Sure, the latest antics of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are tough to turn away from. And the concerns that he could crash the world economy or launch nuclear missiles against Mexico City are legit.
But here's the deal: Some of these local races have a whole lot more impact on your life than the president does.
While they may make for lousy water-cooler talk at work, local races are what really affect your lives: How the justice system works, when your potholes get filled, whether fat cats get tax cuts while schools face budget cuts. So while it's not as sexy as the Donald, it's worth your time to pay a little attention to local politics.
Before you dig in, a few notes:
• Register to vote in the Aug. 30 primary by Aug. 1. If you skip that, register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election by Oct. 10.
• We left out races for constable in this edition.
• There's more to come as deadlines approach for ballot initiatives and school board races, including the ever-controversial TUSD.
U.S. Sen. John McCain has said that this campaign will be the toughest of his career. McCain, who first won his Senate seat in 1986, remains determined at age 79 to win the chance of another six years in Washington.
What little public polling there is suggests he's right. A May poll by Public Policy Polling showed that McCain's approval rating was a dismal 34 percent, while 52 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the job he was doing.
Team McCain dismissed the poll results.
"We put zero stock in a partisan Democrat poll that is obviously aimed at boosting John McCain's opponents in the primary and general elections," said McCain Communications Director Lorna Romero. "And even if you took this bogus poll at face value, it actually shows McCain in a stronger position today than PPP's last poll, with his favorability up eight points since March."
Despite the lousy approval numbers in the PPP survey, the poll still showed McCain leading in both the primary and the general. Among GOP primary voters, McCain captured 39 percent, while former state lawmaker Kelli Ward was 26 percent, political rookie Alex Meluskey was at 4 percent and radio show host Clair Van Steenwick was at 2 percent. More than a fourth of those surveyed, 27 percent, remained undecided.
Provided McCain doesn't become another casualty of GOP primary politics, in the general election he'll have to face U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who has assembled the most legit challenge McCain has faced in decades. The PPP survey showed McCain leading Kirkpatrick, 42 percent to 36 percent.
Kirkpatrick has been barnstorming the state and had more than $1.3 million in the bank as of March 31. Still, that figure was a lot less than the more than $5.5 million McCain had at his disposal.
Libertarian Frank Tamburi is also in the race.
Congress, District 1
With Kirkpatrick challenging McCain, there's an open seat in Congressional District 1, the sprawling district that includes Oro Valley and parts of Pinal County on the southern end, Flagstaff and the Native American reservations on the northern end and a whole bunch of rural Eastern Arizona in between. The district leans Democratic based on the numbers, but this year, it promises to be Arizona's most competitive in November.
The idea of heading to Washington has proven especially appealing among the anti-Washington Republicans in District 1, with seven of them jumping into the GOP primary. You have:
• Former Arizona Senate president and Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
• Arizona Speaker of the House David Gowan, who ended up mired in scandal after he used a state car to drive around the massive district. The Arizona Capitol Times reported that not only did Gowan put more than 4,800 miles on a state car while tooling around District 1, but he also had to repay the state more than $10,000 for claiming personal mileage for the trip and other improper expenses. Gowan is promising to clean up government and stop unfair handouts to on-the-dole moochers.
• Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has his own share of scandals in his past to overcome, including news reports about an ex-lover who said the anti-illegal-immigration sheriff threatened to have him deported if he revealed that Babeu was gay and a scandal involving abuse of kids at a school Babeu managed in Massachusetts.
• Rancher, oilman and jack-of-all-trades Gary Kiehne, who came close to winning the 2014 GOP primary. While Kiehne hasn't raised a lot of money from donors, he is able to self-fund a campaign.
• State lawmaker Carlyle Begay made a big splash nationwide last year when he jumped from the Democratic Party to the GOP. While he could be an appealing candidate in a general election in a district where Democrats depend on the Native American vote, Begay still needs to find a path to victory in a crowded Republican field.
• Having lost her last bid for Congress against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2014, Air Force veteran Wendy Rogers has now set her sights on the crowded CD1 field.
• Political newcomer Shawn Redd is a Navajo businessman.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Tom O'Halleran, who served four terms in the Arizona Legislature as a Republican after first winning a seat in the House of Representatives. The former Chicago police officer built a moderate voting record while in the statehouse, which led to him being ousted in a 2008 primary. He tried again for a legislative seat as an independent in 2014, but lost that race and now has jumped to the Democratic Party.
Congressional District 2
Congresswoman Martha McSally didn't exactly win in a landslide—the final vote tally had her ahead of Democratic incumbent Ron Barber by 167 votes—but the former fighter pilot has become a star of the freshman class with plum committee assignments, national media appearances and her name on popular legislation that gets signed by the president, such as her recent bill to allow WWII-era female pilots to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
McSally has also been a national leader in fundraising, having more than $2.2 million in the bank for the race, as of March 31.
McSally kept her voting record conservative enough to avoid a primary challenge, but two Democrats are vying to the chance to challenge her in November.
