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SCRAMBLEWATCH 2010: EARLY EDITION

As the dust settles from the election quake of '08, the politicians are already scheming for the prizes available in 2010. And we're jonesing enough for campaign news that we're willing to pick through the rumors, rumblings and half-truths.

The biggest question surrounds the futures of Republican John McCain and Democrat Janet Napolitano. Will our senior senator seek redemption through re-election? If so, will he face a challenge from Janet? Or will the Napster be a part of the Obama administration by then? It looks as if she's not the first choice for attorney general, but there are a few other spots where she could find a home.

One popular theory making the rounds: Team Obama is strategically considering the likelihood that they could lose a few Senate seats in 2010 as Republicans do the traditional rebound thing. Napolitano is the strongest contender to put the Arizona Senate seat in the Democratic column, so Obama may want her to stay put for another two years as part of his master plan to control the world.

Of course, since that next term wouldn't be over until he was 80 years old, Johnny Mac could decide he's run his last campaign. If he decides to retire, it sure looks like Congressman Jeff Flake wants the job. Flake, a real-live conservative from Mesa who zealously opposes government pork, has been expanding his statewide profile in recent months, as a glance at the banner ads at StarNet will demonstrate.

Might he face a challenge from fellow Republican Congressman John Shadegg? Shadegg was ready to retire months ago and had to be begged to stick around. With the GOP's congressional fortunes looking even more dismal, would he be interested in the Senate? Or would he be more interested in, say, that vacant governor's seat?

The list of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls is long, including local GOP bigshot/lawyer John Munger, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Treasurer Dean Martin and Secretary of State Jan Brewer. (Brewer could have the advantage of incumbency if Napolitano were to leave town.)

The Democratic gubernatorial contenders include Attorney General Terry Goddard, shopping-center magnate Jim Pederson and, every once in awhile, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

With Goddard hitting his term limit, Arizona will need a new top lawyer. State Rep. David Lujan, who just deposed Tucson's Phil Lopes to get himself elevated to minority leader in the House of Representatives, is one name we're hearing. The other is Dennis Burke, a former Napolitano aide who realized he couldn't beat Goddard eight years ago.

Brewer is likewise termed out of her secretary of state job. Republican state Sen. Jack Harper has already filed his paperwork for an exploratory committee for the gig of being in charge of overseeing Arizona's elections. Hell, why not? Harper's sense of political fairness is so refined that earlier this year, he sponsored a bill that would have allowed Republicans to vote in the Democratic presidential primary, but wouldn't have allowed Democrats to vote in the GOP presidential primary. As he explained to Capitol reporter Howie Fischer at the time, Democrats are "people who would burn American flags in front of American soldiers and call that free speech."

Other Republican names in the rumor mill include Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, state Sen. Barbara Leff and state Rep. Jonathan Paton, who will be moving up to the state Senate next year.

On the Democratic side, it appears our own Ward 2 City Councilman, Rodney Glassman, is getting a bit bored with fixing potholes after winning that seat just last year. He's mulling a run at SOS, as is Sam Wercinski, who's now working as the state's real estate commissioner. (Yeah, we'd never heard of him, either.)

Republican Sen. John Huppenthal is talking about taking a shot at state superintendent of public instruction, while Democrat Jason Williams, who lost a bid for the job two years ago, may be back for another run.

Let the games begin!


CLEAN SHOT

One question that candidates for statewide office will have to consider: Will Clean Elections provide matching funds?

Clean Elections provides public campaign funds to qualifying state candidates who agree to limit their spending. If privately funded candidates break those spending limits, the program gives additional dollars to participating candidates to match those expenditures.

Those matching funds ensure that statewide candidates can remain competitive, but a recent lawsuit by opponents of Clean Elections has put them at risk. U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver issued a preliminary ruling earlier this year that the matching-funds provision is unconstitutional, although she let it stand through the 2008 election season.

It may take years for the case to be entirely worked out in court, which means that candidates considering a 2010 run won't know whether the matching funds will be there when they need them. We don't know about you, but if we thought the courts were likely to take away a big chuck of our campaign funds, we'd probably be looking for private-sector support.

We hear some rumbles out of the Capitol that lawmakers may try to resolve the question by changing the law to get rid of matching funds, and simply hand out more money to candidates. That'll make for some entertaining floor debates.


SCRAMBLEWATCH '09: POLITICAL AMBIEN

With all that talk of the 2010 campaigns, you might be wondering: What about next year's city elections?

Council members Nina Trasoff, Steve Leal and Karin Uhlich are all up for re-election, but we're skeptical that they'll face any significant challengers. We'd love to be proven wrong, but we have a feeling that political junkies are not going to get much of a fix in '09.

The one thing that could really shake up city politics: nonpartisan elections, in which candidates of all stripes would run in a single primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election.

Republican Jonathan Paton, who starts his first term in the Senate in January, wants a state law mandating nonpartisan elections in all municipal elections. That wouldn't be a big deal in Maricopa County, since most of those cities already feature nonpartisan elections. To get around a possible veto from Gov. Janet Napolitano, Paton may push a referendum for voters to decide in 2010.


DEAD WOMAN WALKING?

As we noted during the election season, the Arizona Democratic Party and their union allies spent more than a million dollars in their push to grab control of the Arizona House of Representatives, only to end up losing two seats to the Republicans.

There's a lot of anger toward the state party down here in Southern Arizona. The critics are complaining that instead of consulting with pols who know local attitudes, the Maricopa brain trust farmed out the campaign work to consultants who cooked up lame cookie-cutter mailers that were part of a statewide campaign. So the messages that arrived--that Democrats would protect soldiers off in combat from foreclosure, for example--didn't resonate with Baja Arizona voters. (The soldier piece was an especially dumb mailer, given that it's not legal for banks to foreclose on soldiers in combat zones.)

We hear that Maria Weeg, the Arizona Democratic Party executive director who came from Idaho in 2007, may be on her way out following the big losses.

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