Regina Romero is facing accusations of having ties to President Trump and wasting taxpayer money in mailers and social media posts funded by a local political action committee funded almost entirely by two out-of-state donors.
The alleged link refers to the co-chair of Democrat Romero’s campaign to become Tucson’s next mayor.
Cody Ritchie, the co-chair and the owner of Crest Insurance Group, has given thousands of dollars to Trump and other Republicans over the years. Romero’s other campaign co-chair is environmentalist Carolyn Campbell, the executive director of Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.
Total N-tegrity is funded by two California women who each gave $10,000 to the committee in June. The donations account for nearly all of the committee’s budget, a filing with the Arizona secretary of state shows.
Bridget Carnell Ash, one of the donors to the PAC, has ties to Tucson businessman and Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash. She was the second wife to his father, Paul Ash, who died in 2012. Bruce Ash has been a vocal supporter of Trump and his policies, and has been critical of Romero on social media.
Ash says he is not involved with the PAC nor was he aware of the donation made by his late father’s former wife, adding that they have not spoken in years.
The second woman funding the committee is Trudy Connor, who was active for decades in the Tucson real estate market. In 2008, Connor and her husband David sold their home in the Catalina Foothills for $8 million — setting a record at the time for the most expensive home sold in the Tucson market.
Neither Carnell Ash nor Connor could be reached immediately to talk about their support of the committee.
Romero says Total N-tegrity was founded by a political rival who has a long-standing feud with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, and anyone politically associated with him.
Romero is married to Ruben Reyes, who serves as Grijalva’s district director.
The founder of Total N-tegrity is Luis A. Gonzales, who recently served on the board of Pima Community College and is a former state senator.
For months the committee has been critical of Romero in blog posts. It recently sent oversized mailers, critical of Romero’s record on the Tucson City Council during the past 12 years.
The glossy mailer blames Romero for pothole-laden neighborhood streets, park vandalism, abandoned properties as well as inadequate funding of the city’s police and fire departments.
On Facebook, Gonzales recently wrote that Romero’s decision to make Ritchie a co-chair of her campaigns speaks volumes about her character.
“The old Spanish saying comes to mind: Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres! — Tell me who you hang with and I will tell you who you are!” he wrote.
He says Romero’s criticism of him and the committee is an attempt to deflect attention from her political shortcomings.
Gonzales dismissed the suggestion that his group is partisan. He says supporters of the PAC oppose Romero, not Democrats.
“When people donate to my political action committee, I don’t ask what political party they’re with,” he said. “We are not a partisan action committee.”
Gonzales said the committee is focused solely on Romero.
“This campaign is not about Raúl Grijalva and his allies,” Gonzales said. “We are scrutinizing her record for the last 12 years. We believe she is not the person that is capable of administrating this city. We don’t believe she is the right person for mayor.”
Gonzales has a long history of being at odds with the Grijalva camp. He ran against Grijalva in 1992, when Grijalva was still a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
His challenge ended, however, when a judge ruled Gonzales lacked enough valid signatures.
Gonzales also backed a political rival of Romero’s in her 2011 reelection campaign.
“I thought it was very ironic for Luis to call it Total N-tegrity because he doesn’t have any,” Romero said.
Romero says the PAC is a front for Republicans opposed to her campaign, specifically mentioning Bruce Ash.
“My candidacy is a direct affront to him because of what I represent, dedicated to improving the lives of women, reproductive justice, that I am pro-union, pro-environment, pro-immigrant,” Romero said.
Earlier this month, the City Clerk’s office received a complaint that Total N-tegrity had not filed necessary paperwork with the city related to campaign expenditures, including the recent mailers. The PAC is registered with the city clerk’s office, but instead files reports with the Arizona secretary of state.
Romero has been deeply critical of Trump’s policies, both on the campaign trail and as a member of the council. She recently spearheaded resolutions opposed to razor wire installed along the Nogales border wall and a ban on investing in companies that are helping to build a new border wall.