It was a dramatic final week in the Project White House competition, with four of the candidates--Republican Charles Skelley and Democrats Chuck See, Libby "Doctress Neutopia" Hubbard and Peter "Simon" Bollander--meeting in a debate that covered the hot-button issues of 2008: immigration, climate change and UFOs.
But it was the very first YouTube question, asked by Max Cannon of Tucson, that may have best illustrated the difference between the candidates.
Cannon's query: "My mailbox was knocked over. I want to know what the candidates are going to do about postal vandalism."
Neutopia said that in her new arcologies, or cities of tomorrow, there would no longer be a need for mailboxes, because everyone would have e-mail.
Bollander said he would not eliminate the mailbox, but instead crack down on postal vandals with a new crime-fighting initiative that would identify and incarcerate vandals.
"I've put a lot of thought into his subject, and it tells me you don't eliminate mailboxes," Bollander said. "You attack the problem by looking through records ... and put away people."
Skelley vowed to privatize the U.S. Postal Service so that postal vandalism would no longer be a federal issue.
"We can make this a topic of the past by turning the whole project over to Fed Ex," Skelley said.
See called for Americans to return to the days when they looked out for each other.
"A lot of what we've lost in getting away from our neighborhoods is that we don't look over other people's property," See said. "I would like a rebuilding of neighborhoods in the inner city."
The complete debate will continue to repeat over the next week on Access Tucson and is now available on the Project White House YouTube channel. (Details below.)
It has been a dynamic month since we launched projectwhitehouse08.com, the Web site where candidates in our Reality Journalism competition have waged much of their campaigns.
More than two dozen of the 48 candidates on Arizona's Democratic and Republican presidential-primary ballots answered our call to compete in Project White House. The campaign process is a grueling one; not every candidate made it to the finish line in Project White House. But we'd like to salute those who did and, in the process, secured their place in history.
Since the beginning of the year, we've met many new political contenders, from Democrat Sandy Whitehouse, who called for the repeal of the 1872 Mining Act to prevent the destruction of the Santa Rita Mountains and other threatened landscapes across America, to Republican Michael Shaw, whose calls to us seemed to always end in some kind of a plea for a campaign contribution.
With so many candidates running so many good campaigns, it was no easy task to decide on the winners for Project White House.
Before we get to our choices, we'd like to announce the winners of the Tucson Weekly Readers' Presidential Endorsement. While the Tucson Weekly acted as a sort of electoral college by making our endorsements no matter what our readers' input was, we did offer readers a chance to weigh in via an online vote.
Democrat Leland Montell proved himself to be a sleeping giant. While we didn't see much of him on the campaign trail, when it came time to organize voters, Montell was unstoppable. His votes poured in from across the globe, allowing him to capture 49 percent of the vote in the Tucson Weekly Readers' Presidential Endorsement contest.
Montell, who has worked with the Peace Corps around the world, has vowed to end the war in Iraq, tackle global warming, repair the nation's reputation abroad, improve education and reform immigration policies.
He also promised: "I will never lie to the American people." Republican Frank McEnulty is actually running a presidential campaign as an independent, but decided to run on the GOP ticket in the Arizona primary. McEnulty, of Los Alamitos, Calif., has declared himself "completely and utterly disgusted with both political parties in the country."
He insists that he's got a viable chance as an outsider to capture the public's imagination--and he proved that he's got what it takes by winning 64 percent of the vote in the race for the Tucson Weekly Readers' Presidential Endorsement.
Win or lose in Arizona on Feb. 5, the McEnulty campaign will go on. Track his progress at frankforpresident.org.
Now for the Tucson Weekly's Presidential Endorsement:
On the Democratic side, four candidates reached the top tier. Sandy Whitehouse had two great strengths: her last name and her position at the top of the Democratic ballot. While we agreed with Whitehouse's platform, it was a little too limited to win our contest, although we give her high marks for producing a sharp bumper sticker with her slogan: "Whitehouse in the White House '08."
Peter "Simon" Bollander created an extensive platform, but his lack of computer skills kept him from fully competing in the Project White House challenges. Still, Bollander put a lot of heart into his campaign. We get the feeling we haven't seen the last of him, especially since he's already talking about his 2012 run.
Libby "Doctress Neutopia" Hubbard was a whirling dervish on the campaign trail, delivering televised messages that included cutting up an American flag and sparring with Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup. But Neutopia's vision of a future in which we would no longer be able to take our auto out for a weekend jaunt didn't win us over.
Our pick went to Chuck See, an aerospace engineer at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
See's platform called for a better tomorrow by addressing the problems of today. As he put it:
"We have the power to fix our world. Right now, we can put everyone to work doing meaningful tasks at a reasonable wage. We can grow enough food to feed everyone. We have the capital to build efficient machines and factories and adopt renewable resources. We can repair our laws. We can elevate our educational system. We can build a better world."
But it was See's final address to voters during our debate that won him our support:
"I'm not sure you should vote for me," said See, humble to the end. "You should vote for the person who's going to represent you best in government. ... You should vote for people who care about people and who care about this country."
On the Republican side, we nearly had to give the nod to Charles Skelley, who proposed a number of economic reforms aimed at dealing with the nation's spending crisis.
But ultimately, we decided our support had to go to Sean "CF" Murphy, the GOP candidate with one good eye to look over America.
Murphy told the American people that he would take whatever stance he needed in order to win their vote. In his campaign ads, now showing on YouTube, Murphy showed us he was ready to take on anyone who stood in his way, from Mitt Romney to Chuck Norris. And he was willing to offer any promise, including granting citizenship to Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson, in exchange for support.
In short, Murphy was willing to say or do anything to get elected. And isn't that what we're looking for in a president?