Central City Contest

A rookie battles the incumbents for the two District 28 house seats

It's the idealism of youth vs. the experience of incumbency in the Democratic primary for a pair of Arizona House seats in District 28. For the last two years, the central city area has been represented by David Bradley and Ted Downing, but Dan Lawrence wants to replace one of them because he believes they don't offer "concrete solutions" to problems.

The 61-year-old Downing is a longtime faculty member at the UA and is finishing up his first term in the Legislature. Known for his constituent service, he points to a number of accomplishments.

"I was a voice for Tucson," Downing says, "in the pipeline spill issue, the Sabino Canyon mountain lion controversy, and in making it a class 6 felony to steal dogs to use as bait for dog fights."

Downing also stresses his role in state budget negotiations as well as his push for adequate protections in the use of electronic voting machines. "My legislative agenda is kind of grass roots," he summarizes.

Bradley lists political reality in the Republican-controlled Legislature as the biggest disappointment of his initial term in office. It was eye-opening for him to encounter the hubris of the Republican leadership and to experience their "we have all the control" attitude.

"My first year, we were like ducks in a shooting gallery," the 51-year old Bradley says, "and their strategy was to dismiss us Democrats." But with several moderate Republicans joining them for some important votes, the most recent session was different.

Bradley, a child welfare administrator, believes his major accomplishment was to establish a legislative voice for children. He lists sponsoring a bill drafted by University High students in Tucson--which allows discussion of organ donation to be part of the high school driver's education curriculum--as an achievement, along with his unsuccessful push to have university tuition waived for foster children.

Despite these efforts in a hostile political environment, Lawrence is critical of his opponents' records. At a sparsely attended debate last week, the challenger took several gentle jabs at the incumbents.

"They're intelligent, likable people," he said, "but they don't offer any solutions. I don't think they've done much to improve our schools, transportation system or health care."

The office holders, however, were quick to compliment each other. "Ted and I have done a great job in being in tune with the community," Bradley replied.

"Between them, they introduced 16 bills in the last session, three of which passed," Lawrence, a 25-year-old business broker, claimed in an earlier interview. "They haven't done anything, and we deserve better."

Downing responds that he co-sponsored 48 pieces of legislation and states that his opponent doesn't know how to politically count.

"No one gets bills through themselves," Downing says. Reciting a long list of laws he supported, he adds that working with Republicans, including such conservatives as Green Valley's Randy Graf, goes with the job.

For his part, Bradley chuckles at the criticism, and says of the overwhelming Republican majority in the Legislature, "Lawrence may not know the system."

What Lawrence does know is how to knock on the doors of potential voters. He has a goal of visiting each of the almost 100 precincts in District 28 before the Sept. 7 primary and is talking to people about his ideas for Arizona.

"The state is 49th out of 50 in fourth-grade reading scores," he says, "and we need to increase the number of reading specialists. I'd like to see 60 new specialists hired statewide so they can help out in the classroom."

After obviously doing a lot of research about what has been done in other places, Lawrence has additional priorities, including implementing a high-speed rail line between Tucson and Phoenix (to be paid for through bonds) and making health care more affordable.

Bradley also mentions the cost and availability of health care as a top priority, along with investing in the state's infrastructure instead of cutting taxes. For his part, Downing hopes to help develop a state budget that will provide adequate funding for health care, education and job opportunities.

All three candidates talk about tax reform as a major issue. While Lawrence and Bradley believe it will have to go before the voters to have a chance of passing, Downing takes a different perspective.

"I would like to do it in little baby chunks," Downing says, "of $10 million or so. It would be equal pain for equal gain. Otherwise, it will be impossible for the state to swallow, because comprehensive tax reform in Arizona is as likely as a hurricane."

While all three men are running as Clean Election candidates, Bradley and Downing have qualified for state funding and are also teaming with District 28 State Senator Gabrielle Giffords to help them reduce campaign costs. As of last week, Lawrence was still scrambling to obtain money from the program.

When asked why people should vote for him, Downing replies, "I've established a track record of trying to serve the community," and encourages people to look at his performance in the Legislature.

Bradley's response to the same question is: "I've been able to build bridges and listen to people in order to understand their position. I'm pretty good at that, and (in the Legislature) that's a good trait to have."

"This election is about change vs. the status quo," is Lawrence's response to the question. "If people want their schools improved and their children to have a better shot at obtaining a university degree, if they want better transportation and more affordable health care, they should vote for me."

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