Let The Races Begin!

Your guide to the 2011 Tucson City Council elections

Get ready for impassioned pleas, junk mail and outrageous claims: Election season for the city of Tucson is officially underway.

While it's unlikely that all of the candidates will survive legal challenges to their eligibility, here's how the mayor and City Council races looked as of our deadline:

In the race for mayor, Democrat Jonathan Rothschild, a Democrat, faces a potential primary opponent in Marshall Home, but Home will have to survive a legal challenge over his residency.

Two Republicans, real-estate broker Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta, are set to face each other in the Aug. 30 primary. Pima County Democratic Party officials say they'll challenge McClusky's nominating petitions in court.

Two Green Party candidates, Dave Croteau and Mary DeCamp, will face each other in the Green Party primary. Tucson is home to 840 registered Green Party members, according to the Pima County Recorder's website.

The primary winners are set to face former major league pitcher Pat Darcy in the Nov. 8 general election, if he survives a legal challenge to his petitions.

In Ward 1 (downtown and westside), Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Regina Romero is set to face political newcomer and retired businessman Joe Flores in the Democratic primary. No one else filed to run in Ward 1, so barring a successful write-in campaign, the primary will decide the race.

In Ward 2 (central and northeast), Democratic incumbent Councilman Paul Cunningham, who was appointed to the seat after Rodney Glassman resigned, will face Republican challenger Jennifer Rawson.

In Ward 4 (Central and southeast), Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Shirley Scott is seeking a fifth term against Republican challenger Tyler Vogt.

The deadline for challenges to petitions is June 15.

For the first time, the city will conduct the election almost entirely by mail, sending out ballots to all eligible households. If you're an independent, you need to contact the Tucson City Clerk's Office at 791-4213, and let them know what primary you want to vote in.

The Mayor's Race

Democrats: Jonathan Rothschild vs. Marshall Home

In a city of roughly 98,500 Democrats and 55,700 Republicans, you'd think Democrats would have a lock on city government.

But for the last 12 years, Republican Bob Walkup has controlled the top floor of City Hall. Four years ago, the Democrats didn't even field a candidate against Walkup.

With Walkup now stepping down after three terms, Democrats see an opportunity to take back the mayor's office. But none of the usual suspects—current or former council members, state lawmakers, high-profile business leaders or well-known activists—are in the race.

Instead, Democrats are pinning their hopes on attorney Jonathan Rothschild, who has given up his gig as managing partner at law firm Mesch, Clark and Rothschild to seek the office.

"I think the mayor can have a very important role in this community, both as a leader and as somebody who can get things done," Rothschild says. "The city government has a very important role to play in our community. It covers all the basic services, and quite frankly, I think that city government is the last safety net. Whatever problems are left over, the city is required to deal with them, whether they're dealing with the police department, the fire department, their sanitation, their water, their roads."

The Tucson native wants to streamline the permitting process to make it easier for businesses to open in the city, promote more infill development, and find ways to support parks-and-recreation programs alongside street repair, the cops and firefighters.

He'd also like to see the annexation of the Catalina foothills to bring more state dollars to Tucson. That's long been a goal of city officials, but they've met with little success due to the reluctance of foothills residents.

Rothschild is not a household name—his most high-profile position was serving as treasurer for the Pima County Democratic Party—but he has been steadily building a campaign for more than a year. He's built a network of supporters that includes former Democratic Mayors George Miller and Tom Volgy, current City Councilmembers Regina Romero and Shirley Scott, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, along with members of the legal, business, neighborhood and environmental communities.

Rothschild may face a primary challenge from political newcomer Marshall Home, who also filed enough signatures to run as a Democrat.

Home says he got into the race because of "all the lies and the deceits. How about all the thievery? There doesn't seem to be any integrity in the government."

Home, who has described himself as a multibillionaire, is reluctant to discuss his finances.

"That's private," Home says. "I've been described as a multibillionaire. We'll leave it at that. Why? You can't accept it at that?"

