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ROBOCOP REFERENDUM

Looks like voters may get to decide whether Tucson should have those cameras at red lights and mobile vans to nab speeders.

Former state lawmaker and political gadfly John Kromko turned in more than 22,000 petition signatures to let voters decide whether to ban photo-radar enforcement in Tucson. He needed 12,730 valid signatures, so there's lots of padding there to fight off legal challenges.

Still, Kromko's efforts in the past have been shaky, so we'll see if there's some kind of problem with the petitions—but if the proposition makes the ballot, it'll be the marquee issue of 2013.

Voters may also get the final say on whether the city should scrap its current pension program.

The Committee for Sustained Retirement Benefits has turned in more than 23,000 signatures to put the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act on the November city ballot, which is nearly twice as many as needed.

The initiative would force the city to scrap the current pension program for new hires and instead enroll them in a program similar to a 401K system.

City officials, who have created a task force to address pension issues, warn that if the initiative passes, it could bankrupt the city because taxpayers would be on the hook for paying out pensions without the benefit of having new employees contributing to the pension program.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the initiative is projected to cost the city $24 million in its first year alone.

"By cutting off new employees from paying into the existing system, the money to pay those obligations will have to come out of the general fund, and that would mean significant cuts to city services," Rothschild said. "The outside group that's trying to impose this on Tucson does not have our city's best interests at heart."

Political consultant Pete Zimmerman, who is organizing the campaign, said concerns about collapsing the pension system are overblown.

Zimmerman is getting his paycheck from the Liberty Initiative Fund, a new political action committee that has been getting involved in initiative campaigns around the country.


DASH FOR DOLLARS

It's still early in this year's City Council campaigns, but you can still glean a few things from looking over the campaign-finance reports that came in earlier this week.

One sign of a healthy organization for a Tucson City Council campaign is an application for public matching funds. The city's matching-funds program, in place since the late '80s, offers a sweet deal: For every dollar that candidates raise, they get a matching dollar from the city. In return, candidates agree to limit their spending; this year, the limit was just under $115,000, according to a January calculation, but it may be adjusted later this month based on the number of voters in the city.

All of the candidates running this year are participating in the matching funds program.

In north-central Ward 3, incumbent Democrat Karin Uhlich has already filed for matching funds. Uhlich had brought in $23,274 in private contributions through May 31, according to campaign-finance reports filed this week. Uhlich's private dollars had been supplemented by $3,332 in public matching funds.

Uhlich had already burned through $15,297, with the lion's share (just over $9,000) going to political consultant David Steele's Strategic Issues Management Group, where Adam Kinsey, the savvy former exec director of the Pima County Democratic Party, is managing Uhlich's account.

While that spending left Uhlich with only $11,309 in the bank as of May 31, the two-term Democrat filed a request for another $18,441 in matching funds in mid-June, which refilled her tank.

Uhlich is facing Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia, who lost to Uhlich four years ago by fewer than 200 votes. Buehler-Garcia has not yet applied for matching funds, but he had raised roughly $11,700 and spent about $4,100, leaving him with about $7,600.

Over in south-side Ward 5, Richard Fimbres had raised just $18,317 and hasn't yet qualified for matching funds. Fimbres has spent about $6,000, leaving him with $12,288.

That put him well ahead of his challenger, Republican newcomer Mike Polak II, who had raised just $2,250. Polak had spent nearly all of that—$2,198—and had less than $52 in the bank.

The biggest campaign war chest belongs to Councilman Steve Kozachik, who did not draw an opponent this year in his race for reelection in central Tucson's Ward 6. Kozachik, who ran as a Republican in 2009 and switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year, says he's still campaigning hard in case a write-in challenger gets into the race ahead of the Aug. 27 primary.

The campaign-finance report shows that Kozachik had raised $26,366 and had spent about $12,500, leaving him with about $13,800 as of May 31.

Kozachik tells The Skinny that he received about $24,500 in matching funds in early June and planned to turn in a new report last week requesting a match of the $9,300 he's raised since the first of June. He's also received about $1,800 from political action committees, bringing his total haul for his campaign to roughly $69,400.


STORMING CONGRESSIONAL HILL

Former Air Force pilot Martha McSally is edging closer to a rematch against Congressman Ron Barber.

While she hasn't made a formal announcement, McSally filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for a 2014 congressional campaign on Monday, July 1.

McSally was virtually a political unknown when she announced last year that she wanted to run in a special election for the seat vacated by Gabby Giffords. She came in second in an April four-way GOP primary in the special election to Republican Jesse Kelly, who would go on to lose to Barber in the June special general election.

When the regular election cycle came around a few months later, McSally won the August GOP primary in Southern Arizona's newly redrawn Congressional District 2 and nearly defeated Barber in a race that saw the lead move back and forth for 11 days before Barber could declare victory. When all the ballots were counted, Barber won the race by fewer than 2,500 votes.

McSally spokeswoman Kristen Douglas said McSally had not yet decided whether to run but was filing paperwork to remain compliant with FEC rules and regulations. But while McSally is playing it coy right now, we hear she's definitely getting into the race.

In other congressional news: State Rep. Adam Kwasman, a Republican who is halfway through his first term representing Oro Valley, announced earlier this week that he was forming an exploratory committee to challenge Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who won a congressional seat in 2008 and lost in 2010, narrowly defeated former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton in the sprawling Congressional District 1, which stretches from northern Pima County all the way to Flagstaff and includes most of the rural eastern half of the state.

Before his election to the legislature last year, Kwasman managed Jesse Kelly's unsuccessful 2010 campaign against Gabby Giffords.

Kwasman told The Skinny he intends to remain in the Legislature as he campaigns for Congress.

Another rumored candidate in CD1: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who dropped out of his congressional campaign in 2012 after allegations arose that he had threatened to have his Mexican boyfriend deported if the BF didn't stop an Internet crusade dedicated to outing Babeu.

Following the scandal, Babeu successfully sought reelection to his post as Pinal County sheriff and is said to be seriously considering a congressional run. And given the comeback success that the likes of Mark Sanford have had, it could well be that voters are forgiving.

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