Skinny CLERK CLASH: The Clerk of the Superior Court is low-profile office, but the job is an important one. The office employs 150-plus people, maintains massive records and administers many of the day-to-day responsibilities of a burgeoning court system. That means the person in charge gets to spend tons of taxpayer money--quietly. Three candidates are vying for the clerk's job this November 3--Republican Patti Noland, Democrat Penny Bradford and Libertarian Karen Caddell.

A former state senator, Noland has some definite ideas about how to bring the office into this century--just as we're about to enter the next one. Bradford is the status quo candidate of both the retiring old-school incumbent, Jim Corbett, and the political faction among the local judiciary led by Presiding Judge Mike Brown.

Noland wants to take the clerk's employees out of the current Judicial Merit System and give them real Civil Service protections. She sponsored a bill in the Legislature authorizing the clerk to do so. Bradford would continue the present patronage/serf pay-off method that has allowed a pol like Corbett 20 years of hiring his cronies.

Bradford hasn't been shy about collecting money from sitting Superior Court judges; she's openly solicited them with a fund-raising letter pushing the ethics envelope. Never mind that the judiciary supposedly removed itself from "politics" some years ago, when voters replaced the elective system with so-called "Merit Selection." Bradford's campaign has clearly violated the spirit of that unwritten agreement between voters and the judiciary.

Bradford has Republican Rod Cramer as her campaign guru. Cramer, who once master-minded the successful elections of former GOP county supervisors Paul Marsh and Ed Moore, usually gets big bucks for these gigs, but his name is missing from Bradford's expense records filed to date. That has some insiders wondering if Cramer might not be in line for some of the pork and contract largesse for which this rather quaint office has been notorious under Corbett.

WRITE-IN, MOVE OUT: Malcolm Escalante, the carpetbagger who serves as a Tohono O'odham judge as well as a member of the Indian Oasis-Baboquivari School District Board, is planning on seeking another school-board term, even though he still lives in Tucson.

The Weekly revealed the peripatetic Escalante's violation of residency law a few months back. Escalante and his cronies on the Indian Oasis Board survived a recall attempt this summer. Now he's running as a write-in candidate, challenging Elisapeta Shanna Garcia and Harriet Toro for one of the two seats to be decided next Tuesday.

Escalante, who was initially appointed to the Indian Oasis Board, lives 65 miles away from Sells, which would seem to violate those pesky residency requirements. Escalante's lame excuse is that he lives in Tucson to attend college, a loophole that he claims allows him to live outside his school district while serving on its Board.

That's supposed to be only a temporary exception. But Escalante, an apparent academic speed demon, has been attending Pima Community College since--get this--1972! He's been working on a two-year associate's degree to be a legal assistant for 26 years. He told the Runner newspaper that he doesn't have a target completion date.

County School Superintendent Anita Lohr, who appointed Escalante, should stop the special treatment. She should pull the plug on his term and end his election bid.

ENDORSEMENT ENVY: Legendary hypocrite Celestino Fernández and the decent Carolyn Kemmeries received ill-advised endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce in their campaigns for the TUSD Governing Board. But since they both failed to win the endorsement of the Tucson Citizen (which praised Rosalie Lopez and Judy Burns), their camps have been cranking out the letters to both the Citizen and The Arizona Daily Star.

Both Fernández and Kemmeries desperately want the Star's blessing, which will come (at least officially) without participation by Star Editorial Page Editor James Kiser. He told candidates that he would not be part of the decision because his wife, Shirley, works for TUSD. Wait--not only does she work at the rotten school district, she coughed up $55 to Fernández's campaign and $20 to Kemmeries, according to campaign-finance reports.

Meanwhile, Fernández criticized endorsements in general at a forum for the TUSD candidates held last Thursday at Rincon High.

"I'm not sure what endorsements mean, and particularly from newspapers," said Fernández. "You look at endorsements that newspapers throughout this country, including in Tucson, candidates that are endorsed often lose and candidates that are not endorsed often win. I hope that the voters, that every individual voter will make her and his own decision about the candidates and not rely upon some group or organization or newspaper that has endorsed. What it means is that the Citizen made a mistake."

The Chamber's endorsement was particularly misapplied. Did the dummies down there realize neither Fernández nor Kemmeries has any real private-sector experience? TW

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