Thursday, June 2, 2011

City Hall Brawl: Just Who Is Running for Mayor, Anyway?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 11:13 AM

With Republican Mayor Bob Walkup stepping down after three terms, seven candidates—two Democrats, two Republicans, two Greens and one independent—filed to run for mayor yesterday.

While it's unlikely that all of the candidates will survive legal challenges to their eligibility, here's how the race looks now:

Democrat Jonathan Rothschild, a Democrat, faces a potential primary opponent in Marshall Home, but Home will have to survive a legal challenge over his residency.

Two Republicans, real-estate broker Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta, are set to face each other in the Aug. 30 primary that will decide the GOP nominee.

Two Green Party candidates, Dave Croteau and Mary DeCamp, will face each other in the Green Party primary. Tucson is home to 840 registered Green Party members, according the Pima County Recorder's Web site.

The primary winners are now set to face former major-league pitcher Pat Darcy in the Nov. 8 general election.

The Democrats

In a city of roughly 98,500 Democrats and 55,700 Republicans, you’d think Democrats would have a lock on City Hall.

But for the last 12 years, Republican Bob Walkup controlled the top floor of City Hall. Four years ago, the Democrats didn’t even bother fielding a candidate against Walkup.

With Walkup calling it quits, Democrats see an opportunity to take back the mayor’s office.

Their candidate: Attorney Jonathan Rothschild, who has given up his gig as managing partner in law firm Mesch, Clark and Rothschild to seek the mayor’s office.

“I think the mayor can have a very important role in this community, both as a leader and as somebody who can get things done,” Rothschild says. “The city government has a very important role to play in our community. It covers all the basic services and, quite frankly, I think that city government is the last safety net. Whatever problems are left over, the city is required to deal with it, whether they’re dealing with the police department, the fire department, their sanitation, their water, their roads.”

The Tucson native wants to streamline the permitting process to make it easier for businesses to open in the city, promote more infill development and find ways to support parks and rec programs alongside street repair, the cops and the firefighters.

He’d also like to see annexation of the Catalina Foothills to bring more state dollars to Tucson. That’s long been a goal of city officials, but they’ve met with little success from reluctant county residents.

Rothschild is not a household name—his most high-profile postion was serving as treasurer for the Pima County Democratic Party—but he has been steadily building a campaign for more than a year. He’s built a network of supporters that includes former Democratic mayors George Miller and Tom Volgy, current City Council members Regina Romero and Shirley Scott, Congressman Raul Grijalva and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, along with members of the legal, business, neighborhood and environmental communities.

Rothschild may face a challenge from political newcomer Marshall Home, who also filed enough signatures to run as a Democrat.

Home says he got into the race because of “all the lies and the deceits. How about all the thievery? There doesn’t seem to be any integrity in the government.”

Home, who has described himself as a multi-billionaire, is reluctant to discuss his finances.

“That’s private,” Home says. “I’ve been described as a multi-billionaire. We’ll leave it at that. Why? You can’t accept it at that?”

Home has a major hurdle before he can get his name on the ballot: A lawsuit over his eligibility.

Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, said operatives were gathering the necessary information to prove in court that Home is ineligible to run because he doesn’t fulfill residency requirements, given that he was registered as a voter outside the city limits last year.

“He’s not qualified,” Rogers says. “He’s not a resident.”

Home wasn’t concerned the possibility that he could be knocked off the ballot.

“I’m not worried at all,” Home says.

The Republicans

On the Republican side, Shaun McClusky is set to face Ron Asta in the GOP primary.

McClusky, who lost a race for the Ward 5 City Council seat two years ago by 6 percentage points, says he’s learned a lot since running that campaign.

“If you look at where I was in 2009 and where I was with a lot of my positions, I don’t want to say that they weren’t well thought out, but they were initial gut reaction,” says McClusky, who works in a property-management firm.

For example, in 2009, McClusky wanted to get rid of KidCo, a Parks and Rec program that gives kids a place to go after school lets out but before their parents come home.

But now McClusky supports KidCo.

“I thought the government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidized daycare,” McClusky says. “But if you look at it, there’s a need for KidCo, and there should be a sliding scale of affordability.”

The city actually instituted a sliding scale for the KidCo program when Republicans last controlled the City Council, in 2004. In the latest budget plan for the upcoming years, Democrats on the council raised the annual fee for the program to $500 a year and offered a 50 percent discount to low-income Tucsonans.

Since running for City Council—a campaign that was launched after McClusky got a robocall from the Pima County Republican Party, which was searching for candidates to fill out a slate—McClusky has been hooked on city politics. He led an effort to stop a city sales-tax hike of a half-cent-per-dollar in last year’s election and frequently criticizes city government on his active Facebook page.

In fact, McClusky said that his mayoral campaign started out as a joke on Facebook, but he eventually decided he was the best man for the job after asking around and being unable to “come up with a name of someone who lives in the city."

