Cash Dash

Tucson City Council Candidates File Their First Campaign Finance Reports.

By Jim Nintzel

AT A TIME when public disgust with our country's campaign finance methods has reached new heights, the City of Tucson's system stands out as a model.

While it's not perfect, the city's program is an innovative approach, combining private and public financing for campaigns. Under the rules, candidates sign contracts agreeing to limit total campaign spending to approximately $68,380. (The exact figure, based on the number of registered voters and the Consumer Price Index, is yet to be nailed down.)

Candidates who sign the contract cannot accept individual contributions greater than $300. If they're able to collect more than 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents, candidates get an impressive reward: Every dollar they've raised is matched by public funds.

Currents According to reports filed earlier this week, none of this year's council candidates has yet applied for matching funds. The reports, which show fundraising activity through May 31, suggest most of the candidates are just getting started on their campaign efforts.

In the midtown Ward 6 race, that's no surprise. Incumbent Councilwoman Molly McKasson surprised many local politicos when she announced just months ago she would step down rather than seek re-election to the seat she's held since 1989.

Since then, five Democrats and one Republican have scrambled to launch campaigns for the Ward 6 seat. (A sixth Democrat, homebuilder David Taggett, had considered entering the race but has dropped out.)

Carol Zimmerman led the fundraising race at the end of May, with $3,995 in contributions. An aide to former Mayor Tom Volgy in the late 1980s who now works as director of development for St. Gregory's prep school, Zimmerman had loaned the campaign an additional $1,250, giving her a total of $5,255. She had already spent $4,061, leaving her with about $1,200 in the bank.

Leo Pilachowski, who's best know in political circles for work as a campaign strategist in Democratic campaigns, reported raising $2,151, mostly in amounts ranging from $10 to $25. Pilachowski reported spending $925, leaving him with $1,225 in the bank.

Longtime neighborhood activist Tres English has collected $700 in contributions, including two $300 contributions from Spencer and Kerstin Block, the owners of the Buffalo Exchange resale clothing empire. Spencer Block recently served with English on the Pima County Charter Committee.

Alison Hughes, who has been involved in Democratic politics for decades, had no contributions but had seeded her campaign with a $1,369 loan. She tells The Weekly she began a more aggressive fundraising effort in June.

Octavio Bartello, a former aide to Congressman Ed Pastor who has worked on local political campaigns, also had no contributions, but had lent the campaign $73.34, which he had spent on office supplies, walking lists and photocopies.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Fred Ronstadt, the son of city Parks and Rec Director Jim Ronstadt. Having only recently assembled his campaign, Ronstadt reported no fundraising activity before May 31.

Over in Ward 3, Councilman Mike Crawford had collected $8,390, including $100 he lent the campaign. Crawford had spent $3,189, leaving him with $5,201 in the bank. A lawyer in the Pima County Public Defender's Office, Crawford has found many of his contributions in the legal and real-estate communities.

Appointed to the Ward 3 seat in 1995, Crawford has drawn two challengers.

Jerry Anderson, who worked as an aide to former Mayor Tom Volgy and later in the city's annexation division, had collected $420 in contributions through May 31. He'd also loaned the campaign $1,201.

Alex Kimmelman, an historian who has worked in the city's planning department, had received zero contributions and had lent the campaign $240, all of which had been spent on campaign basics.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Dan Coleman, a lobbyist at the state Capitol, in the November general election. Coleman, who filed his campaign papers late last week, did not report any fundraising activity through May 31.

Coleman is the only candidate who declined to sign a campaign contract with the City Clerk's Office. Since he didn't sign a contract, Coleman will not required to keep campaign spending under $68,300. Nor will he be eligible for matching funds.

Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal, who apparently won't face a challenge in the primary or general election, had raised $24,341. He'd spent $2,707, leaving him with a warchest of $21,633. TW

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