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The Skinny

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Turnabout being fair play and all, the Arizona Democratic Party has responded to the GOP's recent complaint about Gov. Janet Napolitano's Web page with a complaint about Republican gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil's Web site.

If you've been following the gubernatorial race, you know the big issues are illegal immigration, education spending and whether Napolitano violated Clean Elections rules by launching a Web site before she got her public campaign bucks. GOP talking point: This is just like Watergate, folks--really!

The Napolitano campaign is now under investigation by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which will either (a) knock the popular incumbent off the ballot to make an example of out her, or (b) find some loophole to let her off with a slap on the wrist.

Last week, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman David Waid fired back with a complaint to the Arizona Secretary of State's office that Munsil failed to disclose the source of funding for his Web site. The potential fine: three times the cost of producing the Web site. What's blogware go for these days, anyway?

We note that Munsil now has posted "Paid for by Len Munsil for Governor" on the site.

The former boss of the Bible-thumpin' Center for Arizona Policy, Munsil has been blogging away at www.lenmunsil.com with keen dispatches such as this one about Tucson: "The growth in southern Pinal County and in the suburbs of Tucson is extraordinary, and there seems to be an air of enthusiasm about Tucson's future. There will soon be 1 million people in the Tucson metropolitan area."

Munsil is flush with Clean Elections bucks and has nabbed the backing of half the congressional delegation (hint: That half does not include Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor), as well as most of the right-leaning Republican lawmakers up at the Capitol. And there's a growing sense among some of the mods that he'd be less of an embarrassment at the top of the ticket than the other significant contender, Don Goldwater, who's got all of Barry's name and none of his charisma.


GOING POSTAL

Tired of the same old polling places? Ready for a fresh new experiment in democracy?

Looks like you'll get your chance to decide this November whether Arizona should go to a straight vote-by-mail system that would leave just a handful of polling places open on Election Day.

Fred Taylor, who's coordinating the Your Right To Vote initiative, says his group has already collected more than 170,000 signatures, which is well beyond the 122,612 signatures required by July 6.

"We're rocking and rolling," says Taylor, who argues that the initiative, based on Oregon's all-mail campaigns, will save money and boost turnout. He's probably right on both counts.

Turnout tends to increase in all-mail elections, both in Arizona and other states. In Oro Valley's March primary, which was all-mail, about 53 percent of voters cast a ballot. In the May election, which was a go-to-the-polls event because it was combined with the county's transportation election, turnout dropped to roughly 34 percent. And we hear folks were grumbling about how they didn't get their ballot in the mail.

"People are just extremely busy," Taylor says. "Voting by mail makes life easier for everyone."

That sort of talk riles up traditionalists (Hello, Tom Danehy!) who don't see any reason to make voting more convenient. And there are those who fret that more voting by mail will make elections easier to steal.

But Taylor is winning hearts and minds in rural Arizona. He's been crisscrossing the state and grabbing endorsements of his plan from county supervisors in Yavapai, Cochise and Pinal counties, as well as the Graham County Democratic Party.

The campaign is the brainchild of Republican Rick Murphy, a rural Arizona radio-station baron who lost a congressional race a few years back. Taylor says Murphy has poured about $350,000 into the campaign so far.


BATTLEFIELD BULLETIN

From the Scramblewatch '06 desk: Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who is seeking the Democratic primary in Congressional District 8, got the endorsement of the nature-lovin' Sierra Club, which cited Giffords' "all-star" record on environmental issues during her years in the Arizona Legislature. Giffords is facing former newscaster Patty Weiss, Air Force vet Jeff Latas, Tucson Unified School District board member Alex Rodriguez and retired federal employee Francine Shacter in the race.

We hear another Democrat gathering signatures is Bill Johnson, who is gonna pound border-security issues.

The Sierra Club--surprise, surprise!--endorsed District 7 Congressman Raul Grijalva as well.

On the GOP side in CD8, Republican Frank Antenori, the former Green Beret who now works for Raytheon, is doing something none of the other GOP candidates (Randy Graf, Steve Huffman, Mike Hellon and Mike Jenkins) is likely to do: Releasing a book. Roughneck Nine One, published by St. Martin's, tells how Antenori and his Special Forces team fought a crucial battle with an Iraqi armored task force in the early days of the invasion.

Notes Publisher's Weekly: "The authors highlight the skill and bravery of the Special Forces without overlooking their foibles and mistakes (or failing to lambaste the pesky, on-the-scene reporters who made their job harder). Though the book's second half speeds along with the battle's details, it's preceded by an overly long, familiar prologue--the selection and training of Special Forces soldiers and pre-deployment preparations. On balance, Antenori's memoir offers a gritty inside look at a Special Forces team at war."

When we last checked, the Amazon sales ranking for the tome was 5,519. But we're confident this blurb will send Roughneck Nine One skyrocketing up the charts.


WILD THING

The push to protect the Tumacacori Highlands south of Tucson near the Mexican border got a boost last week when more than 80 UA science profs and grad students signed a letter to Arizona's congressional delegation supporting the idea of designating roughly 84,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest as a wilderness area.

The campaign is being spearheaded by local enviros with the Sky Island Alliance, who say the Tumacacori Highlands represent intact habitat for both threatened and game species.

"The Tumacacori Highlands present exceptional recreational opportunities for hikers, hunters, backpackers, bird watchers, cayoneers, photographers and others," the letter states. "The Highlands are an area where one can still 'get away from it all' and experience Southern Arizona as it has been for decades: real, natural, wild."

One big impact: The wilderness designation would prevent future roads from being built in the area.

"We identified that area as one of the largest roadless areas in Arizona on forest land that didn't already have that protection," says Mike Quigley of the Sky Island Alliance. "So we're trying to get ahead of that landscape being fragmented, and we think designating it a Wilderness Area is the best tool to do that."


LET IT NEVER BE SAID THEY DON'T HAVE A SENSE OF SCALE

Bradley Schwartz has been through a lot in recent years: the collapse of his medical practice, battles with drug addiction, dating Lourdes Lopez and last week, being sentenced to 25 years to life for plotting to kill his former colleague, Dr. Brian Stidham. And it ain't over: Schwartz still faces the possibility of being prosecuted again for the first-degree murder charge that the jury deadlocked on.

But all that is nothing compared to the slap he got last Thursday, June 1, when the Arizona Daily Star editorial page stuck him with a thorn. Oh, snap! That must smart.

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