischer, who revealed last month that Mr. Successful Businessman managed to persuade a judge to cut his child-support payments by pleading poverty--and then conveniently found $100,000 underneath the couch cushions that he could pour into his campaign. Now Howie has uncovered a court filing by Harris to block the ex-wife--who apparently is less than supportive of Harris' gubernatorial ambitions--from handing out copies of his tax returns to his opponents and the press, saying she could harm his political career.

Seems to us that Harris--who recently declared in Tucson that he could raise up to $4 million to crush Napolitano--is doing a fine job of that all on his own. He reminds us of a rattlesnake that's been killed but remains capable of striking because he doesn't realize that he's dead yet.

Also standing between Munsil and the GOP nomination: Phoenix contractor Gary Tupper, who says on his Web site that he "decided to run for governor when the Arizona Medical Board determined that repeatedly drugging my son into a comatose condition, known as obtundation, was an acceptable standard of medical care ... ."


The Pima County Board of Supervisors was set to vote this week on whether to spend more than $2 million on about 480 special touch-screen voting booths for disabled citizens. The decision was postponed a couple of weeks ago, when opponents of Diebold Election Systems complained that the machines were an invitation to voter fraud.

The Skinny recently gave a machine a spin. While it's not nearly as cool as our iPod, we found it a pretty nifty way to cast a vote. It beats the hell out of a butterfly ballot, f'sheezy.

That's not to say we'd want all voters using touch-screens, because we're paranoid enough to share some of the fears of critics that the software could be rigged. But given that only a sliver of the population--the handicapped--is going to be using them (and that there's going to be a paper trail that voters can review as they cast their ballots), we're not so worried about this particular controversy. To rig an election using the teeny-tiny percentage of voters who will be using the touch-screens would require far more brains than we've seen in anyone seeking office in Pima County.

Plus, the county will be reimbursed for the $2 million or so by Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who is impatiently sitting on federal funds from the Help America Vote Act to reimburse Pima County after it makes the buy.

When you get right down to it, this is probably a more accurate method than the current method of using optical-scan ballots, which can have all kinds of error rates depending on how the bubbles are filled in by voters and how the machines are calibrated by election officials, as we learned from a recent controversy in Maricopa County.

Frankly, we're more worried about the question of whether Diebold vote-counting software is vulnerable to tricky hackers.


Speaking of troublesome county issues: It appears the Board of Supervisors is closer to working out a resolution to the ongoing billboard battles with Clear Channel Outdoor.

After the supes rejected a settlement cooked up between Clear Channel and the county attorney's office, negotiations over the future of billboards in unincorporated Pima County have been continuing. Now the county's Billboard Review Committee, which includes anti-billboard activist Mark Mayer, may have the framework for a deal.

The new agreement would bring down a total of 56 billboards, which is 17 more than the previous deal, according to a copy of the proposal that fell into The Skinny's sweaty palms. The downside is that the process will take 17 years. All but two of them would be down within 12 years; 19 of 'em would go within 90 days of the settlement; and 43 would be gone within five years.

But the devil lies in the details, particularly regarding enforcement and compliance.


Republican Roger Condra, who unsuccessfully ran for county assessor in 2004, still has the political fever. Condra, who left his staff job in the assessor's office a few years back and took a job teaching kids how to build houses at Sahuaro High, has announced his plan to run for the Arizona House of Representatives in District 25, a largely rural district which includes Marana, Sierra Vista and other parts of Southern Arizona.

Although it leans Democratic, District 25 is one of the few districts in Arizona that has split representation in the House of Representatives, with Democrat Manny Alvarez and Republican Jennifer Burns, a brainy moderate who faced a stiff challenge from conservatives in the 2004 primary. (The GOP wingnuts who were determined to bring her down probably couldn't have won themselves, but they'd evidently be happier with a Democrat than a traitor.)

Condra joins another Sahuaro teacher, Republican Bruce Murchison, who is running for the House of Representatives in heavily Democratic District 29, which is now represented by Linda Lopez and Tom Prezelski. Murchison ran unsuccessfully against state Sen. Vic Soltero in District 29 in 2004.

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