Home has a major hurdle before he can get his name on the ballot: A lawsuit over his eligibility. Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, said operatives were gathering the necessary information to prove in court that Home is ineligible to run, because he doesn't fulfill residency requirements, given that he was registered as a voter outside of the city limits last year.

"He's not qualified," Rogers says. "He's not a resident."

Home wasn't concerned about the possibility that he could be knocked off the ballot.

"I'm not worried at all," Home says.

Earlier this week, Home filed his own lawsuit, claiming that Rothschild was ineligible to run for mayor because he was a lawyer.

Rothschild said he hadn't seen the lawsuit, but Home's argument that lawyers can't serve in public office "would be a novel legal argument. I guess a judge will have to decide that."

Republicans: Shaun McClusky vs. Ron Asta

In the Republican side, Shaun McClusky is set to face Ron Asta in the GOP primary.

McClusky, who lost a race for the Ward 5 City Council seat two years ago by 6 percentage points, says he's learned a lot since running that campaign.

"If you look at where I was in 2009 and where I was with a lot of my positions, I don't want to say that they weren't well-thought-out, but they were initial gut reaction," says McClusky, who works in a property-management firm.

For example, in 2009, McClusky wanted to get rid of KidCo, a parks-and-rec program that gives kids a place to go after school lets out but before their parents come home.

But now McClusky supports KidCo.

"I thought the government shouldn't be in the business of subsidized day care," McClusky says. "But if you look at it, there's a need for KidCo, and there should be a sliding scale of affordability. ... It keeps kids off the street. If we don't have the after-school program, where do they go?"

The city actually instituted a sliding scale for the KidCo program in 2004, when Republicans last controlled the City Council. In the latest budget plan, Democrats on the council raised the annual fee for the program to $500 a year and offered a 50 percent discount to low-income Tucsonans.

Since running for City Council in 2009—a campaign that was launched after McClusky got a robo-call from the Pima County Republican Party, which was searching for candidates—McClusky has been hooked on city politics. He led a successful effort to stop a city sales-tax hike of a half-cent per dollar in last year's election and frequently criticizes city government on his active Facebook page.

In fact, McClusky said that his mayoral campaign started out as a joke on Facebook, but he eventually decided he was the best man for the job after asking around and being unable to "come up with a name of someone who lives in the city."

McClusky doesn't want to say that he wants to cut the budget; instead, he proposes ways to find savings.

But he says the vital issue facing the city is the need to streamline its land-use code and permitting process, or "all the business is going to relocate to Marana."

"You walk into Planning and Development (Services), and you say you want to build this piece of pizza," says McClusky, gesturing to the slice on the table at downtown's Empire Pizza. "They say, 'Well, this pepperoni is out of place. You can't do it.' The city of Tucson tells you to go away. Marana says, 'Move the pepperoni 5 feet, and you can do it.' Those are the kinds of things we need to have happen here."

Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers said last week that he'll try to knock McClusky out of the race. Rogers says party members have discovered between 280 and 300 invalid signatures on McClusky's nominating petitions.

McClusky had to turn in 1,060 valid signatures to make the ballot. He turned in 1,183 last week, giving him a margin of just 123 signatures.

McClusky says he's confident that he'll survive a legal challenge, which he's been anticipating.

"The Democratic Party's chairman is a lawyer, and their candidate is a lawyer, so what do you expect?" McClusky says. "We'll take it to court and let a judge decide, and I'll win."

Provided he survives the legal challenge, McClusky says he anticipates a friendly GOP primary with Republican rival Asta.

"I like Ron," McClusky says. "I think he's a hell of a nice guy. I just think I'm a better person for the job."

Asta says he's fond of McClusky as well and notes that he supported McClusky's run for the City Council two years ago.

"I just have a little more snow on the mountain," Asta says. "With this white hair comes a lot experience that Shaun doesn't have. I've been in government and in business."

Asta's run represents an attempt at a political comeback. He served as a Democrat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s, when he became known as a champion of environmental causes.

After losing a race for re-election to the Board of Supervisors, Asta ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1981 as a Democrat.