Former state lawmaker Victoria Steele has landed endorsements from Congressman Raul Grijalva and other local Democrats, but she's struggled to raise enough money to run a credible race. At the end of March, Steele had less than $44,000 in the bank. Meanwhile, former state lawmaker Matt Heinz had more than $388,000 on hand.
In the hopes that the Trump brand proves toxic in November, both Democrats have tried to link McSally to the presumptive GOP nominee, but McSally has refused to endorse Trump, saying she will take up to six months to decide whether he will get her vote. That led to a Heinz press release that said McSally was "discovered to be last on planet to form (an) opinion."
Congressional District 3
In his solidly Democratic district, Congressman Raul Grijalva has drawn a token opposition in Republican rookie Edna San Miguel.
County Board of
Outside of the presidential race, nothing promises to provide more screwball moments as the races for Pima County Board of Supervisors, the five-member board that runs county government.
Over the last four years, board newcomer Ally Miller has been in more or less constant conflict with the other four board members, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and many members of the county staff.
Miller now hopes her efforts to, in her words, "damage the brand" of Pima County will pay off in November with the election of new board members who will see her way.
Here's how the races break down:
District 1: Miller won this Republican-leaning district, which includes the Catalina Foothills, Casas Adobes and the Oro Valley/Marana area, with 38 percent of the vote in a four-way GOP primary and 54 percent of the vote in the 2012 general election. Since taking office, her behavior can most kindly be described as erratic—she has made wild accusations that she can't back up, her management style has led to constant turnover among her staff; she has demanded investigations that go nowhere and she has called 911 to complain that a Tucson Weekly blog entry had put her life in danger (and asked if the 911 operator could have the story removed from TW's website). Most recently, her office has been linked to a faux news site that was purportedly planning to report on county issues.
Despite her wild ways, Miller has gathered support from members of the business community, led by real-estate broker Hank Amos, who see supporting her and her allies as the best way to bring a Republican revolution to Pima County politics.
Miller's opposition in the GOP primary is political rookie John Winchester, who works as outreach director for the AZ Center for Judaic Studies at the UA. Winchester has focused most of his campaign on Miller's temperament, saying that she is too combative to get anything done.
He also criticizes her opposition to many of the county's economic development efforts, such as the push to realign a road so that Raytheon can expand.
"Ally facilitates conflict," Winchester said. "A lot of people are asking me, 'Why are you running against another Republican?' Well, she's irrelevant. ... She preaches about wasteful spending, but she doesn't have any influence there. We need someone who can influence the county."
The winner of the GOP primary will face one of two Democrats who are in the race, Brian Bickel and Jeff Farrell.
District 2: Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez will face frequent call-to-the-audience airer of grievances Richard Hernandez, who is running as an independent in this heavily Democratic district that includes Tucson's southside and Sahuarita.
District 3: The linchpin of the plan to seize control of the board is in District 3, where Sharon Bronson is seeking a sixth term after two decades representing the largely rural district. While Democrats have the advantage, many of the rural Democrats and independents are conservative.
Bronson cites a number of wins in recent months, including the Caterpillar deal that is projected to bring 600 jobs to downtown. Last week, she voted to lower the county's property-tax rate after the county won a lawsuit against the state and reversed a law that shifted $18 million dollars from the state to the county budget.
"We're headed in the right direction," Bronson said. "We need to focus on economic development. It's what I've said since I was first elected and I think the momentum is with us and I want to keep it going and not reverse it."
Bronson's challenger is Kim DeMarco, a tight Miller ally who is campaigning on many of the same issues as the District 1 supervisor.
District 4: Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll is stepping down after nearly two decades representing Tucson's east side, the Tanque Verde Valley, Mount Lemmon, Green Valley and the Santa Rita Mountains. That leaves an open seat in this heavily GOP district.
Three Republicans are in the race: Retired car dealer Steve Christy, Navy vet Marla Closen and Air Force vet John Backer.
Christy has served on the steering group that successfully passed the Regional Transportation Authority and the State Transportation Board.
Closen, who launched her campaign more than a year ago, is positioning herself as the outsider who can bring a new perspective to the board. With the business community leaning in Christy's direction, Closen is presenting herself as the true anti-establishment candidate in the race.
Backer has experience in real-estate sales, computer programming and insurance sales.
The winner of the primary faces no opponent in the general election.
District 5: Incumbent Supervisor Richard Elias is facing a challenge from Green Party candidate Martin Bastidas.
County wide Races
County Sheriff: For the first time in 36 years, Clarence Dupnik's name will not appear on the ballot for Pima County Sheriff. But his hand-picked successor, Democrat Chris Nanos, will be seeking to win the seat he was appointed to by the Pima County Board of Supervisors when Dupnik stepped down last year.
Nanos will face the winner of the GOP primary, which pits Mark Napier against Terry Staten. Napier, who ran unsuccessfully against Dupnik in 2012, now works as an parking administrator at the UA. He is a veteran of the Tucson Police Department who has also worked in Glendale, Ariz.
Staten is a Pima County Sheriff's deputy who says that he can bring new leadership to the Sheriff's Department. After he started campaigning against Nanos, Nanos placed him on leave.
