The Name Of The Game...

YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD the Ronstadt name.

Surely Linda's name rings a bell. For decades, the Old Pueblo's first lady of song has thrilled America's boomer generation with her crystalline vocals.

The Ronstadt family's roots in Pima County run back a century, when Linda's grandfather immigrated from Mexico and opened a hardware store in the developing town of Tucson.

Feature The name is well-known around City Hall, too. From 1981 to 1992, Peter Ronstadt served as Tucson's chief of police. His cousin Jim Ronstadt still heads the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

Now Jim's son, Fred Ronstadt, has stepped into public life. A 34-year-old financial analyst with a local HMO, Ronstadt is the Republican candidate facing Democrat Alison Hughes and Libertarian Dan Starr Dougherty in the November 4 general election for the Ward 6 City Council seat being vacated by the retiring Molly McKasson.

Ronstadt is squeezing the family name for as much mileage as he can--an early campaign flier even carried the slogan, "With a name like Ronstadt, he's got to be good!"

"Something my dad and my family has installed in my heart is that the most noble thing you can do is serve," Ronstadt says. "From growing up and watching my dad make pancakes at the pancake breakfast at church, all the way to the things he's able to do now in his position as a civic leader with the Centurions and the Conquistadors."

But in Alison Hughes, Ronstadt is facing an opponent who has her own record of political activism in Tucson, dating back more than a quarter-century.

An administrator with the UA Rural Health Service, the 57-year-old Hughes found herself drawn into politics almost as soon as she emigrated to the United States from her native Scotland. A young lass of 19, she came to attend school in the Washington, D.C., area. It was 1959, and she recalls Republican friends tried to recruit her to support Barry Goldwater.

"I was new and watching everything in the United States and I really liked what John F. Kennedy was saying," Hughes remembers. "It touched my heart through and through and I thought, 'No, I couldn't be a Republican.' "

When Hughes moved to Tucson in 1970, "It was love at first sight." She soon got involved in local government, working with the Democratic Party, political campaigns, neighborhood associations, minority groups, women's organizations and a host of other civic-minded causes. Along the way, she's built a solid political base which helped her pull off an underdog victory against four other Democrats in the September primary.

Given the registration advantage Democrats enjoy citywide--there are more than 129,000 Democrats and fewer than 84,000 Republicans--Hughes is considered the favorite. As of October 6, she'd raised more than $55,000, including $25,000 in taxpayer matching dollars, which has funded a well-run campaign.

Ronstadt's campaign, meanwhile, is struggling for attention. As election day approaches, he's reported raising only about $15,000--and he still hadn't secured his eligibility for matching funds, although he did apply for the dollars on October 9. His campaign still hasn't struck a chord with either the media or the public.

So last week, Fred Ronstadt did what so many Americans do these days: He filed a lawsuit.

RONSTADT'S SUIT DEMANDED the city stop distributing this year's voter-information packet until they removed former Pima County Supervisor Ed Moore's argument on Proposition 201, the contentious developer-backed initiative that would overturn the Water Consumer Protection Act, an initiative passed by more than 56 percent of the voters after a bitter battle just two years ago.

Moore, who worked to pass the Water Consumer Protection Act in 1995, had written a satirical argument favoring its repeal.

"Prop 201 may not be perfect; but if it's bad for families, homes and children, at least it will be good for builders and developers, who'll be able to build a lot more subdivisions," Moore wrote. "Prop 201 will bring CAP river water right back to our homes, and isn't that a fair price to pay for growth, development and progress."

Ronstadt, represented by the high-priced, high-powered law firm Lewis & Roca (which has contributed at least $1,000 to a campaign supporting Prop 201), complained Moore's argument should have been included in the anti-201 portion of the ballot pamphlet.

"I see it as more than a rhetorical device, because a lot of people rely on the information they receive in the mail," says Ronstadt, who explains he supports the initiative because it gives the City Council greater flexibility to develop water policy. "This is information coming directly from the City Clerk's Office. A lot of people in Tucson aren't up on the issues, and this a tool they use to help them decide how to vote.

"It just incensed me that instead of educating the public, that we're playing games with the public and confusing the public. And according to Ed Moore and Terry Pollock and Bob Beaudry, that's okay."

While Moore dismissed Ronstadt's lawsuit as a desperate act of a struggling campaign (calling it "the last act of a dying campaign, sort of like a guppy out on the ground"), the City Attorney's Office found itself in the unusual position of defending Moore's right to free speech and political expression.

