Clash Of The Titans
Democrat Sharon Bronson, Republican Vicki Cox-Golder and Supervisor Ed Moore Prepare To Go Head-To-Head.
By Jim Nintzel
ON PAPER, REPUBLICAN Vicki Cox-Golder should never have had this much trouble in the District 3 primary.
On election day, Cox-Golder, a 45-year-old real estate broker who is seeking to topple three-term Supervisor Ed Moore, had nearly every advantage over opponent Ann Holden. Eight years on the Amphi School Board had given her name recognition in the district. Endorsements from both dailies and Republican heavy hitters like U.S. Sen. John McCain and Congressman Jim Kolbe should have shored up party support.
Cox-Golder also had an eight-to-one fundraising advantage; her campaign warchest exceeded $50,000, while Holden, a 42-year-old accountant, had only about $6,000 to spend.
Despite all her advantages, Cox-Golder squeaked by Holden with only 422 votes. She'll now face Democrat Sharon Bronson and incumbent Ed Moore in the November 5 general election, which promises to be the most volatile race in Pima County.
"We were very happy to see an extremely narrow victory. It pretty well shows what kind of chance she has in the general," says Moore, who mass-mailed a campaign letter to high-propensity GOP voters just days before the election which attempted to link Cox-Golder to land deals with narcotic traffickers. (Cox-Golder denounced the mailer as "mudslinging.")
By Moore's calculation, "If she gets 100 percent of the Republicans, 50 percent of the independents and 20 percent of the Democrats, she could win. There are Republicans and Democrats who are backing me, so it's going to be a horse race."
Even Cox-Golder admits she was surprised at Holden's performance.
"I didn't think it would be so close," Cox-Golder says. "I think some of Ed Moore's cronies--zealots, I would call them, Ed Moore zealots--were out voting en masse for Ann."
Republican Lan Lester, who supported the Holden ticket, disagrees. He says Holden's support came from Republicans who've had enough of uncontrolled growth in northwestern Pima County and see Cox-Golder as another cog in the developers' political machine.
"I think our message was right, I think we were in a position for a surprise upset," says Lester, who believes a sympathetic backlash from the Moore hit piece pushed Cox-Golder over the top. Lester carries a lot of weight in District 3. He heads up the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Development, an umbrella group of about a dozen homeowner associations, and serves as chair of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson. He says he's already decided which candidate to support in November.
"I don't know if I have any choice," says Lester, who was recently appointed to the Pima County bond committee by Moore. "I think I have no alternative but to support Bronson. The issues are the important thing, not what party they belong to."
Cox-Golder concedes that "green Republicans" in District 3 will support Bronson, an accountant and longtime neighborhood activist. Bronson herself is even more optimistic.
"We'll capture 20 percent of the Republicans, depending on what the wild card guy does--in which case he captures them, which gives no advantage to Vicki," Bronson predicts.
"I think Vicki should be real worried," Lester says. "The base that she has is the big money base. I'm a precinct committeeman and I'm going to break with her."
But while the Holden campaign was successful in focusing the primary debate on growth, both Bronson and Cox-Golder agree that crime--particularly juvenile crime--will be the most vital issue in the general campaign.
"Vicki and I have reached similar conclusions that crime seems to be perhaps most the important issue in every region in the district," says Bronson. "Certainly juvenile crime is on everybody's mind in the district. How the three candidates approach that in the general will be a good part of how people decide how to vote."
While both Moore and Cox-Golder won't reveal their campaign strategies, Bronson says she's going to do "the same thing I've done since 1967--walk, talk, we're going to set up neighborhood meetings. We're proceeding apace and on schedule."
Moore, who decided to run as an independent rather than face Cox-Golder in the primary, says all the reports of his demise are, as they say, greatly exaggerated. Although he doesn't have the backing of either party, Moore's controversial tenure on the board has given him perhaps the best name recognition of any politician in Pima County.
"The more you guys and the Star and Citizen hit me, the better off I am," he says.
Moore, who says the election is a referendum on his performance in office, is confident he'll be returned to office in November.
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