LATE ENTRIES AND SCRATCHES: Now that the legislative district lines have finally been by the courts, candidates have less than a week to finish collecting signatures to get themselves on the ballot. As the clock ticks, some late entries are getting into the game.
Former lawmaker John Kromko, fresh from orchestrating the rout of the city's half-cent sales tax election last month, is on the comeback trail. We hear Kromko is seeking a state Senate seat in the new westside District 27.
Kromko, who was quite the mischief-maker during his previous stint in the state House of Representatives, pulled a fast one: he had longtime buddy Carmine Cardomone, who currently serves in the state House, pretend to seek the Senate seat to ward off potential challengers. With that looming June 12 deadline for turning in petition signatures, Kromko's political enemies will find it hard to scare up a warm body to oppose him (although we imagine they're trying). Points again to the wily Kromko. The bozos at the Capitol deserve him. And he could probably use the pension boost.
Kromko may face opposition from former House member Jorge Garcia, who lost a 1996 state Senate race to current congressional candidate Elaine Richardson.
We're told another late entry into the legislative field is Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Bradley, who has decided to run for the House of Representatives in midtown District 28. Other hopefuls in that race are Ted Downing, the UA anthropology prof who ran for the House in 2000; Sam Ramirez, a UA law school grad who ran for the House as a Republican in 1998; and Joe Pyritz, a local TV news guy making his first bid for public office.
TUNNEL VISION: Mayor Bob Walkup told the Arizona Daily Star last week that he's not ready to give up on the controversial grade-separated intersections just yet. Although voters have rejected GSIs every time they've appeared on the ballot, Bob thinks the problem isn't that voters don't like the pricey intersections, which allow one street to tunnel beneath another for a mere $20 to $25 million. He thinks we may not understand them.
To help us understand the intersections during the campaign, Bob changed their name from grade-separated intersections to continuous-flow intersections. Perhaps another name change is in order to sell the idea to voters? How about STI, for Super-Terrific Intersections? Or Congestion-Relieving Arterial Projects (CRAP)? Any way they spell it, it still smells the same.
THE BUTLER DID IT, AGAIN: Jane Butler, chief legal counsel to the worst school district in America, so screwed up affairs at Sahuaro High School this spring that a majority of the TUSD board demanded an investigation.
Butler, a former Coconino County manager (Flagstaff's loss was actually Tucson's greater loss), usurped power from the vacuum that is Superintendent Stan Paz and the TUSD board. She outdid herself in the mess that surrounds Sahuaro Principal Steve Wilson's gross mishandling of Bloodsworth-Berryhill matter. Butler and her staff: provided legal advice to Wilson and his staff, investigated Andrew Berryhill's blow-up in Jim Bloodsworth's math class and then helped arrange a top-flight lawyer to represent Berryhill, a top freshman basketball prospect for Sahuaro's legendary coach Dick McConnell, at City Court.
So shoddy was Wilson's and Butler's case against Bloodsworth that the TUSD board, despite Joel Ireland's whining, refused to uphold Wilson's termination of Bloodsworth. That didn't stop Butler from improperly trashing Bloodsworth during a subsequent meeting in which she pandered to a TUSD African-American council. She flat said at that meeting, which violated the state Open Meeting Law as well as Bloodsworth's rights as an employee (he was never notified that he would be discussed at a TUSD committee meeting by TUSD's counsel and superintendent), that she would see that Bloodsworth would be fired. Never mind that that board voted the other way.
Berryhill was suspended and then dropped to enter a charter school. Yet he continued to show at Sahuaro and paraded in the Cougar gym. It's clear that his life and high school career shouldn't be ruined by some poor choices and bad behavior. But the politically motivated support group should have rallied around the young man sooner. Bloodsworth and his daughter, a Sahuaro student, have been systematically harassed.
Butler's thrust as Queen of TUSD was troubling enough that a board majority asked for an impartial investigation. They forgot to do the hiring and instead left it to Paz, who oddly seems to answer to Butler. He allowed her to shift the matter to the district's longtime and costly suits at DeConcini, McDonald Yetwin & Lacy. Those boys are real smart and came up with the brilliant suggestion for a truly "outside" review. They chose Max Jarrett, a lawyer in the Willcox branch of the powerhouse Mesa firm Shumway Udall Blackhurst & Allen. Clever. The Shumway there is Dale Shumway who, though not as active as he once was, is the father of Rex Shumway, a TUSD lawyer under Butler's command.
Even retiring Board Member Carolyn Kemmeries could not stand the stink. Paz feebly arranged for a new independent counsel but, in a move patterned after the City Manager's Office, did so without governing board approval.
Paz, who held so much promise to clean up the fouled TUSD swamp two years ago, doesn't seem long for the job. He may be looking to head back if he can nail down a lucrative spot as a Texas education commissioner.
POLITICAL POLYAMORY: Democratic Congressional candidate and aging pretty boy Jaime Gutierrez gave us a chuckle during his otherwise sharp presentation at a Tucson Urban League forum for the long line of wannabes in new District 7.
Out of elective office since his final state Senate term ended in December 1992, Gutierrez announced that he "got out of politics for the right reasons"--the wife, kids, blah, blah, blah. Gee, Jaime, we thought it was because you and your genius political consultants failed miserably in the rudimentary task of getting nominating petitions signed properly when you wanted to jack up your salary and retirement by running for Justice of the Peace.
Gutierrez, who landed a bigger plumb as VP for community relations at the now-broke University of Arizona, worked the small crowd at the Urban League well. And Republican Ross Hieb, a retired Marine colonel from Yuma, showed he is no pushover even in the heavily Democratic district. Former state Sen. Luis Gonzales and a Gutierrez successor, Sen. Elaine Richardson, also performed well. But the star of that test run, populated too densely by the yes men of each of the 11 candidates, was Jesus Romo, the immigration lawyer making his first political run.
Romo was fresh, clear, concise and humble. And he redirected the discussion to Urban League matters. Romo presents a real headache for Grijalva, a onetime ally. He is educated, is a Vietnam-era Army veteran and had labor roots that are far deeper than Grijalva's. Romo is what political maestro Emil Franzi says Grijalva wishes he were.