Once again, we're facing the most important election of our lifetimes. (Funny how those keep coming along.)
By now, you've probably figured out who you're voting for in the big presidential campaign, but we imagine that you might not be so sure about all those names further down the ballot. And then there are all those propositions that often end up doing just the opposite of whatever their special-interest supporters tell you they mean.
Well, we're from the Media Elite, and we're here to help.
With early ballots going out this week, it's already time to start voting. So we've picked through the ballot and come up with the races that we think matter enough or are competitive enough for us to weigh in.
Please note that the list is not comprehensive; most legislative districts are so one-sided that our picks wouldn't make a difference. On top of that, there are races/affirmations involving judges, justices of the peace, constables, precinct committee people and dogcatchers that we're not addressing. (Well, OK, we don't actually vote for dogcatchers.) If you don't see your candidates on our list, you're on your own, although we invite you to visit our campaign Web site, ScrambleWatch.com, to learn more about many of our would-be leaders.
President of the United States: Democrat Barack ObamaIf the bungled war in Iraq, the failure to finish the job in Afghanistan, the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina and the ever-spiraling national debt haven't yet persuaded you that Republican rule of our country has been a complete and utter disaster, then perhaps the looming economic catastrophe that lawmakers are now trying to avoid through a $700 billion bailout will open your eyes.
It is, as they say, time for a change, America--a sentiment that even Republican John McCain shares, although he seems to be offering mostly the same-old, same-old when he talks about his actual policies on the campaign trail.
Barack Obama represents real change--a health-care proposal that does more than offer tax credits, a tax plan that does more than offer big breaks to the same wealthy Wall Street cheats who have nearly wrecked the economy with their greedy wizardry, and an international policy that may not alienate the rest of the world.
Once upon a time, we admired John McCain's principled stand against the insanity of the Bush tax cuts, his willingness to speak out against religious bigots like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and his sincere belief in crafting a real solution to America's border mess. But unfortunately, as long as he remained a maverick, he wasn't going to win the GOP nomination for the presidency of the United States. And so this man, who wants us to believe he wouldn't put politics before the welfare of the nation, tossed aside those principles in pursuit of the White House.
The absolute worst example? His decision that of all the people in the entire nation eligible to be president, the best qualified to be his running mate was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. This was nothing more than a political calculation designed to excite the GOP base. It certainly had nothing to do with finding the best and the brightest to take over the country should something happen to him. Palin can't even handle an interview with the press corps--is she really able to handle negotiations with other countries?
Vote Barack Obama for president.
Congressional District 8: Democrat Gabrielle GiffordsWhen we endorsed Gabrielle Giffords in 2006, it was a leap of faith based on what we knew about her. As a member of the minority party in the Arizona Legislature, Giffords hadn't had a chance to build a long list of legislative accomplishments, although we admired her voting record on environmental and health-care issues and her level-headed style.
Two years later, Giffords has proven herself to be a politician in touch with the needs of Southern Arizona.
Giffords stepped up when the Border Patrol wanted to build a massive permanent station on the edge of Green Valley. She stepped up when the Federal Emergency Management Agency wanted to include much of Marana in a floodplain, and she's earned an enthusiastic endorsement from Marana's Republican mayor as a result.
That's real constituent service from an accessible lawmaker. And while Democrats in Congress haven't been able to accomplish many of their national goals--improving health care, ending the Iraq war, reforming the broken immigration system--the blame for that rests with both parties, not just the Dems.
We respect what Republican Tim Bee has done for Southern Arizona during his time in the Legislature. But much of what we admire about him--his understanding that government can help those less fortunate through education and social services--is lost on most members of his own party. We're also disappointed with his tacit approval of bigotry by allowing Proposition 102 to get on the ballot.
As we mentioned before, GOP rule of this country has been a disaster. This is not the time to give the keys to Congress back to them.
Pima County Board of Supervisors District 3: Democrat Sharon BronsonWe support Bronson in the general election for the same reasons we supported her in the primary: In her 12 years in office, she has been a solid vote for protecting the fragile Sonoran Desert while balancing the inevitability of development. She helped the county find firm financial footing so it can weather the current economic downtown without needing to slash services for the people who need help the most. And she has found ways to deliver for her constituents, whether here in Tucson or out in Ajo. Yes, she can be a bit bristly at times, and she didn't do enough initially when her fellow Democrats asked the county for election databases, but that isn't enough for us to consider supporting her Republican opponent, Barney Brenner. Vote for Bronson.
