The Star's Editorial Board tries to meet with every candidate for public office to explore their qualifications, positions on issues and goals.
We do this before the general elections so that we can make prudent endorsements to help our readers decide how to vote. Sometimes we feel at a loss, however.
That's because we are often disappointed in the caliber of candidates and their meager understanding of important issues. For instance, we asked a candidate for Tucson City Council to share her views on the controversial Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment project, and she replied, "I'll have to get back to you on that."
Many candidates clearly don't understand technical matters such as how public school financing works, bonding, primary and secondary taxation and more. And too many are able to respond to specific questions only with broad generalities. "We need to come together on that" or "We must invest in our community" or "The children are our future."
Maybe that's going to change, however, thanks to the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has announced it will hold a three-day, nonpartisan, come-one come-all "Candidate Academy" next month.
"You don't have to be Hispanic and you don't have to be a businessperson," said Lea Marquez-Peterson, the chamber's president and CEO. "We've heard so much about elected officials and candidates not being business-friendly, so we decided to take responsibility for educating them."
But the workshop will cover much more than simply the business perspective. The first day, for instance, will be devoted to "Civic Leadership: Should I run for office?" It will include a panel discussion about the personal, financial and professional implications of holding office.
On the second day, potential candidates will be schooled on issues, including education and funding, transportation, infrastructure needs, city, county and school district budget challenges.
In the final session, participants will learn about how to put together a campaign, including filing requirements, timelines, campaign finances, use of social media, identifying conflicts of interest and handling the media.
Marquez-Peterson has already met with local Democratic and Republican party heads, and plans to meet with Green and Libertarian chiefs as well.
"I told them we're reaching people who are perhaps not the party insiders. We're reaching businesspeople and regular folks who read the paper and want to run, but don't know what the first step is," she said.
As for speakers at the workshops, she said that's "still a work in progress, but it's going to be a balanced approach, politically. We'll include Demo-crats, Republicans, Green and Libertarian party representatives."
This sounds like time well spent to us. We hope many of those who have run unsuccessfully in the past and want to run again will attend, as well as those who are pondering a first run.
This is an opportunity to make yourself a knowledgeable candidate - one who will have something substantive to offer the voters.
Arizona Daily Star
What: Candidate Academy
Where: Tucson College, 5151 E. Broadway
When: Three sessions, from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21, April 28 and May 5.
How much: $99 for the three-day academy; $35 for each class. Members of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will pay $75 for the academy or $35 for each class.
For more information: Call the chamber at 620-0005.