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The Skinny

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FOLLOWING THE MONEY

The Skinny has been following the Arizona Democratic Party's big push to take control of the Arizona House of Representatives. To do it, they needed to flip four seats into the Democratic column while hanging on to the gains they made in 2006.

We're writing this too early to know if they pulled it off--and it's likely that the final results might not be clear until several days after the election--but the Democrats and their allies were definitely spending plenty of money on mailers, robocalls and even TV ads.

We mentioned last week that the Democratic Party invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into Victory 2008, a political committee pushing for Democrats in GOP districts across the state.

That gang was backed up by Arizonans for a Healthy Economy, a political committee that, according to the most recent campaign-finance reports, had been funded by the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education ($50K), the Arizona Fire Fighters ($50K), the SEIU labor guys ($50K) and Arizona List, a political committee dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women ($37K). Arizonans for a Healthy Economy also picked up a bunch of contributions from Tucson-area lefties.

The two committees were spending across the state, with a big chuck dropped here in Southern Arizona.

In GOP-leaning District 26, which includes the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke, the Democrats needed to protect Rep. Nancy Young Wright and carry Don Jorgensen to victory against Republicans Vic Williams and Marilyn Zerull. They also wanted to keep the state Senate seat in Democratic hands by supporting Cheryl Cage against Republican Al Melvin.

In LD26, the Democratic committees combined to spend about $100,000 to support Wright, Cage and Jorgensen with TV ads, mailers and robocalls in the final weeks of the campaign.

Victory 2008 also spent roughly $50,000 on attack ads against the GOP team of Melvin, Zerull and Williams.

In District 30--which leans even more toward the GOP and includes Green Valley, Sonoita and the eastside of Tucson--the Democrats wanted to grab one of the seats with Andrea Dalessandro, who was facing Republicans Frank Antenori and David Gowan.

The Democratic committees spent at least $130,000 promoting Dalessandro's candidacy. Victory 2008 also spent more than $40,000 on attack ads aimed solely at Antenori; Gowan was not targeted.

The Arizona Republican Party came up with a few dollars to help out its candidates, but the big spending on the GOP's behalf came from the Arizona Assoc of Realtors Leadership Committee, which delivered tens of thousands of dollars to support Republicans.

However the races turn out, it's pretty clear that all of this spending makes a total mockery of the Clean Elections program. When the surrogates are drowning out the candidates, the system has failed.


MO' MONEY TROUBLES

No matter who wins the hotly contested races and takes control of the Arizona Legislature, they're facing a grim session up at the Capitol.

The state's latest financial figures continue to paint a bleak picture. At the end of September--the first quarter of the fiscal year--tax revenues had fallen $293 million behind estimates. The $2.2 billion collected was actually $186 million below the amount collected in the first three months of the previous fiscal year.

The big shortfall is in sales taxes, which are about $145 million below the forecast, mostly thanks to the construction slowdown and the reluctance of most Arizonans to buy new cars.

Individual income taxes are falling short by more than $87 million, and corporate income taxes are down by more than $73 million.

We don't sense that this economic downturn has hit bottom yet. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that the overall shortfall for this year will range from $700 million to $1.1 billion.


TOUCHY SUBJECT

Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer remained cranky last week that Pima County wasn't going to be electronically transmitting vote counts from precincts to the county's central tabulator.

Brewer wrote a very stern letter to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, accusing him of "abdicating ... responsibility to run orderly and efficient elections," because the county has worked with officials from local political parties to develop security procedures.

Huckelberry, in his response to Brewer, counters that "consultation and cooperation is not abdication."

We tend to think that the security risk of transmitting data over phone lines is mighty damn low, but we appreciate Pima County's effort to show that it cares about security procedures. If that means waiting a few extra hours for results, we can live with that, especially since the early ballots released around 8 p.m. should give us a pretty good idea of how most of the races are going to turn out.

How hysterical is Brewer over the idea that votes cast on Election Day might not be available for the 10 o'clock newscast? She goes so far as to accuse Huckelberry of trying to disenfranchise the disabled, because he wants to count the votes cast on electronic touchscreen machines after the standard paper ballots have been processed.

"I'm certain that leaders of the disability community would have very serious concerns about this procedure for reasons too obvious to state in this letter," Brewer wrote.

That's absolutely absurd. Almost nobody uses the touchscreen machines that Brewer insisted the county purchase; of the 114,000 votes cast in the primary, only 97 of them were on the touchscreens. It makes a whole lot of sense to concentrate on the standard ballots and count the touchscreen ballots later.

Frankly, given that we keep hearing about problems with touchscreen machines, we'd prefer that nobody use them.

The big delay in getting final results isn't going to be due to Pima County's security procedures, although they will hold up the count by a few hours. The big delay, at least in close races, will be the early ballots dropped off on Election Day.

Those ballots will have to pass a signature check before being counted. Pima County Registrar of Voters Chris Roads, who expected about 25,000 ballots to be dropped off on Tuesday, said the Recorder's Office would have those ballots processed by the end of the day Wednesday.

By the way, of the roughly 231,000 early ballots sent out to Pima County voters, about 183,000 were sent back in as of Monday afternoon (Nov. 3). In addition, nearly 18,000 voters cast ballots at walk-in sites.


ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP?

Off the political beat: How would you like to see your face be part of the new Fourth Avenue underpass?

Patch and Clark Design is creating the Tucson Portrait Project, which will slap roughly 7,000 4-inch-square tiles imprinted with photos of Tucsonans on the entrances to the underpass.

Between now and February, Gary Patch and Darren Clark--the guys behind the design of Hotel Congress, the Rialto Theatre and the Weekly's midtown bureau--will be out at street fairs, festivals, swap meets, concerts and other gatherings to snap photos.

The first shoot will be during Nana's Salsa Challenge at Reid Park this Saturday, Nov. 8, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. On Sunday, Nov. 9, during the Tucson Open Studio Tour, they'll be hanging around the BICAS warehouse at Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue between 2 and 4 p.m.

If you've got a big event coming up, let the guys know so they can turn up with their cameras. For more details, visit the project Web site.

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