Thursday, August 31, 2006

PCC Forum

So, if you were looking for excitement at the forum, the guy with a flashlight dressed in a trenchcoat posing as a stalker was probably as good as it got. Not sure who he was affiliated with, but it was kind of fun in a sophomoric way.

As far as the actual forum, it was pretty much a snoozer. I'm not sure if it was because of the television cameras, or the fact that the candidates have done so many of these things but there was very little in the way of fireworks form the candidate end. Here is what I saw:

Steve Huffman: He was there, so that is a start. He actually did a half decent job when answering the questions and didn't go negative. I was particularly impressed on the "faith in government" question where I thought that he actually gave the best answer. When the "11th commandment" question was brought up, he ducked so hard Daffy and Donald felt threatened. Obviously the negativity is not finished. Steve stayed for the entire debate, but cleared out as soon as he could. Somebody should sit him down and explain that he needs to stop and talk with the people that attend these things. Some of them may be press or anonymous bloggers that may be persuaded to give him positive press that he doesn't need to pay for.

Mike Hellon: Solid performance by Mike if unspectacular. Let Steve off the hook a bit with the 11th Commandment question, especially in comparison with the Tucson Republican Women's breakfast. He projected confidence and statesmanship and stayed on message. I still wonder what he could have done with even a quarter of the money that fell to Steve.

Randy Graf: Didn't really bomb, but didn't meet up with his usual high standards. This is perhaps the weakest performance I have seen from Graf in a while. He did have his usual command of specific facts and legislation, which always works well, and I always enjoy the pocket constitution. His response of being "highly disappointed in Mr. Huffman" was measured and appropriate when faced with the 11th commandment question. I did think that his closing statement where he went after Huffman was out of character for Randy. Of course I am not facing a constant barrage of negative advertising about me personally with more on the horizon.

Frank Antenori: Superb as always. If Frank doesn't win the primary, he should at least get his own reality show, and another series where he discusses politics with Francine Schacter and they interview guests in the defunct "Crossfire" fashion (Frank and Francine, my people will be in touch with you). Appropriately passionate and focused, these forums are his bread and butter. He also has a pocket constitution, although I would bet that his is specially treated to stop a bullet. He also understands the importance of staying late to work the crowd. We should expect big things of Frank even if the Primary doesn't go his way.

Mike Jenkins: Of all the candidates, I think that Mike has grown the most of all in the time that I have followed the campaign. Where several months ago he looked nervous and tentative at these forums, he now looks comfortable and confident. His answers were consistent and controlled without the gruffness that he used to show. He also did a good job of getting his supporters to the forum, as I saw several Jenkins bumper stickers in the parking lot, and more Jenkins tee shirts inside. Even if he does not win this race, Jenkins will be far more formidable in future races.

Again, I apologize for the bland review, but I wasn't given a lot to work with. I believe the rerun will be on cable access Saturday night at 8:00 pm. Too bad most of the city will be attending the U of A-BYU football game which should be a sellout. If you are debating between the two, go for the football game.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can Click/Kolbe Trump the Electorate?

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. This also defines the Huffman campaign which keeps throwing more and more money into their candidacy hoping for positive results. With the continued push for more and more funding to keep the campaign from sinking, the question that has to be on the minds of the RNC, NRCC and everyone else that was sold the notion that only Huffman can win, is "Where is the weakness, in the money or the candidate?"

What's ironic about this is that all this fuss is about a candidate that Kolbe said can't win the general election, namely Graf. Consider that most party activists find it difficult to support Huffman based on his defiance of Republican leadership and certain disreputable practices in the state legislature. Over half the Republican state legislators have endorsed Graf while only a couple of them endorsed Huffman. Politically, conservatives would have no reason to vote for Steve even if he hadn't slandered their candidate since he doesn't represent them socially or fiscally. Add to that the disdain for Huffman generated in the Hellon camp as a result of Huffman's sleazy campaign practices and you have to ask yourself, "Where would the voters come from if Huffman became the nominee?"

What Kenski's polling doesn't explain about the numbers is that Huffman is the candidate Republicans won't support "if their candidate fails to win the nomination." Many Republicans from both the Graf and Hellon camps say they "can't" vote for Huffman. He has sufficiently alienated both conservatives and moderates as to raise serious doubts about his ability to win the support of a critical mass of Republicans in a general election.

Things are fast defaulting to a race between Kolbe/Click's ability to buy ads that garner support among the less involved, less decided Republicans and Graf and Hellon's ability to hold onto their core Republican base. September 12th will reveal who wins out: The Click/Kolbe machine or the determination of the electorate.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How Hellon Got the Shaft

Some say that when Huffman and Hellon decided to enter the race, Kolbe told them that whoever raised the most money early on would get his endorsement. Others say Click chose Huffman because he was able to use Huffman to carry his bills in the legislature for him, and Kolbe had no choice. In either case, the result was every Republican penny would go to the annointed successor leaving nothing to Hellon.

Jim Click, with his unique ability to raise huge sums of money and leverage family connections in the Bush administration, was the ultimate ally. Together, Kolbe and Click twisted arms to get help finding a candidate that could beat Randy Graf. Among the arm-twisted was Jon Kyl who was said to court Christine Olson to run. Christine, much more liberal than Bobbie, would be a strong choice to replace Kolbe. But she declined.

With all of Click's donations to candidates as well as to the state and national party, nobody in the state or national party leadership was going to question his decision to pick Steve Huffman. Jim had Lute Olson, Don Diamond, the foothills country club crowd, and the now infamous Bill Arnold (Huffman's window peeper) to raise money. Even conservatives Shadegg, Kyl and others are said to have raised money for Huffman. Click used his leverage to get RNC support. He muscled surprising endorsements from business groups for Huffman. Recently, the normally conservative NRCC, who stated they would remain neutral in the primary, caved into giving Huffman an endorsement. Even after the Huffman campaign was caught peeping and taking pictures through Toni Hellon's windows, party leaders at all levels hushed up. Not a word was spoken about Huffman crossing the line despite all the beginning year rhetoric about a commitment to keeping the campaigns clean leaving Hellon furious at Judi White and Matt Salmon.