McClusky doesn't expect any kind of negative campaigning in the GOP primary.

"I like Ron," McClusky says. "I think he's a hell of a nice guy. I just think I'm a better person for the job."

Asta says he’s fond of McClusky as well and notes that he supported his Republican rival when McClusky ran for the City Council two years ago.

“I just have a little more snow on the mountain,” Asta says. “With this white hair comes a lot experience that Shaun doesn’t have. I’ve been in government and in business.”

Asta’s run represents an attempt at a political comeback. He served as a Democrat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s, when he became known as a champion of environmental causes.

After losing a race for reelection to the Board of Supervisors, Asta ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1981 as Democrat.

In the years since, Asta has earned a low-profile living as a consultant to developers, but he says he’s “still a fierce protector of the environment. I just think there’s another part to quality of life, and that’s a paycheck and job and growth of your business.”

Asta switched formally switched to the Republican Party in 2003 because he was upset that Democrats didn’t show more support the Iraq War, where his son served in the Marines. But he says he’d already been voting for Republicans for some time.

Asta says he made the decision to get involved in politics again a few years ago, when he heard on the radio that Tucson was losing the last of its professional baseball teams. Moments later, his car hit a big pothole.

“Tucson is no longer what it used to be and I think it is falling apart before our very eyes,” Asta says. “We need an attitude change. The biggest thing—and a lot of it is true in my opinion—is that City Hall is anti-business. The business community feels that way.”

When he first launched his mayoral campaign, Asta apologized for an embarrassing moment in his past: He was busted for trying to shoplift a steak from a supermarket.

“With nobody to blame but me, it was one of the great humbling experiences of my life,” Asta said in a statement to the press. “So I am the only candidate who will admit to making mistakes. But I’ve come back strong from each of them.”

His mea culpa outraged the family members of the late Jennifer Reeves, who was killed in a car crash when Asta ran a downtown stop sign and collided with the vehicle she was driving. They were upset that Asta apologized for stealing a steak, but took no responsibility for the accident that took Reeves’ life.

Asta produced a TV ad asking Tucsonans if he should stay in the race. Although more people told him he should forget about running, he decided to stick it out because “Tucson needs leadership and debate now.”

The Green Party

The Green Party has two candidates for mayor this year, setting up the first-ever Green Party mayoral primary.

Dave Croteau, who ran for mayor four years ago, is going to face Mary DeCamp, who ran for the Ward 3 City Council seat two years ago.

But don’t expect a lot of negative campaigning between the candidates.

Croteau says they’re the best of friends and see this as an opportunity to get the media to cover a regular series of debates.

“It think it’s wonderful,” Croteau says. “We know that the media doesn’t cover candidates until there’s a contested race, either in the primary or the general.”

Croteau, who got 28 percent of the vote in his 2007 mayoral run (when there was no Democrat on the ballot against Republican Bob Walkup, says there are differences between the candidates.

“I’m a little bit more provocative than most of the other candidates and Mary is a little more conservative,” Croteau says.

Croteau said he’d focus his campaign on decriminalizing marijuana and water conservation. He supports charging county residents more for their water because it costs more to pump it into the foothills and outlying areas.

“I don’t know that Mary’s fully on board with my two issues,” Croteau says.

DeCamp agrees that the campaigns will be friendly. She points out that Croteau signed her nominating petition, while she signed Croteau’s nominating petition.

DeCamp says she doesn’t differ too much with Croteau on policy, but she decided to get into the race after noting that the other candidates are all men and the city needs “more feminine, maternal” leadership.

“There are no women in the race,” DeCamp says. “I believe that the masculine mindset has dominated for quite some time and it’s not getting us to a better place.”

DeCamp won 6 percent of the vote in the Ward 3 race two years ago, but she’s proud to say that she came out the winner in Kids Voting, getting 36 percent of the vote among area schoolchildren, compared to Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia’s 34 percent and Democratic Councilwoman Karin Uhlich’s 30 percent.

The Independent

The candidates who survive the primary are now set to face Pat Darcy, a former Cincinnati Reds pitcher who has been selling commercial real estate in Tucson for more than two decades.

Darcy is perhaps best known for giving up Carlton Fisk’s famous home run in the Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, but he’s been involved in local government off and on in recent years. In the 1990s, he worked with the city’s Parks Commission and helped bring the Colorado Rockies to Hi Corbett Field after the Cleveland Indians left after the 1992 season.

Darcy has dipped his toe in city politics before, coming in fourth in a four-way Democratic mayoral primary in 1999.

He’s taking another run at the top job because he says he wants to reverse Tucson’s decline.

“I grew up and I remember the good times,” Darcy says. “It just seems like the last 20 years or so, we’ve just been drifting. There hasn’t been much leadership. We gotta get going here. We’re losing out to other cities of our size.”

To turn the city around, Darcy says “you’ve got to make some decisions and get things going here. We can do some thing here.”

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