Shadow Boxing

Sharon Bronson Is Ready To Campaign, But Where's Her Opponent?

IF YOU'RE GOING to knock off an incumbent supervisor in a party primary, you've got to give people a reason to toss the bum out. You need to make a case that the office has been mismanaged, or demonstrate your differences with the incumbent's voting record. At the very least, you have to attend the occasional political forum.

In short, you have to have a campaign--a fact that seems to have eluded Richard "Dick" Pacheco, who is seeking to unseat District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the September 12 Democratic primary. Pacheco appears to be a walking shadow strutting and fretting his final hour upon the political stage before he is heard no more. A former lawmaker who served in the state House of Representatives from 1969 until 1992, Pacheco won a constable seat in 1992. He resigned that post after serving less than two years.

Pacheco got his campaign off to a late start. He started gathering his nominating signatures just one month before the deadline. Because he filed as a candidate after May 31, he wasn't required to file a campaign finance report.

Pacheco failed to return numerous phone calls from The Weekly and sidestepped a forum last week on Emil Franzi's Inside Track KTKT-AM radio program.

For her part, Bronson isn't taking the race for granted. She's banking money--as of May 31, she'd raised $32,362--and running a polished campaign with help from Strategic Management Issues Group, a communications firm headed by David Steele, a one-time aide to former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini.

"We're going to focus on the record and the issues we focused on last time: making sure that growth pays for itself, that we protect our quality of life, and that we provide constituent service to the constituents of District 3," Bronson says. "I've lived up to my campaign rhetoric."

Bronson says her leadership helped bring Kino Hospital back under the control of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and she takes credit for the reforms that are corralling the county hospital's budget.

She's also picked up an endorsement from Sheriff Clarence Dupnik because she's supported hiring 43 new deputies this year and increasing their pay across the board.

On most major environmental votes, Bronson has stuck by the greens. She's supported a challenge of the state's 1998 law preventing downzoning (for details, see "Beating Raúl," page 10); opposed a rezoning that would have allowed 6,100 homes, two golf courses, a hotel and commercial development to be built at Canoa Ranch near Green Valley; and worked on the development of the county's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

"On growth issues, given the constraints the legislature has placed on us, we have tried to actively make growth pay for itself by conditions placed on rezonings," she says. "I think if you look at what happened with the major rezonings, we no longer approve rezonings as a matter of course. It's become much more difficult to get a rezoning and it has to be one that protects the quality of life."

Although she's taken pains to walk the moderate path, Bronson is backing the Citizens Growth Management Initiative on the November ballot, even though she has been at the table in the development of the legislature's Growing Smarter process. The Citizens Growth Management Initiative would force communities to create comprehensive plans with strict growth boundaries and impose steep impact fees on developers. The initiative has come under fire from the Growth Lobby, which argues that, if passed, the proposition would torpedo the state economy.

"I don't see that," Bronson says. "I think it does very much what Growing Smarter does, but does it a little better because what happened was the Growing Smarter recommendations that came out of the committee weren't adopted by the legislature."

Bronson sat on two different subcommittees for the Growing Smarter planning effort undertaken by the state over the last two years. She blames the legislature for watering down the recommendations that emerged from that process.

"I think that the recommendations that came out of those (Growing Smarter) panels were very reasonable and had the legislature accepted those recommendations we would not be looking at the Citizens Growth Management Initiative, because we would have had reasonable land-use tools," Bronson says. "I don't see any prospect, given the makeup of the Arizona Legislature, in the next five to eight years of cities and counties getting any reasonable land-use tools. And so the only alternative right now, especially when we try to control how we grow and where we grow, is the Citizens Growth Management Initiative. It may not be the best of all possible solutions, but it is the only one up there right now."

Unless Pacheco manages the most spectacular political comeback in the history of Arizona, Bronson will face Republican Barney Brenner, an auto-parts shop owner who criticizes the county for its spending and incursion on private property rights, on the November ballot.