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OUR LONG NIGHTMARE HAS JUST BEGUN

The most electrifying presidential election of The Skinny's lifetime has finally arrived--and the result appears to be four more years of President George W. Bush.

But this much we can say: All across Pima County, voters were determined to have their say, even if Arizona had long since been eliminated from the swing-state sweepstakes. Crowds were not only swarming polling places on Tuesday; they were waiting in long lines at early voting locations on campus and downtown so they could beat the Election Day rush.

Given the turnout, it's too bad most everything was preordained, leaving us with few surprises on Election Day as the numbers rolled in. The Pima County Board of Supervisors, facing a token Libertarian challenge, easily strolled to re-election, as did most other county officials. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik defeated Republican Roland Youngling, while a big Democratic turnout helped carry Bill Staples over Bill Heuisler in the assessor's race.

Meet the new boss--same as the old boss.

Statewide, with the passage of Prop 200 and the formal victory of conservatives who had purged moderate Republicans in September's primary, the GOP's right wing had much to celebrate. Frustrated by wily Gov. Janet Napolitano and turncoat Republicans over the last two sessions, we're betting they'll have a taste for blood when the next legislative session starts.

How do you suppose that's gonna work out for Southern Arizona GOP mods like Toni Hellon, Pete Hershberger and Steve Huffman?

And will Sen. Tim Bee of Tucson win the majority leader spot? He's up against Robert Blendu of Litchfield Park, who's offering the novel argument that Maricopa County is underrepresented in leadership.


MAINSTREAM MESS

Maybe the GOP mods at the Capitol can count on help from Mainstream Arizona, the 527 political committee--er, excuse us, advocacy group headed up by Jack Jewett and Grant Woods.

Mainstream Az tried to lend a hand in September's primary by sending out some namby-pamby mailers asking voters to "thank" moderate candidates. Jewett and Woods hoped that by avoiding magic words like "vote for," the mailers wouldn't be considered a political expenditure.

But the staff of the Clean Elections program saw things differently. They said the mailings were designed to affect the outcome of the election (which--let's be honest--they were). The decision triggered matching funds for the conservatives who were running with Clean Elections dollars, meaning that Mainstream Arizona was essentially pouring public money into the coffers of candidates they opposed.

That additional money was used to put out hit pieces attacking Mainstream Arizona's preferred candidates, who mostly got slaughtered on primary night.

On second thought, maybe it would be better if Mainstream Arizona didn't help out.

Woods and Jewett challenged the decision to provide matching funds in court, but a Maricopa County judge ruled against them last month--a decision that has Mainstream Az's leaders rethinking the entire operation.


WRONG NUMBER

The Skinny got a call during the Halloween weekend from a campaign that rose briefly from the grave. While checking our voicemail, we heard the eerie voice of Republican Anton Orlich.

"Tomorrow is the Republican primary for state representative," Orlich told us, promising to fight against illegal immigration and high taxes. "If you want a proven conservative as your state representative, then I need your vote."

Unfortunately for Anton, he'd already narrowly lost that fight, which was waged up in the Chandler area in September's GOP primary.


EXPECT DELAYS

An angry voter gave The Skinny a ring on the morning of the election to let us know that roadwork on Glenn Street west of First Avenue was effectively blocking left turns into the parking lot for the polling place at Keeling Elementary. After we rang up Michael Graham, spokesman for the Tucson Transportation Department, we were assured the project manager would make adjustments to let voters reach the polling place.

We'd like to blame this on Karl Rove's voter-suppression efforts, but we suspect it was just the result of poor planning.


THINK TANKED

The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based gang of folks who consider themselves the conservative cognoscenti of Arizona, recently beamed out an op-ed column bemoaning the fact that voters weren't able to decide whether to scrap Arizona's Clean Elections Act on Election Day.

Goldwater's Clint Bolick, a senior fellow, complained that the state Supreme Court erred when it kicked an initiative off the ballot that would have made it unconstitutional to use public money for political campaigns. The court said the proposition violated the Arizona Constitution's so-called "single-subject" rule, which forbids "log-rolling" of different questions into a single amendment.

Bolick argued that "... the Clean Elections Act itself must be unconstitutional, for it created both campaign subsidies and the Commission. If repealing the law violates the single-subject rule, so too did the initial law."

