Who knows what would have happened at the "Dump Dupnik" rally if there hadn't been yellow police tape separating those supporting a recall effort against Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, and those supporting Dupnik and the sentiments he shared during the now-famous Jan. 8 press conference?
If you showed up to the Friday, Jan. 28, rally with your cleverly worded "Dope Nik" cardboard sign, there's no way you were going to get close to Dupnik's Benson Highway office. Tucson police blocked both gates, and both supporters and critics of the sheriff were relegated to a patch of dirt on the corner of Benson Highway and Fair Street next to the sheriff's department headquarters.
Surveying the scene of about 200 people—evenly split between the two groups—were Dan Baltes and Tony Venuti. Baltes, an anti-immigration Salt Lake City resident who founded Americans Against Immigration Amnesty (noimmigrationamnesty.com), is leading the effort to recall Dupnik (recalldupnik.com). Venuti, publisher of AZ Tourist News, helped organize the rally and is aiding Baltes with the recall effort.
When asked to comment, Venuti left that to Baltes, who said recall papers were filed in Pima County on Monday, Jan. 24, and that volunteers started gathering signatures the next day.
Critics have pointed out the irony that the recall effort isn't coming from local folks, but rather from someone from a neighboring state.
"Well, La Raza isn't from Tucson, and they do work down here," Baltes said.
What's La Raza?
"The National Council of La Raza," Baltes answered. "The Service Employees International Union, SEIU, isn't from Tucson, but they do business here as well. They are a national organization, just as I am. Just because my headquarters happens to be in Salt Lake City does not prevent me from representing our members in Arizona and Pima County, and that is to support the kind of work we do."
Baltes said his recall attempt is like a grassroots effort, because there's a "local organizational structure for the political committee to make sure it is done in Tucson, because ultimately, it is up to the citizens of Tucson."
A table on the Dump Dupnik side was set up to collect recall signatures. Three days after the rally, Baltes reported that 9,431 signatures have been collected so far, and $765 has been donated to the cause.
"That's going to pay for a lot of copies," Baltes said, referring to the number of petition pages needed to collect the 90,000-plus valid signatures he needs.
In a Democratic-leaning county, it may be a challenge to unseat Dupnik, whose call for the nation to do a little "soul-searching" has evidently struck a nerve. Dupnik, who has been Pima County's sheriff since 1980, received 235,087 votes and 65 percent of the vote against GOP challenger Harry Shaw in 2008.
When asked if the real motivation behind the recall is Dupnik's outspoken opinions on SB 1070—Dupnik is not a fan, and has gone so far as to call the law "racist"—Baltes said he had no idea who Dupnik was before he heard the sheriff's comments after the Jan. 8 shootings.
"I didn't know anything about him. ... (Immigration is) kind of a side issue. We work more federally on immigration (issues)," Baltes said. "Our position is that if the sheriff says he's not going to enforce the law, he's the problem of the governor and the attorney general."
The Ward 1 Democratic primary for the Tucson City Council is turning into a crowded affair, with incumbent Regina Romero now possibly facing two opponents as she seeks a second term this year.
We mentioned last week that Joe Flores, a businessman, wants a shot at Romero. We spoke briefly to Flores earlier this week, and he appears to be a bit media shy. Flores declined to answer any questions and told us we'd have to get any biographical information—like, for example, what he does for a living—from his campaign chairman, longtime political activist and business lobbyist Jesse Lugo.
Lugo—who is probably best known around the community for his efforts to give away hundreds of bikes to kids for Christmas—let us know he'd be sending information about Flores in a few days.
Another Democrat, Marcia Ortega, filed paperwork to launch a campaign in Ward 1 last week.
"I've always wanted to make a difference in our community," says Ortega. "There need to be a lot of changes in my ward. ... It's not about what I want and my ideas. It's about what the people want. I want to listen to their ideas and advocate for them."
Ortega, a 35-year-old Tucson native, works as employment and vocational director for COPE Community Services, a nonprofit organization that helps people deal with mental illness and recover from substance abuse.
"I help people recover through obtaining and maintaining meaningful employment in our community," Ortega says. "A lot of our members at COPE are on the road to recovery, and they want to get back out in the community, and they want to work. My job is to help them obtain that employment."
No Republicans have filed to run in Ward 1 yet.
Meanwhile, Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott has filed to run for a fifth term, setting up a contest between her and Mike Jenkins, an auto mechanic who has previously run for the City Council, the Arizona Legislature and U.S. Congress.
In last week's roundup of funds to aid and honor the victims of the Jan. 8 shooting rampage that claimed six lives and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others wounded, we neglected to mention the Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Fund, which has reached $25,000 in donations, says Sara Wright, of Child and Family Resources in Tucson.
The organization started the memorial fund at the request of Zimmerman's family on Jan. 13, five days after the Safeway shooting in which Zimmerman lost his life. While working as "the constituent whisperer" for Giffords' office, Zimmerman also served on the board for Child and Family Resources, Wright says.
If you'd like to donate, contact Colleen Bagnall, community development director for Child and Family Resources, at 321-3778, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, donations have pushed the Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship Fund at the University of California at Santa Cruz over the $30,000 mark, up from last week's reported amount of $20,000, says Jonathan Klein, a UC Santa Cruz alum and co-creator of the fund.
The fund needs to reach $50,000 for endowment at UC Santa Cruz, Zimmerman's alma mater.
"We're getting there," Klein says. "I'm very hopeful we'll make it."
The Community Food Bank now has $125,000 in donations made in Giffords' name, up from $92,000 last week, while the Southern Arizona chapter of the American Red Cross has collected $72,000, up from $50,000.
You can find details on how to contribute to all of these funds, and the others that have been set up, at The Range, our daily dispatch, at daily.tucsonweekly.com.
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