On Monday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Veliz ruled Moore's satirical argument should have been labeled a statement against the proposition, rather than in favor of it. The City Attorney's Office appealed the ruling, which was scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, October 22. Meanwhile, the voter information packets continued to sit in a warehouse as election day approached.

Ronstadt had hoped the suit would help him position himself against Hughes, who opposes the initiative.

"It ties into Alison Hughes, because her biggest financial supporters have been Bob Beaudry, his family and his employees," Ronstadt says. "Terry Pollock is her advertising person."

Hughes, whose $55,095 warchest has come from a wide range of contributors, received $2,700 from Beaudry, his family, his employees and Pollock in the final days of the Democratic primary, allowing her to finance a last-minute ad blitz that helped her capture 35 percent of the vote in the five-candidate race.

Hughes has opposed the water initiative since she launched her campaign.

"We have an issue of public trust," says Hughes. "The public voted for Prop 200 (in 1995). They had a bad experience with CAP water and they've lost trust over that issue. To support Prop 201 is challenging public trust. How can you do that to the public who voted to say, 'No, enough--we must make the City Council accountable for the water. We want decent, clean, affordable, dependable, good-tasting water.' And then somebody puts an initiative on the ballot that says, 'Well, the public didn't know what they were taking about.' "

When they're not talking about the water initiative, Hughes and Ronstadt have found common ground on water policy. Both would vote to discontinue the current study of options to privatize the management of Tucson Water, a pet project of Mayor George Miller. (Councilmen Steve Leal and José Ibarra and Councilman-elect Jerry Anderson also oppose to the study, which could mean it will come to an end when the new council is seated in December.)

Hughes says she'd like to see CAP water used on golf courses, parks, farms and mines. She also supports recharging the CAP allotment.

Ronstadt says he supports recharging CAP water in the Rillito and Santa Cruz riverbeds, although he doesn't rule out direct delivery of CAP water.

THE CANDIDATES AGREE on other policy issues as well: Both oppose further subsidies for the Civano solar village, which is being built on the city's southeastern border.

Both also oppose the Meet and Confer initiative (Prop 200), which would allow police, fire and other municipal unions to put the question of pay raises on the ballot if negotiations with the City Council proved fruitless. The proposition, which was put on the November 4 ballot by the police union, would also allow city workers to participate in political campaigns.

But the two candidates clash on a number of subjects: Ronstadt supports the $350-million county road-bond package on the November ballot, while Hughes opposes it. While she believes the city must improve congested streets, Hughes says the possible incorporation of Casas Adobes and Catalina Foothills leaves her skeptical of the proposed bond package, because 60 percent of the bond payments will come from city residents.

"If those proposed incorporations are successful, then the new cities will be feasting off the plates of the Tucson taxpayers, who'll be carrying more than their fair share of the load," Hughes warns. "So while we need a bond package, the City of Tucson needs to get more out of it, and we need to wait until we know the political jurisdictions we're dealing with. Once incorporated jurisdictions are in place, then we start talking about a bond package."

Hughes supports the $7 minimum-wage initiative, while Ronstadt opposes it.

Hughes also backs the Council's recent decision to split up the Toole Avenue homeless feeding center and establish smaller centers in each of the city's six wards in hopes of breaking up the critical mass of homeless downtown, while Ronstadt supports keeping the feeding center downtown and toughening policies to discourage people who are needlessly gouging the social-service system.

Hughes supports the Council's decision to extend health benefits to same-sex partners. Ronstadt opposes the policy on religious grounds.

RONSTADT HAS MANY factors working against him. The Ward 6 campaign has been overshadowed in the media by the clattering debates on incorporation and the CAP water initiative. (Ronstadt's attempt to grab some attention on the water issue ultimately focused more attention on Ed Moore than the Ward 6 contest.)

Ronstadt hasn't been helped by the tepid response from the county GOP, which is gloomy at the prospect of electing a Republican to the Council.

He's also made some rookie mistakes. He was slow to start his fundraising efforts and has barely collected enough contributions to send out mailers. The City Clerk's Office says his request for matching funds, which is now undergoing an audit, could be approved as late as next week. While Ronstadt is optimistic the money will come through sooner, it's still arriving late in the game.

But Hughes says she hasn't been lulled into a sense of false security. She says she's walking other wards and plans to campaign hard through election day.

"I would never take this race for granted," she says. "I have a lot of work to do yet." TW

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