Mike Hellon began with virtually nothing except some loyal party activists who would support him no matter what. Even many who would rather support a more conservative candidate fulfilled their sense of duty and obligation to Mike as one who paid his dues. Without the benefit of having served in public office Mike did not have the grassroots support a sitting legislator would have. His loyal followers were well off, but limited in number, and not on the order of a Jim Click. With virtually every penny being funneled to Steve Huffman, Mike Hellon began with no name recognition, no grassroots volunteers, and little money-raising capacity. He also had Steve Huffman to reckon with as Steve recognized Mike to be a major threat to his success. Steve knew he had to discredit Mike to prevent Mike from taking away votes, so he worked out a scheme to cast a shadow on Toni Hellon's use of campaign funds hoping it would taint Mike. If nothing else, the issue could serve to distract Mike from the campaign as he worried about his son and ex-wife.

Despite all this, few would argue that Mike Hellon hasn't run a stellar campaign. His early attention to ads was ridiculed. In hindsight, it is clear that he obtained a huge kickstart for his campaign by beginning early. His ads have been powerful and have given him a following. He has made use of what grassroots help he has. His campaign, by all accounts, has been above board and issue-centric. He has clearly shown himself to be the superior candidate between him and Huffman. Unlike Huffman, Hellon does not run from debates. Yet those close to Click say Jim is determined to stay the course with Huffman. In addition to the roughly $300,000 or so spent in the campaign so far, Click is arranging additional funding to the tune of $500,000 or more to be spent in the next two weeks. Not one penny will go to Hellon.

Nobody is arguing that Steve Huffman is articulate, strong on the issues, demonstrates superior character, is a leader, or resonates with voters. He is considered weak on the most salient issue of the election, illegal immigration. he has no grassroots support to speak of, and appears to attract only hard core Kolbe supporters and name-recognition voters. His campaign management is probably the worst in recent Arizona history. In contrast, Mike has shown he can garner as much support as Huffman using a fraction of the resources and maintain the respect of fellow Republicans many of whom will not support Huffman should he win the primary.

At this point, Mike has to be wondering about those he worked so hard to support over the years and what his loyalty has gotten him. From the Party, he got the shaft.

Don't write off Old Media yet. . .

AZ Congress Watch already beat me to is but there was a rather detailed and informative article published by Congressional Quarterly.

I do wish however that we could get articles written without the main sources being Jim Kolbe and Margaret Kenski. The conventional wisdom that Graf is skating only because Hellon and Huffman are splitting the vote is old and broken, and demonstrably so. Graf is winning because he has run a far more effective campaign thus far, and is not merely picking up the "sloppy seconds" left by the other two major candidates.

I really haven't seen the "temper tantrums" referred to either, other than Hellon's refusal to drop out of the race, which is plain silly. Hellon isn't in some sort of cabal with Huffman and doesn't really owe him anything. It would be just as valid to point out that a Huffman victory places the party in greater danger of losing the election to the Democratic challenger with the utterly inept and embarrassment of a campaign he has run to this point, so Hellon should withdraw and support Graf. That isn't going to happen either.

I also enjoy the term "many Republican officials, including Kolbe. . ." as being concerned that Graf cannot win. Either name them or just quote Kolbe like everyone else. The Graf issue seems more like a Kolbe crusade more than anything else, unless one counts Jim Click as "many Republican officials. I'm not going to pin this on CQ, however as this has been the only thing the national people had on this race for months.

My favorite part, however, was the damage control attempted by Dave Spuempfle which was promptly cross-checked against Chuck Coughlin. If you can't even get out a couple lines pumping your campaign without CQ checking your accuracy, things aren't really going well for your primary campaign.

Overall, however the article was well researched, well written, and insightful which is a direct counter example from the AP article I cited previously.

More please.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hellon-Graf Tag Team Body Slam

Saturday morning began as a nice Tucson Republican Women breakfast. It didn't take long for the sparks to fly, however.

Speaking in alphabetical order, Randy Graf followed Antenori and ended his introductory remarks with a request directed at Steve Huffman to keep it clean and stick to the issues the last two weeks of the campaign.

He was followed by an understandably red-faced Mike Hellon who went for Huffman's jugular telling Steve he is "despicable" and that he and Randy have character, but Steve does not. Referring to the Huffman campaign's sneaking around his ex-wife's house, peeping in windows, and taking pictures Mike asked what kind of campaign Steve is running.

Steve Huffman followed Mike saying he apologized if anyone was offended. However, he refused to take any responsibility for the peeping tom activities claiming the Toni Hellon incident is only "conjecture" even though the pictures were posted on the web for all to see and a neighbor caught Bill Arnold in the act. Steve looked beaten, but defiant and left abruptly after his opening remarks stating that he had to help his family move out of their house.

This is the second time that Huffman has made a rapid exit after getting hammered by an opponent in public. The first occurred in Saddlebrook after Graf, as the final candidate to introduce himself, took Huffman's attacks apart point by point after which Huffman left the event. Huffman's inability to participate effectively in public discourse is a sore spot with his supporters. Coupled with other recent incidents, insiders are saying that his campaign is unraveling fast and his weekly polling isn't showing his attack ads to be giving him the boost he hoped for. Of course, any gains might be offset by the negative publicity created by the peeping tom charges.

Although Graf is benefitting somewhat from the demise of the Huffman campaign, expect to see Mike Hellon gain the most traction and pull ahead of Steve if anyone releases a poll in the next week or so. Many party regulars that supported Huffman are beginning to jump ship in support of Hellon and the grassroots support Huffman hoped to obtain from the Tucson Association of Realtors endorsement has failed to materialize.

Republican party leaders don't want to see Huffman poison the well for their nominee. They have watched quietly from the sidelines until now, but are beginning to grow concerned that if things get too ugly, some Republicans and independents who would otherwise support the Republican nominee will sit out the general election. The Pima County Republican party leadership will not likely act, but state and national party leaders are feeling the pressure.

Mike Hellon will continue to run a clean campaign on the issues due to his loyalty to the party and desire to prove to Kolbe and Click that he is the better candiidate. As we stated early in the campaign season, if anyone can pull an upset, it will be Mike Hellon.

