Citizen Staff Writer
Sitting on the couch and grousing about how the country is run is a cop-out.
That’s the driving philosophy of the third hopeful in the District 8 congressional race: Independent Derek Tidball.
Anyone who’s read a newspaper or watched television news over the past few days knows state Sen. Tim Bee, a Tucson Republican, has entered into the ring for the District 8 seat held by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in what promises to be a battle of political heavyweights.
But you probably haven’t heard of Tidball and his aspirations for the office.
Tidball, a U.S. Army veteran, is all of 29 and a resident of Arizona for a year short of a week.
But the motivated former paratrooper believes those like himself who think our country is being run poorly have to do something about it.
“It’s our duty,” said Tidball, who needs about 2,000 signatures to get on the November ballot. “You can’t just sit back and complain about what’s going on around you and not try to do something about it. Placid attitudes won’t fix anything.”
Tidball is a government contractor at Fort Huachuca, teaching field reconnaissance techniques to soldiers preparing for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served eight months in Afghanistan in 2004 in the Khost Bowl and Gardez Pass regions.
Tidball was born in Des Moines, Iowa, where he grew up, but said he has come to love Arizona for the independent, “Wild West” spirit of its residents. Currently living in Sierra Vista, Tidball and his wife of three months, Yasmin, a German immigrant, plan to move to Tucson this year. He’s studying public policy and administration at Pima Community College.
“I chose this state,” he said. “I like the history around here that provides people with a maverick attitude.”
He left the Army last January after a nine-year military career with the sole intent of running for Congress. He came home from overseas after five years and didn’t like what was happening in America.
In his eyes, veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical injuries and psychological problems weren’t getting the care they deserved. The Iraq War was necessary but poorly conducted. The federal government was using “the politics of fear” to seize power from the states and citizens and to expand its already bloated waistline, the Department of Homeland Security being one example,Tidball offered.
So, he started crafting his positions and organizing his candidacy. He has about three dozen volunteers working on his behalf. His positions, documented on his Web site, www.tidball08.com, trend conservative, particularly on immigration on which he uttered the words that make liberals like myself choke on their horchata:
“Russell Pearce . . . I agree with him.”
Specifically, like Pearce, Tidball believes the American-born children of illegal aliens shouldn’t be granted automatic U.S. citizenship. Tidball also believes in first securing the border with fences, technology and a bolstered Border Patrol presence and then creating a new guest worker program that doesn’t lead to citizenship.
“I’m not anti-immigrant. I just believe we have to have control over the amount of people who are coming in,” he said.
On the Iraq War, he supports Democratic Sen. Joe Biden’s “awesome plan” for a decentralized government that gives the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions to control. The U.S. will squander the benefits of the surge if it keeps trying to foist one-size-fits-all Democracy upon Iraq, Tidball said.
But what does Tidball have to offer the people of District 8 that Giffords and Bee, both Tucson natives who are plugged into the power structure, don’t have?
Independence, he said.
“You have two people who are part of the two-party system. It doesn’t matter what these candidates say when they run, because when they get to Washington they are going to be told where to stand in line and they are going to be told what to say and when to say it by their parties,” Tidball said.
Giffords, he charged, has been part of a “do-nothing Congress.”
He believes he’s a level-headed candidate who can appeal to the political demographic of District 8, which breaks down 38 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat and 29 percent unaffiliated voters.
It’s pretty clear to the casual observer that Tidball has picked a fight outside his weight-class. Giffords has a war chest of more than $1.5 million. Bee already has brought in some $300,000. Tidball has raised less than $5,000 to get his message out.
What’s less clear is whether the scrappy challenger can garner some attention, reframe the debate and perhaps influence the outcome of a battle that realistically will come down to Giffords and Bee and a few percentage points.
“I want to take away the whole comfort level of the situation,” Tidball said.
Those of us outside of the party power structure and anyone who believes open debate makes America great should welcome Tidball into the ring.
Why not? Options to the status quo keep everybody dancing on his or her toes.
Anne T. Denogean can be reached at 573-4582 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.