Yrun is the One

Supervisors name former Planned Parenthood head to fill Nichols' vacant Senate seat.

When the Board of Supervisors named former Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona CEO Virginia Leticia Yrun to succeed the late state Sen. Andy Nichols, it was a darkhorse pick but should have surprised no one.

Yrun, a 52-year-old attorney, was a logical choice in what became a process of elimination--similar to other legislative appointments other boards have had to make, including the 1991 naming of Vic Soltero to the Senate.

Scratched were Nichols' Democratic predecessor, George Cunningham, a victim of complaints from some of his former colleagues in Pima County's Democratic legislative delegation, and first-year state Rep. Gabriella Giffords, who was deferring to the Nichols family's pleas for the board to appoint his widow, Ann, as his successor. Supervisors were skittish about the controversy surrounding Ann Nichols' alleged relationship with a death-row inmate and the subsequent ban on her prison visits.

Any last-minute lobbying was halted when Raul Grijalva, the Democratic chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said no public comments would be accepted before the vote. The meeting was "painful" for supervisors although that could not compare to the pain suffered by the family and Nichols' friends and associates, Grijalva said. He then made the motion for Yrun.

Yrun arrived less than 30 minutes later with her husband, Howard Shore, an unsuccessful candidate last year for the House in District 13. Yrun also failed in her only bid for public office--a 1991 candidacy for the congressional seat Morris K. Udall vacated. Pundits credited her effort with derailing the campaign of former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy for Udall's seat.

Yrun and Ann Nichols spoke warmly and held hands at the board meeting. With a long history in the legislative district--Yrun helped Rep. Sister Claire Dunn when she was in high school--and lengthy experience working with Nichols, Yrun is confident she can do the job.

"I'm going to be shuffling along in shoes that are way too big for me," she said. "But I am sure that I will grow into them."