Huffman plans to be at the debate Wednesday. Don't expect a change in strategy from the Huffman camp, but look to see how he handles Mike and Randy. It could prove interesting.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Trial Lawyers and Hip Pockets

A few candidates have raised the issue of medical liability lawsuits driving up the cost of medical malpractice insurance. In the Old Pueblo, specialists have left the area reportedly due to this problem leaving patients to wait months to see one of a few remaining physicians that can help. Due to the extreme shortage of specialists, prices for some have been driven up even further.

The sugar daddy list suggests why this problem is not being addressed. In the CD8 race, Patty Weiss tops the list with her number one contribution source being trial lawyers. With Gabby Giffords, trial lawyers show up number two.

On the Republican side, one candidate appears to be courting trial lawyers. That's Steve Huffman who relies on them as his number two source of contributions.

Of these candidates, Weiss is in fair condition, but slipping fast. Gabby looks to be the only one of the three that will survive the primary. Huffman's campaign is still on life support with Huffman trying to reincarnate himself as a conservative. None of these candidates has raised the issue of tort reform. The challenge they all face is how do so without alienating the hands that feed their campaigns.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dinosaur Media

Here is a great reason why you cannot trust the Arizona Republic for your campaign news (or the AP for that matter).

Key snippet:
Former state legislator Gabrielle Giffords has emerged as the Democrat to beat, while the Republican race is much tighter, with state Rep. Steve Huffman holding no clear-cut lead over contenders Randy Graf, a former state legislator, and Mike Hellon, a former state GOP chairman.

Unless "holds no clear-cut lead" is synonymous with "getting crushed by 23%" they simply have done no research on this race other than look at the names of the people running and the money raised. If this is the case, please spare us from writing the article at all.

And why does the Republic pick this story up, as they at least should know better?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Poll Internals

You can get those at Inside Tucson Business

I'll have further comments about these internals later. . .

Some Analysis of GOP polling

I'm not even going to touch the Democratic portion of the poll other than say I overestimated the support for Patty Weiss. I guess I need to hang out with more liberal bloggers.

On the GOP side, reference this post I made 5 weeks ago.

Today's poll release shows that the leaked poll results I got then seem to be stunningly accurate. They were:

30% Graff
12% Hellon
4% Huffman

with 54% undecided.

What this would seem to show is that almost a quarter of the previous undecideds have decided and Huffman seems to be picking them up in greater numbers due to his advertising blitz. However, Graf looks to have received a good share of these voters as well with far less money spent and if the current undecideds continue to split at this rate, there are not enough of them for Steve to make the race competitive. Especially as a large percentage of the remaining undecideds aren't likely to show up and vote in the primary if history holds.

Hellon, on the other hand seems to be holding steady with the supporters that he held a month ago. Before the window-peeping flap it could have been argued that Hellon had topped out. It will be interesting to see what the coming week holds for him.

As of now, barring an implosion of some sort, Randy Graf looks to be Republican nominee for CD-8.

Results are in

from the Tucson Weekly Blog

Republicans:

Randy Graf: 36 percent
Steve Huffman: 13 percent
Mike Hellon: 10 percent
Mike Jenkins: 1 percent
Frank Antenori: 1 percent
Undecided: 39 percent

Democrats:

Gabrielle Giffords: 45 percent
Patty Weiss: 27 percent
Jeff Latas: 6 percent
Alex Rodriguez: 1 percent
Bill Johnson: 1 percent
Francine Schacter: 1 percent
Undecided: 20 percent

Simply WOW!

Pre-Poll Breakfast

While waiting for the news on the actual CD-8 polling, here are a few national snippits to tide you over:

Democrats are fond of tying support for the Republican candidate in CD-8 to the job performance of the President and his dwindling numbers:

Indeed those low numbers can be tied into the national trend that shows that the average voter prefers a generic Democratic candidate over a generic Republican

And on top of that the general feeling in CD-8 is that we have simply had enough of Republican rule and are ready to sweep a specific Democrat into office (pay attention to his first data point)

So with all of the bad national polling news, hopefully the Republicans will find something to be cheerful about with the poll released later today.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tucson Weekly Poll Results

Although the excitement over Tucson Weekly's poll results is building, particularly on the day of another Steve Huffman debacle, don't expect a big shift in Randy Graf's position. Insiders have given us a sneak peak that shows Randy solidly in the lead. However, Huffman, pre-peeper story, does actually present some surprises moving from a no-name fourth place to a respectable showing albeit a long way from a September 12th nomination.

Huffman's success could be attributed to his first push-poll, and maybe to some extent, his second, along with his first attack ads and voice messages. On the other hand, it could just as easily be argued that his rise is the result of simply getting ads out and providing some name recognition which didn't exist at all just a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately for Steve, "Huffman, King of Peepers" probably isn't the name recognition he was hoping for.

Huffman Peeping Tom Incident

It now appears that Huffman knew about his senior staffer's peeping Tom activities at the Toni Hellon home and may have concealed them in order to protect himself in the congressional campaign. Suspicion is also beginning to settle on Huffman regarding whether or not he encouraged the activities when he first announced he would be running for State Senate against Toni.

Arnold, the Huffman staffer accused in the case, is a member of the Tucson Association of Realtors who may have to rethink their endorsement. Likewise, Jim Click who exercised his muscle to obtain the endorsements of TAR, NFIB and the Chamber in spite of Huffman's ratings, must be scrambling to conduct damage control as association members are now distancing themselves from the endorsement.

Huffman's woes seem to grow worse by the day, and you can bet Mike Hellon is smiling.

When a scandal hurts. . .

Steve Huffman really stepped in it with this story. This is a semi-serious allegation as it stands on it's own. However, because of who he is and how he has positioned himself, this could be the death knell for Huffman. Here's why:

1. Huffman is a negative campaigner and a dirt digger. This was well known going into the contest and has shown itself in the primary. His first two television ads appeared to be almost formalities so that he could get to the mudslinging (although I bet he wished he could have the flashlight ad back). There is no one outside of Huffman's mother who would believe that he had nothing to do with the actions of Bill Arnold. It all fits to well with what is known about him and the way he campaigns. I wrote earlier on the Aiken scandal "" A campaign manager is not the candidate, and there is plenty of time to repair the damage and regain momentum." In this case, Arnold (treasurer, not the campaign manager) reflects exactly the actions and stances of Huffman and it will be hard for Huffman to separate himself.