In the years since, Asta has earned a low-profile living as a consultant to developers, but he says he's "still a fierce protector of the environment. I just think there's another part to quality of life, and that's a paycheck and job and growth of your business."

Asta formally switched to the Republican Party in 2003, because he was upset that Democrats didn't show more support for the Iraq war, where his son served in the Marines. He says he'd already been voting for Republicans for some time.

Asta says he made the decision to get involved in politics again a few years ago when he heard on the radio that Tucson was losing the last of its major professional baseball teams. Moments later, his car hit a big pothole.

"Tucson is no longer what it used to be, and I think it is falling apart before our very eyes," Asta says. "We need an attitude change. The biggest thing ... is that City Hall is anti-business. The business community feels that way."

When he first launched his mayoral campaign, Asta apologized for an embarrassing moment in his past: He was busted for trying to shoplift a steak from a supermarket.

"With nobody to blame but me, it was one of the great humbling experiences of my life," Asta said in a statement to the press. "So I am the only candidate who will admit to making mistakes. But I've come back strong from each of them."

His mea culpa outraged the family members of the late Jennifer Reeves, who was killed in a 1994 car crash when Asta ran a downtown stop sign and collided with the vehicle she was driving. They were upset that Asta apologized for stealing a steak, but took no responsibility for the accident that took Reeves' life.

Asta produced a TV ad asking Tucsonans if he should stay in the race. Although more people told him he should forget about running, he decided to stick it out because "Tucson needs leadership and debate now."

Greens: Dave Croteau vs. Mary DeCamp

The Green Party has two candidates for mayor this year, setting up the first-ever Green Party Tucson mayoral primary.

Dave Croteau, who ran for mayor four years ago, is going to face Mary DeCamp, who ran for the Ward 3 City Council seat two years ago.

Don't expect a lot of negative campaigning: Croteau says they're the best of friends, and they see this as an opportunity to get the media to cover a regular series of debates.

"It think it's wonderful," Croteau says. "We know that the media doesn't cover candidates until there's a contested race, either in the primary or the general."

Croteau, who got 28 percent of the vote in his 2007 mayoral run (when there was no Democrat on the ballot against Republican Bob Walkup), says there are differences between the candidates.

"I'm a little bit more provocative than most of the other candidates, and Mary is a little more conservative," Croteau says.

Croteau said he'll focus his campaign on decriminalizing marijuana and conserving water. He supports charging county residents more for their water, because it costs more to pump it into the foothills and outlying areas.

"I don't know that Mary's fully on board with my two issues," Croteau says.

DeCamp agrees that the competition will be friendly. She points out that Croteau signed her nominating petition, while she signed Croteau's nominating petition.

DeCamp says she doesn't differ too much with Croteau on policy, but she decided to get into the race after noting that the other mayoral candidates are all men, and the city needs "more feminine, maternal" leadership.

"There are no women in the race," DeCamp says. "I believe that the masculine mindset has dominated for quite some time, and it's not getting us to a better place."

DeCamp won 6 percent of the vote in the Ward 3 race two years ago, but she's proud to say that she came out the winner in kids' voting, getting 36 percent of the vote among area schoolchildren, compared to Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia's 34 percent, and Democratic Councilwoman Karin Uhlich's 30 percent.

The Independent: Pat Darcy

The candidates who survive the primary are set to face Pat Darcy, a former Cincinnati Reds pitcher who has been selling commercial real estate in Tucson for more than two decades.

Darcy is perhaps best known for giving up Carlton Fisk's famous home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, but he's been involved in local government off and on in recent years. In the 1990s, he worked with the city's Parks Commission and helped bring the Colorado Rockies to Hi Corbett Field after the Cleveland Indians left following the 1992 season.

Darcy has dipped his toe in city politics before, coming in fourth in a four-way Democratic mayoral primary in 1999.

He's taking another run at the top job because he says he wants to reverse Tucson's decline.