Pima County Sheriff: Clarence DupnikClarence W. Dupnik has been Pima County's sheriff for 28 years, and this year is challenged by Republican Harry Shaw, a former law-enforcement officer and corrections official.
Sure, for the last five years, Dupnik has gone over his budget by several million dollars each year--but Dupnik is no Sheriff Joe Arpaio. County officials have gotten to know Dupnik over the years, and when immigration and border issues have gotten ugly, the Board of Supervisors and community activists have been able to successfully work with Dupnik and his department leaders. It's better for us and our border partners to work with the cowboy we know--and who has done a capable job for almost three decades--rather than a cowboy who's just hitting the rodeo circuit.
Pima County Attorney: No RecommendationSorry, but we just can't bring ourselves to endorse anybody in this race. Incumbent Barbara LaWall, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Brad Roach and Green Party candidate Claudia Ellquist.
LaWall wants a fourth term, and we're not convinced she deserves it. She knows Roach well: He is a former deputy in the Pima County Attorney's Office who was suspended by LaWall during the Stidham murder-trial debacle. LaWall's office was an absolute embarrassment during that episode, as LaWall had to hand the prosecution over to Pinal County due to a web of internal relationships that she says she knew nothing about.
LaWall's handling of the Pima County Democratic Party's lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors was lame, too. The advice given to the board by the county attorney's office was ineffective and often seemed pointless, costing Pima County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Roach paid the price for battling LaWall in the Stidham mess. But that doesn't mean we are eager to vote for the guy. Frankly, he has not done anything to prove he's ready to become the Pima County attorney, and he seems to be trying to milk the election-integrity cloud hanging over Pima County to his political advantage.
LaWall deserves a real, fully qualified challenger, and we don't find that in Brad Roach. Perhaps a protest vote for Ellquist is the way to go; that decision is up to you.
Legislative District 26
Senate: Democrat Cheryl Cage; House: Democrats Nancy Young Wright and Don JorgensenLegislative District 26 is a vital swing district to the Democrats' hopes of winning the Arizona House of Representatives and narrowing the gap in the Arizona Senate.
At a time when the state is facing a severe economic crisis, we need someone who has a better solution than simply cutting taxes and slashing government spending. Cheryl Cage is an experienced businesswoman who believes in developing a working government, not simply starving it until it's too crippled to function any longer. She wisely calls for protecting education during the current economic crisis and opposes more tax cuts that will only force the state to sink even deeper into a financial hole. She also wants the state to stop bickering about whether guns belong on elementary-school campuses and start tackling the bigger questions that face us: How do we best reform water policy? How do we pay for transportation? How do we ensure that all Arizonans have access to decent health care?
Nancy Young Wright proved herself during her tenure on the Amphi School Board, where she rooted out a culture of corruption and insider dealing; voters eventually booted out the old guard that tried to intimidate her into silence. We're confident that she would continue to support the right causes--protecting the environment, improving education and providing health care to Arizona's least fortunate.
Don Jorgensen, who is making his first run for public office, also impresses us with his understanding of the health-care industry and his support for education, the environment and clean energy.
The GOP slate of candidates--Al Melvin, Marilyn Zerull and Vic Williams--offer a lot of rhetoric about smaller government and the magic of the free market. Well, we've seen in recent weeks just how well that deregulated free market works out--as long as taxpayers are there to provide a $700 billion bailout.
Legislative District 30
Senate: Republican Jonathan Paton; House: Democrat Andrea DalessandroIn his two terms in the House, Jonathan Paton has pushed for government accountability. He hasn't tried to cripple government, but has instead tried to find ways to make it work better. We don't agree with him on everything--he's too willing to believe that all tax cuts will automatically benefit the overall economy--but he has pushed to open government records to the press, fixed loopholes that left private medical records at risk and fought for reform of Child Protective Services to ensure that the agency works more closely with law enforcement when children are in danger.
Besides, since Republicans are almost certain to hang on to their majority in the Arizona Senate, it would be helpful to have at least one experienced lawmaker in the GOP caucus from Southern Arizona who has proven he can work with Democrats and battle for Southern Arizona's interests.
