Sadly, our print deadline doesn't allow us to bring you the results of this week's Republican primary election in the race to complete Gabrielle Giffords' term in Congressional District 8. (You can find all the latest details, natch, on The Range at daily.tucsonweekly.com.)
But on the day before the election, someone leaked a survey that showed Republican Jesse Kelly—the GOP nominee in 2010, who narrowly lost to Giffords—beating Democratic candidate Ron Barber by 4 percentage points. The survey also showed that Barber—a longtime aide to Giffords—was ahead of sports broadcaster Dave Sitton and state Sen. Frank Antenori, and tied with former Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally.
The survey, by National Research Inc., a Republican firm, had a small sample size—300 "likely voters"—so it had a margin of error of 5.7 percentage points. That means nearly all of the matchups fell within the margin of error.
We dissected the poll a bit more on The Range and came up with this bottom line: There's going to be a competitive general-election race. It's a special election, which means that turnout is likely to be low. CD 8 is still a leans-Republican district, and we'd guess (without seeing any particular recent polls) that there's still plenty of anger toward Washington, D.C., in general, and Barack Obama in particular.
But there's also a wellspring of goodwill toward Gabby, so her endorsement of Barber will count for a lot. Barber has a huge cash advantage, because some of the GOP candidates have had to drain their bank accounts in the primary (if they managed to raise any money in the first place), while Barber has raised more than a half-million that he can now deploy to build his name ID.
With its close voter registration, CD 8 will be a bellwether for 2012 elections, so you can expect a national spotlight to descend, once again, on Southern Arizona.
The Arizona Legislature has hit the 100-day mark, and most lawmakers are itching to call it quits so they can focus on campaigning in their new districts.
But before that can happen, there's still the small matter of coming to an agreement with Gov. Jan Brewer on the budget. Brewer wants to spend a little more on education and other programs, which have been cut to the bone in recent years; GOP lawmakers are pinching pennies, especially after a recent Joint Legislative Budget Committee report that predicted economic growth was slowing down a bit in Arizona.
Brewer has the advantage, given that she's in no particular rush. We don't know when the budget is likely to emerge, but we're betting that when it does, the public will have little chance to see what's in it before it gets voted upon.
In other legislative action: Brewer ignored our plea to veto the so-called Polluter Protection Act. Last week, she signed House Bill 2199, which allows companies to hide reports of environmental violations behind a shield of secrecy, and limits how those reports can be used in future civil lawsuits.
Brewer also signed HB 2036, which establishes what Planned Parenthood Arizona called "the most extreme abortion ban currently in force anywhere in the United States."
Under the law, abortion will be illegal after 20 weeks, starting with the first day of the woman's last menstrual period—which really means that abortion will not be permitted after 18 weeks of pregnancy, for practical purposes.
That's an important date, because fetal testing will reveal serious birth defects right around that point in a pregnancy.
"The women and families affected by this law will no longer be able to make their own decisions when they experience the heartbreak of a medically compromised pregnancy," said Planned Parenthood Arizona president and CEO Bryan Howard in a statement. "And, many women will be forced to have surgery because the eligibility for medication abortion is being narrowed."
Meanwhile, it appears the bill that allows employers to deny contraception coverage to workers has returned to life, although it's been narrowed to just affect religiously affiliated companies. We're still confused about why people who oppose abortion also want to put up barriers to birth control, but it's not easy for us to understand people who are obsessed with controlling other people's sex lives.
TARGETING SHERIFF JOE
Andrew Thomas, the former Maricopa County attorney who lost a race for Arizona attorney general in 2010, was disbarred last week after a disciplinary panel acting under the authority of the Arizona Supreme Court determined that he violated ethical rules in his prosecution of his political enemies.
Most of Thomas' reign of terror occurred in Maricopa County, so you're forgiven if you haven't followed the blow-by-blow.
A panel determined that Thomas, along with chief deputy Lisa Aubuchon (who was also disbarred last week), conspired to bring charges against various political enemies, including judges and elected officials, who were standing in the way of an investigation alleging corruption among county officials. The details expose a prosecutor run amok, but Thomas claims his disbarment is the price an honest man pays for fighting corruption.
Thomas' defense is weak when you consider the evidence against him—and the 247-page report is not only damning in how Thomas would bend the law to suit his pursuit of his political enemies, but also how he aided and abetted Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his henchmen, chiefly Dave Hendershott—a former Arpaio insider who got rolled under the bus by Sheriff Joe months ago.
In the wake of the Thomas disbarment, there's renewed talk about whether the U.S. Justice Department will actually pull the trigger in its ongoing investigation of Arpaio, and bring abuse-of-power charges.
It's as high stakes as politics gets: Arpaio is looking for a sixth term this year, and despite all the times he's abused the power of his office, he remains one of Arizona's most popular public officials. (Granted, his numbers have slid in some recent polls, but he's still well above 50 percent in most surveys.)
That's a big part of the problem that the feds face in charging Arpaio: He can turn any attack into an advantage. He'll even say that Obama is investigating him as payback for Joe's "investigation" of Obama's birth certificate—and that's probably good for another $100K for the re-election campaign.
Still, the pressure is growing for the feds to either indict Sheriff Joe or drop the investigation. Last week, Terry Goddard (a former Arizona attorney general), Rick Romley (a former Maricopa County attorney), Paul Charlton (a former U.S. Attorney for Arizona) and Phil Gordon (a former Phoenix mayor) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder telling him it was time to act, one way or another.
As they put it: "Given the sheriff's often repeated position that he has been completely in the right, the only way to clear the air and resolve matters beyond a reasonable doubt is to meet before a judge and jury in a court of law. Or, if your investigation has not found sufficient evidence of wrong doing to bring criminal charges, you should say so now and end the investigation. Only definitive action by your office one way or the other will end our long ordeal."
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