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IN THE MONEY

Republican gubernatorial candidate Don Goldwater finally turned in enough $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding earlier this week. If everything checks out, he'll be eligible for $453,849 for his primary campaign against fellow GOP candidates Len Munsil, Mike Harris and Gary Tupper.

Given that early voting is now underway, it's about time. Or maybe a little late. Munsil, the only other GOP candidate taking public funds, qualified way back on May 5.

Despite his plodding organization, his famous name is keeping Goldwater, the half-witted nephew of the legendary Barry Goldwater, at the top of the polls, depending on how you define "top." The most recent Rocky Mountain Poll, taken last month, showed Goldwater had an 11-point lead over Munsil in the GOP primary race. The bad news for both of them: Goldwater was topping out at 23 percent, while Munsil was way down at 12 percent.

Hey, they're doing better than the other two candidates in the race: Businessman Mike Harris was down at 3 percent, while contractor Gary Tupper had the support of 2 percent of those polled. (We're sure Tupper's numbers will improve with this week's TW endorsement.)

Even worse news for the Republicans: 18 percent of those surveyed said they wouldn't vote for any of the candidates.

In head-to-head matchups against Napolitano, the Rocky Mountain Poll showed that the GOP candidates continue to look like weak little kittens. Napolitano had the support of 57 percent of likely voters, while Goldwater was down at 28 percent. The Napster looked even better against Munsil, leading 58 percent to 18 percent. Ouch!

Goldwater is taking solace in a Zogby tracking poll that shows him at 41.4 percent and Napolitano at 49.6 percent. The Zogby poll shows Munsil at 38.7 percent in a head-to-head matchup against Napolitano.

Harris, the unknown Phoenix businessman who has poured six figures into his own campaign, appears frustrated by the lack of financial support from the party faithful. In an open letter to "my fellow Republicans," Harris campaign director Shane Cayo said he was "ashamed and embarrassed at your indifferent and underwhelming response this election cycle. Frankly, I'm puzzled at it. Not only have you refused to participate in the upcoming gubernatorial primary, but your lack of financial support on a statewide level is shameful. Shame on us."

Yes, Republicans should feel ashamed for failing to write checks to a candidate they've never heard of. We're sure this meltdown will open those pocketbooks up.

With a burst of exclamation marks, Cayo also busted on the idea that Napolitano was unbeatable in November. "... (T)here is no rational explanation why this prevailing attitude should be tolerated on any level by anyone in the Republican Party. We are supposed to be the most organized, proactive party on the planet! This is despicable!!!"


SPEAKING OF CLEAN ELECTIONS

The Skinny has noted from time to time that the state's Clean Elections program has transformed the Arizona Legislature by allowing the GOP's far-right wing to knock out moderate Republicans in primaries.

We're not the only ones who noticed. On a debate last week on KUAT-TV's Arizona Illustrated, Republican Al Melvin, who is attacking incumbent District 26 Republican Sen. Toni Hellon as a pro-choice, big-government spender who supports public schools, observed that even though the Clean Elections program was put into place by liberal Democrats, "more conservative Republicans have used the system to get elected. It's working well."

So why is it OK for a conservative who opposes big government spending to take more than $50,000 for his own campaign?

"As long as this is a provision of the Arizona state government, then I think candidates should use it--and I am," Melvin said.

Well, we're glad to know the circumstances under which it's OK to compromise conservative principles--when it benefits conservatives!


NOTES FROM THE SCRAMBLEWATCH '06 DESK

As early voting begins, the candidates seeking to replace Congressman Jim Kolbe are shifting into high gear.

On the Democratic side, Jeff Latas, the Gulf War vet making his first foray into politics, is mostly bypassing the TV stations by mailing a DVD directly to high-propensity primary voters. The documentary outlines his stance on the Iraq war (move the troops out in stages), energy (less fossil fuels and more alternative sources), immigration (enforce the laws; punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and strengthen Latin American economies), health care (affordable insurance for everyone) and corruption (he's against it). He also features testimonials from Max Cleland, the former U.S. senator, and Molly McKasson, the former Tucson councilwoman.

Meanwhile, former newscaster Patty Weiss debuted her first TV ads, which did not go negative on fellow Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. The Weiss ads focus on her biography and her plans to bring the troops home, improve education and deliver affordable health care to everyone.

Weiss also announced she had landed the support of Cochise County Supervisor Paul Newman--which will certainly help as long as folks confuse him with that sexy actor.

Giffords continued to run TV ads and delivered the very first campaign podcast of the congressional race, in which she targeted the usual Democratic bogeymen--oil companies, powerful corporations and other wealthy special interests.

On the GOP side, both Steve Huffman and Randy Graf unveiled TV ads in which they promised to get tough on border security. Particularly impressive: Huffman's big flashlight.


OH, SHUT UP

The leadership at the Arizona Together campaign, which is battling an anti-partnership/anti-gay marriage ballot initiative, has decided to clamp down on letting operatives in Tucson talk to the media. Michael Coffman, the committee's Southern Arizona field coordinator, said inquiries must now be routed through Phoenix.

Arizona Together campaign director Ken Clark, who has been on the job for three weeks, confirmed that he'll be fielding requests for media contact: "They're routed to me, and I'll decide who is going to answer each question--either our chairs (state representative Kyrsten Sinema and former state lawmaker Steve May) or myself."

It's curious they've decided to strictly enforce this media policy now, so soon after the Weekly ran a story in which some people complained about how the campaign is being managed by Sinema and May. But Clark bristled at the suggestion of a connection between the new policy and the story. "I think you're giving yourself too much credit," he said.

Arizona Together was formed to oppose Proposition 107, a statewide ballot initiative seeking a constitutional ban on legal recognition of any partnerships outside heterosexual marriage.

Critics in Tucson charge the committee with being too top-heavy. They say it has alienated valuable activists in Southern Arizona with its laser-like, Phoenician focus on money and purity of message. They also say ideas on how to drum up support in Tucson have been routinely dismissed out of hand by the leadership in Phoenix. Who needs the rest of the state, anyway?

Actually, Arizona Together does. All indicators point to a close fight over the initiative, so it's absurd that they're trying so hard to piss people off. It's doubly absurd that they've responded to criticism that they're too centered in Phoenix by further centering things in Phoenix. And what about routing questions on their strategy in Southern Arizona to the only people who aren't talking about it, beyond glossing over any and all uncomfortable subjects? Critics be damned!

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