Tim Steller

Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller

The lonely run for the Republican nomination in Congressional District 2 is becoming a grand old party.

This month, four more candidates have joined Lea Marquez Peterson, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO who jumped in last year. The new ones are: Brandon Martin, Danny Morales, Casey Welch and Marilyn Wiles.

Wiles, 64, is a federal government retiree who runs her own management consulting firm. She lived in the Tucson area for a time as a child in the 1960s, when her father worked at the Titan missile site, then returned to a home belonging to her husband’s family, on the northeast side, after retiring in 2011.

A former member of the senior executive service, Wiles said, she worked in several branches of the federal government, ending up as the head of an immigration-application-processing office in Lincoln, Nebraska. She’s never held an elected office.

“I’ve always wanted to run,” she said. “The State of the Union (speech) got my hackles up. I think we need to change people on Capitol Hill in order to get things done. They’re not looking out for we the people.”

Forty-one-year-old Casey Welch said it was “sheer luck” that brought his family back to Tucson recently. A five-year veteran of the Peace Corps, Welch was in Colombia when he learned that his wife was pregnant with their second child. Out of concern about the Zika virus, doctors advised that she and their young daughter leave immediately.

Soon, Welch returned home to Tucson and learned about Rep. Martha McSally’s decision to run for Jeff Flake’s Senate seat, leaving the CD2 seat open.

Border security, he said, is his number one issue. But Welch, who has not run for elected office before, said he is open to considering a number of solutions to stop human and drug smuggling along the southern Arizona border.

“It is vital that we do something,” Welch said. “If it has to be a wall it has to be a wall.”

Danny Morales, 42, said he’s the one candidate with first-hand experience on the border. Morales was a deputy in the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department before winning a seat on the Douglas City Council and going on reserve duty, he said. He also represented a border district on the council and participated in efforts to upgrade the port of entry there.

“I have intimate knowledge of the border,” Morales said. “Other candidates are talking about border security, but I actually have done border security.”

Morales spent his early childhood years in Cochise County before moving with his family to Massachusetts. After 12 years on active duty in the Navy, ending in 2011, he returned to Douglas, he said. He got a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and his police training from the Tucson academy.

Morales resigned from his city council seat, and the vice-mayor position to which he was appointed by Mayor Robert Uribe, on Wednesday.

Brandon Martin, 33, has been living in Sierra Vista since 2006, after returning from Afghanistan in 2005, where he worked in Army intelligence. He’s been a contractor at Fort Huachuca since then, managing the civilian professional development program on the base, among other duties.

Now, he said, “This is what I’m doing full time.”

This, of course, is running for Congress, his first attempt at elected office.

“I am a constitutional conservative,” he said. “I’m not the establishment.”

“I’m offering to represent the people of CD2,” he added.

Of course, so are four other Republicans, not to mention six Democrats. All see opportunity in a seat that could realistically go to either party.

More conservative radio

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Republican National Committee member Bruce Ash revealed this week his next big project — buying hundreds of radio stations to create a conservative twist on National Public Radio.

Ash told the Pima County Republican Club Tuesday that he has been privately working with several prominent Arizona Republicans to raise the $25 million he needs to move the project forward over the next five years.

The venture would not mirror the format of National Public Radio, instead airing short news and feature segments every hour on stations that primarily play various music formats.

He told the midtown Republicans that this venture would not feature the screaming and anger that some political radio programs rely on. Nor will it be geared toward the typical Republican base. Instead, he said, it will reach out to younger voters in “purple states.”

Arizona Monitor disappears

This week, Politico ran a story on a new wave of partisan news sites, created to back conservative candidates. It focused on the Arizona Monitor, which appeared last year, backing Kelli Ward and some other Republican candidates and officeholders, including Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller.

After the Politico story was posted Tuesday, a story appeared on the Arizona Monitor website lambasting the piece (and getting some facts wrong). Then the Monitor disappeared from the internet.

Miller told Politico she had disassociated herself from a person (or invented name) connected to the Arizona Monitor — Rob Murdock. It’s unclear if Rob Murdock exists or was a pseudonym for someone running the site.

It was probably a smart move for Miller, who bought into an elaborate lie about a news website secretly run by a staffer of hers, the Arizona Daily Herald, in 2016.

Contact: tsteller@tucson.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter


Tim Steller is the Star’s metro columnist. A 20-plus year veteran of reporting and editing, he digs into issues and stories that matter in the Tucson area, reports the results and tells you his opinion on it all.