Paton's Democratic opponent, Georgette Valle, seems to have her heart in the right place--but the former Washington state lawmaker was consistently criticized by Seattle-area media as being ineffective and unaccomplished in office. While we admire Valle's heart, the last thing Southern Arizona needs is an ineffective representative in Phoenix.
Although you have two votes in the House race, we're urging you to vote for just one candidate: Democrat Andrea Dalessandro. This single-shot strategy increases the possibility that Dalessandro will beat out at least one of her GOP opponents, Frank Antenori and David Gowan, for one of the two seats.
Not only would a Dalessandro victory help the Democrats in their fight to retake the House; it would also prevent at least one of the Republicans from taking office. Both Antenori and Gowan are far too eager to slash government spending, whether it's on programs that help battered women, provide health care or protect the environment. Both Republicans offer simple solutions because they can't be bothered to study up on how government works. We'll be stuck with at least one of them; it would be of great benefit to Southern Arizona if we weren't stuck with both.
Arizona Corporation Commission
Republicans Marian McClure and Barry Wong, Democrat Paul NewmanWe are thoroughly unimpressed with Democrat Sam George, a name-changing, media-dodging political weasel if ever there was one. And his running mate, Sandra Kennedy, isn't much better. So we're endorsing Republicans Marian McClure and Barry Wong.
While we disagree with her on a few votes, McClure has done a great job representing Southern Arizona in the Legislature, and we believe she'll do the same on the Corporation Commission.
Wong has already served a brief stint on the Corporation Commission and understands the issues that the ACC faces. Like McClure, he supports the commission's alternative-energy portfolio that requires utilities to produce a portion of their power from renewable sources.
Democrat Paul Newman--who has done good work as a Cochise County supervisor--is the only Democrat in this race who deserves your vote, although he loses points for allying himself with Kennedy and George. Like the Republicans, Newman supports requiring utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources.
Proposition 100: Protect Our Homes: NoEvery once in a while, there's talk about overhauling Arizona's increasingly outdated tax system by, say, decreasing the overall sales-tax rate but extending the tax to cover services and goods that are now free of taxes. (The conversation never goes beyond talk, because any changes would require a two-thirds vote of the GOP-dominated Legislature, so reform remains an academic exercise.)
One of the ideas that comes up occasionally is a real-estate transfer tax that would essentially be a sales tax on the purchase of property--homes, commercial properties and vacant land. Although the talk never goes anywhere, Arizona's real estate agents have decided that they're tired of even hearing about the threat of a new tax, so they've put Prop 100 on the ballot to block it from ever coming to pass.
We're not eager to see a 5 percent tax put on a home purchase--we fear that home ownership will be out of reach of too many people for a long time to come--but we're still against this one because a small tax, if it were implemented properly, could help diversify the state's tax base. Plus, in general, we don't like special interests junking up the state Constitution. Vote no.
Proposition 101: Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act: NoHere's a prop that purports to protect your freedom to choose your own doctor, blah blah blah. That's a smokescreen. The real aim of the proposition: to make it more difficult for the state to ever implement any kind of universal health care. With the private health-care system quickly degenerating into a disaster for anyone who actually gets sick and needs help, we don't think this is a step in the right direction. This initiative would protect nothing while prohibiting many potentially good things. Vote no.
Proposition 102: Marriage: No!We remain mystified by the argument that amending the Arizona Constitution to limit marriage to being between one man and one woman will "protect" marriage. If marriage is indeed under assault, the problems stem from hetero couples who can't work things out, not from gays and lesbians who want to make lifetime commitments to one another so they can have their own families. This is bigotry, pure and simple. Vote no.
Proposition 105: Majority Rules: No!!!This is the absolute worst proposition on the November ballot. Its very name is a bald-faced lie; it has far more to do with minority rule than majority rule.
Prop 105 would require any proposition that includes a tax increase to pass with a majority of all registered voters--not just the voters who happen to cast a vote in the election. In other words, everyone who stays home--or who remains on voter rolls after dying or moving elsewhere--gets counted as a "no" vote.
We've seen a lot of cynical and deceptive campaigns, but never have we seen a campaign so full of bullshit. The people behind this are foul greedheads who care for nothing besides the almighty dollar. And because they know that a majority of voters are sometimes willing to raise their taxes when they have a chance to pay for improvements in education or health care, they want to change the rules so a minority can enforce its will on the majority.
