NEXT MONTH TUCSON is going to elect a new mayor, and for the first time in the long and varied history of the Old Pueblo, Hizzoner is going to be Herz. Now before you nit-picking history buffs start scorching the Internet with e-mails instructing me in the matriarchal ways of the pre-Columbian cultures that settled Chuk-son before the tin-men from Iberia planted their flag here, let me explain that I am fully aware of the power of womanhood in stone-age, iron-age and matron-age New World civilization; but they didn't hold elections in the sense we will be on September 9, and they didn't have mayors. Nor alcaldes.
So. Once the dust settles and the heads clear from the election night victory and/or death parties, and the Democratic Party primary has picked a winner -- who will not, trust me, be Pat Darcy -- that woman will be, for all intents and purposes, the mayor-elect of the City of Tucson. Don't think for a minute that Republican Bob Walkup or Libertarian Ed Kahn is going to win the November general election. The Democrats hold an edge in registration, which alone guarantees nothing, but which coupled with the fact that the Republican candidate is unknown, unopposed, and therefore undergunned and unprepared for a citywide scrap (and tripled with the fact that Ed Kahn is the Pat Paulsen of local politics -- and would be the Joe Sweeney of local politics, except that Joe Sweeney is the Joe Sweeney of local politics) makes the Democratic primary the election, period.
We've got four Democrats in the primary, three women and a man named Pat. Pat Darcy. I know from press reports that he's a former baseball player, but he sounds like a New York lady's talk-radio host. No offense meant. The guy's a real-estate broker and is said to have a sense of self-deprecatory humor. He'll need it. When you're the only boy in a four-way fight, and you're the longest shot in anyone's office pool, plus you've got two girl's names as opposed to one each for the real women, well, you get my drift. Sell another shopping center, Pat: it'll cure your blues.
The heavy lifting in this operation is being done by three longtime local heavyweights on the political scene: City Councilman Janet Marcus; former City Councilman Molly McKasson; and Betsy Bolding, whose political bona fides take more generalized prose to describe. She's been a force in Democratic circles for a quarter century or thereabouts, ran Bruce Babbitt's Tucson office when he was governor, and is both smart and practical. Plus she's got a gang of women cronies who get together for lunch the first Tuesday of every month and -- how you say in inglés? -- network. They're also smart and practical, and I'd put them up against any similar-sized gang of men in any kind of ass-kicking contest you'd care to name.
My money is on Bolding.
My heart is somewhat divided. I've known Betsy for years and like her a lot. But I went to high school with Molly McKasson and like and admire her equally. Molly may not have built the reputation of consensus-building and coalition-coalescing that might serve both her political interests and her future effectiveness as a chief executive, but she is dead honest, has unimpeachable integrity and she stays put on principles. Still, I believe the combination of savvy and pragmatism that Bolding has developed over the decades in the front and back rooms, where policy gets made, will prove an unbeatable force in the primary election -- and an effective engine for running the office of mayor.
Plus, Bolding has Jan Lesher running her campaign, and Lesher has a brain on her that, if it had fallen into the hands of the Russians, would have shifted the outcome of the Cold War. And she knows some of the best dirty jokes I ever heard.
There's Janet Marcus, of course, and she is not to be discounted (despite her discounters), but I don't think she has A) generated the attention that McKasson's well-documented battles of principle have earned her; or B) learned the political skills and built the network of support that Bolding has over the years.
This is the first local mayoral election in a long time that has really captured my imagination. It was nice to have Tom Volgy running and getting elected, years back, but not precisely thrilling. Once you've been around a town, scribbling notes and mouthing off for better than three decades, it gets so that a lot of your old drinking buddies end up contesting for the offices of power and majesty.
At this stage of my career, when I consider what equips this candidate or that one, from this circle of acquaintance or another, once the basic qualifications of electoral eligibility are satisfied, to best serve the office sought, the question I ask myself is this:
Who among them would I least want to piss off to the point it went to Fist City?
And the answer, clearly, is Betsy Bolding. Sorry, Pat.