"I grew up, and I remember the good times," Darcy says. "It seems like the last 20 years or so, we've just been drifting. There hasn't been much leadership. We gotta get going here. We're losing out to other cities of our size."

To turn the city around, Darcy says "you've got to make some decisions and get things going here. We can do something here."

The Council Races

Ward 1:

Democrat Regina Romero vs. Democrat Joe Flores

As she wraps up her first term on the Tucson City Council, Democrat Regina Romero says she loves her job representing the westside ward.

"I've represented Ward 1 very well," Romero says. "I work very directly with constituents and with neighborhood associations and businesses in Ward 1."

She cites her record of working with Pima County, local tribes and other governments to find funding for projects in Ward 1 neighborhoods. And as the city has needed to cut spending as a result of decreased sales-tax collections and declining revenues from the state of Arizona, she's tried to keep the police and fire departments as a priority.

But Joe Flores, whose family owned a pharmacy for more than 80 years before he retired about a decade ago, says that the city is on the wrong track.

"I've become frustrated by movement of the direction that the city has been taking," Flores says. "The decisions that are being made by the Tucson City Council are questionable."

He'd like to see Tucson "revert back to what it used to be. All it needs is a positive direction."

Flores is particularly critical of the spending on Rio Nuevo.

He says he'd like to spend more money on police officers, firefighters, repaving roads, putting in streetlights and pouring sidewalks. He'd like to lower fees for parks-and-rec programs such as KidCo, and lower rental rates at the Tucson Convention Center.

And he's opposed to any tax or fee increases. Asked what he could cut in the budget to pay for all of his priorities, and Flores offers an honest answer: "I have no idea."

"I would really need to take a very strong look at all the departments and see what the departments are doing," Flores says. "You already had fees in place at one time. What happened? ... Something along the line got out of proportion."

Romero says the cuts in spending and the increases in fees were necessary because "we went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And the way that city governments work is that we have state-shared revenue—which is city of Tucson taxpayer money going up to Phoenix and coming back with just 70 cents on the dollar—and sales taxes. Those are our funding sources. If (Flores) doesn't want to raise taxes on other things, then that's what he has to work with."

The Pima County Democratic Party Executive Committee—a group of precinct leaders—voted earlier this year to take the unusual step of endorsing Romero over Flores in the primary.

Flores isn't bothered by the party's snub.

"I know that they're not the ones who are going to get me into office," Flores says. "The voters are going to get me into office, the people."

But Flores' campaign manager, former state lawmaker Luis Gonzales, sent a letter to Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers demanding that the endorsement be revoked.

Rogers says the executive committee stands by its decision, because "they were very happy with the work of Regina Romero. She's done an outstanding job, and she deserves another four-year term.

"Nobody had ever heard of Mr. Flores, and it's still that way," adds Rogers, "Nobody's been able to point out anything he's done within the Democratic Party."

Rogers suggests that Flores' previous ownership of a payday-loan company demonstrates that "he wasn't going to represent true Democratic Party interests. We get a sense that he's not going to stand for the same principles as the Democratic Party does."

Flores says the payday-loan operation was just one element of his check-cashing business, and he was just serving as an agent for a payday lender out of Phoenix. He no longer does payday loans, because state law no longer allows them.

"We only did it for about a year and a half, and the only reason we did was because people were requesting it," he says of his payday-loan business.

Flores says he has "no opinion one way or the other" about the payday-loan industry.

Ward 2:

Democrat Paul Cunningham vs. Republican Jennifer Rawson

emocrat Paul Cunningham was appointed to the Tucson City Council after Ward 2 Councilman Rodney Glassman stepped down last year to run for the U.S. Senate.

Cunningham has been involved with politics for most of his life; his father, George Cunningham, was a state lawmaker in the 1990s and served as a budget adviser in the administration of Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Before he was appointed to the City Council, Cunningham worked for the Pima County Juvenile Probation Department. He has served in the Army Reserve and the National Guard.

