Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

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Get caught up on issues from southern Arizona with Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel.

Ted Simons: Each month we take a look at issues from Tucson and the southern part of the state in our series, "Southern Exposure." And here now with the latest from points south is Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the "Tucson Weekly." Good to see you again.

Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure.

Ted Simons: Let's get started with the big Congressional race down there. Sounds like Martha McSally is in DC getting ready to assume measuring the curtains and everything. Is this officially over?

Jim Nintzel: Well, it's not over yet. We said all along when we talked on this program about this race that it was going to be close. And it is close. 161-vote lead for Martha McSally at the moment. They counted all the votes that they say they are going to count with election officials in Pima County and Cochise County. However, attorneys for Ron Barber, the recount attorneys have been flown in by the DMC to investigate this thing. There are people who have been very successful with recounts before in Washington State, in a gubernatorial race up there, and the Al Franken recount in Minnesota. They are down here. They are going over these ballots. They have fanned out -- they are provisional ballots, ballots that were disqualified in the original count. They have fanned out. They talked to people who had cast these ballots. They found out there were problems with why they say they were rejected, so they were in Federal court today arguing that these ballots should be added back into the mix. There's about 133 of those which would close the gap to about 30 at that point.

Ted Simons: Close the gap to about 30 but that just means that she still wins.

Jim Nintzel: She still wins. But there is this recount because we are within this 200 vote margin.

Ted Simons: When does that start?

Jim Nintzel: Well, it depends on what the Federal court does in the next week. But it's scheduled to start next week. And there's always a chance these machines will count ballots differently. You generally get a different count from a machine when you run a batch of ballots through it simply because these little dots and machines reading little dots, sometimes you get a different result. I think that's where team Barber is hoping something will happen there. But I think it's a long shot.

Ted Simons: Yeah, OK. So we wait for the Federal court order and then we start with the recount and then we move on.

Jim Nintzel: Exactly.

Ted Simons: All right. State legislative race, Ethan Orr lost in his attempt to return to the state legislature. Republican in mostly Democratic district down there?

Jim Nintzel: Pretty evenly split. Slightly Democratic district. But split between, it's one of the few, state's few competitive districts which is shown by the fact Ethan Orr, a Republican, and Victoria Steele, a Democrat were the House of Representatives there. Ethan is a moderate. He did cross party lines to support Governor Brewer's Medicaid expansion two years ago. And he went up against Gabby Gifford's trauma doctor actually, a guy name Randy Friese who was the first doctor to see the mass shooting victims on January 8, 2011 and he decided to get into politics. He ran and this was an expensive race. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a legislative race. Randy Friese came out ahead by just another couple hundred votes; another very close race in southern Arizona.

Ted Simons: It seems from distance that the Orr campaign kind of played both sides against middle. He managed to get the hard right and the hard left mad at him.

Jim Nintzel: He did. And the issue, the Democrats really went after him on, involved gun bills that he had voted in favor of. And antiabortion legislation that he voted in favor of and that had a real impact on, I think, how some moderate voters viewed him. So end of the day, a few hundred votes lost.

Ted Simons: You talk about the money in the race. I know the Governor's money was in there. She was down there campaigning I guess pretty heavily for him. Did Gabby Giffords, did her group --

Jim Nintzel: Her organization is called Americans for Responsible Solutions. They did support Randy Friese in that race particularly again on the gun issues were one of the big things they advertised on.

Ted Simons: Both sides spent the money. It sounds like this is one of the cases where the Governor's money didn't quite get the results they were hoping for.

Jim Nintzel: I think that's what happened.

Ted Simons: As far as this Americans for Responsible Solutions, did it have much of an impact in other races?

Jim Nintzel: Well, they played a lot in this Ron Barber race. And it looks like they are headed for a loss there. They had wins elsewhere. Washington State passed a major background check initiative, by the public up there. They are going to really enforce more strict background checks on gun purchases. So that was a win for them. They won a couple of Senate races. They lost a couple of Senate races. They did OK in a couple of house races. They didn't do OK in a couple others. Mixed bag for them and that has to do with the different dynamics in the districts they were playing.

Ted Simons: But definitely a player in those races?

