The Big Race Locally Is The District 4 supervisors' Trunk-'N'-Tusk Tussle.
By Chris Limberis
THIS IS WHAT Raymond Carroll wanted all along. An election for the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Four years ago, Carroll switched stripes. He jumped from the Democratic Party of his Chicago family and upbringing to the GOP of his new family and his Tucson Country Club neighborhood. Carroll was peddling leases and property in industrial areas for Grubb & Ellis Commercial Real Estate when he began to toy with politics. He saw an opportunity to take out Paul Marsh, the enfeebled Republican whose tax and budget cuts never reached promised levels and whose allegiance to reckless Republican Ed Moore alienated vast portions of eastside and Green Valley District 4.
John Even, a lawyer and real-estate investor who earned high marks for lifting Pima Community College from near collapse brought on by corrupt leadership, stole the show from young Ray. Even jumped in and quickly ended Marsh's political career. But Even was sick. And non-Hodgkins lymphoma would kill him four months into his term.
Carroll voted for Even. Now, as he did through last year's contentious appointment process, he faces as his chief rival Even's widow, Brenda. Add accountant Ken Marcus, who also sought the appointment last year.
Tuesday's election will quite likely give Carroll or one of his two opponents the remaining two years on John Even's term. Democrats, who have never held the District 4 since it was created in a board expansion 16 years ago, didn't even find a candidate. But Libertarian Gay Lynn Goetzke, who alternately provided hokey and refreshing moments as a candidate for Tucson mayor in 1991, has announced she'll challenge the Republican winner.
Although her common-sense observations will have some appeal, Goetzke will have a tough go in the November 3 general election. Republicans dominate District 4 with 49 percent of the total 96,338 voters. There are 879 Libertarians. And Goetzke, not unlike Even and Marcus, lost a weapon in the battle against Carroll when he voted against three ordinances that would have further regulated development on lands near national parks and other preserves, on hillsides and near washes.
Carroll points to his votes on several zoning issues and other land-use matters to help him keep the "green" he was colored when he won the appointment last year.
Carroll, 36, will be hoping to buck part of District 4 history. Voters rejected an appointee, Pat Lopez, in 1984.
Carroll has reached one of his goals, in a fashion that has stunned some and angered his opponents. Through August 19, Carroll raced to raise $92,005. He spent $69,899. Early in the campaign, Carroll pledged to limit his campaign to $96,338, or $1 per voter. Good thing his big-buck buddies made up for all the dollar bills he failed to get from average District 4 voters.
Even's backers and Marcus complained Carroll was a heavy-handed incumbent whose forces were too aggressive. Carroll dismisses it as sour grapes.
It's clear, though, that Even and her campaign officials were overwhelmed by Carroll's money machine. It was surprising. Even was supposed to get the developer support that wound up with Carroll, and she lagged despite the presence of supposedly powerful fundraiser Jim Click Jr. Even raised $52,149 and spent $49,078.
Marcus had $12,828, but that includes $2,000 he gave to his campaign.
EVEN, 59, HAS touted her experience, eight years on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board and nearly 30 years of work in education and community groups. It's the TUSD experience, however, that can cause her problems, although a big chunk of the District 4 vote--in Green Valley--is well outside TUSD. In a tax-and-budget-conscious district that also wants plenty of services, the TUSD record is problematic. TUSD budgets rose from $209.8 million the year Even took her school board seat to $330.9 million this year. The current budget was passed without Even's support, but she made no effective move, on a board that is admittedly one of the worst in effectiveness and professionalism in town, to trim the budget.
Property taxes for TUSD have risen more than 40 percent since Even joined the TUSD board. In her eight years on there, Even has voted against three budgets. She was absent for budget approval in 1996.
One of TUSD's most controversial budget components, for desegregation, has jumped from less than $1 million to $42 million, including a $4 million increase this year. Even has gotten an earful from her own Republicans, including Chuck Josephson, at appearances. At one GOP function this summer she was asked why she didn't push for a full audit of the desegregation budget. She answered that she had and one was done. Asked later by The Weekly to produce the audit, Even balked. She has not provided a copy of the audit, which it turns out was a mere financial report or review.
Even's campaign was stacked with supporters who were there because of commitments they made to her late husband. It has been marred by her inability to answer questions on most county issues with any certainty. Her calls for "study" wore thin. And her campaign struggled with a dispute that cost her the services of the one of Tucson's best consultants, Alexis Thompson.
Carroll helped trim county spending slightly last year, but spending, inflated by the success of two county bond elections last year, hit a record $744 million. Carroll dissented on the budget but blew his chance to object to the county's slight tax increase--$6 for a $100,000 home--by not demanding separate action on the tax rates and levies on August 17.
LIKE EVEN, MARCUS, 39, has tried to "out-Republican" Carroll. With his underfunded campaign, Marcus has taken a page from Marsh's successful plan in 1992. He has walked. Walked. And walked. He's had the time. His job as finance manager at Bell & Howell Cope, which shut down Tucson operations, is nearly over.
Marcus's fiscal platform involves many issues that have long been settled--the nearly $40 million spring-training complex for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, the $350 million bond issue for transportation improvements, and a disputed, long-term debt at Kino Community Hospital.
Although most political veterans are predicting a low turnout election on September 8, District 4 voters may buck the trend. Already, more than 6,000 Republicans have requested early ballots, up from 4,855 absentee requests in 1996.
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