Arizona Sen. John McCain has gotten plenty of favorable ink for allowing reporters to question him endlessly on his presidential campaign bus.

But one news organization has been notably shut out: the Arizona Republic, McCain's hometown paper. The senator has been feuding for years with the Phoenix newspaper, which has questioned whether he has the temperament to be president. Republic reporter Kris Mayes says she hasn't been allowed on the McCain campaign bus--not even the press bus that trails the candidate's "Straight Talk Express"--forcing her to chase him around. And she says McCain brushes off her questions in public settings.

"It would be nice for our readers to have our questions answered," Mayes said. "They're his constituents."

Dan Schnur, McCain's communications director, attributed the bus ban to an unspecified disagreement he's having with the paper's editor "that involves coverage and access." He said McCain has avoided questions from Mayes that "he considered inappropriate," such as her asking why, unlike most favorite-son presidential contenders, he isn't way ahead in Arizona.

The day after a Washington Post inquiry last week, the McCain camp allowed Mayes on the bus. "I realized it wasn't worth it," Schnur said.

Former Rep. Penny May Seek Senate Seat

In 1994, Rep. Timothy J. Penny, a Minnesota Democrat and deficit hawk, decided against running for reelection, citing his disappointment in the federal budget process as well as his desire for his children to know their home state. Six years later, he's likely going to make a comeback bid--this time for the Senate.

Penny is "gearing up and likely to file" with the Federal Election Commission this week to run for the Senate, according to a source familiar with his plans. "He's ready to get back in," another source said.

While there has been no recent poll showing how Penny would fare against incumbent Republican Sen. Rod Grams in an election matchup, a St. Cloud State University statewide survey last month that measured how warmly Minnesotans feel about their political leaders showed that Penny would be the best-liked potential Democratic-Farmer-Labor challenger against Grams. Minnesota first lady Terry Ventura and Penny tied for first place at 60 percent, while Grams received a rating of 46 percent, the second-lowest score among the 14 people tested--1 point ahead of President Clinton.

Penny, now a fiscal policy fellow for the Cato Institute, was known in the House as a moderately conservative, blunt-talking Democrat, a maverick who had compiled a strong record of fiscal activism.

So why would he want to come back? According to one supporter, "He's an independent-minded person. The Senate is a better place to operate as such."

Staff writer Judy Sarasohn contributed to this report.