County Attorney Barbara LaWall, who was first elected to the job of Pima County's top prosecutor in 1996, is seeking yet another term at the top of the ticket.
"I have no idea what I would do if I retired," LaWall says. "I would have to find something else to engage me that would bring me the same kind of enjoyment." LaWall, who has rarely faced a tough challenge over the last two decades, may have her most legit challenger on her hands with Joel Feinman, a former public defender who has been aggressively campaigning against LaWall. Feinman says LaWall takes too many cases to trial and puts too many of the wrong people behind bars. LaWall maintains that she only targets the worst of the worst.
Feinman has been running an aggressive campaign. He's already dropped a mailer to Democratic households and has been working the phone bank at Pima County Democratic Party headquarters.
The winner of the Democrat primary will face Green Party candidate Cyndi Tuell in November.
Other Pima County Races
Pima County Assessor Bill Staples faces a Democratic challenger in Brian Johnson, a former employee of the Assessor's Office and current employee of the county administration who is unhappy with how Staples has managed his office. The winner of that race will face independent candidate Suzanne Droubie in November.
Pima County Superintendent of Schools is an open seat with the retirement of Linda Arzoumanian. Democrats Michael Gordy and Dustin Williams are vying for the chance to take on Republican Margaret Burkholder in November.
Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez faces Green Party candidate Mike Cease in November.
Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford is unopposed.
Justice of the Peace
The most high-profile Justice of the Peace race pits attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, against former state lawmaker Paula Aboud in Justice Precinct 6.
In other JP races: Three Democrats are facing off in Justice Precinct 2: Patrick Moran, Alfonso Ramirez and Erica Cornejo; in Justice Precinct 3, three Democrats are in the race: James W. Driscoll, Charlene Pesquiera and Priscilla Frisby; in JP District 9, Democrat Maria Felix is facing Green Party candidate Nancy Knox-Bierman; in JP District 10, Republicans Vince Roberts and Ron Newman.
Southern Arizona is home to two of the most competitive districts in the state—and a third district is sure to be competitive because even though it leans heavily Democratic, an underdog Republican will be defending the seat he captured in 2014.
District 2: Known as the "river district" because it stretches along the Santa Cruz River from downtown Tucson through Green Valley and Sahuarita before reaching Nogales and the border, District 2 should be easy picking for Democrats but Republican Chris Ackerley ran a successful campaign.
There are three Democrats battling for two seats in the primary: Incumbent Rosanna Galbadon is joined by Daniel Hernandez, the intern who rushed to Gabby Giffords side after a crazed gunman opened fire on her 2011 Congress on Your Corner, and Aaron Baumann, a UA law student who grew up in Nogales.
The Senate race pits Democratic Sen. Andrea Dalessandro against Republican challenger Shelley Kais, a local businesswoman who made a run against Martha McSally in the 2014 primary.
District 9: The District 9 House race pits incumbents Randy Friese and Matt Kopec against challenger Pamela Powers Hannley—but Kopec may not enjoy the full perks of incumbency since he was just appointed to the seat earlier this year by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to complete the term of Victoria Steele, who resigned to focus on her congressional run.
Friese is well known as the emergency-room doctor who worked to save many of the victims of Tucson's 2011 mass shooting. Kopec is a veteran of Tucson City Council races who now finds himself a candidate, while Powers Hannley has worked as an editor for the American Journal of Medicine and shared her lefty political views as the Tucson Progressive blogger.
The two winners of the primary will face Republican businesswoman Ana Henderson in the November general in the competitive district.
In the District 9 Senate race, Democratic Sen. Steve Farley is unopposed.
District 10: State Rep. Bruce Wheeler's retirement has drawn three Democrats into a race for two seats in the primary. State Rep. Stefanie Mach is seeking another term; Courtney Frogge, who has managed campaigns and worked for served on the board of Planned Parenthood, is making her first run for office, as is UA law professor Kirsten Engel, who has worked as an attorney for the EPA, the Sierra Club and the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
Republican Todd Clodfelter, who has sought the seat twice before in 2012 and 2014, is hoping that the third time will be the charm in this competitive district.
Democratic Sen. Dave Bradley has drawn a challenge from Republican newcomer Randall Phelps.
Other notes: District 11, packed with Republicans from Oro Valley, SaddleBrooke and points north into Maricopa, is tough territory for a Democrat. In the LD11 Senate race, Sen. Steve Smith is facing a challenge from Democrat Ralph Atchue. In the House, GOP State Reps. Mark Finchem and Vince Leach will face Democrat Corin Hammond in the November general.
In District 3, Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford and state Reps. Macario Saldate and Sally Ann Gonzales are all unopposed, except for Green Party hopeful Edward J. "Trey" Cizek III.
In District 14, which includes the far southeast side of Tucson as well as Sierra Vista and other Cochise County communities, state Reps. David Gowan and David Stevens are both termed out, so there are four new Republicans running: Becky Nutt, Drew John, Anthony Sizer and Dennis Barger. The two winners will face Democrats Mike Holmes and Jason Lindstrom in the November general.