The Skinny


We're feeling a little postpartum depression in the wake of last week's election, but we're taking it one day at a time.

Overall, it was a lousy year to be a conservative Republican. Randy Graf lost to moderate Democrat Gabrielle Giffords here in Congressional District 8; J.D. Hayworth lost to Democrat Harry Mitchell in CD 5; Len Munsil got clobbered by Gov. Janet Napolitano; and Arizona has evidently become the first state to reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Sure, Democrat Jim Pederson lost his bid to unseat Sen. Jon Kyl, but that had a lot to do with Pederson's charm deficit. Still, give Pederson credit where it's due: Back in 2000, when he was dumping plenty of his own money into building the state party, we remember him predicting that Arizona's U.S. House delegation would be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. It took six years to get there (and he wasn't able to ride the wave himself), but we now have four Republicans and four Democrats representing Arizona.

On the state level, Napolitano had a staggering margin of victory, winning by 27 percentage points. The Arizona Democratic Party wasted little time in pointing out that Napolitano's 865,000-plus votes were the most any governor received in the history of the state.

Provided you don't accept the idea that J. No's win was just something that God allowed to happen to test us, the margin also puts to bed the claim by Munsil and GOP lawmakers that Napolitano is an obstructionist lib who's out of touch with the average Arizonan.

In fact, Democrats did extraordinarily in legislative races. With the numbers in the state House changing from 39 Republicans and 21 Democrats to 33 or 34 Republicans and 26 or 27 Democrats (some close races have yet to be decided), the conservatives are going to find it a lot harder to push around moderate Republicans, who can now get something accomplished by teaming up with Democrats. One prime casualty: Mesa Rep. Russell Pearce, who will be marginalized when the new session starts in January. Pearce, who spent his campaign talking about reviving Operation Wetback and forwarding e-mails about the evils of the Jew-owned media, can run up and down the field all he wants in the next session, but he's not scoring any more touchdowns.

One big win for Southern Arizona: Sen. Tim Bee's ascension to the office of Senate president. Bee, who proved his political skills as majority leader over the last two sessions, will keep the nonsense to a minimum and will likely bring home more pork.


The Skinny spent a lot of time this year griping that the biggest beneficiaries of Arizona's Clean Elections program were the Republican Party's social conservatives, who were using the public funds to defeat moderate Republicans in GOP primaries and tilt the Arizona Legislature rightward. The trend started in Maricopa County in 2004 and looked to be continuing in Southern Arizona's District 26 this year, with conservative Al Melvin defeating Toni Hellon in the Senate race and David Jorgenson winning one of two nominations for House seats.

Given LD 26's GOP registration advantage, it looked like Jorgenson and Melvin were on their way to the Capitol.

But a funny thing happened on Election Day--in the biggest local upset, LD 26 voters rejected Jorgenson by a wide margin, giving the House seats to moderate Republican Pete Hershberger and Democrat Lena Saradnik. Although votes were still being counted as of press time in the Senate race, it appears that Democrat Charlene Pesquiera narrowly beat Melvin.

So what happened? Both Jorgenson and Melvin were about as conservative as they come, which alienated moderate GOP voters and independents. And the Democrats were smart enough to send in ace organizer Katie Bolger to get out the vote. Add to that the Democratic wave, and you start to understand why Jorgenson and Melvin ended up shipwrecked.


Is it too early to start talking about the next election? Just a little bit?

Mayor Bob Walkup has already announced he'll seek a third term--a gutsy move in a Democratic town with Democrats in resurgence.

Who will carry the Democratic banner? We're told that Patty Weiss, who ran up a big ol' debt while losing her congressional bid to Gabby Giffords, isn't much interested. Her fellow former newscaster, Ward 6 Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, tells us she's sitting it out.

So who's left? We're told that Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal could be forming an exploratory committee in the next few weeks.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Carol West, who quit the Democratic Party and went independent after party officials leaned on her to stop rollin' so frequently with the Republicans who were running the council before being ousted in the 2005 election, announced last week that she would not seek re-election next year.

People are dropping the name of Democrat Clarence Boykins, who built up some name ID while losing his bid for a state House seat this year.


OK, we're clearly desperate for our political fix. But there are a few rumors swirling around about that '08 election.

In the no-big-surprise department, Sen. John McCain is already laying the groundwork for a presidential run, telling Meet the Press host Tim Russert that he's going to make his decision over the holidays.

McCain was trying to build support by scurrying around the country during the campaign season. He was also sucking up to the right wing back here in Arizona, endorsing Randy Graf, Len Munsil and the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage--all of which ended up losing, which doesn't say much for McCain's golden touch, but says plenty about either (a) his real conservative core or (b) his ability to put aside his principles for political opportunism.

Elsewhere, Republicans are already trying to figure out how to turn Gabby Giffords into a one-term wonder. Given the GOP advantage in CD8, Giffords will never be all that safe in the district, but we expect she'll follow Kolbe's example of spending a lot of time back here building support. It's a safe bet she'll stay to the right of, say, fellow Congressman Raul Grijalva.

So which Republicans want to take her on? This year's model, Randy Graf, is saying he's not likely to run again. Pima County Supervisor "Sugar" Ray Carroll tells us he's more interested in running for a another term on the board in '08.

So who does have the fire in their belly? We hear soon-to-be ex-state lawmaker Steve Huffman has been attending a lot of events lately. Given that he didn't like attending those events when he was actually running for office (when it could have helped), it could be a sign that he's not out of the game. But given the lousy return the business community got out of the money they poured into Huffman's campaign, we're wondering if they'd throw cash in that direction again.

Apartment developer Bruce Ash wanted to run this year, but instead, he played for Mike Hellon's team in the primary and then did the good-Republican thing by working on behalf of Graf.

Also weighing his options: State Sen. Tim Bee, who will term out of the Legislature in '08. Bee has a chance to build his profile as Senate president over the next two years and is already beloved in Legislative District 30, which overlaps Congressional District 8. He got more votes than any other state senator in last week's election.

Then there's Jim Kolbe himself. He didn't get that job he was after, and he seemed to be struggling with the idea of leaving the limelight on election night, when he popped up at Giffords' celebration. Could he be an even bigger political junkie than we are?

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