We wouldn't advise Bolick--clearly a legal genius who knows far more than the justices on the Arizona Supreme Court--to use that argument in court. It appears to us laymen that the Clean Elections program just amended state statutes, not the state Constitution, so it wasn't bound by the single-subject rule.

Opponents of Clean Elections got way too clever in trying to amend the state Constitution to block the use of public funds instead of simply repealing the Clean Elections law. They gambled that their pretense of not really scrapping Clean Elections, but merely putting an end to political welfare, would prove popular with voters, while locking in a constitutional safeguard against its return. (And they were probably right.)

It was a costly screw-up. The most recent campaign finance reports show the campaign cost $543,000, with nearly all of it being funneled through Nathan Sproul of Sproul and Associates. The name might be familiar because it keeps popping up in stories about irregularities in voter-registration drives across the western United States.

Clean Elections, as of last week, had distributed a little than $4.3 million this election cycle, compared to almost $13 million in 2004. The program gets the bulk of its money from a 10 percent surcharge on criminal and civil fines.


TRAVELS WITH RAÚL

At first blush, it seemed demeaning, utterly wasteful and ridiculous for national Democratic strategists to dispatch U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva to Telluride to do his part to boost the campaigns of the wonderful Salazar brothers--Ken, the Colorado attorney general, in his U.S. Senate battle with awful (and awfully stupid) Peter Coors; and John, a state legislator, in his race for Congress.

It didn't take much for the geniuses at the DNC to figure out that Grijalva would play well in Democratic and Mexican-American strongholds in Pueblo, the Salazars' native San Luis Valley, or in Denver's old-line Hispanic neighborhoods. But Grijalva, on a clear path to a long congressional career, missed earlier rallies for the Salazars in Pueblo and elsewhere.

When the Coors empire finagled control of a major league baseball expansion team, the Colorado Rockies, Peter Coors was sent to mommy's Cobblestone house in the Catalina Foothills. He joined the Rockies crowd at a 1992 press conference announcing the Rockies' spring training (another genuine rip-off of Tucson taxpayers) at Hi Corbett Field. Peter Coors was so bad, it was painful to watch.


GOVERNOR, MAY WE CHEW YOUR FOOD?

The doofuses at the Greater Tucson Economic Council staged another waste-of-money intramural fest, the Governor's Luncheon, last week at the Westin La Paloma and stunned Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano with a script.

The governor, GTEC brass feared, just wouldn't know what to say or how to say it.

Napolitano, never shy and never incapable of stringing a few sentences together, promptly canned the GTEC talking points.


LAWYER EMPLOYMENT ACT

A defiant City Hall has pumped $271,000 into the defense of a crew of insouciant firefighters and paramedics, as well as police, who beat and pepper-sprayed Tyrone Johnson on a hot August morning in 1999. Johnson, an asthmatic, died during the short, but terribly slow ride Southwest Ambulance gave him that day to Kino Community Hospital.

Johnson had briefly fled police after they gave him a rough time for driving a car with a leaking gas tank.

His family sued, and the four-week trial in U.S. District Court in Tucson ended May 4 in a hung jury.

Rather than enter settlement talks, the city has chosen to pay hired gun Daryl Audilett $204,216 in fees and $66,776 in expenses, according to the latest figures from the city. Southwest Ambulance also continues to pay its high-priced lawyers from Lewis & Roca.

Judge John M. Roll has set a new trial in the matter for March 18.


JUST WAIT'LL NEXT YEAR

The dust is still settling from Election Day, but the next campaign season is already underway. Republican council members Fred Ronstadt of Ward 6 and Kathleen Dunbar of Ward 3 have already formed political committees for their 2005 re-election campaigns. There's a crowd of Democrats talking about taking on Ronstadt, including light-rail conductor Steve Farley and Hank Atha of Pima County Community Services, but only one potential candidate has formed an exploratory committee: Janet Hare, a hotel marketing director who boasts environmental empress Carolyn Campbell as her chairperson.

Over in Ward 3, Dunbar may face a challenge from Karin Uhlich, a former muckety-muck with the Prima Vera Foundation, a homeless advocacy organization. Uhlich now heads up the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity.

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