Jim Nintzel: They were very heavily involved in and said they learned what they saw in there and expect to be back on the campaign trail in 2 years.

Ted Simons: How is Gabby Giffords doing?

Jim Nintzel: She is doing great. She just rode in our big perimeter bicycle race, 8,000 bicyclists down there riding around the edges of Tucson. And she was involved in 11-mile fun run with her husband, Mark Kelly. She's out on her bicycle a lot in the neighborhood getting around and she looks better every time I see her.

Ted Simons: Looks like a recumbent bike.

Jim Nintzel: Recumbent bike and she speeds around her neighborhood. Her neighbors see her out there a lot and decided -- Mark Kelly wants to see her do the 40 mile next time. We will see how much training she gets in over the next year.

Ted Simons: All right. We can't talk about Tucson this time of year without talking about the big game, ASU and the U of A being played in Tucson. Both teams have something to play for which is encouraging. They have had relatively successful football seasons which is encouraging. How big is the big game in Tucson?

Jim Nintzel: I think it's pretty big this year. Sold out. Arizona stadium as you mentioned both teams, 9-2 records. Both of them are fighting for bragging rights and more with the Territorial Cup. And I am just thinking I will feel fortunate if I get out of Maricopa County safely with all my Wildcat spirit.

Ted Simons: You will be all right. You have been around the block. You have seen this game over the years. Has the complexion of this football, we are talking football in particular, has it changed over time? Is it more or less intense? Is it more or less crazy? What do you think?

Jim Nintzel: I think it's something that goes in waves. There are years where you have a lot of passion. And I think this is one of those years. And then there's years where people who are like, who cares? It's one, kind of depends on the dynamics of where the teams are by the time this Territorial Cup comes up. I think this is going to be one of the big ones for sure.

Ted Simons: Compare the fan base down there in Tucson. U of A football, U of A basketball.

Jim Nintzel: U of A basketball has to be way bigger. The Cats are out in Maui right now. They are representing us well. Big game tonight for the finale of that tournament. And it's, it's really much more of a basketball town than a football town but our football program is coming back. We had several sold out games this season. A 9-2 record so they are going very well on the field and a lot of excitement about the Cats' football program right now. But the basketball program is definitely outshines them.

Ted Simons: Just out of curiosity, are the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals and the Suns, are they of any interest down there?

Jim Nintzel: I think there's lingering bitterness that the Diamondbacks abandoned spring training in Tucson so we lost our spring training programs to the valley of the sun here. And it just doesn't have the same kind of appeal as the U of A sports do. Neither do other sports franchises that open up in Tucson. We try to get minor league baseball going on and nobody goes out to those games. They try hockey and sports of those nature and nothing seems to take off as the way the University teams have.

Ted Simons: We have actually talked about this before. Can you consider Tucson a big college town?

Jim Nintzel: In many ways it is a big college town, certainly when it comes to the sports programs and really the economy in a lot of ways is driven by a lot what happens at University.

Ted Simons: Talk to us more about that.

Jim Nintzel: Really associated biosciences going on, a lot of science going on at the U of A and that helps with helping encourage some of these biosciences companies that are moving into the southern Arizona area to collaborate with the Universities. And the university starting to move into downtown area and open up down in that spot. They have got a lot more student-housing going up in the downtown area and that's really contributing to the revitalization of downtown.

Ted Simons: Where the University is focused you are seeing a little bit of life there, more growth, more things happening?

Jim Nintzel: Definitely. That's there's a lot going on in the downtown area. A lot of Renaissance happening. We have the new streetcar down there. We have a lot of new restaurants opening up down there but the student population is definitely bringing a different sort of vibe to the area.

Ted Simons: Before I let you go, final score of the game? The big game, what are you seeing?

Jim Nintzel: You know, our quarterback might be out. We might be in some trouble here. He may make an appearance if we are in trouble but I am going to say U of A by a touchdown.

Ted Simons: By a touchdown. Even with a reserve quarterback?

Jim Nintzel: By a touchdown with a reserve quarterback. Hometown pride, I got to lay it down.

Ted Simons: Good to see you again.

Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ted Simons: You, too.

Jim Nintzel:Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly;

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