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TALES OF SUSPENSE

Republican John McCain grabbed the media spotlight last week when he announced that he was suspending his campaign until the nation's economic crisis was sorted out, although by "suspending the campaign," he appeared to mean that he was just canceling an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman.

McCain vowed to skip the first presidential debate with Democrat Barack Obama if Congress couldn't come up with a deal to bail out Wall Street, but like any good leader, he declined to articulate his own position on what needed to happen during his dramatic return to Washington, D.C., and didn't waste time reading a three-page explanation of the deal put out by the Bush administration.

Still, his arrival on the scene corresponded with an important turning point: the complete collapse of the initial bailout deal.

His work done, McCain decided to attend the debate, which ScrambleWatch viewed with our father, L.C. Nintzel, a retired accountant who expressed his horror at rising federal deficits. L.C. is voting for Obama, but observed after the debate that the Democrat should have hit McCain harder on the obscene amount of money being spent every day on the Iraq war.

ScrambleWatch agrees with those pundits who called the debate a tie between the candidates, although McCain declared himself the winner in an ad that accidentally ran on The Wall Street Journal's Web site before he had even announced he'd be attending the debate.

Earlier this week, McCain surrogates were crediting him with having put together a new Wall Street rescue plan, which promptly collapsed on Monday when many House Republicans bailed on the bailout, causing the stock market to tank, and threatening to take the world economy with it.


CD8 AIR WAR INTENSIFIES

The Congressional District 8 race between Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Tim Bee took its most negative turn yet when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started using some of the $700K it reserved in local air time, debuting an ad accusing Tim Bee of being so in love with George W. Bush that he didn't reimburse taxpayers for nearly $100,000 in local law-enforcement costs related to a fundraiser earlier this year.

The Bee campaign, meanwhile, launched their first hard negative TV ad, accusing Giffords of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 90 percent of the time, cutting off funding for troops in harm's way and supporting "full legal rights" for terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who makes a cameo appearance in the ad.

Giffords responded with an ad of her own that decried Bee's "false, negative attacks" and pointed out that she's the only member of Congress married to an active-duty member of the military (that would be astronaut Mark Kelly). Giffords said she has bucked Democratic Party leaders to vote to provide full funding for the troops.


THE WEEK AHEAD

Thursday, Oct. 2: Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel will join Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster, UA political science professors William Dixon and Barbara Norrander, and pollster Margaret Kenski for a discussion of the vice presidential debate, which begins at 6 p.m. on KUAT Channel 6.

Friday, Oct. 3: Republican Al Melvin and Democrat Cheryl Cage, candidates for the District 26 Senate seat, will debate on Arizona Illustrated at 6:30 p.m. on KUAT Channel 6.

Monday, Oct. 6: Democrats Don Jorgensen and Nancy Young Wright and Republicans Marilyn Zerull and Vic Williams, candidates for the District 26 House seats, will debate on Arizona Illustrated at 6:30 p.m. on KUAT Channel 6.


ScrambleWatch Q&A

District 26 Senate race

Republican Al Melvin and Democrat Cheryl Cage are battling for the District 26 Senate seat. We asked them some questions about the environment.


AL MELVIN

Do you support allowing some state-trust land to be set aside for conservation without payment to the trust?

I do. When I drive up through Florence to Phoenix and I look at those stretches of beautiful desert, I say to myself, "Can't we do something to have a 3- to 5-mile wide greenbelt to save some of this?" I don't want to just blindly sell it off to throw more money at education.

Should the state set fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks sold in Arizona?

I would say no.

Should the state increase gasoline taxes to pay for more highway construction?

I prefer looking at private toll roads.

Should the state require new schools to incorporate renewable-energy features such as solar panels if it will increase construction costs?

I would rather not get into that. What I want to see is a concentration on the three Rs. Get back to basics. When I've looked at schools, I think the physical plant is not bad.

Should the state continue to provide tax credits for solar installation?

I don't mind doing that.


CHERYL CAGE

Do you support allowing some state-trust land to be set aside for conservation without payment to the trust?

No. Although I am a strong advocate for our precious desert environment and support selling land at appraised price instead of auction, I do believe the land should be sold for fair market value.

Should the state set fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks sold in Arizona?

Yes. People are starting to recognize that we must take as many steps as possible to proactively protect our environment.

Should the state increase gasoline taxes to pay for more highway construction?

I would not want higher taxes to be the first step toward highway construction. We must develop a long-range vision for our state, and that includes diversifying our economic base so that we are not so dependent on sales taxes and construction starts. (I would begin the diversification process by proposing a bill that would allow our universities to accept stock in private companies in exchange for university-based technology.)

Should the state require new schools to incorporate renewable-energy features such as solar panels if it will increase construction costs?

Yes. As a businesswoman, I know that a smart investment, although a bit expensive at the beginning, will pay for itself many times over.

Should the state continue to provide tax credits for solar installation?

Yes. See the answer above.

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