2. The time factor, there really isn't much time to repair the damage and regain momentum. If Huffman had a crack staff (which at this point I am seriously doubting) this sets him at least a week back in terms of managing the damage and regrouping. We are exactly three weeks from the Primary and early voting has already begun.

3. It seriously hurts him if he continues to go negative. Anybody he attacks only has to respond "Have you been peeking into my windows again, Steve?" to deflect the attack. The correct way to deal with the scandal is to refocus the campaign and hit on Steve's positives and issues, and I am not confident that Steve is able to run this type of campaign.

4. The fact that it happened to Toni Hellon is also a huge negative. There would have been plenty of people that showed up to vote for Toni that also would have voted for Steve. This just isn't going to happen now. All of those votes are going to her ex-husband. It also has a lot of people who only follow politics marginally wondering what Huffman was doing spying on Mike Hellon's ex-wife not knowing about Steve's earlier plans to run against her. To these people this entire affair will just sound icky and make Steve look like a stalker.

5. Mike Hellon owns Steve Huffman. Does anybody actually think that Toni just found out last week who was posting the pictures back in April? Her and Mike have been sitting on this information and waited until Steve was hip deep in negative advertising to release it. It was a masterful bit of ju-jiutsu and subtlety that again shows that Mike has been ahead of Steve on every move since the Kolbe endorsement. There have even been rumors that Hellon was responsible for leaking the information on Steve Aiken which again was promptly blamed upon Steve Huffman. It would have been interesting to see this race play out with Hellon getting the endorsement.

Monday, August 21, 2006

How Low Can He Go?

Steve Huffman's latest attack on Graf came in the form of a mailer that looked more like a D.A.R.E. brochure than anything relating to a congressional race. Most recipients probably threw it away without bothering to look beyond the rowdy-looking teenagers and the upside-down car.

For those who bothered to open it, the inside was simply a tired repeat of the Kolbe attacks from the last campaign. Not much creativity, not much validity. The first attack point, the piece about the picture of the president, was partially accurate but so weak as to carry little, if any weight. After all, the President isn't exactly the most popular guy in town right now. The fact that somebody disagreed with him won't be a shocker for Republicans.

The other points will show up soon on Graf's web site, or some blog spot, as a MYTH VS. FACT piece. They are simply too outlandish for anybody to take seriously and will serve more to label Huffman as unprincipled than to cast dispersions on Graf. Any votes lost by Graf will likely transfer to Hellon anyway and simply expand Hellon's lead over Huffman.

Of course, the big news is Huffman's staff having to be served with a restraining order for peeping into State Senator Toni Hellon's windows (http://www.espressopundit.com/). It will be interesting to see how Huffman handles this fiasco in light of his criticism of Graf on the Aiken issue.

It's no secret that Huffman hired notorious attack artist, Nathan Sproule, as a consultant to his campaign. Maybe something about rocks and glass houses should have been discussed before signing the contract.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Poll Results Soon

Look for poll results on the CD8 race Wednesday, August 23rd. Tucson Weekly will be releasing their numbers from a poll they commissioned with Hank Kenski, a reputable local pollster.

The results could prove interesting with the Huffman and anonymous Weiss push-polling, and TV/radio ads in full stride. It could support or condemn attack ads.

Back the Truck up

Just been reading all the breaking news about the RNCC being responsible for the pro-Giffords push poll that was "revealed" during the Weiss press conference. I have read all of the findings online and count me in as less than impressed with the amount of detail provided that led up to the stunning conclusion.

1. The poll took place and it definitely was a push poll.

2. Patty's people backtracked the the calls and found that they originated from Western Wats. I believe that this happened and is true.

3. Everything else after this point is hearsay and conjecture.

It appears that the rest of the footprints are provided by this article. This story is about a push poll in the New York 20th Congressional District where a Republican is attacking a Democratic candidate. This poll was also tracked back to Western Wats. then the following paragraph was included:

A Western Wats worker said the poll was commissioned by The Tarrance Group, a national Republican polling firm that does a lot of work for the National Republican Congressional Committee. She would not reveal on whose behalf The Tarrance Group is polling.

So a single (as in one) unidentified (as in nobody that can be followed up with or fact checked) worker (no position identified, it could have been the CEO or vending machine stocker) said that the poll was commissioned by the Tarrance Group. I do not doubt that the Tarrance group works with Western Wats, I wouldn't even be shocked if they do engage in push polling from time to time. However, I am pretty sure that Western Wats does not make a practice of revealing who is behind which poll unless they are given leave to do so by their client. In this case the information could be gathered in a verifiable manner (company records show, or a spokesman, John Doe, from Western Wats verified. . .) However, since this information is clearly not public knowledge a single anonymous source will have to do.

So we have a pretty tenuous thread that holds the Tarrance Group to the Poll in New York. We immediately switch to the RNCC paying the Tarrance Group $391,087 for polling this year (verifiable). Then a DNCC source (not named, not objective, and probably not in a great position to know the exact specifics) says that the RNCC have given the Republican candidate in New York $16,275 for polling. No verification that it was a push poll or otherwise, or that this particular poll or any of his polls was contracted through the Terrance Group.

So is there any verifiable information that Patty has that shows that Western Wats did the push poll on the request of the Tarrance Group other than the fact that they have worked with the Tarrance Group before? If so, it is not laid out on her or Michael Bryan's posts.

The fact is that any push poll is likely to be associated with Western Wats as a push poll takes an entirely different degree of bandwidth than normal polls due to the number and the specifity of those contacted. Western Wats is one of the few providers that could accomplish such a poll in a short amount of time.

But the calculus appears to be:

Push polls are evil
Republicans are evil
Western Wats ran the poll
Republicans have used Western Wats

Ergo. . .

Brilliant move by Patty however, there was no way that she could prove that Gabby did the poll, so she blamed it on Rove which a lot are likely to believe absent of evidence. And an enemy of Rove would seem to merit a good look as a candidate, and short of admitting complicity in the push poll, there is little that Gabby can do to dilute this message.

However, if the proof given so far is all that there is, it is either sloppy or dishonest research, and should in no way constitute definitive proof of Republican involvement.

If there is something I have missed, I would be happy to reassess.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is Gabby Giffords really Snow White?

The Arizona political blogosphere is still in its infancy, and I must admit that my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle have quite the advantage so far on us Republicans, which means that sometimes we have to wade over into their internal discussions, which I am fine with.

