The Skinny


Remember when Arizona was the upstart state looking to move up in the presidential-primary pecking order? Oh, we were so naïve back then, imagining we'd be kingmakers as the presidential candidates came out here to suck up to us on the road to the White House.

Well, now it seems like everybody wants a piece of the early-primary action. We've got California, Illinois, Florida and New Jersey all thinking about February primaries, with New Hampshire slipping earlier and earlier into January.

Hey, the endless campaign provides a nonstop fix for us political junkies. But we're not so sure it's great for the voters. Tell us: How are candidates supposed to campaign simultaneously in all these markets? There's really only one very expensive way: television ads.

Oh, sure, the old way--letting Iowa and New Hampshire voters decide who the front-runners are--may have been screwed up in its own fashion. But here's the nice thing about those two contests: Candidates actually did press the flesh and reach out to those voters.

On this new scale, that's no longer practical. And so we'll have to settle for the occasional rally in various media markets and a barrage of TV spots.

Speaking of that 2008 race: We've got way-early Arizona numbers from Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill, who conducts surveys on behalf of the PBS affiliate KAET-TV and ASU's Cronkite School of Journalism.

Keeping in mind that the election is still, oh, 21 months away: The GOP side is pretty much what you'd expect. Our snowy-haired senior senator, John McCain, is the favorite of 54 percent of Republicans. Other numbers: 14 percent like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; 9 percent like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; 2 percent like California Congressman Duncan Hunter; and 21 percent like Jack Bauer. Oh, wait, we misread that--21 percent are undecided.

Arizona Democrats are smitten with Barack Obama, who was the pick of 29 percent. Another 23 percent had a thing for Hillary; 15 percent were sweet on John Edwards, and 12 percent liked Al Gore. As with Republicans, 21 percent were undecided.


The Arizona Department of Transportation has agreed to halt work on the downtown widening of Interstate 10 at the request of the organizers of this month's Match Play Championship at the Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

Teresa Welborn, ADOT's deputy public involvement director, tells us that no work will be done on the highway, the frontage roads or the ramps during the week of the tourney, Feb. 19-25.

The favor to our golfing friends could cost taxpayers as much as $23,000 a day in penalties if the construction crews don't make up the lost time later in the project. Welborn says a final bill won't be known until the project is completed in 2010.

"We won't know until the end," Welborn said. "We could catch up on other things. This is a large project."


Like a latter-day Lorax, Congressman Raúl Grijalva speaks for the trees. Grijalva, in his new perch as chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, fired off a press release earlier this week blasting a Bush budget plan to raise more than $1.1 billion by selling off Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land.

"Selling off our public lands and forests and using budget gimmicks is no way to fund the preservation and use of our nation's natural, cultural and recreational resources," Grijalva said.


One more rumor in the city elections: We hear that Republican Scott Egan, an aide to Pima County Supervisor "Sugar" Ray Carroll, may be thinking about a run for the westside Ward 1 City Council seat now held by Democrat José Ibarra. Egan, a longtime resident of Barrio Hollywood, isn't exactly pals with Ibarra.

We suspect that Egan would skip the race if Ibarra, who has not yet said whether he'll be seeking re-election, chooses not to run. We also keep hearing that Democrat Regina Romero, who is now an aide to Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, has an interest in the Ward 1 seat. A lot may ride on whether someone in the private--or quasi-private--sector will give José a job.

As we foretold a couple of weeks ago, Democrat Rodney Glassman, who is seeking to replace retiring Ward 2 Councilwoman Carol West, has already filed for matching funds. Glassman had raised $7,430, mostly in $20 contributions.

Republican Lori Oien, an activist with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is also seeking the Ward 2 seat.


State Rep. Steve Farley of midtown Tucson is making new friends in Phoenix. His latest legislation, House Bill 2665, has a long list of Republican co-sponsors, including Rep. Jennifer Burns and Senate President Tim Bee, both of Southern Arizona.

Farley's new bill, modeled after a Michigan law, addresses the ongoing problem with stores that don't update their checkout scanners to reflect the shelf price of their wares. If shoppers pays more than the advertised price, they're eligible for a rebate of the overcharge, as well as a bounty worth 10 times the overcharge, though they couldn't collect more than $5.

The GOP co-sponsors should help Farley's bill get a hearing--unlike some of his other efforts, such as a bill to ban text-messaging while driving, which is bottled up in the House Transportation Committee.


How's it going for newly elected GOP state chair Randy Pullen? Well, he's now got a real opportunity to rebuild the management of the state party, since what remained of the paid staff quit last week.

The resignations came days after Pullen (the choice of GOP purists) squeezed out a narrow win over Lisa James (the choice of Republicans who actually win big elections, like Jon Kyl and John McCain).

Want to work for the party? If you want to ban abortion, volunteer to patrol the border, privatize the schools and teach kids that the Earth is only 10,000 years old, send in your résumé today!

On the other hand, if you're looking forward to having a long career in politics, maybe you should find something else to do for the next few years.


You're the winners, Oro Valley voters! Last year, you gave Vestar Development Company a $23 million cut of your sales taxes for the next decade so the company would build you a brand-new shopping center on the corner of Oracle and Tangerine roads.

Well, now it's time for your reward: A one-of-a-kind shopping experience that will include Best Buy, PETCO, Linens 'n Things and, of course, Wal-Mart.

Because, really, how could these companies compete if Oro Valley citizens didn't subsidize them? Without that help, they would have a much harder time keeping the low prices that help them crush independent businesses.


Toni Hellon has landed on her feet. The moderate Republican was knocked out of her state Senate seat in last year's GOP primary by übercon Al Melvin (who went on to lose the general to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera), but she's now landed an $80K-a-year gig with Pima County Clerk of the Superior Court Patti Noland, another former state senator.
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