by Jim Nintzel
Democrat Paul Cunningham was appointed to the Tucson City Council after Councilman Rodney Glassman stepped down last year to run for the U.S. Senate.
Cunningham has been involved with politics most of his life; his father, George Cunningham, was a state lawmaker in the 1990s and served as a budget advisor in the Napolitano administration, and Cunningham has long been active in the party as a precinct leader and volunteer.
Before he was appointed to represent the northeast-side Ward 2, Cunningham worked for the Pima County Juvenile Probation Department. He has served in the Army Reserve and the National Guard.
He’s now seeking a full term on the City Council because “I really want Tucson to be successful and I’m the kind of guy who can bring us there. Tucson is one of the greatest cities in the world and I love it with all of my heart. … I think I bring this kind of unique skill set to put people together, collaborate and try to come up with effective solutions. It’s not sexy, but it’s what gets the job done.”
A bit of a sports nut, Cunningham is especially proud of his work bringing Major League Soccer’s Desert Cup to Hi Corbett Field earlier this year.
“We got a lot of people together and we worked really hard to try to get the economy going again,” says Cunningham.
If he wins reelection, Cunningham says he wants to focus on stabilizing the city’s budget and luring more sports events to Tucson.
His opponent, Republican Jennifer Rawson, is a relative newcomer to Tucson. She’s lived here for five years after moving from Wickenburg to be closer to her granddaughter. Before her decade in Wickenburg, she had lived in California and Oregon.
Her career includes working as a manager for Xerox in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I’ve done zero-based budgeting and contract negotiations, and in my opinion, those are talents the city of Tucson desperately needs,” Rawson says.
Rawson wants to serve on the Tucson City Council because “we have a city government that is losing and not accounting for millions of dollars. … Somebody has to do something.”
She adds that she’s frustrated by the City Council’s “inability to make the hard choices necessary for all of the citizens of Tucson.”
Rawson says she’d provide reliable support for Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, the only Republican on the council.
Rawson says she would have cut the transit budget in the latest budget cycle, along with spending on council offices and on perks for high-paid city employees, such as take-home cars.
“Those kinds of things are hard decisions,” Rawson says. “I understand that it would be nice to do all of the things for everyone. But we really need to take care of the things that are for everyone first.”