B y J i m W r i g h t
IN SEPTEMBER, LESHER/WILSON Communications, a respected Tucson-based polling and public affairs consulting firm, was hired by the Tucson 30, a group of 43 powerful business and self-annointed community leaders, to help defeat Proposition 200, the pro-recharge groundwater initiative.
Three weeks ago, amid a nasty whisper campaign questioning both their loyalty and competence, Tom Wilson and Jan Lesher told their employers to kiss off. This is even more interesting considering Lesher is the current president of the Tucson 30.
So what gives?
Wilson says it's the old tale of shooting the messenger. "We were the messenger and the Tucson 30 didn't like the message."
In its efforts to defeat Prop 200, the group hired Lesher/Wilson, along with another politically savvy local handyman, Pete Zimmerman.
Lesher/Wilson's first assignment was to conduct a standard baseline public opinion poll, "to give the campaign an idea where it stands and where it needs to focus."
Wilson refused to discuss the poll results, which The Weekly obtained from other sources within the Tucson 30. The survey showed Prop 200 running almost 4 to 1 ahead, with nearly two-thirds of the voters undecided. Whatever the results, Wilson described the response from the committee as "subdued."
Then, according to Wilson, "We began hearing how many people were upset with the results of the poll."
Within a matter of days, Wilson said, things began to turn ugly. "People close to the campaign began calling, or whispering behind our back, that our survey was flawed and that we couldn't be trusted, because Jan and I both supported (Bruce) Wheeler instead of (George) Miller for mayor," Wilson said.
He added, some people even criticized "us for candidates Jan and I supported in the past." The inference: Wilson and Lesher were not trust-worthy.
Wilson also acknowledged concerns about ethical issues regarding the direction of the anti-200 campaign were at the core of their decision to withdraw. Wilson refused to discuss those issues, citing his client's right to confidentially.
"All I can say about that," he said, "is that there are many wonderful, good-hearted people in the Tucson 30, and many of them have come forward to tell us nothing has changed between us. They're still our friends. But there are also dinosaurs on the committee who feel it's their right to singlehandedly rule Tucson with an iron fist. I don't believe that's the way it should be."
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