Tucson Metro Chamber Endorses Cunningham, Scott and Burkholder in Council Races

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Councilman Paul Cunningham won the Tucson Metro Chamber's support.
  • Councilman Paul Cunningham won the Tucson Metro Chamber's support.
The Tucson Metro Chamber's Southern Arizona Business Political Action Committee has released its endorsements in this year's Tucson City Council races—and the business group ended up issuing no endorsements in the Ward 1 race between incumbent Democrat Regina Romero and GOP challenger Bill Ward; a thumbs-up to incumbent Democrat Paul Cunningham in Ward 2; and endorsements to both Democratic incumbent Shirley Scott and GOP challenger Margaret Burkholder in Ward 4.

Here's the Chamber's announcement:

City of Tucson Council Race Ward 1

The Southern Arizona Business PAC has decided to make no endorsement in this race this year.

SAZPAC believes the incumbent, Regina Romero, has not exemplified the policies, practices or votes that support a pro-growth, pro-jobs environment, resulting in Tucson continuing to be one of the most economically depressed communities in the entire nation. Despite her continual claims to support Tucson's economic progress, her actions and votes say otherwise. Council Member Romero's opposition to one of the nation’s largest retailers, opposition to the proposed $100 million Grand Canyon University project in her ward and the lack of progress on the City-owned "west-side" properties do not align with economic expansion and job creation. The west side of Tucson desperately needs representation that will create jobs and opportunity. The Chamber does, however, appreciate Council Member Romero's support of the Chamber's Project Prosperity program.

SAZPAC also believes the challenger, Bill Hunt, does not exemplify the policies and practices that will support a pro-growth, pro-jobs environment. Mr. Hunt opposes annexation of unincorporated parts of our metro area into the City of Tucson. With incorporation being a substantial issue in Pima County, it was expected that a candidate would better understand this issue and the fiscal implications to the City of Tucson and our region. Further, SAZPAC believes Mr. Hunt lacks the organization and financial means to be a viable candidate in a citywide race.

City of Tucson Council Race Ward 2
The Southern Arizona Business PAC endorses Paul Cunningham for the Ward 2 Council seat. During the last four years Council Member Cunningham has developed into an elected representative who takes action, whether it be in an official capacity from the dias or outside his official capacities. He has offered fresh ideas to help with the pension challenges the City of Tucson faces, worked to bring Major League Soccer to town and supports new business development in his ward. While many question his handling of internal staff issues, Council Member Cunningham is approachable and works to find solutions. He also embraced the entire agenda of pro-growth and pro-jobs recommendations of the Project Prosperity Task Force.

Council Member Cunningham's opponent, Mr. Kelly Lawton, left Chamber interviewers wanting more substance and depth. Mr. Lawton demonstrated his business acumen, but failed to effectively communicate his knowledge of the office he is seeking. He also did not provide details on how he would accomplish the ideas and goals he did express to the interviewers.

City of Tucson Council Race Ward 4

SAZPAC believes the Ward 4 race is the most competitive race in this year’s election. Both candidates have strengths and weaknesses; SAZPAC's opinion is that either will effectively represent a pro-economy and pro-jobs agenda. Therefore, SAZPAC endorses both candidates. While a dual-endorsement is uncommon, it is not without precedent. This political action committee, as well as others, have used dual endorsements in situations such as this when it has determined both candidates to be acceptable.

The incumbent, Shirley Scott, has been the deciding vote on issues that pertain to business on numerous occasions. She has led the discussion for supporting our military assets in the Tucson region (a $2 billion yearly economic impact) and has promoted growth not only in her ward, but citywide. Ms. Scott works with developers to see projects reach completion, instead of pandering to fringe groups whose agendas tend to stifle jobs and economic expansion. She has an open-door policy and makes it a priority to meet with representatives of the Chamber. Council Member Scott readily accepted the recommendations of the Project Prosperity Task Force to improve operations and policies at the City of Tucson to improve economic expansion and create jobs.

SAZPAC also realizes, however, that Ms. Scott has also served on the City council for nearly 20 years. She is the only person still serving from the days of the issues surrounding the Rio Nuevo project's initial failure. In that time, Council decisions were made that have detrimental consequences even now. With experience comes liability for an elected official – and SAZPAC acknowledges both.

SAZPAC believes the Ward 4 challenger, Margaret Burkholder, would offer new energy and a fresh voice to the City Council. She currently serves on the Vail School District Board and was instrumental in elevating the Vail School District from a par level district to the best in the state during her tenure. While a single board member cannot be responsible for all decisions, she deserves accolades for the district’s achievement. Ms. Burkholder brings proven elected experience to the race. While she may not be as familiar with City of Tucson operations as the incumbent, she believes in evaluating programs and departments before decisions are made. For years, the business community has been asking the City Council for a rational, objective evaluation of issues with effective follow through. SAZPAC is also aware that, if elected, Ms. Burkholder will be a minority of one on the City Council. If elected, it will be her job to bring robust debate and examination of the issues to City Council discussions.

The Chamber also endorsed Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who is running unopposed:

Unopposed for reelection, the Southern Arizona Business PAC endorses Jonathan Rothschild for the office of mayor. We look forward to continuing to work with him to improve Tucson’s business climate, business opportunities and quality of life for all.

During his last four years as mayor, Jonathan Rothschild has reinvigorated the office of the mayor. In the 2011 mayoral race, the Southern Arizona Business PAC did not endorse Mr. Rothschild, yet he quickly put that aside after his election and started working with the Chamber to make improvements in the City of Tucson. Mayor Rothschild has led community efforts to end veterans' homelessness, find a more effective way to end poverty, work to bring employers to Tucson, and he has endorsed a platform of economic development recommendations presented to him by the Project Prosperity Task Force.

Mayor Rothschild has been a regular participant in the Chamber’s quarterly Interface program, which creates direct communication between the mayor and Chamber investors. This has led to an effective relationship between Chamber investors, Chamber leadership and the mayor.

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