But there is something that really has made me wonder. It appears that there is a great cross section of bloggers who have a politician confused with a Disney Princess. Here are the facts:

1. Gabby's "Darkness" ad stretched the truth quite a bit. She knew it when she ran the ad, calculated that no one would challenge it, and lost. I do not think that makes her an evil person, just a politician. You can bring up legislators that "were there as it happened" that rushed to her defense, but we all know that her Legislative peers weren't going to shove her under the bus, especially as she has a pretty decent chance of winning. I especially enjoyed the conspiracy theories that a "Republican" reporter had set out to destroy Gabby. A likelier story is that the only reason that the story was allowed to run was because the larger paper was going to endorse Gabby, and they wanted to show that that they could be tough on "their" candidate as well.

Now the whole idea of newspapers endorsing candidates should be a scandal all in itself, especially this far out. Shouldn't they have to preface any story concerning Gabby or any of the other candidates with "In the interest of full disclosure, we would prefer that Ms. Giffords win the election?"

However, the fact remains that she stretched the truth, dug in her heels when called on it, and waited for other people to help bail her out. It really wasn't her finest moment.

2. The "Push polling" scandal that is all the rage now is not being done by Republicans. The only person with the money to do it would be Steve Huffman, and he is busy push polling and outright negative advertising about Randy Graf. Equally silly is the assertion that it is being done by Patty Weiss herself. I mean, really, if you are seriously thinking that this is what is going on, you need to step away from the Oliver Stone movies (I mean the earlier stuff not his latest ;))

Here's the deal, this is probably not being done by Gabby directly, but either she, or her people know who is behind it, and knew beforehand. She may even come out and denounce it, but not before the calls are actually made. Again, we need to reference the fact that this is the moment that could make Gabby's entire life. To believe that she will not do everything possible to attain it is just not realistic. Those that continue to assert her prom queen innocence do her a great disservice, by the way.

To show that I am equal opportunity, however, I believe the reason that Patty has not said much about it is that she intends to engage in a little push polling of her own.

3. Gabby has raised over $800,000. To believe that all of this money poured in with no strings attached is also silly. When Gabby was in Washington (what is an Arizona legislator doing in D.C. anyway, especially while is session) she was attending meetings with just the type of people that are now donating to her campaign. Her state career was just a step in her national ambitions, which led to her vanilla voting record where she stayed clear of controversy. This is also why she never used clean election funds. Even if she has definite ideas about being her own person, she has taken money from those who think otherwise. This is not even debatable.

All that said, this does not disqualify Gabby from running. Indeed most of the candidates running for office all over the country are just as guilty. The other candidates, more often than not, lose spectacularly. This doesn't mean I will vote for Gabby, but I can understand where she is at. If you feel that she is indeed some virginal vessel of purity that will cleanse Congress by her very presence, you need to be reading Teen Beat instead of political blogs. Francine is actually closer to that type of person (and I will not be voting for her either).

What you need from your candidate is an action item list of realistic issues that they can accomplish on your behalf that the other candidates cannot. If they speak of solving all the World's ills, beware. If you feel that Gabby has those, you would do far better pointing them out than concocting conspiracy theories and excuses about things which Gabby herself wouldn't ask you to defend. Better to be more of an advocate than a fan.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who's a spender, who's a tightwad?

The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers rates state legislators on their support for bigger government or the taxpayer. Three candidates have available records. Unfortunately, the AFT appears to have changed their system of reporting after 2004 making comparisons somewhat challenging, but here is the data from their last years in office with 2004 providing data for all three candidates:


--------------2004-----------------2005---------------------------------2006

Giffords--10/41 (4 no vote)---31% Big Government Friend-----N/A

Graf------25/41 (0 no vote)---N/A-----------------------------------N/A

Huffman-11/41 (9 no vote)--55% Needs Improvement----------55% Needs Impr.

In 2005, Gabby earned a 31% and just eaked over the threshold to avoid the "Champion of Big Government" label. Steve Huffman's 55% put him right in the middle of "Needs Improvement," a step above Gabby.

In 2004, Giffords voted just 10 times with the AFT out of 41. Randy Graf voted 25 times with the AFT and received the Friend of the Taxpayer designation with only 8 House members receiving higher scores. Huffman voted 11 times with the AFT out of 41. Only 9 House members scored lower than Huffman (his 9 missed votes were a factor) and only 3 Senate members scored lower than Giffords.

Giffords has never claimed to be a conservative, nor has she sought favor with the AFT. These numbers will probably be fairly innocuous to her campaign in the primary. Graf has not been shy in his campaign about his "Taxpayer Friend" designation and will likely continue to tout it. Huffman's recent campaign ad, however, claims he is a conservative, and his web site states that he has "a strong record of fighting to reduce taxes." He will likely rely on his success reducing business property taxes to support his position. Of course, Graf will continue to exploit Huffman's shutting down a personal property tax relief bill (insiders say he "shelved" it in his desk drawer to keep it out of committee) and Huffman's statement to the Chamber that "personal property taxes are too low."

Personal property taxes are obviously not at issue in this race, but two related issues, out-of-control government spending and taxation, are. That said, it is unclear why the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Tucson Association of Realtors (TAR) endorsed Huffman in this election.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Candidate Forum Straw Poll Results

Last night's straw poll put Randy Graf in the lead with Frank Antenori in second place. Frank purportedly was far behind Graf which suggests Mike Hellon and everyone else struggled to reach the voters. Patty Weiss apparently had a dismal showing, but who would expect anything different in a strongly conservative end of the district? She deserved credit for showing up and not backing down in front of a mostly Republican crowd. And insiders have leaked that she beat out Huffman.

The word on the street is that the gap between winners and losers was so great that in order to avoid embarrassing some of the candidates only winners would be announced. That has to be of concern to several incumbents and favored challengers.

Monday night's results could suggest that conservatives will show up at the polls in huge numbers leaving many incumbents shell-shocked and out of a job on election night. As far as the CD8 race is concerned, who among the Republicans can beat the winner of the Democratic primary could be moot. This poll suggests it will be a conservative in any case.

