The Skinny

All Quiet on the Campaign Front

What if they had an election and nobody ran?

As we enter 2015, it looks like it could be a rough year for political junkies.

The odd years bring us Tucson City Council elections. This year, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is wrapping up his first term and looking for a second one. So far, Rothschild has drawn no announced opposition. No Democrats are stepping up to challenge him in the primary, no Republicans are stepping up to challenge him in the general.

That doesn't mean the newly elected Pima County Republican Party chairman Bill Beard won't find someone; it just means no one has enough fire in the belly to have started the ol' fundraising and organizational effort.

This is not entirely surprising, given that Democrats have a significant voter-registration advantage over Republicans in the city of Tucson. You may recall how this went the last time out: There were two would-be challengers to Rothschild, but both Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta were booted from the 2011 ballot because they didn't turn in enough valid signatures. (And don't even get us started on the would-be Democratic challenger to Rothschild, an oddball who called himself a billionaire based on some quasi-legal mumbo-jumbo he cooked up that made him the owner of all the houses in Tucson or some such nonsense. Marshall Home—who had filed so many actions in federal court that he was banned from doing so without a lawyer's approval—had some 'splaining to do with the feds after his brief political career collapsed.

After vanquishing that lineup in the courts, Rothschild ended up facing GOP write-in candidate Rick Grinnell, who launched his campaign with a promise to cut garbage service. It went downhill from there and Grinnell lost by 15 percentage points.

Unless Republicans can come up with a better candidate this year (and the fact that nobody is even floating a few names makes us think they're not likely to), Rothschild will be cruising to an easy re-election.

It's just as quiet on the council front. The three Democrats up for re-election—Ward 2's Paul Cunningham, Ward 3's Regina Romero, Ward 4's Shirley Scott—are also facing no competition. Cunningham and Scott have both filed their 2015 campaign paperwork and Romero is expected to launch her campaign soon.

Scott, who was first elected to the council in 1995, nearly lost in 2011, but prevailed by just 2 percentage points, so she was vulnerable in her last run.

We're certainly hoping that some decent candidates will emerge to take on the Democrats—and not only because we want something to do in the fall. We have serious challenges facing us here in Black Rock that deserve serious debate. What should Broadway Boulevard look like? Should the city turn over the bus system to a regional transportation authority? Should the city's golf courses be turned into parks? Why can't we fix more of our streets? Is our water policy on target? How are we going to get the budget back on a sustainable path?

Ah, who are we kidding? If we get a campaign, it will probably all be about potholes, Rio Nuevo and Grand Canyon University.

Bondage Gear

Will Pima County go for a bond election?

There's still a chance that Pima County could ask voters to approve a bond package on the November ballot, although the members of the Board of Supervisors that we've talked to remain skittish about the idea.

Nonetheless, the Pima County Bond Committee continues to whittle down the list of projects, which started out north of $2 billion. We hear that that Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants to see a final bond package in the $550 million range, so there's work there to be done to come up with a package that includes economic-development projects, park improvements, community centers and more.

If it's gonna go on the ballot, then the folks who stand to benefit are going to have to talk to some of their friends on the Board of Supervisors.

Charter Chatter

Yet another boring effort to reform the city's bureaucracy, help voters sleep

We hear the usual suspects are trying to agree on a package of changes to the city's charter, a sort of constitution for the city that sets up the powers of the mayor and council, controls how the elections are run and includes other provisions that our city fathers believed important at the close of the roaring '20s.

Various reformers backed a similar measure back in 2010, but whatever the merits may have it been, it never had a prayer of passing because it was attached to a gigantic pay raise for the mayor and City Council.

We'll see what the changes look like, but it probably does make sense to give the mayor more powers than planting trees and reading to children. One big deal that could be a game-changer: a move to ward-only elections instead of the current system of having ward-only primary elections and citywide general elections. (Even if you understand how the current system works, try explaining it to the average Tucson resident who doesn't give a shit about city politics.)

A final 2015 election note: John Kromko is still hard at work with his political mischief. He and his merry band are out collecting signatures to ask voters to ban those darn high-tech cameras that bust speeders and lead-footed drivers who run red lights. Kromko didn't have enough signatures the last time he tried to stop the growing influence of Robocop in our lives on the 2013 ballot. Can he defeat the machines this year?

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week, former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and attorney Jeff Rogers look back at the top political stories of 2014 and look ahead to what we're likely to see in 2015.

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