If John McCain thought he was running against a young 'un in last year's race against Barack Obama, wait until he sees the guy some Democrats say might take him on next year for the U.S. Senate.

There's talk that Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman — a 31-year-old hyper-energetic first-term council member — could very well carry the flag for Dems in a race many see as a cinch for ol' Mac.

Seems that Glassman, with his eyes on a higher prize than representing Tucson's Ward 2, has two main options before him should he choose to run for statewide office in 2010.

Initially, Glassman's quest seemed to be for secretary of state, the state's No. 2 office and a steppingstone to the governor's office for many of its holders.

But lately the talk is all about this rising star challenging McCain, a fourth-term incumbent and former presidential candidate.

Why? Well, the theory is that Glassman, whose family owns a successful fertilizer business in Fresno, would have one big advantage over other Democrats — namely, money. Plenty of it.

And Democrats generally think McCain's national ambitions and his recent voting record, like opposing Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, will catch up with him in a growing, heavily Hispanic state like Arizona.

Of course, that ignores the fact that McCain carried the state in last year's presidential election by nine points. And sorry, but Glassman isn't exactly Obama. Republicans say many Arizonans — particularly Democrats and independents — may not have wanted McCain to be president.

But they may be just fine with him as our senior senator.


Realists submit this: So Glassman runs and loses. So what? Even if he does just OK, he's still in his early 30s and could find himself showered with national coverage of the race.

It's a roll of the dice. See, that theory relies on Glassman, unknown to most Arizonans west of Craycroft Road, not getting pummeled.

Glassman himself has been mum about his plans. He says he's focused on his job on the council — but he won't commit to serving out his full term.

But he's not too focused on his council job, considering he's been out of town for the last two months learning to become a lawyer in the Air Force Reserve, and isn't expected back for another two months.

He did not return calls from Notebook on Friday.

But don't be shocked if sometime over the next few months you see the launch of a Glassman campaign of some kind.

It may just be a matter of filling in the blank.

Pitchforks and torches

Southern Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has a new loyal following — but not the one she probably hoped for when she ran for office in 2006.

Conservative activists, opposed to the Democrats' health-care proposals, are jumping at the chance to confront the second-term Democrat and vent their frustrations.

But for now, Giffords is not interested in engaging with people who her staff says are using "manipulation" and "racism" to spread their message.

"Yelling and screaming is counterproductive," she told the Sierra Vista Herald at a Congress on Your Corner event last week. There, one visitor dropped a gun at the meet 'n' greet held in a Douglas Safeway, her staff says.

That has aides, who called police to the event, concerned for her safety.

"We have never felt the need before to notify law enforcement when we hold these events," said spokesman C.J. Karamargin.

Such activists are showing up at Democratic events coast to coast, including a recent one held by Northern Arizona congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.

But the leader of the Tucson movement, Trent Humphries, a former legislative candidate, says Giffords is lying. He says his followers have no intention of hurting her. And they're not racists, he said.

"Nobody is threatening Gabby," Humphries said. "But she does need to get in front of her constituents and answer to her constituents."

Her staff says she's done that.

Before this organized movement against Democrats started, Giffords held a health-care town hall early this summer that drew more than 1,000 people.

And just this month she held a tele-town hall, with 5,000 invited guests from her district on the line.

The more important point? What Giffords actually decides to do if there's a vote on health-care reform. Despite Humphries' claims that Giffords supports the Democratic reforms, she's stopped short of saying that.

It's that vote that could determine whether this frantic crowd — or angry health-care reformers in her own party — are the ones following this Blue Dog around T-town.

A bundle of bills

A review by the Arizona Capitol Times found state Rep. Jonathan Paton, a Tucson Republican, had more legislation signed into law this year than any other member of the Legislature. Fourteen bills.

Whether that's a good thing … guess that depends on who you talk to.

Democrats are livid over legislation that shakes up the city's election system.

Republicans, meanwhile, are dreaming about putting Paton in Congress.

Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 307-4339 or dscarpinato@azstarnet.com