Oro Valley Candidate Forum

Monday night's super candidate forum at the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene was one of the most well attended so far. The major Republican candidates, Graf and Hellon, were both strong with Hellon emphasizing the need to control the border and Graf citing his willingness to be the maverick on the border issue when it was not popular to take a strong position.

Surprisingly, neither Hellon nor Graf discussed Hellon's guest worker amnesty program which has been a hallmark of Hellon's border security plan and a major sticking point for Graf.

Some suggested Graf looked "pumped up" probably as a result of having spent the day with Congresman Tom Tancredo in various events covered by national media.

Of the lesser candidates, Antenori was supurb—maybe at his best. Mystery candidate, Huffman, was not in attendance as anticipated even though it is his home district.

At the beginning of last Friday's forum in Saddlebrook, Graf tore into Huffman on his voting record after which Huffman made a sudden departure for the remainder of the event. Maybe Huffman is looking to avoid another embarrassment.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Huffman Push Polling

The Huffman campaign is nearing completion of its second push poll of the campaign. It again dredges up the Steve Aiken issue hoping to turn off at least a few would-be Graf voters. An internal follow up poll will determine if the loss of Huffman votes from negative campaigning is more than offset by the number of swayed voters.

Hellon appears to be holding his second place position since Huffman's internal polling hasn't been reported to suggest anything new.

Hellon, the only major player in the Republican race besides Graf, has managed to keep himself from being tainted by attacks on the Graf campaign and has managed to avoid Huffman's push polls. However, insiders now suggest Hellon's campaign may have been involved in the ABC blog that ousted Steve Aiken. If Mike Hellon can stir up a mud-slinging war between Huffman and Graf without becoming implicated, he could show up as the shining knight on election day.

Of course, Huffman will not likely ignore Hellon's second place position for long, and any attack by Huffman will be met with fury from the Hellon camp which is still smarting from Huffman's earlier challenge of Toni Hellon and Kolbe's refusal to endorse Mike Hellon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dirty Politics and Other Lowlights

Is it dirty politics or just random vandalism that trashed one of Graf's billboards? No doubt, Joe Leiberman would struggle to accept the random vandalism explanation.

The Giffords and Graf campaigns repeat the often-chanted response that signs are for the morale of campaign workers. Their strategy is based on the notion that late signs stand out, early signs become stale. But at least one voter says he missed voting for his preferred candidate not knowing he was running because there were no signs. Then again, one has to wonder how he missed the mailers, TV/radio ads, and, in particular, the name on the ballot.

Mike Hellon still has room in his HELOC to buy ads. He is also getting greater financial support from long-time loyal Republicans. I predict a respectable second place showing in the primary for Mike. At the same time, many Graf supporters who wavered when Kolbe said Graf couldn't win the general election, may now shift their support back to Graf as Graf shows he is not likely to be defeated.

Don't believe the rumors that Huffman is throwing in the towel. It will not happen. Despite a miserable showing by every indicator, Huffman has the backing of Kolbe who will not let go of his grudge match against Graf. They have tapped the RNC who is consulting the Huffman campaign despite the unwritten "no endorsement" pledge for party officials in primary elections. The RNC's involvement in a local primary in support of a losing candidate suggests the RNC has totally disconnected from the electorate in Arizona. The way things stand, it looks like Huffman will have to arm wrestle Jenkins for third place.

Ouch! Ouch! And double ouch! Huffman has to be smarting from the endorsement from the Tucson Weekly which revealed Huffman's liberal politics. After working hard to portray himself as a conservative (every Republican candidate seems to have dropped the notion that only a moderate can win), including, not only answering the Center for Arizona Policy questions, but answering them as a conservative, this can only be seen as at least a knock down much bigger than Weiss' shutting down the Giffords ad. Nothing seems to be going Huffman's way in this election.

Frank Antenori is selling books and getting plenty of press. Unfortunately for the campaign, it doesn't seem to be translating into voter support. We would have expected greater results with a successful book launch in the heat of the campaign. It's surprising that Antenori hasn't switched to the Graf campaign as anticipated. As we get closer to poll results rumored to be forthcoming, maybe we will see a move by Antenori.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

About the "Midnight Vote" Kerfuffle

Not going to say a lot about this except,

1. This was not a Republican "hit piece." Had Republicans been responsible the timing would have been different. I'm not really sure that Republicans are quaking in fear of a Gifford's win in the primary as some have believed.

2. I have seen many comments on many boards by a few people claiming that the writer cannot be trusted because he may have been, or associates with Republicans. The irony of this is delicious. Imagine a member of the press belonging to, agreeing with, being active in, and actually voting for another political party. Welcome to the world of Republicans, except it is not just a once in a while thing.

3. The fact that this is labeled as a hit piece at all is just hyperventalating. Newspapers do this schtick every election period. They see an add and fact check it. They will also do it for Weiss, Huffman, Graf, and perhaps Hellon if he buys any television time. Enterprising papers will also do it for debates as well. Everyone knows that when you put up an ad, you are going to fudge a little to place yourself in a good light. Just don't cite outright falsehoods and you will be OK. The Steve Huffman flashlight in his latest ad should have caused more of an uproar than this.

4. This entire uproar simply helps lend credence to my previous hypothesis. The only reason that this is of any moment at all is because Gabby will not separate herself from the people she is running against. If she were to show up to the next mixed forum and aggressively hound Randy Graf for the length of the forum the sniping would subside substantially. I'm not saying this would be an easy thing to do, but she will be facing a Republican in a month. Now would be a good time to confront Republicans outside of a thirty second television ad about an obscure parliamentary device. The next issue may be if she can face Republicans without yelling "quorum" and leaving town for three days to recover her calm.

Or perhaps it will be about the tenderfoot way she approaches the horses in her ads, or the weak tourqe that was placed on the lugnuts she used in her tire shop. The thing is, Gabby can end all this, but she will have to show up and lead and not rely on coasting.

Monday, August 07, 2006

State of the campaign - Democratic Primary

So, I have wanted to post something on the Democratic Primary race and have held back because I do not have as many contacts or sources among the candidates. I have spent the last several weeks, however, conducting some informal research on where things are going. I did my best to target solid Democrats and Non-Republicans to get their feelings on the race and step outside of the local blogging crowd.

What I found was pretty eye-opening.

Here's the deal. Patty Weiss is ahead, and if the primary were held tomorrow, she would be the winner.

