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Analyze This

Honey, I shrunk the Ward 2 Democratic primary!

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The Democratic Party has long had a split personality between left-wing activists and centrist moderates.

The left-wingers want to tackle all social, economic and environmental injustice through immediate government action. The centrist moderates try to resolve issues through baby steps and compromise in the existing system.

If Dr. Freud were to put next week's Ward 2 primary on the couch, the father of psychoanalysis would quickly conclude that Tucson City Councilwoman Carol West is the ego of the Democratic Party, while challenger Lianda Ludwig is the id. That leaves voters as the superego, saddled with the task of deciding which impulse to follow.

Up for re-election after one term, West is nothing if not a pragmatic politician. When a majority of the City Council members raced to splash red, white and blue paint on A Mountain at the beginning of the Iraq war, for example, West initially resisted the patriotic impulse and declared that it should remain white. (The id's political survival instinct eventually overcame the ego, in this case; West, like Mayor Bob Walkup, later reversed herself and joined the unanimous vote to keep the new paint job.)

In contrast, Ludwig, a former school guidance counselor who now works as a freelance calligrapher, brings unbridled passion to her politics. An activist who proudly flies on the Democratic Party's left wing, Ludwig believes in "trickle-up economics" and wants to ban all big box stores. She wants free day care and swimming lessons for as many Tucson kids as possible. She's an ardent proponent of solar power and carried petitions for the light rail initiative that will appear on the November ballot.

Ludwig fiercely opposed the Iraq war. When she's knocking on doors in Ward 2 neighborhoods, she carries literature for Congressman Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign; Howard Dean, she complains, isn't really a liberal at all, no matter how hard he tries to portray himself as one. And George Bush has made her open to the idea that there really may be a God because, she says, "I think Bush is the anti-Christ."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ludwig, 51, has been activist for most of her life. She can remember joining her schoolteacher father on the picket line and later protested against the Vietnam War. She later helped a cousin win state office in New York and fought for a park in her small community.

Although she's more in tune with national politics, Ludwig got into the race, she says, after being "recruited by a number of different people who came to me and said they wanted a real Democrat to run. When I really thought about it, I knew I was the right person to do this."

The notion of being the true Democrat is at the heart of Ludwig's campaign. She hauls out the line at nearly every appearance and while walking neighborhoods.

"Carol claims to be a Democrat, but she goes against what you think of as a democratic agenda," Ludwig complains.

"I'm a real Democrat, too," responds West, 62, who grew up in a Republican household in North Dakota. She switched to the Democratic Party some 30 years ago because she felt out of tune with the GOP after becoming active in political causes such as migrant worker reform.

"I became more and more disenchanted with the Republican Party," West says. "It just seemed to me they weren't taking care of people the way I felt people ought to be taken care of. ... I have never considered myself a far-left liberal, but I do feel strongly about human rights, freedom of speech and the kinds of things that I think most Democrats favor."

West has captured the support of the moderate wing of the local party--Democrats such as former county assessor Steve Emerine, Betsy Bolding and gubernatorial aides George Cunningham and Jan Lesher. Her supporters include Michael Crawford and Sharon Hekman, two Democrats who were appointed to the City Council and later lost primaries to more liberal Democrats when they faced voters.

But it's fair to say that West has frequently split with her fellow Democrats on the council--Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott--to provide the fourth vote to support her Republican colleagues. West has blocked the effort to dump City Manager Jim Keene and supported a budget plan that raised numerous fees and taxes while cutting programs for low-income Tucsonans, such as job training.

The Republicans on the council like her so much that her they discouraged any GOP candidates from getting in the race. As a result, the winner of the Ward 2 primary will face no general election opposition in November, making this a winner-take-all race.

The Republicans may be fond of West, but her fellow Democrats are so unhappy with her that they've been quietly working with Ludwig to bring her up to speed on city issues. Ludwig's supporters include former council member Molly McKasson and two-term mayor George Miller, who is chairing her campaign.

"Without making Carol out to be an evil person and all that kind of crud, she just has accepted the role of Mayor Walkup and the other two Republicans," Miller says. "And above all else, she's been taken in totally by the city manager, Jim Keene. Their position is, 'We've got a problem here and we can't possible solve it without taking away all these things that are nice, but not really necessary for running the government.'"

