You don’t need a sixth sense to perceive that Juan Ciscomani will likely hold other public positions after this one.
Since March, Ciscomani has been the director of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Southern Arizona office. It’s a position that has been held by some well-known Southern Arizonans, among them Tim Bee, under Gov. Jan Brewer, and Jan Lesher, under Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Good-looking and well-spoken in two languages, Ciscomani has got to be a candidate of the future for Tucson-area Republicans. But when I asked him about his ambitions Wednesday, he demurred. Just like an aspiring politician should.
“Honestly at this point I’m just really happy doing this,” Ciscomani said in the fifth-floor conference room at the state building downtown. “There is so much opportunity with what the governor is doing in the state, that other things may open up. But at this point, this is the best I could hope for. I get to work for the governor. I get to run his office in seven counties, and I don’t have to move from my home in Tucson.”
Ciscomani’s parents moved the family from his native Hermosillo, Sonora, when he was 11. He attended Utterback Middle School, Rincon High School, Pima Community College and the University of Arizona — a true Tucson education. He ran for the state House of Representatives in the old Legislative District 29 in 2008 and lost to Matt Heinz and Daniel Patterson.
He and his wife, Laura, have three children, with a fourth on the way.
Q: How did you learn about this job when you were working at the Hispanic Chamber?
A: The governor tasked a team to search for the right candidate here in the city. Apparently my name came up in a few minutes and they called and offered to have a chat.
I went up and met with the senior staff. The conversation went really well. A week or so later I met with the governor. We chatted about the goals we had for the region and his interest in it. That made it very attractive to me.
He perfectly understood the role that Southern Arizona plays for the well-being of the entire state, the relationship with Mexico. He explained all that. He learned that during the campaign because he spent so much time here.
It would have been different if he wasn’t going to be as interested in Southern Arizona as he has been. If it were just another outpost, that’s not what I would have been attracted to.
Q: What is the connection between Ducey, his office and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber?
A: Lea Marquez Peterson (president of the chamber) was on his kitchen cabinet (advisory team) during his campaign. So she would give advice to him, was on phone calls, very close to him during the campaign. Whenever he was in the office I would see him and interact. Just my relationship with Lea helped that. Also, it put me on the map.
Q: What does the job entail?
A: The job really gets summed up in two things. One is to represent him to the community. So I go to things like, as an example, this Monday in Sierra Vista on Memorial Day at the veterans cemetery, I was there representing him.
The second piece, and I wouldn’t really rank them in that order, is to represent the interests of the region up to him. That is one of the most exciting things, because right there at the interview one of the things he invited me to be part of was his senior leadership team.
He meets with the team every Friday, and he said I want you to be part of that senior leadership team. That’s the level where I want to hold the Tucson office — senior leadership. That was a big change because that gave this office here a seat at the table where the decisions are being made.
Q: Once you’re done with this job you could run for another office, right?
A: I’ve had my ups and downs on that. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, besides parenting. It really is 24-7, and at the end of the day you have to have the right reason and passion for it. That’s the only thing that keeps you driving when it’s 3 a.m., you’re still reading up on articles, you have a debate the next day and you still have to go to work, and you have to keep a life and family balance: You want to win this race so bad.
It’s got to be that calling — that I am called for this and this is my time.
Babeu hints at run
This week, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu signaled that he’s going to take another run at the U.S. House, this time in a district that includes part of the Tucson area.
Babeu’s campaign manager, Michael Noble did a quick poll on Tuesday, after Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced she’s planning to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. John McCain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the automated telephone survey of 687 likely GOP voters found Babeu had the most support of any candidate, with 17.3 percent.
Former state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who lost to Kirkpatrick last year, had 10.1 percent, and rancher Gary Kiehne, who lost the Republican primary race last year, had 7.5 percent. Most voters were undecided.
The findings may not mean much, though. Noble did a similar poll in 2013 and found Babeu had an even more commanding lead among possible candidates. He ended up testing a run in Congressional District 4 and dropping out before Paul Gosar won.
Lonely mayoral race
The two people who talked about challenging Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild have fallen short. Neither Democrat Chuck Williams nor Republican Robert Reus submitted petitions to qualify for the ballot by the deadline Wednesday.
However, there’s still hope a Republican challenger could emerge and give us a competitive race. If someone goes the write-in route, they could conceivably get enough votes in the Republican primary to get on the general election ballot against Rothschild. A Republican candidate would need 1,306 write-in votes to qualify for the general-election ballot.