Developer and downtown advocate Randi Dorman launched her bid for mayor of Tucson during a casual gathering of supporters last week at downtown's Connect Coworking courtyard, complete with drinks and live music.
"It's time for us to not just fix the roads but make sure they lead somewhere," Dorman told a cheering crowd on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Dorman is the latest Democrat to kick off a campaign to replace Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who is stepping down this year after two terms. Dorman joins Ward 1 City Council member Regina Romero and former state lawmaker Steve Farley in the August primary. Given the Democratic Party's heavy voter-registration edge, the winner of that contest will have a major advantage in the November general election, which has yet to draw a high-profile Republican candidate. Advertising agency owner Ed Ackerley is running as an independent alongside a handful of relatively unknown candidates.
Originally from New York, Dorman worked in advertising with international brands such as Charmin, Crest and Old Spice for 15 years before moving to downtown Tucson in 2001 with her husband, Rob Paulus, an architect and developer. Together they formed R+R Develop, a local real estate development company.
In 2005 the couple worked to convert a closed ice factory into the residential Ice House Lofts on 17th Street. Now, R+R is in the process of developing mixed-use apartments, offices and retail spaces adjacent to the Trinity Presbyterian Church on Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard.
Dorman served as the president of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson for more than five years, and currently serves as the chairwoman of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. She hopes to bring her close relationship with the ongoing revitalization of downtown and knowledge of small business economics to the dais.
"We need to take the energy that we put into downtown and we need to start to bring that into the rest of the community," she said.
Dorman called for boosting Tucson's economy by supporting the growth of small and medium-sized businesses and collaborating through job-training programs. She also fell back on traditional calls to consolidate operations with the county and establish a "robust annexation program" to persuade more residents in unincorporated Pima County to agree to join the city of Tucson in order to capture more dollars from the state.
"Keeping our money in Tucson will enable us to pay for the things that create a better quality of life here," she said. "And if we collaborate with the county, we can reduce redundancies in departments like Parks and Planning and Development Services and if we do that, we free up money for our community."
Dorman also had a hand in the DTP Connects program, which helped chronically homeless people living in the downtown area find housing opportunities and other support. She said her team was able to dramatically decrease chronic homelessness in the downtown area in a few months.
Dorman said Tucson could address climate change on the local level by adopting more sustainable building practices.
"Urban infill, density in the core, where it belongs, and reusing old buildings are some of the greenest building practices you can do and I'm going to make them easier to do," she said. "In addition, incentives for rainwater harvesting, solar installation, tree planting, energy-efficient home and building improvements—if we do those things we create jobs, improve the environment and improve our quality of life."
If elected mayor, Dorman wants to start planning for long-term projects such as an expansion of the city's public transit system and a high-speed rail to Mexico and the Arizona Sun Corridor.
"We have to make sure that we're shovel-ready when funding opportunities arise, like they have in the past. We want to make sure that we're going to be the first in line."
Dorman said it was time for one more change at City Hall.
"I have spent an extraordinary amount of time sitting in city council meetings," Dorman said. "There's a wall of portraits of all of the men who have been mayors of Tucson in the past. All men. It is 2019 and it is time to make a change, it is time to think differently about what is possible for Tucson."