SPLIT ENDSEver since Congressman Jim Kolbe announced he was retiring from his Congressional District 8 seat, the Republican establishment has been sweating out the possibility that former state lawmaker Randy Graf was so far out to the right that moderate GOP voters would support a Democrat in the general election if Graf won the primary.
But now there's something else to worry about: Will conservative voters support state legislator Steve Huffman if he wins next week's Republican primary?
Trailing in the polls, Huffman has been hammering away at Graf, accusing him of being too extreme and downright dangerous. While we'll see how effective that attack has been on Election Day, it's certainly had an impact on conservative voters.
The conservative base--never all that hot about Huffman in the first place--is now livid with him. And that fury been compounded by the way the National Republican Congressional Committee waded into the fight last week with TV ads calling Huffman the conservative choice in the race. We're told they've reserved as much as $450,000 in total TV time, though the first check was for somewhere in the neighborhood of $122,000.
Note to NRCC: If you're gonna try to pass Huffman off as the conservative in the race, it might not be such a smart idea to put him in an ad with Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup.
CD8 is the only race in the country where the NRCC is getting in the middle of primary--and it's stirring a lot of ill will within the party. Earlier this week, the other four candidates in the race--Graf, Mike Hellon, Frank Antenori and Mike Jenkins--teamed up to hold a press conference to denounce the NRCC buy. They pointed out that Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman had promised all of the candidates back in March that the national party would stay out of the primary.
When asked if they would support Huffman if he won the primary, all four candidates stood silently for about 10 seconds, until Graf offered: "Is that a no comment?"
The NRCC buy shows the GOP establishment--Kolbe, Click, Diamond, et al--is growing increasingly concerned about propping up Huffman. As Hellon put it at the press conference: "The NRCC is desperately trying to salvage Steve Huffman's sagging campaign."
We'll see whether they're throwing good money after bad when voters go the polls on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
The GOP primary got even more interesting over the Labor Day weekend, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee waded in with TV ads busting on Huffman for his weak voting record on border issues. We hear they're spending $185,000 to soften Huffman up between now and Sept. 12.
The DCCC ads brought an observation from Hellon: "I'm not in the habit of agreeing with Democrats, but I think they nailed him pretty good."
If Huffman somehow survives the primary, he may find that conservatives would rather live with two years of Democratic representation in Congress. They may not want to vote for a Dem, but they could decide to just stay home in November--or even cast a vote for Libertarian David Nolan.
And Graf faces the same problem with moderates. Plus, we gotta wonder if the RNCC is gonna be inclined to support Graf, given the way he busted on them this week.
All in all, things could hardly be working out better for the winner of the Democratic primary.
DUCK SOUPRon Drake doesn't much like being called a pussy.
The GOP candidate, who hopes to get past primary opponent Joe Sweeney and be the recipient of an ass-kicking by Democrat Raul Grijalva in the Congressional District 7 race, discussed this and other, less substantive issues during a meeting with members of the Weekly editorial board on Wednesday, Aug 30.
Drake, a former manager of a Chicago carpet and tile store before coming to Arizona in 1996, got things off to an awkward start by making his displeasure with the p-word known. The board wrote he was a pussy in our recent endorsements for refusing to debate Sweeney ("Our Picks in Primary '06," Aug. 10).
If our morning meeting with the two is any indication, it's a shame they didn't debate each other on TV. It would have made for delightfully entertaining programming for KUAT viewers.
Drake talked up economic development and Grijalva's supposed inattention to his constituents. He also touched upon immigration, that hot-ticket item among Republicans.
"This border issue isn't just about people coming to work," Drake said. "It's about people feeling safe in America."
He told us the visa system is broken, and the United States needs a verifiable identification card to determine if people are here illegally. Drake suggested putting a lot of "big gates" in the big fences along the border. After all, we're still going to want people to come to our country, and climbing over walls is dangerous!
Drake showed a little bit of ignorance on some important statewide issues, too. When asked about his position on Proposition 107--which would ban gay marriage and government recognition of domestic partnerships--he didn't even know there was such a proposition.
Sweeney showed up late and offered everyone a nice big cup of crazy. Like a one-trick pony, seemingly unrelated topics were connected back to illegal immigration--and even then, his facts seemed a little far-fetched.
