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Taking Council

Tucson's leading political piranha chomps into the city election's real winners and losers.

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Last week, the Republicans won their first multiple victory in a Tucson city election since 1969 (non-partisan recalls don't count) because they ran better candidates, were better organized and, courtesy of independent committees, had more money. Democrats blew it because they ran inferior candidates, had no real message and got bogged down by peripheral issues of interest only to the fringe portions of their coalition.

While Republicans went out of their way to appeal to Democrats, Democratic candidates never gave a GOP voter any reason to cross over besides the tired old bitching about "special interests." Voters know that everybody is supported by some special interests-Dems have trial lawyers and unions. The special interest must be named. They would have done no worse visibly running against the Growth Lobby instead of tap-dancing and not wanting to be called "no-growthers," which is what they were perceived as anyway.

The Republicans were hardly invincible in a 3-2 Democratic town. Poll data taken by one group supporting Republicans Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt had Ronstadt up 10 points against Democrat Gayle Hartmann, and Dunbar about even with Democrat Paula Aboud in the last 10 days of the campaign. Ronstadt blew part of his lead with a dippy radio spot that offended many by playing off the current national crisis--a ploy that burned most candidates of both parties other places this election. Fred's spot made it sound almost un-American to criticize him and demanded that Hartmann quit the negative campaigning while the independent committee supporting him and Dunbar was running one hell of a negative campaign against Aboud. Many noticed that hypocrisy. Many inaccuracies flawed that negative campaign against Aboud, but that didn't stop it from working, nor did Aboud's consistently evasive responses.


THE WINNERS

· THE GOP
The Kumbaya BS coming from GOP leaders about how it "wasn't really a Republican victory" is peculiar. The state GOP didn't drop a 30 grand bundle on this one because they just wanted good government. They, and all the Republican voters they urged to the polls, wanted a Republican win. They got it, and their leaders should politely revel in it and use it as a base for party building.

· AT-HOME VOTING
Besides allowing election officials to pander to the lazy, the stupid and the uninterested, this politically correct attempt to raise voter turnout has another constituency besides the election bureaucracy--those with enough money to run a lengthened campaign. For now that will favor the GOP in most local elections, as it did this year. And someday it will increase voter fraud. Chicago voters know--they don't let election officials hold onto their ballots any longer than necessary.

· THE NRA AND OTHER GUN GROUPS
The Dems simply couldn't leave a politically irrelevant symbolic issue in a City Council election alone. There were several hundred real bodies at a couple of gun-rights rallies for Dunbar and Ronstadt, crowds that clearly outnumbered those being drawn by the heavily touted neighborhood groups, and those attending were all voting one way. If the GOP doesn't want to claim this win, the NRA should. They worked their several thousand members well. Mayor Walkup should notice that it'll be easier next time if these people are at least off his back.

· SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK
He came out early and hard for Dunbar and later for Ronstadt. The most popular Democrat in Pima County is probably the least popular in certain Democrat circles. And the net result will be that even more candidates will be kissing his butt in 2002.

· MAYOR BOB WALKUP
Probably the luckiest man in local politics. He was standing just close enough to be able to claim he had some impact upon this election. He now has two years to come up with a program that reaches beyond slogan. Fixing some potholes would be a start.

· PIMA COUNTY REPUBLICAN CHAIR JOHN MUNGER
When the French attempted to determine who had won the Battle of the Marne, their commanding general, Joffre, responded, " I don't know who won, but I know who everyone would've blamed had we lost." Despite his modesty over claiming it for the GOP, Munger was party chair for the biggest local Republican win in three decades. We'll claim it for him.

· NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING
Hartmann did it to Ronstadt; he whined and lost votes. The independent committee did it to Aboud; she whined and lost votes. It works. Get used to it--it's only been around since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800.


LOSERS

· THE NEIGHBORHOOD COALITION AND SIMILAR GROUPS
Everybody lives in a neighborhood--so? The leaders of these groups never noticed that the constituency of those who looked upon them as leaders was shrinking and they weren't replacing it. Part of that occurred when they added superfluous issues ranging from gun control to sign codes and forgot about stuff like sidewalks and street lights. Part of it was natural attrition and burnout. And a big part comes from geography and growth--these groups are mainly from the static central city, which is being gradually swamped by the growing east side. Dunbar and Ronstadt only carried the two eastside wards--and that was enough.

When these groups get some new leaders and some new ideas, they could again be relevant.

· THE PIMA COUNTY INTERFAITH COUNCIL
Ronstadt told them to stuff it. He won. They used to scare the hell out of every local politician. They no longer do. They should read a little more Saul Alinksy about when to bluff.

· THE ANTI-BILLBOARD LOBBY
City Councilmember-elect Kathleen Dunbar said candidly (candor was another reason she won), "Nobody cares about billboards". It is hardly a hot-button issue, but those frightened by "visual pollution" are disproportionately represented in Democratic circles. It resembles what the late Murray Rothbard said about neo-conservatives: "There are only 105 of them in the entire country, and 78 of those have syndicated columns."

· THE GREEN PARTY>br< What party? They found a decent candidate in Ward 3, and then allowed themselves to be guilt-tripped out of running him after they'd raised money to qualify for matching funds. The stiff they took a dive for lost anyway. They proved conclusively they are nothing more than a front group for the left wing of the Democratic Party, which they should all quietly return to and quit pretending they have a separate agenda.

· STEVE LEAL AND JOSE IBARRA
They will now act as ineffective symbols. Ibarra should find that easy, as he once worked for Supervisor Raúl Grijalva, who's made a whole career out of being an ineffective symbol, even when in the majority and Chairman of the Board.

· THE ANTI-GUN LOBBY
While the issue of gun control wasn't the deciding factor, those who get the support of the NRA, FACT and BrassRoots like Dunbar and Ronstadt are hardly out of the mainstream and can be elected without fudging their pro-gun position even in a generally liberal town.


THE DEMOCRATS allowed the GOP coalition to grow beyond its natural boundaries while their own shrank. To regain the political initiative they lost in the last three local elections they will have to either expand existing elements or find some new interest groups willing to go along with the most vocal parts of their existing team. The temptation will be to do nothing and just wait for the GOP to screw up. Arrogant Democrats will assume they will. The brighter ones will start looking for some new allies.

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