Don't be fooled by these assclowns.
Proposition 200: Payday Loan Reform Act: NoWe can buy, almost, the payday-loan industry's argument that they fill a niche that banks don't by offering small loans that help folks who are living paycheck to paycheck cover unexpected expenses, such as car repairs. That said, we're also well aware that payday loans trap too many people in a disastrous cycle of debt. And this particular reform comes from the payday industry itself, which means they're trying to write their own regulations before the law allowing them to exist expires. Call us crazy, but that seems like a really lousy way to make policy.
If payday lenders are going to be regulated, it should be by the state Legislature, not by the payday-loan industry itself. Vote no.
Proposition 201: Homeowners' Bill of Rights: NoThis was a tough call. This prop, which grew out of a dispute between unions and homebuilders, would require all new homes to come with a 10-year guarantee that they would be free of major defects.
Given that a home is the biggest investment that most people will ever make, new houses should be free of problems--and there are some bad actors out there in the homebuilding crowd that construct some lousy homes. But here's the problem: This initiative may just go too far in the other direction, and it would lock in new requirements that can't be adjusted by the Legislature, because lawmakers can't toy with voter-passed initiatives. While we like the idea behind this, we have to recommend against it.
Prop 202: Stop Illegal Hiring: YesAnother tough call.
Arizona's lawmakers like to boast that Arizona has the toughest employer-sanctions law in the country. We're not so sure that's a good thing. When you threaten to shut down businesses based on decisions made by human-resource managers who are using an unreliable E-Verify system, you're not just threatening the guys at the top: You're threatening the livelihood of all the workers who are going to end up out of work when their company gets shut down.
While we're hesitant to support initiatives like this because the Legislature can't make adjustments, Stop Illegal Hiring (yes, the name is deceptive) gives businesses a less-draconian set of laws while still punishing bad actors--a necessary adjustment to the current employer-sanctions law that would never get passed in the right-wing-dominated Legislature. Vote yes.
Prop 300: State Legislators Salaries: NoThe state's economic picture is such a mess that even some lawmakers are saying they don't deserve a raise. We have to agree; this is not the time to boost their pay from $24,000 to $30,000 a year. Maybe next time ... depending on what they do to us between now and then. Vote no.
Proposition 400: South Tucson Dog Protection Initiative: YesLet's call a spade a spade: While some supporters of this initiative say that they're not trying to put the Tucson Greyhound Park out of business, the vast majority of Proposition 400's proponents would be giddy with joy if the track closed its doors for good.
Prop 400 is fairly simple: In South Tucson, it would ban the practice of feeding dogs uncooked meat that comes from animals that were diseased, dead or dying before going to slaughter; it would ban the practice of shooting up dogs with anabolic steroids; and it would make it illegal to keep any dog in a cage smaller than 35 inches high, 45 inches long and 35 inches wide for longer than 18 hours in any 24-hour period.
Prop 400 may not be perfect--we've heard rumors that at least one veterinarian would have to rebuild a caging area if it passes--but its aims are modest, reasonable and humane. Plus, given TGP's recent checkered history--which includes handing over more than 140 dogs for "adoption" to a handler who cannot account for their whereabouts; suing a local anti-TGP activist (a Weekly contributor who has nothing to do with our endorsements process) in a failed intimidation attempt; and even screwing over a family who had a benefit at TGP--we have little sympathy for the track.
We encourage South Tucsonans to vote yes on Prop 400.
Proposition 403: Tucson Unified School District Budget Override: YesFor good reason, Tucsonans have collectively moaned and groaned about the state of the Tucson Unified School District--but now that former TUSD Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer is gone, and new school-board members are entering the picture, it's time for the community to shut up and step up, and give the new leadership a chance. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, the new superintendent, has entered the fray with sleeves rolled up and a fresh perspective.
The override of the district's $578 million budget will provide TUSD with $28 million a year for five years, and a smaller amount for two more years. The Investing in Our Kids Committee, which supports Proposition 403, claims the owner of a home in Pima County valued at $177,800 would pay about $128 a year in support of the override.
Arizona ranks 49th in education spending, thanks to our Republican legislators who'd rather argue about gay marriage and illegal immigration than do the right thing for the children of Arizona. Proposition 403 supporters say that because legislators have put us in this position, we need to help ourselves through the override. They're correct. Vote yes.