Breaking Bread

Raúl Grijalva still firmly supports farmworkers. But in his bid for Congress, he's currying the favor of a big-money California grower.

Raul Grijalva lists among dues paid the United Farm Workers march in Tolleson 30 years ago after the state outlawed strikes and boycotts by farmworkers. But on his march for Congress he has twice sat down with one of California's top growers.

Grijalva met with Robert Glassman, feeling out the Fresno farming giant for support and money. Grijalva seeks to move up from the Board of Supervisors seat he held for 13 years to become the first representative from the new 7th Congressional District that includes Tucson, western Arizona, Tolleson and Avondale.

The talks were initiated by Glassman's son, Rodney, a hyperactive graduate student who is vice president and general manager of the Gateway Ice Center while working toward a second master's degree from the Eller School of Business at the University of Arizona.

Rodney Glassman, who now cuts short interviews, saying he must focus on getting his master's in public administration next month, also took steps to gain the appointment to replace Grijalva on the Board of Supervisors in February. Rodney Glassman, 23, temporarily changed his voter registration from the foothills to a UA-area rental in Pima County District 5 in hopes of capping off a whirlwind of business, charitable and community work with a political appointment. In the end, the job went to Richard Elias.

Despite prepping at exclusive Lake Forest Academy in Chicago and attending Cornell for a year before transferring to the UA, Rodney Glassman insists he "is a farmer from Fresno."

Grijalva insists he, too, hasn't changed from the supervisor who eventually helped establish a Pima County holiday honoring Cesar Chavez, the late, iconic founder of the UFW.

Grijalva met with Robert Glassman at McMahon's Prime Steak House, which is near the Glassmans' two Creekside townhouse properties off North Swan Road and East River Road.

Glassman, a Baltimore native who earned bachelor's and advanced degrees in business and organizational behavior at the UA and ASU, returned the favor by making a trip to the East 22nd Street headquarters of a Whole Lot of People for Grijalva.

There visitors are greeted by posters and pictures of Chavez and Dolores Huerta, another longtime UFW leader who was the star attraction for a Grijalva campaign bash that attracted 600 people at El Casino Ballroom two weeks ago.

"They are great people," Grijalva said of Robert Glassman and his wife, Linda Britz Glassman, a dentist. "They are very gracious and very bright." He called the two sessions with Robert Glassman strictly "meet and greet."

Grijalva and Rodney Glassman are equally quick to point out that the Glassmans have also talked with one of Grijalva's rivals, state Sen. Elaine Richardson, a Tucson Democrat. She could not be reached for comment.

Rodney Glassman and others close to him said conversations with Grijalva have concerned the county post, which Elias will have to defend in special primary and general elections in September and November. They also talked of a role for the young Glassman in the Grijalva campaign or his district office should Grijalva maintain his perfect record of election victories.

Rodney Glassman backed off from such speculation in a subsequent interview, saying all that was "premature."

Grijalva and his campaign have been busy touting his relationship with labor and the boost he got not only from Huerta, but the endorsement April 7 by the Southern Arizona Central Labor Council.

"Dolores has become a friend and an important ally of the campaign," Grijalva said.

He said he didn't need to check with Huerta or current UFW leadership in advance of his meetings with Glassman, whose family raises row crops and tree fruit in Fresno, the most productive agricultural county in America.

"My base of support and the people around me know I'm not going to sell them out," Grijalva said. "Money is important. Rodney is a nice kid, he sings the national anthem at the hockey games and all that, but his interests and his family's interest are the growers' interests. My interests are the farmworkers' interests. That is not going to change."

Rodney Glassman's response: "You can't have farmworkers without farms and growers."

That led Grijalva to turn off the happy talk.

"Rodney would not be a help, but a liability to my campaign," Grijalva said last week before heading to Yuma and San Luis, where Chavez was born 75 years ago and where he died on April 23, 1993.

In the race for cash and votes in a crowded field, Grijalva admitted he is calling anyone--including enemies and those he slapped with a rejected rezoning, county contract, or county position--for campaign money.

"I call who is on the lists I get," Grijalva said. He said he will not get contributions from the Glassman-Britz operations, which include related agriculture businesses like fertilizer.

"They support the Republican version of the farm bill," Grijalva said. "I support the Democratic, the Senate, version. Subsidies should not go to the big guys. They should go to the little farmers, the guys with 40 acres."

One of the Glassman farm partnerships, DLM Farms, is on the Environmental Working Group's list of California farms that received federal subsidies in the last five years, DLM Farms collected $2.2 million from 1996 through 2001.

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