THEY'RE BAAAACKK ...
Gov. Jan Brewer kicked off the 2012 legislative session with her State of the State address earlier this week, praising our state's rich heritage as it approaches its 100th birthday.
But it wouldn't have been a Republican speech without promises of more tax cuts, beginning with a vow to get rid of the temporary one-cent sales tax passed by voters last year.
Brewer's delivery was a bit more polished than in the past, although she still has a habit of mangling well-written speeches by pausing in just the wrong place and emphasizing just the wrong word. Still, you can tell she's been practicing; she managed, at times, to expertly capture the lilt of someone selling you a Snuggie on late-night TV.
In addition to offering tax cuts, Brewer took the obligatory swipes at the federal government in order to toss some red meat to the base (which is well-represented among the GOP caucus in the Arizona Legislature).
She did have a few kind words for the feds, however, praising "a time when we could forge the right partnership with Washington."
In Brewer's view, that right kind of partnership was when the federal government poured a lot of dollars into Arizona to help the state fuel relentless growth. Dams, canals, highways—those were all good ideas. But health care for poor people and kids? That's a bad idea.
Brewer painted a bright picture of Arizona's finances, saying that we had a positive cash balance. She said the state should use the extra cash to pay off the loans it took out with the Capitol and other buildings as collateral. It sounds like a nice symbolic gesture, although those killjoy Democrats were quick to point out that we'd still have to pay interest on the loans even if we did pay them off, so it might not be the smartest use of tax dollars.
"That ship has sailed," Democratic Rep. Chad Campbell said. "When they made that deal, they cost taxpayers in the state about $1.5 billion. We cannot prepay and buy back our state buildings without massive penalty to the taxpayers of the state. What Governor Brewer stated today was pure political theater."
State Rep. Matt Heinz suggested that it's easy to balance the state's budget when you're cutting off health insurance for Arizona's poorest residents—but the health-care system is suffering as a result of the cuts.
"I think that when you create a surplus by denying poor, sick Arizona children and families health-care services and risk closing all of the hospitals in Cochise County thanks to AHCCCS cuts, and then claim it as a victory, it's quite a hollow victory," Heinz said.
Mike Hellon, the former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party and a onetime Republican national committeeman, jumped into the race for Pima County supervisor this week.
Hellon, who last ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2006, wants the job of retiring Pima County Supervisor Ann Day.
"This is not a decision I made lightly," Hellon said in a press release. "I have been persuaded that strong leadership is needed on the board of supervisors from District 1, and I believe I have the background and experience to meet that challenge."
Hellon isn't the only Republican candidate in the race for the District 1 seat, which includes the Catalina foothills and Oro Valley. Tea Party activist Ally Miller has been campaigning for the seat, as has mortgage broker Stuart McDaniel.
State Rep. Vic Williams is also considering a run in the GOP primary, although he's held off making any announcements, because he would have to give up his legislative seat under Arizona's resign-to-run law.
The only Democrat to talk loudly about running for the seat is Nancy Young Wright, who has previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives and on the Amphi School Board.
LET THE RUMPUS BEGIN!
The list of candidates for Arizona's Feb. 28 presidential primary is complete—and Project White House 2012, the Tucson Weekly's Reality Journalism competition, is underway!
A total of 23 Republicans are on the ballot, which is one less than the 24 Republicans who were on the ballot in 2008.
We would have gotten to 24 candidates this year, if former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman hadn't screwed up his paperwork. It really says something about the importance of organization when local guitar legend Al "Dick" Perry can get on the GOP primary ballot, but Huntsman screws it up.
Speaking of Al Perry: He landed the No. 4 spot on the Arizona GOP presidential ballot at a random drawing of names for ballot order at the Arizona Secretary of State's office earlier this week. That puts him well ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is in the No. 17 spot.
"I hope that doesn't confuse our voters," said Secretary of State Ken Bennett. "I think that people who support Rick Perry will vote for Rick Perry, and hopefully they'll notice the distinction between Rick Perry and Al 'Dick' Perry."
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is chairing Rick Perry's campaign in Arizona, did not appear too happy about his candidate sharing a name with another contender for the White House.
"Who is that?" Arpaio said when The Skinny asked him about Al "Dick" Perry. "I don't know who that is. I know there's only one of me."
To answer Arpaio's question: Al "Dick" Perry is one of the 10 GOP candidates who are participating in Project White House, which will present a variety of challenges to the candidates between now and Election Day. The candidate who does the best job will win the Tucson Weekly's endorsement in the GOP race.
By luck of the draw, Project White House candidates snagged the top five spots on the GOP ballot this year.
The Arizona Democratic Party opted out of having a primary on Feb. 28, preferring to hold a caucus later in the year. That prevents a Project White House candidate from potentially embarrassing President Barack Obama.
But the Green Party is in the race, with six candidates on the ballot. At least three of them are participating in Project White House, and we're hopeful that the rest will join in before the end of the week.
We're looking forward to introducing you to the candidates of Project White House in an upcoming cover story, but in the meantime, you'll find more information about them, as well as their plans for the country, at www.projectwhitehouse2012.com. You'll be re-introduced to people like Charles Skelley and Peter "Simon" Bollander, who made quite a splash during Project White House 2008. And you'll meet newcomers like Sarah Gonzales, who notes in a missive to us that Arizona's nomination form is the "easiest job application I have ever filled out. AND I can also see who else applied for the job! I totally know my competitors! After seeing who else applied from the Republican Party ... I think I have a shot."
We agree, Sarah—and we're thrilled to have you on board.
As truck driver and presidential candidate Cesar Cisneros told us when he agreed to be part of Project White House 2012: "The rich guys get all the TV shows and media attention because they can buy it, but there's always a miracle for the little guy."