There's nothing like an impending missile strike against another country to create strange political bedfellows.
After President Barack Obama presented evidence that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against its own people and called on Congress to support a strike against Syria, he found himself allied with Sen. John McCain.
McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham released a statement on Sunday asserting that "President Obama is correct that the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons requires a military response by the United States and our friends and allies."
But the duo wasn't fully in the White House's corner. They added that they "cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the President's stated goal of Assad's removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict, which is a growing threat to our national security interests. Anything short of this would be an inadequate response to the crimes against humanity that Assad and his forces are committing."
McCain and Graham met with Obama at the White House on Monday afternoon. McCain emerged from the meeting saying a vote against the use of force "would be catastrophic, because it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and the president of the United States."
McCain's comments are not all that surprising. While he's been all over the place on domestic politics over the last two decades, when it comes to international politics, McCain has always stood for projecting American power whenever feasible.
Congressman Ron Barber condemned the use of chemical weapons as "a terrible assault against innocent men, women and more than 400 children" and praised Obama for deciding to consult Congress before making any missile strikes.
"I look forward to the debate in Congress regarding the president's decision and to receiving additional information regarding the U.S. government's findings and proposed military action against Syria," Barber said in a brief statement to the press. "Before I vote on this issue, I want to hear the administration's complete rationale for action and the potential impact on other nations and our allies in the region."
SHOWING US THE MONEY
Last week's primary election was perhaps the sleepiest in The Skinny's memory. All five candidates on the ballot ran unopposed, so suspense was in short supply on Election Day.
'Twas a time in this town, not so long ago, that primaries were the best slugfests of the election cycle, given that Democrats have such a big voter-registration advantage in general elections.
This year, all the action will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. As it now stands, Democratic incumbent Karin Uhlich will face a rematch against Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia (who lost to Uhlich by fewer than 200 votes in 2009) and Democratic incumbent Richard Fimbres will face Republican newcomer Mike Polak. Ward 6 Democratic incumbent Steve Kozachik will be unopposed.
Far more interesting than the primary results last week were the campaign-finance reports covering fundraising and spending through Aug. 15, which reveal a lot about the candidates' relative strengths and weaknesses.
As we've mentioned before, one major campaign-finance milestone is qualifying for public matching funds. Once candidates have gathered 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents, they're eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match of everything they raise.
Here's the deal for candidates who participate in the matching-funds program, however: They have to limit their spending this year to roughly $111,000. That means once candidates have raised about $56,000 and qualified for matching funds, they no longer have to spend time begging for dollars.
It's clear from looking over the reports that Republicans are placing their bets on Buehler-Garcia. As of mid-August, he'd raised more than $53,000 and still had roughly $42,500 left in the bank. Although Buehler-Garcia has not yet applied for matching funds, he told The Skinny earlier this week he's past the 200 contribution threshold and is doing the final paperwork to apply for matching funds.
Uhlich, who has represented northside Ward 3 for two terms, has already qualified for matching funds. She actually trailed Buehler-Garcia in private contributions, having raised roughly $43,500 in private contributions. But she was still within $15,000, give or take, of wrapping up her fundraising.
Uhlich had received $21,773 from the city, taking her total campaign warchest to more than $65,000. She had spent about $30,000, leaving about $35,500 in the bank. And she was still eligible for more than $21,000 in matching funds whenever she wants to tap that supply.
"This is a positive campaign about the positive things going on around us and people are excited to be a part of it," Uhlich said in a press release. "I am humbled, honored and immeasurably proud to have over 500 contributors that want to be a part of moving our city forward."
Buehler-Garcia taunted Uhlich for trailing him in fundraising.
"I applaud Tucsonans for recognizing that the awful condition of our roads, the high number of impoverished families, and a crime rate that exceeds that of New York City is the result of misplaced priorities and a leader who has turned a deaf ear to those who need help the most," Buehler-Garcia said in a statement to the press. "Opposing job-creating businesses championed by fellow city council members, Uhlich has distanced herself from the cries of those she was elected to serve and her fellow council members. Even residents in surrounding communities recognize that without new leadership, these issues will not be resolved in Tucson, and will eventually spread and impact the quality of life and vitality of their communities."
It's a different story in Ward 5. Fimbres, who is completing his first term representing southside Ward 5, has already qualified for public matching funds, although he hasn't requested any yet. He raised about $37,500 in private funds and spent about $11,000, leaving him with about $26,700 in the bank.
Polak, who is making his political debut with his campaign against Fimbres, was way behind in the fundraising race. He'd raised just $7,645 and spent $6,468. Of that, $1,160 went to Jim Kelley, an occasional politician and blogger who pops up behind the scenes in many unsuccessful GOP campaign efforts. It appears that Kelley's draw from Team Polak is coming to an end; Polak sent out a press release last week thanking Kelley "for his efforts up to the primary, and I look forward to working with my new team for the general election."
Kelley said he was proud of the effort he'd put into Polak's campaign and wished him well.
"Considering the eight-hour evenings, five days a week and the 14-hour days on the weekends, my compensation was paltry and the ROI for the campaign tremendous," Kelley told The Skinny.
Still left to see: Will some third parties step up to boost any of the campaigns? The Pima County Republican Party isn't much of a force these days, but other interests could drop a bundle on the races, as they have in years past. Stay tuned.
The court battle over the proposed initiative to scrap the city's pension system is over and voters will get to decide the issue in November.
The city's unions had tried to strike enough signatures from the petitions to knock the Sustainable Retirement Benefits initiative, aka Prop 201, off the ballot, but didn't manage to get enough of them disqualified. After all was said and done, backers of the proposal had 13,777 valid signatures, which exceeded the required 12,730.
Meanwhile, the latest campaign-finance report from the Yes on 201 Committee shows that it's not exactly a local effort. All but $1,900 of the $159,925 received by the committee has come from either the Liberty Initiative Fund or the National Taxpayers Union, two Virginia-based groups.