Take Your Pick

Five Democrats in LD 28 are knocking on doors and asking for votes

You're sitting in your home in Legislative District 28—somewhere between the Rillito River and 22nd Street, and between First Avenue and Camino Seco—when you hear a rapping at your door.

A dark-haired man with a dab of sunscreen on his nose and a big smile is standing on your doorstep. Incumbent state Rep. Steve Farley introduces himself and asks for your vote in the Aug. 24 Democratic primary.

Farley is the incumbent; his seatmate, David Bradley, hit his term limit this year. Four other Democrats jumped into the race to replace Bradley—and Farley's trying to avoid getting pushed aside in the rush.

The candidates all have similar positions: All five say education is their top priority. All oppose SB 1070—and nearly everything else the Republican Legislature has done recently. They all have political experience.

Farley tells you he's been representing the district since first getting elected in 2006 and serves as the House Democratic policy analyst. He's also a public artist whose claim to fame is the black-and-white mural in the Broadway Underpass downtown.

Being a legislator isn't that different from being a public artist, he says.

"As a public artist, your job is to come up with a creative solution to a problem, but the problem is generally a blank wall or something. You have to sell your ideas to the public ... and get selected from a highly competitive process. Then once you win, you have to carry out your ideas and tell people about what you're doing. ... That's the same sort of thing I'm hoping to do with public policy."

Besides trying to kill bad Republican legislation as a member of the Ways and Means and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees, Farley pens a weekly e-mail known as the Farley Report, which he sends to anyone who wants it.

"I sit down, two to three hours every Tuesday night, after a long day, and I tell my constituents everything I've seen and heard. I educate them about how the process works, what's going on and what's not working, who's who and what's happening. And people are really appreciative of that."

You tell him to e-mail you the Farley Report, and you send him on his way. Soon, there's another knock at the door.

It's Ted Prezelski. He hands you his card and tells you that he works with recent high school dropouts and understands the effects of state budget cuts to education and support systems for working families.

His political background includes service as vice-chair of the Arizona Democratic Party and an unsuccessful campaign for the same LD 28 seat back in 2006.

Until he started campaigning, Prezelski wrote a snarky, history-laden political-insider's blog called Rum, Romanism and Rebellion, which The Washington Post named Arizona's best political blog twice.

"My vocation for the last few years has been to call (Republican legislators) out and show how crazy they are," Prezelski says. "And now it's kind of time for me to step up and put my money where my mouth is, and say, 'Hey look, I'm willing to go do battle up there instead of just throwing darts from down here.'"

All those darts he's thrown won't come back to poke him, he says, because "the Republicans who can be worked with are not the ones I was making fun of."

Just as he's walking away, you see a woman walking to your door.

Her name is Mohur Sidhwa. She speaks with an accent, and if you're like most people, you ask her about it. She's from India, and she came to the United States at 19 years old after her mother gave her an ultimatum: Wear a burqa for the rest of her life, or go abroad. The choice was easy, she says.

This is Sidhwa's first campaign for public office, though she's been involved in the Arizona Democratic Party for more than 20 years and recently served as the vice-chair.

Sidhwa is a scientist and small-business owner who says her goal is to encourage high-tech companies to come to Arizona, and collaborate on education for high school students. She says the Legislature is stuck in the dark ages.

"I think if there was someone like me to patiently explain to our less scientifically literate (legislators) the impact of their ideological legislation on pocketbook issues, they might, perhaps, be willing to listen."

After a while, she heads out, but it's not long until the doorbell rings.

Tim Sultan introduces himself. He says he has the endorsement of retiring Rep. David Bradley, and that he got into the race to keep up Bradley's record of fighting for children. His mom was a public-school teacher, and he knows the hardships teachers are facing.

He's a negotiator by trade, he says, which will serve him well in state government.

"The legislators we have, no offense to them, but I feel like nothing's really getting done up there. People aren't talking; they're not negotiating, they're not working toward a final solution, and that's what I do for a living."

Despite his business background and clean-cut look, he's actually quite liberal, he says. He worked for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example. He also made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2004.

His long-term goal is to restore funding to public education and the state universities, he says.

Just when you think you're done, there's another knock. Bruce Wheeler, who formerly served on the Tucson City Council for eight years, and spent one term in the Legislature, is standing on your doorstep. He's a little older than the other candidates—and hopefully a little wiser, he says.

He says his greatest accomplishment while on the City Council was fighting entrenched powers to clean up the cancer-causing water on the southside.

His first priority would be to honor the Arizona Constitution and fund education, he says. To accomplish that, he would close tax loopholes in the tax structure.

"It's like a chunk of cheese: There are so many holes in the tax code that we're losing out on revenue that we could be using for public safety and education," he says.

By the time he hits term limits—eight years from now—he hopes to have "moved Arizona students from the third-highest dropout rate in the nation and the lowest funding for students in education, to the Top 10. That is my goal."

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