Exhibit A: KidCo, a city after-school and summer program for kids with working parents. During last year's budget battle, West voted with the three Republicans to begin charging $50 per semester and $75 for the all-day summer program.

West says the fees, which amount to $2.50 a week, are reasonable, especially since the council also approved a break for low-income participants.

"There is no other program anywhere that I know where a child can participate in an after-school program for $2.50 a week," West says.

Ludwig argues that any fee is too much. "I want a free program," she says, complaining that the city hasn't done enough to promote the sliding-scale fee waivers. Besides, she adds, expecting low-income people to apply for help is the wrong approach.

"It's embarrassing," she says. "It makes people stand out and it's not the way to do it."

As for a cap on the number of enrollees: "I'm really not aware of numbers I could quote you on that, but I'd like to see as many people who need it have it available for them," Ludwig says.

Besides appealing to the party's base, Ludwig has reached out to Ward 2 residents who have lost neighborhood battles. She criticizes West for supporting a plan to put an acre of grass at Case Natural Resources Park, an eastside desert reserve.

"Case Park was an example of an open area that's absolutely pristine where people don't have to get into their cars and go to a national park and pay $10 to go in and see the desert," Ludwig says. "We have to think about the greater good and what we're doing by cutting open the desert and putting grass in, which spreads like wildfire into the rest of the desert."

She's also outraged that the turf will be watered with groundwater.

West says the plan for the park has already been scaled back in a compromise reached by her predecessor, Janet Marcus. Parks and Recreation originally wanted to put in a swimming pool, ball fields and picnic tables, but Marcus brokered a deal with environmentalists and the neighbors to limit the plan to about an acre of grass.

"There are 225 children who need a place to play," says West. "People have fought about this park long enough and the compromise was less than a acre of grass out there and some parents wanted that."

As for the water issue, West says it would cost $2 million to bring reclaimed water lines to the park. She expects the city will someday extend those lines as the city continues to grow.

Ludwig has also championed the cause of residents near Harrison Road and Old Spanish Trail, who fought over the opening of a new Target "big-box" store in the area.

For Ludwig, the city's big-box ordinance, passed during the contentious fight over the redevelopment of El Con Mall, doesn't go far enough.

"I want to like to look at legislation to disallow big-box stores to come in at all," she says. "It's the job of the City Council to protect the residents in Tucson."

She ticks off many reasons for opposing the stores. They drive small shops out of business; they pay low wage and lousy benefits; they're anti-union and, in general, "cost communities more than they give back."

West says she developed a reasonable compromise using the legal tools at her disposal.

"You have to be realistic," West says. "When somebody has the zoning, there's a lot of case law that they will prevail. Why waste city tax dollars, especially at time of a tight budget, on a lawsuit where you probably won't prevail?"

Ludwig's candidacy has forced West to move left in recent months. In one instance this summer, she voted to put the light rail proposition on the November ballot, despite an earlier stance that it should only go before voters if backers had gathered enough signatures to qualify as an initiative.

West is counting on the leftward swing to reverse a recent trend that has seen more liberal candidates win Democratic primaries: Paula Aboud defeated Vicki Hart in Ward 3 two years ago; Molly McKasson beat three other challengers in the mayoral primary four years ago; Jerry Anderson upset Michael Crawford in Ward 3 in 1997.

But Ward 2, one of the wealthier wards in the city, leans more conservative than the rest of Tucson. There are 16,837 Republicans and just 14,860 Democrats, along with 8,628 voters who are considered Independents and eligible to vote in next week's primary.

Even the Democrats tend to vote a more moderate ticket. In the 1999 four-way mayoral race, the last hard-fought primary among Democrats in Ward 2, moderate Democrat Betsy Bolding out-polled the liberal McKasson 40 percent to 33 percent. (Janet Marcus, who then represented Ward 2, got about 17 percent.)

Although the race hasn't gotten much media attention and city officials anticipate a low turn-out, there has been early interest among voters. By the time the city stopped taking early ballot requests last Friday, Aug. 28, 1,306 Democrats had requested early ballots, along with 203 Independent voters who are eligible to vote in the primary. (A little more than half had already sent in their votes.) Four years ago, in the mayoral primary that saw a turnout of about 31 percent, just 991 early ballots were cast.

But will those voters lean left enough to push Ludwig to an upset win? In a low-turnout primary, crazier things have happened.

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