Open Seat: Democrats will choose between Kevin Dahl and Juan Padres in next week’s Ward 3 primary election

Kevin Dahl

With no incumbent seeking reelection, two Democrats are vying to be the next Ward 3 councilmember in next week's primary election: longtime environmental activist Kevin Dahl and local entrepreneur Juan Padres.

Dahl says he was inspired to run because he's concerned about climate change. He says the issue affects so many aspects of governing Tucson, from water issues to transportation systems to housing.

"We need to plan for adaptation and mitigation," Dahl said. "I don't want to look into the future and see a Tucson where people have to leave because we didn't act on climate change. I rather see a future where everybody chipped in and we made sure that houses were better insulated and shaded by trees and that we harvested rainwater to support the vegetation that we need in pocket parks and alleyways and we shaded bus stops so that people can get to work and not have to suffer every day, waiting under the hot sun."

Dahl says the city can combat climate change locally by expanding solar power, replacing city vehicles with electric cars and buses and improving the transit system to get more fossil-fuel-powered cars off the road.

Dahl has a long history of working on local environmental issues. He headed up the Tucson Audubon Society and Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit seed bank designed to harvest seeds to support agricultural diversity. He now works as the Arizona senior program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association.

He's been endorsed by Karin Uhlich, who was appointed to the Ward 3 seat earlier this year after Paul Durham stepped down for personal reasons. (Uhlich also represented Ward 3 from 2009 to 2017.) His environmental work helped secure the endorsement of Congressman Raúl Grijalva, who said that Dahl "has had a strong career as an advocate for the environment, from helping to usher in Pima County's award-winning Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan to protecting the Grand Canyon from uranium mining." He's also got union support from the AFL-CIO Pima Area Labor Federation and the Communications Workers of American Arizona State Council.

In general, Dahl says the city has a fairly progressive police force and he supports adding more officers to the force, although he admits that as a white man, he's less likely to have a bad interaction with police than a person of color.

"We want people to be safe," Dahl says. "We want people to be safe in their homes, we want businesses to be able to operate without being robbed. But what does that mean for each individual? I feel safe calling 911 and have great experiences with police helping in difficult situations, but I know there are people who will not call 911 because they're afraid to bring the police into their situation. So with that, as a background, you know, we have a relatively progressive police force in Tucson, and we have a progressive police chief. They instituted many of the reforms that, countrywide, experts have been suggesting for police to deal with these issues."

Dahl supports efforts to supplement police with social workers in appropriate situations.

Padres is making his second run for office, after failing to unseat Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in last year's primary.

He says he got into the race over "frustration with how things are going not only in Tucson, but in Ward 3. You're very well aware, Ward 3 is the poorest ward, it has the highest crime rate. It has some of the worst infrastructure in the community."

Padres grew up in Nogales and came to Tucson in 1989 to attend the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in business administration from the Eller College of Management. He's tried his hand at a number of careers, including selling insurance, running a restaurant and doing public relations for an automated trucking company. He worked in economic development at the City of Tucson and now runs a business that imports and exports beer and wine between the United States and Mexico.

Padres says that Tucson needs to do more to create jobs while also being more careful about handing out incentives.

"I really do believe that poverty is Tucson's biggest issue," he says. "We're a very poor community for our size. ... And I do believe that poverty is the root cause of most of the other issues."

He admits that there are no easy answers to reducing poverty.

"I do believe that economic development is the way to go," he says. "And I know that's overstated. And it's easy to say, 'Well, we just bring in jobs and investment.' But I think right, you have to set the table for investment to bring jobs."

Padres says a big element of that involves public safety and worries that local police don't get enough support, although he also says that he understands why many people are suspicious of police given the brutality issues that have come up in recent years, particularly involving people of color.

"I think Tucson has a very progressive police department," Padres says. "The police chief has done an excellent job and really does mirror the values of Tucson. I don't think the police brutality issues that are happening in other parts of the country are necessarily applicable here. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. There are bad apples in our department as a problem or any other department."

Dahl had raised more than $58,000 for his campaign, including $19,587 in matching funds from the city, as of July 17.

Padres had only raised $474 as of the end of March, but his fundraising since then remains a mystery. He has failed to turn in his last two fundraising reports, which were due on July 15 and July 24. Padres said he did not have time to complete the reports but hoped to have them in later this week.

The winner of the race will face independent candidate Lucy LiBosha.

It's too late to send in your primary ballot through the mail. But you can drop it off or receive a new ballot if you don't have your mail-in ballot from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the Donna R. Liggins Recreation Center (2160 N. Sixth Ave.), Parks and Recreation Administration (900 S. Randolph Way), El Pueblo Senior Center (101 W. Irvington Road). You can also drop off or get a new ballot at the Tucson City Clerk Election Center (800 E. 12th St.) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. You can also drop off your ballot at the Pima County Recorder's Office (240 N. Stone Ave.) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

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