No Contest

Why this year's political season promises to be the most boring ever!

Some election seasons are like elegant French dishes that we savor for their rich and subtle flavors. Others are more like an old-fashioned meatloaf--nothing exciting, but substantial nevertheless. A few are all about food poisoning and upset stomachs. And in the lean years, you get nothing more than hard cheese and bland porridge.

Hold out your bowl for the porridge.

When county candidates filed paperwork last week to run for 23 different offices--including low-profile gigs like justice of the peace and constable--16 had no opponent whatsoever.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the entire Pima County Board of Supervisors is walking to re-election. Critics of the board have complained mightily about misspent bond funds--remember the big FBI investigation?--and a mismanaged Kino Hospital, but not one of the five supervisors faces a primary or general election opponent.

Until last week, District 3 Democrat Sharon Bronson appeared to have an opponent in Republican Barney Brenner, who narrowly lost to Bronson four years ago. But just before he was supposed to file last week, Brenner abruptly abandoned his campaign, telling supporters that after voters overwhelmingly passed the county's bond package last month, he realized his campaign was doomed.

"The passage of and support for all the bonds has shown that the voters, as well as local political and business leaders, have all decided to give the county yet another chance to mend its ways," Brenner wrote in an e-mail. "Under those circumstances, I don't have the support necessary for a reasonable chance of success so I've decided to withdraw from the race."

Part of the reason for Brenner's decision was the change in District 3. The supes carve their own district lines, which allowed Bronson to dump many of the precincts that had supported Brenner last time in favor of inner-city Democrats.

But another reason was undoubtedly money. Brenner wasn't going to get financial support from the business and development community, and after spending tens of thousands of dollars from his own checkbook four years ago, he decided to pack it in.

Let's face it: Running a campaign is hard work, especially against incumbents who win, what, nine out of 10 races? Maybe people don't want to raise money. Maybe they don't want to worry about sending mailers, tracking early ballots or walking door-to-door. Or maybe they just don't want to end up with their little head floating in The Skinny.

In any event, it's not bad news for everyone, of course. The money guys will be happy that they don't have to shell out much (although the Bush and Kerry campaigns are sure vacuuming up the money), and the candidates themselves will certainly appreciate the free ride.

But for those of us on the sidelines, it's kinda like covering the Expos playing the Pirates all season--not exactly marquee match-ups.

Nonetheless, there are a few high-profile races, and a few that promise to prove entertaining, even if the end result is a foregone conclusion in many cases. Here's a rundown of what lies ahead:


The biggest race of the primary season is state Rep. Randy Graf's challenge to Congressman Jim Kolbe, who is seeking his 11th term. Graf, who has served as majority whip for the last two years, calls himself the "real Republican" in the race. He's hoping to stir a conservative revolution against Kolbe by attacking the incumbent on several fronts, including illegal immigration, abortion and gay marriage.

But conservatives have been predicting Kolbe's fall almost as long as he's been in office, only to repeatedly fail to topple him. Kolbe's a long-standing incumbent who's frequently out and about in the district; he's built a powerful political network, and he's sure to have far more money than Graf.

One of three longshot Democrats--Eva Bacal, Jeff Chimene or Tim Sultan--will face the winner of Graf-Kolbe, as well as Libertarian Robert Anderson.

Next door, in Congressional District 7, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva looks to have an easier path to re-election. Grijalva, who had to defeat seven other Democrats to win the newly drawn district two years ago, has avoided a primary altogether.

Two Republicans are vying for a chance to carry the fight to Grijalva, despite the hopeless odds of an upset in a district where 53 percent of the voters are Democrats and only 28 percent are Republican. Lou Muñoz, 59, who works in real estate sales and management, says he got in the race because, "I thought it was important that Republicans have a choice." Translation: Mainstream Republicans are hoping the party's banner won't be carried by perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, who also filed to run last week. We have a sneaking suspicion that Sweeney's campaign might focus on immigration issues.

Libertarian Dave Kaplan will also appear on the November ballot. Kaplan has lived in Tucson for the last three years and hopes to carry the Libertarian message of less government and more personal freedom.

"I don't have any illusions of winning," says Kaplan, "but I hope to at least make it interesting."

Given U.S. Sen. John McCain's superstar celebrity status, he probably doesn't have much to fear from Democrat Stuart Starkey or Libertarian Ernest Hancock.

Pima County

When the campaign for Pima County Assessor is the most interesting race on the ballot, you know it's a sleepy election year. But with the entire Board of Supervisors, as well as Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, Schools Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian and Treasurer Beth Ford, unopposed, our appraisal shows this is where the action will be.

Part of the reason is that there's no incumbent--Assessor Rick Lyons is stepping down after 10 years in office, making it the only open county seat.

But another big factor is hell-raisin' Republican Bill Heuisler, a longtime anti-tax activist who hopes to tap into an undercurrent of anger toward Pima County's high property taxes to not only win office but to spark a revolution against the property-tax system as it currently exists.

Heuisler has quite a résumé: A former Marine who served in Vietnam and worked with the CIA on covert operations in the Caribbean, Heuisler has been a Tucson cop, chased down the occasional fugitive here and there, and dabbled in real estate in Rocky Point, Mexico.

Back in the late '70s, Heuisler led an initiative campaign that would have frozen property values for tax purposes until a change in ownership. He promises to push for similar reform if elected in November.

