County Conflict 

Newcomer Robert Robuck looks to upset incumbent Supervisor Ramón Valadez

Incumbent Ramón Valadez is facing a primary opponent with no political experience and little funding.

Nonetheless, fellow Democrat Robert Robuck is proving to be a formidable thorn in the side to the District 2 Pima County supervisor.

When Robuck first announced his intention to run against Valadez, his platform almost exclusively focused on the proposed Rosemont mine and the resulting water issues that homes in Sahuarita, including his own, could face as a result.

But along with Robuck's complaints about the mine have come accusations that Valadez isn't paying attention to his constituency beyond the city of South Tucson.

Robuck says that he called Valadez's office several times regarding Rosemont and sent Valadez information he'd researched on mining and water issues. However, Valadez has never called him back or written in reply, he says.

"I couldn't get past his secretary to talk to him," Robuck contends. "I called his office; not one return call. ... I was feeling he was not representing anyone. I went to such great lengths to inform people in Sahuarita how this could affect them. I went to five of six open houses, and never once did I see him at any of those. (Republican Supervisor) Ray Carroll is always there."

The next big campaign move from Robuck came at a press conference on June 24. Robuck passed out a packet of documents and e-mails from Pima County personnel regarding two different sets of funds given to the city of South Tucson for youth development programming--with no documentation on how the $200,000-plus was spent on youth programming.

Robuck also pointed out a potential conflict of interest between Valadez and Jennifer Eckstrom, the daughter of retired Supervisor Dan Eckstrom who works as Valadez's executive assistant: Eckstrom also happens to serve as mayor of South Tucson.

At the press conference, Robuck called on authorities to investigate.

Valadez blames Robuck's accusations on a smear campaign orchestrated by Ray Carroll.

"I think if you did a little more digging, you'll find that it comes down to one common denominator: It comes down to someone who wants to be chair of the board of supervisors," Valadez says of Carroll. "You'll find that he actually went out and recruited people to run against me."

Valadez says he recognizes that he has critics within the Democratic Party, but responds that his seven years in the state Legislature and five years as a supervisor show a strong record of supporting and pushing for Democratic issues.

"None of these people criticized me then," Valadez says about his days in the Legislature. "It's only because I didn't agree with them that they began to criticize me."

The focus of this criticism stems from the election-integrity lawsuit filed by the Pima County Democratic Party. Valadez and fellow Democrat Sharon Bronson--who is also facing primary opposition--voted consistently to prevent the party from receiving the elections database files it requested, forcing the party to take the county to court.

"You have to understand that it is our job to ... make sure there's integrity, that there's openness and transparency, and that every vote gets counted. There's not anyone on the board who would argue against not allowing every vote to be counted."

Achieving that transparency is difficult, Valadez says. He says the database files provide information that could help people forge ballots. He also says that a legal judgment was the only way to proceed because of the actions of Secretary of State Jan Brewer.

Regarding South Tucson, Valdez claims the accusations made by Robuck are unethical and come straight out of Carroll's playbook.

"(Robuck) doesn't have an issue. He doesn't really have anything, so it's about going negative--because, frankly, that's his only tactic. It's about smearing my reputation," Valadez says. "If you take a look at that relationship (with South Tucson), that's a longstanding relationship going back years. There's a reason why there's a Sam Lena Library, for Pete's sake. This is not a new relationship under my watch."

Valadez also points out that South Tucson remains a city with high poverty and crime.

"You know, if someone wants to attack me for keeping youth off the street and for providing them with activities that are productive, go for it, because I am very happy to keep those programs going," Valadez says.

Valadez says his focus is to remind constituents that he has helped cultivate positive working relationships with the city of Tucson, which will help Pima County strengthen regional planning efforts, possibly including a water authority.

Valadez also points out that his District 2 roots go back a long way: He grew up in South Tucson.

"You know, I was born here. I went to school here, and I will live the rest of my life here, so there's a certain level of accountability that is only engendered to people who are born and raised and intend to live their life out here," he says.

Robuck is from Sacramento and moved to Southern Arizona with his family about four years ago, building a house near the pecan groves in Sahuarita. (His wife, however, is from Tucson; they returned to build a home and be closer to her family, he says.)

Robuck says what he may be missing in political experience is overcome by a tenacious streak that helped the former mechanic go back to college at the age of 33 in 1995 and get an associate's degree in business from Sacramento City College. He went on to get his business-administration degree from California State University at Sacramento.

In 2001, Robuck interviewed with E*TRADE, along with 900 other recent graduates.

"I was one of 14 individuals hired as a new college associate in 2001. I was the oldest college associate ever hired by E*TRADE. I was 39," Robuck says.

Now 46, Robuck says that even if he doesn't win against Valadez this year, he plans to remain part of the political scene in Tucson, and run again in four years.

"I believe (Valadez) has forgotten who he represents. I want to represent the people. I don't believe that because I'm a newcomer, I can't win. I do believe if I am elected, the public will be able to get hold of me. I'll do a better job," Robuck says.

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