The results among the people I spoke with were not as close as what I believe the race to actually be, but it certainly provided a counter-balance to what I had come to believe by reading the latest blog comments. Of the people I spoke with, almost every one of them knew Patty, and most intended to vote for her. Not in a "she's the only person I know so I will vote for her" way, but with a "I really like Patty Weiss." Of the people who were aware of Gabby, I got more negative reactions than positive. And of course there were a few Latas supporters.

Now I realize that my results were in no way scientific, but like I said, I was certainly surprised at what I found, and the reasoning behind people's thinking was the most enlightening.

It appears that many of the negatives towards Gabby were not anything that was immediately apparent like "she voted for Walmart!" It was more of a "meh" type reaction in that Gabby didn't really do anything for them. They have seen her commercials and there is nothing that really grabbed them. Her story really isn't that appealing to them, and they really haven't followed her career in the legislature. Again, this was contrasted by Patty's story where many feel like she has overcome oppression and is now is going to "stick it to the man." Gabby came across like a DNC insider, while Patty was more of an outsider to them. And we all know how Arizonans like their Mavericks.

So once I had heard all this, I tried to reconcile this with the facts I knew on the ground. Here is what I came up with:

1. Gabby scorched everyone with her signature gathering. Indeed this feat was impressive. It goes to show that Gabby had a tremendously effective gameplan and staff. This was to be expected as she has run for office before. Indeed, had Patty not run, she probably would have been coronated for the slot quite quickly. Patty entered a little later and made some rookie mistakes. She seems to have evened that out now.

2. Gabby has a lot of endorsements and money. This is indeed the case. However, the whole endorsement thing is kind of a sham anyway. In the case of the Democratic candidates, their stand on most issues is so similar that no one candidate is a flat out better choice than another. In these case an organization will do their best to prognosticate the winner, as you wouldn't want to back a loser, especially in the primary. Donations are the much the same way. Who wants to spend $1000 on a person that won't last past September. I actually think that Gabby had a lot of her donations lined up before she decided to run. This was probably a precondition on her decision to run.

3. Gabby has a lot of boots on the ground. This one may be a bit deceptive. She certainly has a large contingent on the blogs and did a good job with her signatures, but I haven't seen a lot of Gabby bumper stickers or signs. Also, in the silly poll that was done in the Citizen, she didn't get a lot of support in that popularity contest. It is perhaps of no consequence, but I highly doubt that Gabby and all her supporters thought that this was beneath notice or they "didn't wish to cheat." They simply didn't get enough support soon enough to register. This would probably speak of a highly centralized campaign that doesn't have a lot of "freelance" leaders that could gather supporters quickly. Winning campaigns need those type of people.

Now I certainly do not believe that this is all sewn up. Patty certainly has a lot of work to do, and she cannot take even a moment off. She certainly has more previous television time than she will ever need. What she needs to do is get out to see people personally with every chance she gets and take nothing for granted. The fact that she is showing for all the forums is great for her and is definitely in contrast to Gabby's absences. Taking on the Republicans on their own turf is certainly what Democrats wish to see in their candidate and will only add to her maverick credentials.

Gabby needs to pick up her game. She needs to not skip events and she needs to stand out on issues. Her current "play it safe" stance could and will cost her in the primary. She needs the Democratic base, as I would assume that her advantage with independents isn't incredibly large if a lead at all against Patty.

Also in Gabby's favor is the fact that her negatives aren't really all that material, it's just that she doesn't stand out as much as she otherwise could. She needs to find an issue important to voters in the district and own it. So far, this just hasn't happened. A message and $800,000 would be tough to beat. If her strategy is to out-television Patty, she may have more time to ride those horses I keep seeing in her commercials.

Then again, I'm not a pollster, I just play one on this blog.

Super Forum Candidates: No Huffman, No Giffords

The August 14 super forum to be held at the Oro Valley Church of the Nazerene will include candidates from all parties and all races. Anyone looking for an easy one-stop shopping experience for the election will want to attend this event.

Although the CD8 exchange is shaping up to be a Forum Light, most of the major players will be there: Graf, Hellon, and Weiss.

The northwest side as a bastion of conservatism demands the Republicans be there to court their consituents. So expect them to be there in full force, except our mystery candidate, Huffman, who will miss yet another appearance opportunity in his home district. This is also Hellon's home district, so look for him to capitalize on Huffman's absence, which appears to be a contributing factor in Huffman's growing unpopularity at home. Mike Hellon will likely emphasize his tough border position and other conservative planks to try and resonate with locals. Randy Graf, a virtual unkown in this area two years ago, is fast becoming a local hero as the lone conservative among leading Republicans. Don't be surprised to see a Graf-friendly crowd. Frank Antenori, likewise a conservative, will have no trouble reaching this group of voters.

The Democrats may be a little more timid about charging into the conservative northwest side. So timid, in fact, that Patty Weiss is the only one of the group gutsy enough to commit to the challenge. She will win some points for that—and don't think you won't hear about it. Giffords again declined along with Jeff Latas. The other candidates appear to be less than motivated to attend the event and probably will not appear.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Citizen Online Poll

Today's online poll on tucsoncitizen.com had tremendous potential, but quckly degenerated into a contest of technological savvyness and blatant manipulation. It was suspected that Jeff Latas was "freeping" the numbers based on his stated number of volunteers compared to poll results, but when Patty Weiss suddently took off like rocket with more total votes showing up than volunteers that could possibly exist in all the campaigns combined, it was too obvious to deny. From there the poll became useful only as a source of entertainment as David Nolan entered the fray and suddenly left his steady 5% to shoot out ahead of everyone. The Graf campaign, not to be outdone, freeped its way back into the lead. By that time, being the leader only brought greater criticism and disdain by those expecting a greater show of integrity in the process.

Despite the unreliability of the poll, we still learned quite a bit about the grassroots strength of the campaigns. Early in the day, prior to the freeping , Randy Graf and Jeff Latas ran neck and neck for the lead showing they have the greatest ability to rouse the troops. Patty Weiss showed some strength in grassroots mobilization early in the day, but not nearly as much as Latas. Not surprising was the extremely low support for Giffords, Hellon, Huffman and the lesser-known candidates who either rely on a stockpile of money instead of grassroots volunteers to reach voters, or who lack both money AND volunteers to get their messages out.

