Whatever you might think of Democrat Jonathan Rothschild's accomplishments in his first term in office, you have to appreciate the astonishing luck he has in drawing some of the weakest challengers of any politician I've seen.
Candidates have to turn in their nominating petitions by 5 p.m. next Wednesday, May 27, and so far, the only guy who wants to run against Rothschild on the Republican ticket is a lefty Democrat.
Robert Reus has less than a week to get a minimum of 1,306 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Considering his rather short history with the GOP—he changed his registration last week, according to Becky Pallack over at the AZ Daily Star
—he probably can't count on too much support from the county party apparatus.
Reus ran a quixotic campaign against former Tucson councilman Rodney Glassman in the 2007 Democratic primary (more on that in a bit). His political activity these days is railing against the council during Call to the Audience.
Rothschild does sort of have a Democratic opponent—a B-movie producer named Chuck Williams. But that campaign looks like it's going to bomb at the ballot box office as Williams hasn't really got a grip on the whole signature-gathering routine.
And look at the political circus freaks Rothschild was juggling when he first ran in 2011: Two Republicans and an independent filed to run against him, but all three failed to come up with enough signatures and were bounced from the ballot.
That left Rick Grinnell to run as a write-in candidate, but his campaign proposals—such as cutting back trash service so that residents would have to remember random days for collection—led to him getting trounced by 15 percentage points. Oh, and then there was the elderly wackjob who claimed, among other things, to be a billionaire because he owned all of the houses in Tucson. (IIRC, the Queen of England figured into it as well.) In a twist, Home was able to get enough signatures to make the ballot but he got tossed from the ballot because he didn't live in the city. But he filed a novel countersuit trying to get Rothschild tossed from the ballot because Rothschild was an attorney.
Very weird days. Anyway, here's some background on Reus from a profile I wrote in 2007 back
when he was running against Democrat Rodney Glassman:
Glassman's first hurdle is next month's Democratic primary, where he is facing Robert Reus, who makes his living selling colorful beaded Huichol Indian art in a Fourth Avenue shop. Reus admits he's not likely to prevail in the Sept. 11 primary.
"I'm not going to pretend that I have a chance of winning," says Reus, who explains that he's had little luck raising money for his campaign. "My credibility is more important to me than that."
Instead, Reus is using his campaign as a platform to get out his message that the city of Tucson needs a fundamental change from the weak-mayor system of governance.
Under the current setup, Mayor Bob Walkup and the City Council have the authority to set policy, but they don't have anything to do with the day-to-day operation of the city. That's handled by City Manager Mike Hein, who takes direction from the council but runs the bureaucracy.
Through appearances in front of the council and on his public-access TV show, Reus has been agitating for years to see the system changed to a so-called "strong mayor" form of government, in which the mayor would essentially take over the job of the city manager as the head of the bureaucracy. The City Council would then have the job of passing ordinances and advising the mayor.
Reus pushed through a similar change in government in Fayetteville, Ark., where he lived before returning to Tucson six years ago. (Reus had lived here for a few years in the '70s.)
He believes until this fundamental change is made, the community will continue to be plagued by "economic stagnation, crime, gangs and runaway growth."
"People have a right to elect a mayor who promises to try, through the use of the law, to reduce growth to a sustainable level," Reus says. "You could be a saint come back to life with the best intentions in the world, and with this form of government, you're not going to be able to do anything. We're still going to see the economy foundering; we're still going to see marginalization; we're still going to see crime increasing."
As it turns out, there will be some charter changes on the ballot, but they will only give the mayor equal power to his fellow council members rather than making him CEO of the city.
While I've misread political currents in the past, 2015 doesn't seem to be shaping up as a Republican year in city politics.
There are three Republicans gathering signatures for council runs. Bill Hunt, a pilot who takes trips with the Tucson chapter of the Flying Samaritans, wants to challenge Democrat Regina Romero, who is seeking a third term in westside Ward 1. Kelly Lawton, who works for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, wants to take on Democrat Paul Cunningham, who is seeking his second full term in northeastern Ward 2. And Margaret Burkholder, who serves on the Vail School District governing board, wants to unseat Democrat Shirley Scott, who is seeking her fifth term in southeastern Ward 4.
The challengers could turn out to be legit candidates; they're not talking to the press until they qualify for the ballot, so it's likely that they are still boning up on city issues.
But at least it's not shaping up like the 2007 election year.