Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Tucson Republicans wake up! Your party needs you

There’s an election Aug. 30 in the city of Tucson and as elections go, this one’s a yawner.

Of the four primary races for city council– mayor and wards 1, 2 and 4 – only Ward 1 is contested with Democrat Joe Flores challenging incumbent Democrat Regina Romero.

But even in that contest it’s rather ho-hum, since the conventional wisdom says Romero, with the full weight of the Pima County Democratic party behind her, should flatten Flores. Plus, Romero has no opponent in the general election in November. If she wins the primary, she’s re-elected.

The only real drama is whether anyone will bother to cast a ballot.

So, big yawn.

Except for Republicans. This strange primary could be the most important in recent history for the city’s minority party.

Republicans in the city of Tucson recently have shown themselves to be like Democrats in the rest of Arizona – inept and irrelevant.

If they can’t get a candidate for mayor on the ballot, they should pack up and move to Vail with Frank Antenori and surrender Tucson to the Democrats.

Democrats watched with gleeful schadenfreude over the summer as two Republican candidates for mayor imploded and got kicked off the ballot because they didn’t have enough legal signatures on their nominating petitions.

They’re now left with a desperate attempt to qualify a write-in candidate, either Rick Grinnell or Daryl Peterson. If either can get 1,060 write-in votes, he will qualify as a full-fledged candidate in the general election to face Democrat Jonathan Rothschild and a couple of minor party candidates with no chance to win.

Not having a candidate for mayor will be a disaster for the Republicans.

Except for a brief period in the 1990s when Democrats and Republicans were evenly divided and one council member was an Independent, Democrats have controlled the city council since the 1960s.

Some of that has to do with voter registration – Democrats have an almost 2-to-1 advantage – and some of it has to do with gerrymandering of city wards.

Yet even with those disadvantages, politics can open doors allowing Republicans in.

That happened two years ago when the Rio Nuevo debacle hung around Democratic incumbents necks like a millstone, managing to sink one, Nina Trasoff, and nearly another in Karin Uhlich, who squeaked out a second term by a only few dozen votes.

The door is open again this year. The hail-fellow-well-met Bob Walkup chose not to run for a fourth term as mayor. Rio Nuevo is still a foul, festering dung heap. The city is still broke. The city’s economy still sucks. If ever there was a chance for Republicans to grab the reins of Tucson and lead it in another direction, this is it.

Even though Republicans didn’t run against Romero, they are running candidates against incumbents Paul Cunningham in Ward 2 and Shirley Scott in Ward 4. If they win those two and the mayor’s seat they’ll have a majority with fellow Republican Steve Kozachik, who knocked off Trasoff in 2009.

Democracy needs debate. One-party rule is not democracy. How will Tucson voters know if Rothschild is the leader Tucson needs unless there is another candidate to challenge him and force him to stake out and defend his plans for Tucson (and vice versa for Grinnell or Peterson)?

Tucson Republicans should be ashamed they couldn’t qualify a candidate for the primary. They need to prove they’re not inept and irrelevant and get Grinnell or Peterson on the general election ballot.

After all, when there are 54,000 registered Republicans in the city, how hard can it be to get 1,060 of them to write the same name on a ballot?

If you’re a Tucson Republican and you’re yawning at this election, wake up. Your party needs you.

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