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The Skinny

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THE BOARD GAME: Yet another primary election has come and gone, with roughly one in four voters bothering to head out to the polls.

There weren't any upsets in the county board races. In District 3, incumbent Sharon Bronson defeated Dick Pacheco, the phantasmal candidate who ducked numerous forums and media interviews in favor of running an under-the-radar campaign using phone banks and advertisements in small D3 papers. Given his total ignorance of county issues, Pacheco did surprisingly well, picking up 43 percent.

Bronson survived the primary despite a sleazy, last-minute mailer that hit District 3 voters last Saturday, September 9. The anonymous mailer, which claimed to have come from Readher Prevarications at 1776 Veracity Avenue, sliced and diced stories from both dailies and The Weekly about Bronson, Rosalie Lopez and occasional Tucson Weekly contributor Chris Limberis.

Bronson's victory sets up a general election battle against Republican Barney Brenner, an auto-parts store owner who is critical of the county's finances.

Both Pacheco and Brenner deny any connection to the hit sheet. "That mailer was a disgusting piece of shit," Brenner said on Election Day.

In District 5, Raul Grijalva easily knocked off Dan Medina in District 5, picking up nearly 75 percent of the vote. He'll now face Republican Rosalie Lopez on the November ballot.

In District 1, where Supervisor Mike Boyd's retirement leaves an open seat, state Sen. Ann Day dispatched state Rep. Dan Schottel by nearly a two-to-one margin in the GOP primary, setting up a contest on the November ballot against political consultant Byron Howard, who outdistanced teacher John Crouch by only eight points in the Democratic primary.

WARNING SIGNS: Sprinkled among all the campaign signs on Tucson's northwest side were a few anti-candidate notices. Advocating "Anybody but Steve Huffman," the slick red-white-and blue signs called the District 12 freshman lawmaker the "Special Interest's 'Boy' for Growth." The effort may have hurt Huffman, who ran behind newcomer Pete Hershberger, but it wasn't enough to carry Billie Jane Madden to victory in the GOP primary.

Behind the effort to drive up Huffman's negative rating was the Anybody but Huffman Independent Committee, which also ran radio ads targeting the incumbent state legislator. The anti-Huffman crowd gripes that he says one thing and does another, pretending to be a friend of his constituents while secretly selling them out. They also accuse him of hanging out in the Governor's office instead of casting critical votes on the House floor.

The Anybody-But campaign planned to spend about $2,000 on its effort. But many of its signs, for some strange reason, quickly disappeared from street corners. Now who could have been responsible for that?

It's easy enough to understand why some folks are on the anti-Huffman bandwagon. Radio motormouth John C-Note Scott, for example, wants to sink Huffman because the lawmaker beat Scott in the GOP primary two years ago by dropping a last-minute negative mailer comparing him to Bill Clinton, of all people.

The Skinny hears there's another backer deeper in the shadows: Rep. Jim Weiers, the Phoenix Republican who hopes to become the new Speaker of the House in January. As we understand it, Huffman has been bragging that he's got a half-dozen or so lawmakers ready to back Rep. Mike Gardner, a more moderate Tempe Republican who's also vying for the Speaker post.

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN: Realtor Colette Barajas, who dropped out of the District 13 House race two weeks ago, picked up 18 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary. The winners of the race, Gabrielle Giffords and Ted Downing, got 55 and 50 percent, respectively.

Last week, Barajas abruptly informed the Weekly at press time that she had quit the race. Reached by telephone, Barajas said she was abandoning her campaign because she "absolutely hated politics."

But it appears there were other reasons Barajas called it quits. She was experiencing an ongoing problem with the Citizens Clean Election Commission, which oversees the state's new publicly funded campaign finance system. Legislative candidates who sign a contract with the commission are eligible for $10,000 for the primary and an additional $15,000 for the general election, provided they can collect at least 200 $5 contributions from residents of their district.

Barajas told the Weekly last month that the commission was refusing to release her campaign funds. But the delay in releasing the funds, it appears, had to do with questionable contributions, according to Colleen Conner, executive director of the Clean Election Commission, who says that more than 20 signatures on Barajas' contribution paperwork were considered suspicious.

By Friday, things had gone very bad for Barajas. The Attorney General's Office announced she had been indicted on one count of fraud and 19 counts of forgery.

Barajas has obtained powerhouse defense attorney Mike Piccarreta, who has yet to see the complaint or any evidence.

"Colette had sufficient valid signatures to obtain the public monies," Piccaretta stressed. "Thus, any questioned signatures did not really affect public monies. I'm saddened by this because she actually has a long history of public service and good deeds in the community. We're going to meet with the attorney general and review the evidence and analyze it and try to arrive at a fair disposition."

When asked last week if the ongoing struggle with the Clean Elections folks had affected her decision to quit the race, Barajas said it hadn't played a role.

"I think that was just probably another frustrating point," Barajas said. "The whole process was very frustrating. I absolutely believe in campaign finance reform -- . I don't really think that was it."

Barajas' case doesn't look so bad when you see the case of William Andre Luck, who was campaigning for a House seat in District 7, which includes Apache Junction and Florence. Accused of faking more than 200 of his alleged contributors, Luck has been charged with two counts of fraud and 209 counts of forgery.

WILDLIFE WATCH: The group Arizonans for Wildlife Conservation had raised $671,507 as of August 23. The group is supporting Prop 102, which would amend the state constitution to force ballot props that involve wildlife issues to pass with a two-thirds majority at the ballot box. This group is hoping to short-circuit any effort by deep-pocketed, tofu-eating vegan activists who might come to Arizona to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on initiatives to outlaw hunting and fishing. A similar prop actually passed in Idaho last year.

The backers of Arizonans for Wildlife Conservation complain it's too easy to get an issue on the ballot--a curious argument, since they themselves concluded that an initiative drive would be just too damn difficult and instead successfully lobbied the state legislature to put their prop on the ballot by referendum.

And while the group complains about out-of-state special-interest money influencing elections, they're not above accepting it themselves. They've taken at least $62,500 from the Ballot Issues Coalition, a national group backed by, among others, archery manufacturers and the National Rifle Association; more than $25,000 from the Wildlife Legislation Fund of America; $12,500 from the Foundation for North American Sheep; and at least $18,500 from Safari Club International, through the group's Phoenix chapter.

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