With two open House seats—Rep. Olivia Cajero Bedford is running for the state Senate, while Rep. Phil Lopes is retiring that ol' bow tie—the Democratic primary in Legislative District 27 is a crowded affair. Eight candidates have lined up to be the next state Representatives and Skinny 2010 would like to introduce you to Dustin Cox, a Democrat running his first campaign for public office.
But by the time the job starts, he will be 25 years old and have experience under his belt working for big campaigns, such as Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard's 2006 reelection effort, and managing big budgets.
He describes himself as a “budget wonk” and says he helped turn Anytown America from a failing nonprofit into a success.
“At a point where I took over (Anytown) we were packed up in boxes-my office was packed up in boxes-and we were facing shutting down,” he says.
“Just over a year later, we have actually never seen better times in the last couple of decades… That’s what I want to do at the Legislature because it’s packed up in boxes right now. We don’t even own the Capitol right now.”
Cox says his work at Anytown prepared him to work with the GOP majority to craft bipartisan legislation that may actually get hearings.
“The whole point (of Anytown) is to build bridges among communities who traditionally don’t work together well, who may not like each other,” he says. “And I can’t think of a more valuable skill in the Legislature, because a lot of people don’t like each other.”
If elected, his first order of business would be to work on solving the budget’s structural deficit through tax code reform.
“It’s not sexy at all, but it’s so vitally important to the future of our state in every way,” he says. “We won’t be able to address education, health care and creating jobs unless we address our problem with revenue. It’s not a spending problem like some of my friends on the other side of the aisle will tell you… We can spend more, but we need to fix our revenue problem.”
The problem with revenue, he says, is corporate tax loopholes and our narrow, sales tax-reliant tax base.
To help balance the budget, Cox would like to raise income taxes on people who earn more than $300,000, and extend the sales tax to include sales on services and luxury items.
“If you go and buy a country club membership, or get a massage, or get your haircut or buy a golf cart, you’re not going to pay a tax on that," he says. "Why is that? And who are the people buying those things? Because it’s not me and it’s not most of the people in the state."
Cox says he supports Clean Elections—though he raised his campaign cash traditionally—and will not outspend his Clean Elections-funded competitors. He has raised almost $4,800 so far, with most of his contributions coming from out-of-town individual donors.
District 27 covers west Tucson and includes Fourth Avenue and Old Tucson Studios. Roughly half the voters are Democratic, while only one in five are Republican.