Tucson Metro Chamber endorses the Democratic incumbents, finds two Republican challengers unqualified

TucsonCarolyn Classen posted a thumbnail sketch of the endorsements of the GOP-friendly Tucson Metro Chamber’s Southern Arizona Business Political Action Committee in an earlier post, but this does not really do justice to the import of these endorsements.

The GOP-friendly Chamber finds that two of the Republican challengers are unqualified, and co-endorsed the Democratic incumbent with her Republican challenger (to keep their Republican members happy) on specious grounds, based upon the past actions of a previous GOP-majority City Council.

Jim Nintzel of the Tucson Weekly reported, Tucson Metro Chamber Endorses Cunningham, Scott and Burkholder in Council Races:

City of Tucson Council Race Ward 1

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

The Chamber has always had a jones on for incumbent Regina Romero, not for the reasons stated, but because she is associated with the Raúl Grijalva wing of the Democratic Party, and Republicans really hate Grijalva. Well get over it.

There are only two candidates on the ballot in Ward 1, and the Chamber says the Republican candidate is unqualified for office, which is just a backhanded way of endorsing the incumbent without expressly doing so:

SAZPAC 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.

Well OK then, that’s a backhanded endorsement of the incumbent Regina Romero, because she is the only other candidate in this 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.

I guess he was just there for the free coffee and doughnuts at the interview.

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.

* * *

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.

The Chamber insults your intelligence here. At the time of the “initial failure” of Rio Nuevo — more than a decade ago —  we had a Republican mayor, Bob Walkup, Republican council members Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar, and Democrat-turned-Independent Carol West who often gave the Republicans a GOP majority on the City Council.  Shirley Scott was frequently on the other side of these votes. But the Chamber wants to blame this Democrat for the actions of the GOP-majority City Council, and hopes that you have forgotten this history.

Shirley Scott has stood for reelection twice since then and has been reelected. This is old news for which Scott has been held harmless by the voters. The people responsible for the “initial failure” of Rio are long since no longer serving on the City Council, or the Rio Nuevo Board for that matter.

This specious reasoning is just so the Chamber can keep their Republican members happy with a Republican endorsement:

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.

Since the Chamber endorsed the incumbent, Shirley Scott, who is the most experienced candidate in the race and has served her Ward well, why go with a wannabe who needs to learn the ropes and who will have no influence just because the Chamber wants to keep its Republican members happy by co-endorsing a Republican?

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

So basically it boils down to “Just vote for the Democratic incumbents.” The Republicans have got nuthin’.

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