First, he has to get past fellow Republican Roger C. Condra, a former staffer in the Assessor's Office. Condra, who now teaches homebuilding skills to Sahuaro High School students, says he's in the race to improve the office's service to the public.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Bill Staples, who has worked as an appraiser with the county's Transportation and Flood Control Department for 15 years. Staples was appointed to the Pima County Planning and Zoning Department by former Supervisor Raúl Grijalva. He says he wants to continue the office's "professional service and fair valuations."

County Attorney Barbara LaWall, seeking her third term, didn't draw a Republican challenger, but she does have to beat longtime social activist Claudia Ellquist on the Green Party ticket and Libertarian David Euchner.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who is seeking his sixth term, regularly draws high approval ratings in polls commissioned by local candidates. But Republican Roland Youngling, a longtime officer with the sheriff's department who has worked as a patrolman, as well as on anti-drug and anti-gang units, accuses Dupnik of falling out of touch with the community. Youngling, who retired last year in anticipation of the race, has also been active with a labor organization representing sheriff's officers.

Youngling faces a primary race against Michael Steber, who works as a correctional officer at Pima County Jail. Steber says he wants to run the department "smarter" by pursuing more grants and emphasizing more inmate labor.

Libertarian Rich McKnight, who says he wants to "bring integrity back to the office," will also be on the November ballot.

We've got a handful of races for justice of the peace and constable, but we'll fill you in on those contests a little later.

State Races

District 25

Two years ago, Republican Jennifer Burns, a brainy attorney, pulled off an upset win in the House race in District 25, which touches the Marana area and stretches west across the Tohono O'odham reservation and south to the border. Now that she's shown a moderate Republican can win in the Democratic district, two conservatives from Sierra Vista, David Stevens and Mary Ann Black, have lined up to take her out in the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent Manny Alvarez faces primary competition from two women from Douglas, Lori Tapia and Monica Perez, as well as Louis Johnson of Sells.

Incumbent Sen. Marsha Arzberger of Willcox faces a challenge from Republican Les Thompson of Benson.

District 26

For all the talk of how moderate Republican Pete Hershberger was heretical against GOP leadership, he and fellow mod Steve Huffman have drawn no primary opposition this year. After all the sympathetic press Hershberger got when House Speaker Jake Flake bounced him from his committee chairmanship, he may run ahead of Huffman for a change.

Hershberger and Huffman have drawn Democratic opponents in the general election: Amanda Simpson, a Raytheon engineer, and schoolteacher Martin Drozdoff, who both want to see more investment in education and health care.

Republican Sen. Toni Hellon is unopposed.

District 27

Westside District 27 House members Phil Lopes and Olivia Cajero-Bedford have no opposition in this Democratic stronghold. But Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, who is finishing his first term, will face a primary fight from civil-rights attorney Jesus Romo, who is setting his sights lower this year after losing the Congressional District 7 race to Grijalva two years ago.

District 28

In midtown District 28, Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic incumbent, will face longtime Republican activist Chuck Josephson, who owns a local print shop. Libertarian Mick Chvala, who hopes to raise enough money to buy a vowel for his last name, is also on the general election ballot.

House incumbents Ted Downing and David Bradley face a primary challenge from young whippersnapper Dan Lawrence, who is accusing them of doing too little as he makes his first stab at public office.

Two Republicans will face the winners of the Democratic primary: attorney Bill Phillips and surgeon Dick Dale, who should not be confused with the king of surf guitar.

Libertarian Daniel Hickman rounds out the general election ballot.

District 29

Sen. Vic Soltero is facing a challenge from Republican Bruce Murchison, who is undaunted by the Democratic voter advantage in southside District 29. Soltero's House counterparts, Linda Lopez and Tom Prezelski, have a challenge from Republican Ed Wagner, a former member of the Pima Community College governing board who is staging a political comeback after more than a decade of keeping a low profile.

District 30

District 30, which includes eastern Tucson, Green Valley and parts south, has the one and only open seat in the state races Tucsonans will vote for this year. With Rep. Randy Graf throwing down against Jim Kolbe in Congressional District 8, Rep. Marian McClure is the only incumbent seeking a House seat. Graf helped recruit two rookie candidates, Sonoita resident Doug Sposito and Sierra Vista magazine salesman David Gowan, to try to knock out McClure, who has been targeted for purging by conservatives. The final Republican in the race, Jonathan Paton, is a political consultant and lobbyist who has worked for a variety of candidates and organizations, including the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.

A lone Democrat, Esther Sharif, a recent transplant from Chicago, says she's in the race to try to encourage others to get involved in politics.

District 30 Sen. Tim Bee is unopposed.

Corporation Commission

Republican incumbent Kris Mayes, the former gubernatorial spokeswoman appointed to commission by Gov. Janet Napolitano after Jim Irwin resigned in disgrace, faces a purity test in the Republican primary from Phoenix resident Carl Seel and Scottsdale resident Tim Sifert.

Finally, three Republican members of the Arizona Corporation Commission elected just two years ago are once again campaigning for their jobs thanks to a quirk that expanded the size of the board while shortening their terms: Mike Gleason, Bill Mundell and Jeff Hatch-Miller.

They've drawn opposition from three Democrats: Former Tucson newscaster Nina Trasoff and Phoenix residents Scott Clark and Mark Manoil.

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