SPLITTING THE NUCLEUSFrom the Scramblewatch '06 desk: Former state lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords struck back at her chief rival in the Congressional District 8 Democratic primary, former newscaster Patty Weiss, at last week's Nucleus Club debate.
The debate was a big draw. At least 300 people had gathered at the Viscount Suite Hotel to get a look at the Democrats seeking to replace Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe: Giffords, Weiss, Air Force vet Jeff Latas, Tucson Unified School District board member Alex Rodriguez and retired federal worker Francine Shacter. (Lawyer Bill Johnson, whose congressional campaign is being coordinated by Russ Dove--best known for videotaping Hispanics as they go to vote on Election Day in hopes of nabbing illegal aliens casting votes--wasn't invited to participate.)
Weiss brought the smack to Giffords over her vote against a bill that would have forced big employers like Wal-Mart to reimburse the state if their employees were receiving state-subsidized health insurance.
Giffords defended her vote, then lashed out at Weiss, who has also been criticizing Gabby for not taking public funds for her legislative campaigns.
Giffords said Weiss had taken money from the head of a drug company and had yet to file a required financial-disclosure report before delivering her rhetorical money shot: "So I say: Not telling the whole story, attacking Democrats--you know, this doesn't sound like a Democrat running for Congress. This sounds like a reporter for Fox News."
Weiss spokesman Andrew Myers says the financial disclosure was mailed on June 20, and the campaign got confirmation of receipt on July 7. Myers says Giffords "didn't do her due diligence before she said what she said. It was a ridiculous comment. If she had just made a phone call, she would have known that it was in."
THE BIG REVEALIn other Scramblewatch '06 news: The candidates seeking to replace retiring Congressman Jim Kolbe in Congressional District 8 have filed campaign-finance reports covering second-quarter activity.
It's not a big surprise that Democrat Gabrielle Giffords is leading the pack. Giffords had raised $861,938 through June 30 and had $588,210 left on hand. The campaign is boasting that between April and June, Giffords collected $291,531 from 1,256 people.
Also no surprise: Coming in second among Democrats is Patty Weiss, who had raised $319,839 overall. She'd spent $175,102, leaving her with $144,737.
"We completely met expectations," says Weiss spokesman Andrew Myers. "Actually, we were surprised Gabby didn't have more money than she has. We were prepared for her to have a million dollars in receipts at this point. The fact that she only has $588,000 in cash on hand is a victory for us."
Myers' comment brought a snappy response from Jonathan Neal, spokesman for the Giffords campaign.
"We're doing just fine," Neal said. "People know Gabrielle Giffords is the best candidate to win back this seat. That's why we have four times as much cash on hand as Patty. ... We are the only campaign that has out-raised the Republicans and can compete with them in the fall."
Among the other Democrats: Attorney Bill Johnson, a latecomer to the race, hadn't raised any private contributions but had given his campaign $58,044.
TUSD board member Alex Rodriguez had raised $32,074, but only has $3,903 left in the bank.
Francine Shacter had raised $3,198, including $516 she'd given herself, and spent $537. Doesn't sound like we're gonna see too many of her TV ads before the primary.
Jet Blue pilot Jeff Latas' campaign was having technical trouble filing the Federal Election Commission report and did not have exact figures to share with The Skinny.
On the GOP side, state lawmaker Steve Huffman, who has landed Kolbe's endorsement, continues to lead in the fundraising race. Huffman had collected $506,588 in contributions and still had $413,000 on hand.
Randy Graf, who has been running since he lost the GOP primary to Kolbe two years ago, had raised $292,258, but only had $50,526 on hand. One big expense Graf won't have to worry about anymore: The $3,000 a month he'd been dishing out to campaign manager Steve Aiken, who was fired last month after news of his mid-'90s conviction in a case involving sex with teenagers in Pennsylvania surfaced.
Mike Hellon, a former GOP national committeeman, had raised $198,664, including $70,000 he'd lent the campaign. Hellon, the only Republican candidate we've seen advertising on TV so far, spent $151,536. Hellon is also the first out of the gate with a mail campaign; The Skinny has regularly been finding Hellon's tough-on-the-border propaganda in our mailbox.
Hellon is using the border issue to turn Kolbe's endorsement of Huffman into a liability. In his stump speeches, Hellon says Kolbe has done a good job in many ways, but he's failed to adequately support the Border Patrol's efforts and blocked the creation of a permanent checkpoint south of Nogales.
Hellon is also the first candidate to mail Republicans and independents an early-ballot request. What's Huffman waiting for?
The other two Republicans are in nickel-and-dime territory. Former Green Beret Frank Antenori had raised $5,943, including $1,201 from his own bank account, and had spent $4,519.
Auto-shop manager Mike Jenkins had raised $5,803 and spent $3,599.
Outside of the major parties, Independent candidate Jay Quick had loaned his own campaign $55,157 and spent $19,149.
GREEN THUMBS-UPThe Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters teamed up to release a legislative report card last week, with little good news on Arizona's environmental front.
In a release that accompanied the report card, Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr noted that lawmakers aren't taking care of the big issues facing the state.
"Most Arizonans agree that we have serious water and land-use issues in our state, yet the Arizona Legislature continues to ignore them," said Bahr.
The Sierra Club praised Sen. Paula Aboud and Rep. Jorge Garcia, both Democrats from Tucson, as "all-stars" who got 100 on the report card.
The League of Conservation Voters named two Tucson Republicans, Sen. Toni Hellon and Rep. Pete Hershberger, as "Conservation Heroes." They also recognized Hellon as a "Most Valuable Player" for her work on a bill that restricted the feeding of wildlife.
We're just wondering if that's going to help or hurt Hellon and Hershberger as they take on more conservative Republicans in the upcoming GOP primary.
BALLOT BUSTEDIt's a bit far from The Skinny's normal gaze, but Arizona Democrats scored a big victory last week when they succeeded in knocking Republican Russ Jones off the ballot in Yuma. Republicans are pushing hard to win 20 seats in the Senate and 40 in the House to give themselves a veto-proof majority, since Gov. Janet Napolitano has shot down so many of their nutball ideas.
One of the GOP's targets was Legislative District 24, where the retirement of Democratic state Sen. Robert Cannell had left an open seat.
Yuma County resident Paul Moreno filed suit against Jones, saying he couldn't have been in Yuma collecting petitions that bore his signature, because records showed he was at the Capitol.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields agreed, ruling that Jones had committed forgery, and barred him from seeking office for five years.
That leaves Democrat Amanda Aguirre as the only candidate on the ballot, unless Republicans can mount a successful write-in campaign in the primary.