A local Justice of the Peace race for a county judgeship pits a defense lawyer of 16 years against the 21-year-old son of the judge who currently holds the position.
Douglas W. Taylor, the career lawyer, owns his own practice located at 271 N Stone Ave. He works mainly with indigent defendants in misdemeanor, criminal and felony cases.
Keith Bee II is the son of Judge Keith Bee who currently serves as Justice of the Peace in Precinct 5, which includes central Tucson as well as the small city of South Tucson. There is virtually no information out there about the younger Bee's credentials or background.
Unlike Superior Court judges who are appointed by the governor in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties, Justices of the Peace are elected by the public. Considering his unconventional opponent, Taylor said there should be more qualifications required from candidates.
According to the Arizona Judicial Branch, all that is required from a candidate running for Justice of the Peace is that they are at least 18 years old, an Arizona resident, a registered voter in the precinct they are running for and they must be able to read and write in English. No legal background is necessary.
Taylor believes that if Bee II wins the election, the second-hand experience he's gained from his father's position is not sufficient knowledge for stepping into this job. He said it's synonymous to the reasoning, "If I took a bunch of plane flights, would I qualify to be a pilot?"
The Pima County Justice Court typically deals with small claims, civil traffic violations, criminal DUIs and evictions. While these are not complex or high-profile cases, the judges who take them on can have a significant impact on the everyday lives of citizens who appear before them.
"I would like to bring my qualifications to the court and give back to my community that has given to me for so many years here in Tucson," Taylor said.
Judge Bee graduated from the University of Arizona and completed training with the Judicial College of Arizona. He was a member of the Arizona State House of Representatives for two years and served in the State Senate for eight years after that. Taylor has presented cases in court to the elder Bee and said that he is a fine judge who has a lot of experience and understands the power of law. He does not have this same confidence in the son.
"Being a judge requires you to really understand and have a good framework, background and foundation in order to properly serve the community as a judge and deal with the parties and the issues that you see on a regular basis," Taylor said. "This young man has zero of that."
Tucson Weekly made multiple attempts to speak with Bee II about his campaign and received no response thus far. His father, Judge Bee, responded to a phone call and declined to get us in contact with his son or verify any facts, claiming that would be "showing favoritism or partisanship."
On a candidates page, the Pima County GOP previously listed Judge Bee as running for re-election, when it is actually Bee II who is running. The webpage has since been corrected, but Taylor claims that both Bees stayed quiet and did nothing to fix this error, which works to the their advantage.
Taylor claims he's running a campaign focused on the public's right to information. He wants to make voters in Precinct 5 aware of the contrasting qualifications between himself and Bee II.
"I don't think that I'm running against this kid, I'm running against a name and the idea of his dad in the minds of voters," Taylor said.
Name recognition can be one of the most powerful tools at a politician's disposal during election season—a point that is not lost on the Bee family, as Keith Bee's brother, Tim Bee, ran successfully for Keith's Senate seat after Keith stepped down to take the Justice of the Peace position.
Kate Kenski is an associate professor at the UA's Department of Communication. She teaches graduate students about political communication, public opinion and research methods.
In her opinion, the Justice of the Peace campaign boils down to a lack of information made available to the public, which places the task of researching facts on the voters. In local elections, voters who are presented with a choice of candidates that they don't know much about will often cast their vote based on familiarity.
"If people recognize a name, and they don't have negative associations with that name, that's a positive thing," Kenski said.
She told me that this isn't entirely the voters' fault, and that people who show up to midterm elections are generally well-informed people.
"But frequently there just simply isn't a lot of information about positions such as Justice of the Peace," she said. "It often requires a lot of work on the voters' part to become informed."
But if Bee's current approach to campaigning continues through the Aug. 28 primary election, voters may have to work hard to learn that he is not his father. Bee has yet to set up a campaign website or a presence on social media. None of the campaign paperwork reviewed by Tucson Weekly included a phone number or email for contacting him.
The Weekly is interested in speaking with Bee about his campaign, so if he should read this—or if anyone reading this knows how to reach him—he can contact this reporter at email@example.com.