STATE SEN. ANTENORI CLIMBS INTO THE CONGRESSIONAL RING
State Sen. Frank Antenori is officially testing the waters for a campaign to win the Congressional District 8 seat now held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords, who is recovering at her husband's home in Houston after being shot in the head on Jan. 8, has not yet said whether she will seek reelection next year.
Antenori, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces who now works for defense contractor Raytheon, is the first Republican to launch an exploratory campaign for the seat since the January shooting rampage, in which six people were killed and 13 were wounded.
Republican Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, was preparing to announce another congressional run in January but suspended his plans after the shooting.
Antenori says he would not run if Giffords recovers and launches a viable campaign.
"I would love to see Miss Giffords walk up to a microphone and basically announce that she's going to run for reelection and that she's physically capable and psychologically ready to take on the rigors of a campaign and continue to represent District 8," Antenori says. "If she did that, I'm out. I'm not going to run against a woman who's physically and mentally capable of representing CD8. ... I don't think she's beatable."
But Antenori adds that he has "a sneaking suspicion, based on indications that I've been getting and rumors I've been hearing, that the strategy of the Democratic Party now is to drag out the Giffords decision as long as possible to hamper Republican opposition and fundraising in CD8 ... and that she's not running. They're now exploiting this woman for political purposes. It's disappointing but not surprising that they would do that."
Antenori has long dreamed of serving in Congress. He made his political debut with an unsuccessful 2006 congressional run before winning a seat in the Arizona Legislature in 2008.
He's filed paperwork with the IRS rather than the FEC as part of his exploratory committee. He hopes to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 to do some polling and traveling around Southern Arizona and Washington, D.C. to measure his support in the district.
"I can't wait because I have to build the foundation," Antenori says. "I have to put the team together. I've got to start getting organized."
He promises he will run hard against Kelly in the GOP primary if Kelly decides to get into the race.
"My mission will not be Gabby Giffords' replacement, whoever that might be," Antenori says. "My mission will be Jesse Kelly, and I will run it as I run every campaign—hard and with everything I've got. I'm not going to look past the primary."
John Ellinwood, spokesman for the Kelly campaign, said the Kelly campaign remains on hold and Kelly would have no comment on Antenori's exploratory campaign.
Michael McNulty, who has chaired Giffords' previous campaigns for Congress, also declined to comment.
PRIMARY 2011: CAMPAIGN WASTELAND
You may not have noticed, but next Tuesday, Aug. 30, Tucsonans will decide the primary races for the mayor and City Council election.
Admittedly, if you've looked at your ballot, you've realized that there's not that much to decide. The sole Democrat on the ballot, attorney Jonathan Rothschild, chased away all the potential Democratic challengers, although there are two write-in choices, including David Karr, who has promised to bring Mexican variety show Sabado Gigante and its host, Don Francisco, to Tucson if elected mayor.
Meanwhile, Republican Rick Grinnell needs 1,060 write-in votes if the GOP is going to have a mayoral candidate this year. Both of the potential GOP candidates this year, Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta, were disqualified because they didn't turn in enough signatures on their petitions. (Independent candidate Pat Darcy had the same problem.)
Grinnell does have one challenger, former Tucson Citizen journalist Daniel Buckley, who launched a Facebook-centric campaign just a few days ago.
Buckley, who's "trying to bother people as little as possible" with his campaign, says he's "really sick of hearing people talk in soundbites and talking as if they really have answers when they don't."
Buckley is unafraid to take a stand on the burning question of whether Tucson should make an effort to attract Sabado Gigante.
"I think that's actually a great idea," Buckley says. "Don Francisco is a man of wonderful talents. Nobody looks better in silly hats than Don Francisco. ... I think Sabado Gigante is the humane alternative to English-speaking Saturday night television."
His biggest hurdle: He missed the registration deadline for write-in candidates, so his votes won't actually be counted.
But Buckley takes that little wrinkle in stride.
"I'm not actually concerned with winning," he says. While he's unlikely to prevail in the GOP primary, Buckley says he may look into how to continue his write-in campaign into the general election.
The only real primary in the mayoral race is between Green Party candidates Mary DeCamp and Dave Croteau. Croteau has previously run for mayor in 1999 and 2007, while DeCamp took a shot at the Ward 3 seat two years ago.
The Green Party race will be decided by the 850 or so registered Greens in the city of Tucson, along with any independents who are politically astute enough to request a Green Party ballot.
Both Croteau and DeCamp agree on most issues, so the big question is about which candidate Green Party members want to carry a message of sustainability and re-localization into the general election.
The only other contested primary belongs to Democrats in Ward 1, who will have to decide whether to dump incumbent Councilwoman Regina Romero in favor of challenger Joe Flores. Romero has had a massive cash advantage over Flores, who has also been battered by an independent campaign funded by the Pima County Democratic Party that has focused on his ownership of a payday-loan company that was run by his children.
Flores and his supporters have condemned the campaign and called for the resignation of Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers, who declined to quit. Flores has also hammered Romero over spending on Rio Nuevo, the downtown redevelopment project.
SCIENCE MOVES DOWNTOWN
The Skinny got a chance to meet some of the UA College of Science's upcoming talent at a reception at the Etherton Gallery earlier this week.
We hope to tell you more about the scientists—who are studying everything from how our memory works to the measurement of atoms—in the upcoming weeks, but we did want to share one tidbit we picked up at the party.
Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science, announced that the school would soon be opening an exhibition in the Rialto building on Congress Street and Fifth Avenue. The space currently has a display of replicas from King Tut's tomb and has previously been home to Bodies: The Exhibition and artifacts from the Titanic.
Ruiz tells us he's anticipating a long future in the Rialto building. The first year will focus on the planetary sciences. Given all that the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab has done in outer space, there's no shortage of material available.
It's not quite the science center that the UA tried to get off the ground as part of Rio Nuevo, but it's a start—and another sign that downtown is, at long last, on the rebound.