Other than this, not much could be garnered from this poll.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Broken Conventional Wisdom

One thing that can be agreed upon from the start of the GOP campaign primary season was that the conventional wisdom was almost completely wrong. Some of what we were treated to:

The Kolbe endorsement will declare the frontrunner.

This really has helped Huffman raise money, but hasn't yet translated to a groundswell of support from likely voters.

The Kolbe Endorsement was the end of Mike Hellon.

A lot of people were thinking that Hellon would drop out once he failed to get the backing of Kolbe. None of these people were that familiar with Mike Hellon.

Jim Kolbe picked the most dynamic candidate out of Huffman and Hellon.

From the campaigning so far, Hellon has run circles around Huffman. If he had been given the financial support that fell to Huffman, I guarantee he would have done a far better job of utilizing it. Currently, I expect him to get more votes than Huffman, possibly a significant number.

Steve Huffman would go negative at the first opportunity.

I posted that because Hellon had been allowed to move in a position between Huffman and Graf, an overly negative campaign would not help him as much as it had in the past. This may change but has held true so far.

Randy Graf was too extreme to get the nomination.

This was shorthand for Graf being a "racist xenophobe." So much so, that Hellon and Huffman have now adopted pretty much all of his official positions with regard to securing the border.

Mike Hellon was wasting his money airing ads early in the summer.

These ads cemented Mike legitimacy and allowed him to define himself free of other chatter. It also allowed him to move toward his current position on border enforcement without being challenged.

The Aiken scandal was the end of Graf.

I was quotedin AZ Congress Watch as saying " A campaign manager is not the candidate, and there is plenty of time to repair the damage and regain momentum." I took a lot of heat for that. I also said that it may be a chance for Graf to bring somebody in that could help better raise money which also happened.

The Huffman media blitz would be relentless.

I must admit to buying into this one. I have to say I have been underwhelmed so far. His first commercial was a complete dud, and his second, although incorporating many of the fixes I suggested misfired in that he just underlined a drastic policy shift. Had the same production been about earmark reform or a non-Graf and Hellon issue, it would have been a lot more effective.

District 8 is more interested in Universal Health Care and the Iraqi War (name any other issue) than securing the border.

We have yet to see how this plays out, but I am extremely skeptical based on the dramatic policy shifts of Hellon and Huffman. They have definitely seen polling that shows otherwise. I believe that Democrats saying this are simply whistling past the graveyard.

This District will only elect a Moderate like Jim Kolbe.
Complete Hogwash. This district was solidly pro-Bush, pro-prop 200, and will pass the marriage resolution if it is on the ballot. Kolbe has enjoyed the advantages of a 20 year incumbent where reelection rates run as high as 96%. There is a chance that the GOP may lose the district, but it will not happen because of some Moderate litmus test. It will happen because a specific candidate has better ideas and runs a better campaign, not because they resemble Jim Kolbe. This goes for Democrats as well.

Summary- The point is that I am not a master pundit. I am a rookie. The ability to see past most of these pieces of "Conventional Wisdom" this was available with just a small amount of research and questioning assumptions, little of which was done by the media or others reporting on the primary. It would be interesting to do a study of this on the Democratic side as well. I haven't made much prognostications on that side, so I am probably not the ideal person to do it, but it would be interesting.

Weiss Steals the Show From TAR's Pick

The Tucson Association of Realtors recently endorsed Steve Huffman and sent out a request for volunteers to staff his campaign. You would think that along with the endorsement would come a little support at the candidate forum held at the TAR headquarters just a day after the TAR request for volunteers.

It should have been the Huffman show assuming that realtors really support the TAR position. Instead, Patty Weiss worked her magic with the crowd which responded enthusiastically once the ice was broken. Instead of Steve, it was Patty Weiss, Jeff Latas and Randy Graf that took the drivers seat throughout most of the forum.

Things might have been different had Giffords and Hellon appeared, but they were absent as expected.

It was interesting that Steve Huffman was seated to the far left of the line of candidates and among the Democrats while Randy Graf sat at the opposite end next to Antenori. Maybe it had to do with the order in which they arrived. It was interesting nevertheless.

The Democrat contingency united on a call for universal healthcare and an increase in the minimum wage. When speaking about the border, they tended to focus on penalties for employers that hire illegals rather than on the fence or use of the military.

David Nolan, the Libertarian candidate, surprised onlookers as he addressed the issues better than most of the candidates and received an audience response nearly as great as Weiss, Latas and Graf.

Steve Huffman's single moment of triumph occured when he trumped Patty in a major way after she stated proudly that President Clinton was successful because he operated on a pay-as-you-go budget. Steve rebutted that he was able to do that because he passed the largest tax increase in the history of the nation. Other than that, Huffman showed no real spark. He was overtly obvious in his attempts to appear less moderate and more in line with conservatives. But when he tried to site specifics he seemed to struggle using as an example the fact that he did not raise residential property taxes.

Schacter raised some eyebrows when she said that employers who hire illiegal aliens are criminals, but those that come over the border illegally are not.

With everyone including Patty Weiss getting tougher on the border, one had to wonder what Randy Graf would say to stand out on the issue. He pulled it off in his final remarks when he pointed down the table at the row of candidates and said that nobody at that table, including the Republicans, supported Proposition 200 when it went to the voters except Randy Graf.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Huffman a Border Candidate?

Steve Huffman's latest position shift is further evidence that all candidates know they need the border issue to win the election. Nobody can label border security as a far-right issue anymore. The Democrats are beginning to talk about it. Every Republican candidate, even those that previously called the issue "far right" themselves have now made it a major plank in their platforms.

With Steve Huffman's latest television ad portraying him as a tough-on-the-border candidate, the team is complete—all Republican candidates have made the shift. This move by the Huffman camp makes Huffman look more conservative and Graf less of a maverick. Randy Graf, who has revelled in being the voice for border enforcement, continues to hammer on the differences in border positions as the candidates allign on the issue more and more.

The state legislature is even feeling the pressure with over half endorsing Randy Graf because of his leadership on the border, and non-border issue incumbents are receiving serious challenges by pro-border security candidates.

This is an issue that will not go away regardless of what gets decided in Washington. It will continue to be THE issue that defines the election whatever the voters decide.