He repeatedly cited statistics claiming an implausibly large percentage of illegal immigrants are taking over Arizona. According to Sweeney, half the people in Tolleson and Avondale, where Drake was formerly mayor, are illegal immigrants, as are 75 percent of the employees in Avondale's dairies. When pressed about where he found these so-called statistics, he said they were reported "in the media" without specifying a source.
Sweeney later noted that Drake, who needed to get "intellectually serious" by taking classes at Sweeney's Alexander Hamilton Evening Law School, was trying to sell "perverted liberalism" to the Arizona public. He then admitted he's a racist, but added that all people are, because "isolation factors" are coded into our genes.
Imagine how fun this would have been to watch on television.
SMOKE SCREENThe Skinny was out for a drive the other day when a friend pointed out the Yes on Prop 206 signs--you know, the ones that have the nice "no-smoking" symbol in the middle of word "Prop."
"Finally," she told us, "a sign with a plain and simple message."
Except, not so much. Prop 206 is the measure that's being funded by R.J. Reynolds, which has coughed up nearly $3 million to support the so-called Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act, according to campaign-finance reports filed last week. Because we all know that RJR is all about protecting non-smokers.
RJR stepped into the electoral arena after a variety of health organizations--including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society--banded together to sponsor Prop 201, aka Smoke-Free Arizona. The groups and their allies have poured nearly $852,000 into the campaign.
There are a couple of key differences between the initiative: Prop 201 would ban smoking in almost all indoor public places, including bars, while smokers would still be able to light up in bars under Prop 206. Prop 206 would also prohibit cities and towns from enacting regulations more stringent than state law.
The one with the most votes wins on Election Day.
The other tobacco-related campaign, Prop 203, had raised a titanic $2.8 million. Prop 203 would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents to pay for health screenings and day care for kids 5 and younger.
In other prop news: The Arizona Supreme Court rejected three separate efforts to knock propositions off the ballot. That means voters will decide the fate of:
· Prop 107, or Protect Marriage Arizona, which would amend the Arizona Constitution to ban gay marriage, as well as preventing cities and counties from offering benefits to unmarried straight and gay couples.
Supporters of the measure, led by the Christian-right Center for Arizona Policy, have raised $461,000 for their campaign. The opposition campaign, Arizona Together, has raised more than $571,000.
Expect opponents to lean heavily on the ban on benefits for straight and gay couples. That's already the argument coming from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and former UA prez Peter Likins. Plus, the recent Cronkite-8 poll that The Range just can't get enough of this week showed that when that provision was stressed, 51 percent of voters opposed the initiative, while just 38 percent supported it, and 11 percent were undecided.
· Prop 106, which would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow more conservation of state trust land, as well as reforming the way the state sells off the land. That one has the support of a coalition of business, education and environmental groups. Conserving Arizona's Future reported raising more than a million bucks and spending more than $880,000.
The primary opponent to this one is the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, which had contributed more than $600,000 to defeat the initiative.
· Prop 207, the Arizona Home Owners Protection Effort, which has been put on the ballot by an outfit called Americans for Limited Government that has contributed the bulk of the $926K that is supporting the initiative. Under the guise of protecting property owners from unfair condemnation proceedings, Prop 207 would pretty much gut all zoning powers of local government with a second clause that would require government to compensate landowners whenever a new regulation somehow diminishes the value of their property.
Opponents of Prop 207 are starting to get their stuff together with the Protecting Arizona Taxpayers Coalition--No on 207 committee. The Defenders of Wildlife outfit has kicked in $10,000, while the Sierra Club and the Center of Biological Diversity have contributed $5K each. They have a long way to go to catch up with the proponents, though.
HIDEOUS ERECTIONWho designed CD8 "Democrat" Bill Johnson's billboards? Johnson's main message--"STOP THE INVASION"--has somehow gotten mixed up with his name, merging together in a message that looks like "STOP THE Johnson INVASION."
Seems like the exact opposite of the Democratic message about America needing a nude erection. Or was that a new direction?
NOW HEAR THISGet live election results and commentary from radio host John C. Scott, Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, Inside Tucson Business columnist Steve Emerine and your Skinny scribe, Jim Nintzel, beginning at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, on KJLL AM 1330.