FOR THE McKASSON campaign, the Democratic primary was the easy part.
While Democrat Molly McKasson campaigned hard to win the party's nomination last week, the race was always hers to lose. McKasson had solid name recognition among voters from her eight years on the City Council, and she spent her two years out of office assembling a campaign platform on themes that have resonated among Democratic voters in recent primaries -- neighborhood reinvestment and protection.
McKasson walked away with 45 percent of the vote in the four-way primary, winning big in four of the city's six wards and losing narrowly in two others. She outdistanced nearest challenger Betsy Bolding by more than 10 points. But the real race, against Republican Bob Walkup and Libertarian Ed Kahn, still lies ahead.
Walkup is a well-spoken former Hughes exec who has spent the last few months quietly campaigning for mayor while the Democrats have hogged the spotlight.
Democrats still hold a significant voter-registration edge in the city, with about 103,000 Democrats and 65,000 Republicans. But, as Jesse George, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, notes: "Registration is good, but if it doesn't translate into votes, then what good is the advantage?"
That's where the get-out-the-vote effort becomes key -- and money could play a big role in inspiring voters to go to the polls.
Walkup will likely raise the $154,684 maximum allowable under the city's campaign finance system. As of August 18, he'd already raised $81,208, including $40,149 in public matching funds (he's eligible for another $6,355 in matching funds not yet received). Campaign finance reports covering activity through September 13 are due this Friday, September 17.
McKasson, meanwhile, had raised $73,815 as of August 18, including $33,375 in public matching funds. She'd spent $52,176. McKasson supporters hope to raise the maximum $154,684 as well, putting her in position to run a strong general campaign.
Even without a primary, Walkup has already spent $38,671, with big expenses for staff and office space. But his campaign is set to receive a boost from the Republican Party.
The GOP, emboldened by the victory of Republican Fred Ronstadt two years ago, is back with a nearly complete slate this year. In Ward 2, Rick Grinnell, who lost a bid to unseat Janet Marcus four years ago, is taking another shot at the seat now that Marcus is stepping down. He'll face former Marcus aide Carol West, who is making her first run for public office after stepping down from a post heading up the Tucson Regional Water Council.
In Ward 1, Democratic Councilman José Ibarra is facing Republican Ray Castillo, who served on the Council from 1969 to 1973.
Both GOP Council campaigns are being managed by Pam Ronstadt, the councilman's wife, who also ran her husband's campaign in 1997.
The three Republican candidates will get a big boost from the county and state GOP organizations, which will funnel funds into a massive get-out-the-vote effort, including telephone banks and an aggressive early-voting program.
The Democrats have no similar plans. "Unfortunately, Democrats, being as we are, don't have those kinds of funds," says George. "Ours will be a grass-roots effort trying to get the precinct committee people to get out a grass-roots vote."
Independent campaigns could play a significant role as well. Unhampered by the city's campaign finance restrictions, independent campaigns can raise unlimited sums to run ads supporting or attacking candidates. McKasson benefited from an independent campaign run by the League of Conservation Voters, which placed advertisements supporting her in the primary.
But wealthier independent campaign committees connected to the development community are likely to emerge with attacks on McKasson as the general election nears.
Voter turn-out was a key factor in Ronstadt's 1997 victory. Republicans on the eastside went to their polling places, while southside voters stayed home. The GOP is hoping for a similar result this year. If a straight ticket led by Walkup can repeat that performance, Democrats worry that a Republican slate could capture Ibarra's Ward 1 seat and the open Ward 2 seat.
"If we don't get our act together, we could lose the two Council seats and the mayor's race," says George.