He's now seeking a full term on the City Council because "I really want Tucson to be successful, and I'm the kind of guy who can bring us there. Tucson is one of the greatest cities in the world, and I love it with all of my heart. ... I think I bring this kind of unique skill set to put people together, collaborate and try to come up with effective solutions. It's not sexy, but it's what gets the job done."

A bit of a sports nut, Cunningham is especially proud of his work to bring Major League Soccer's Desert Cup to Hi Corbett Field earlier this year.

"We got a lot of people together, and we worked really hard to try to get the economy going again," says Cunningham.

If he wins re-election, Cunningham says he wants to focus on stabilizing the city's budget and luring more sports events to Tucson.

His opponent, Republican Jennifer Rawson, is a relative newcomer to Tucson. She's lived here for five years after moving from Wickenburg to be closer to her granddaughter. Before her decade in Wickenburg, she had lived in California and Oregon.

Her career includes working as a manager for Xerox in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I've done zero-based budgeting and contract negotiations, and in my opinion, those are talents the city of Tucson desperately needs," Rawson says.

Rawson wants to serve on the Tucson City Council because "we have a city government that is losing and not accounting for millions of dollars. ... Somebody has to do something."

She adds that she's frustrated by the City Council's "inability to make the hard choices necessary for all of the citizens of Tucson."

Rawson says she'd provide reliable support for Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, the only Republican currently on the council.

Rawson says she would have cut transit spending in the latest budget cycle, along with spending on council offices and perks for high-paid city employees, such as take-home cars.

"Those kinds of things are hard decisions," Rawson says. "I understand that it would be nice to do all of the things for everyone. But we really need to take care of the things that are for everyone first."

Ward 4: Democrat Shirley Scott vs. Republican Tyler Vogt

When Republican Tyler Vogt filed his nominating petitions to run for the Ward 4 Tucson City Council seat, he sent an open letter to Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott urging her to quit the race.

"I offer you the opportunity to resign from this race with your dignity and your reputation intact," Vogt wrote. "If you choose to remain in the race, you will be opting for a complete exhibition of your performance as a City Council member. This information will be presented to the public without personal attacks. It is, after all, your record."

Scott, a Democrat seeking her fifth term representing the southeast-side ward, says she's staying in the race.

"It don't believe that's a good way to start a campaign," Scott says. "It's an unusual way, for sure."

First elected in 1995, Scott has been on the Tucson City Council longer than anyone else now serving.

Scott wants another term because "there are some more projects in the pipeline that I'd like to see completed that will benefit the community at large, and certainly the people who have been waiting for some of these kinds of things."

As examples, she points to a river walk along the Pantano Wash between Golf Links Road and 22nd Street that's nearing completion, and softball fields at Lincoln Park.

She says that over the last 16 years, she's helped shepherd a lot of projects in Ward 4.

"When I first took office, there was one fire station; there was a golf course and four softball fields," Scott remembers. "Now we have a library and a recreation center; we have a children's outdoor performance center; we have two more fire stations; we have improvements in lots of parks that didn't exist before; and there are numerous transportation projects that have enhanced the ability of people to get from Point A to Point B in a safer way."

Over the next four years, Scott says she'd like to work on finding more funding for public safety, and she'd like to make the city friendlier to business.

"I'd like to bring people together," Scott says. "I am not an ideologue. ... My belief is, ideology doesn't fix potholes."

Vogt says that Scott "has made a lot of mistakes" and that her list of accomplishments is pretty thin for a 16-year record. He claims it's time for new leadership "to bring us out of this economic recession that we're in. ... Someone's got to step up, and that ended up being me."

Vogt is particularly outraged by the money the council has spent on various Rio Nuevo projects that have been put on hold or cancelled altogether.

"We really need to hold people responsible for doing what they committed to and owning up to the mistakes that have been made," Vogt says.

Vogt, who served 15 years in the Navy Reserve, has lived in Tucson since 2000 and works at Raytheon.

His brother, Rep. Ted Vogt, is a Republican who represents Tucson's eastside, Green Valley and parts of Sierra Vista in the Arizona Legislature.

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