President Bush will come to Arizona July 18 to help Senate President Tim Bee raise money for his congressional race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
A photocopy of the invitation obtained by the ~Arizona Capitol Times~ states that the event will be held at the home of Jackie and William Bell in Tucson. It will be hosted by local Republican bigwigs, including: auto dealer Jim Click; former president of the National Rifle Association Sandy Froman; real estate developer Duff Hearon, and Carondelet Foundation CEO Jannie Cox.
Bee's campaign refused to confirm or deny the fundraiser.
The money raised at the event will be divided between the Bee campaign, the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and the Pima County Republican Party.
News of the fundraiser surfaced several days after former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe announced he would stop campaigning for Bee.
"I will not be actively campaigning for Bee," Kolbe told the ~Sierra Vista Herald~ on July 3.
Political observers speculated that Bee's decision to shepherd the passage of the ballot measure to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman might have been the reason for Kolbe's departure.
The fact that neither Kolbe nor Bee's campaign provided specific reasons for Kolbe's decision has bolstered that perception.
Kolbe, a Republican who represented Arizona's Eighth Congressional District from 1985 until 2005, announced that he was gay in 1996.
Dunn would only say Kolbe left the campaign for "personal reasons."
Bee was a sponsor of the original Senate bill in January to ban gay marriage through a constitutional amendment.
If the speculation is correct, then even Bee's apparent reluctance to bring the marriage amendment forward was not enough to retain Kolbe's support.
Bee opposed the tactics used by his party to force the vote on the marriage proposal on the final night of the 2008 session, and he even voted against some procedural motions meant to cut off debate and to move ahead with the vote on the ballot measure.
Bee's explanation of his "yes" vote on SCR1042 clearly outlined his disappointment in the way that it was pushed to the forefront by lobbyists:
"This issue has permeated this session and has been very divisive. I have been extremely disappointed by those groups lobbying on behalf of this issue. They have confronted members in hostile ways, and have threatened and coerced them in my opinion."
After concluding work at the Capitol on June 27, Bee immediately turned his attention to another deadline: the June 30 Federal Election Commission finance reporting deadline.
His campaign fired off successive letters June 30 asking supporters for small contributions.
Tom Dunn, a spokesman with the Bee campaign, said Bee has had "no break whatsoever," transitioning from legislative work to campaign work.
"The best way to campaign for a new job is (to do) a good performance on your old job," Dunn said, indicating Bee's legislative achievements will be a key feature on the campaign stump.
Bee raised $467,000 in the first quarter of this year, with $525,000 cash on hand at the end of that reporting period. He raised nearly as much as Giffords, who reported contributions of about $472,000 for the same period.
But Giffords, who has proven to be an effective fundraiser, was way ahead in cash on hand – she had $1.67 million at the end of that period. Observers say Bee is unlikely to catch up to Giffords' campaign chest.