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Star Editorial Board: Tucson City Council Dem primary endorsements
editor's pick alert

Star Editorial Board: Tucson City Council Dem primary endorsements

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board:

Democratic voters in Tucson’s Ward 3 and Ward 6 are in the process of choosing their party’s candidate to stand in the November general election for City Council. The primary election is Aug. 3 and early ballots have already been mailed.

The Arizona Daily Star’s Editorial Board is making endorsements now because the election will most likely be settled in the primary.

The Star’s Editorial board consists of President and Publisher John D’Orlando, Editor Jill Jorden Spitz and Opinion Editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen. Endorsement decisions are made independently of the Star’s news coverage.

Ward 3

Two candidates are vying for the open seat in Ward 3, which is now held by Karin Uhlich, who was appointed after Paul Durham resigned March 1 for family reasons.

The good news for Ward 3 is that both candidates are solid choices. When deciding which candidate to endorse, the Editorial Board will evaluate candidates’ strengths and weaknesses — and what is needed on the board or council they’re seeking to join.

For this reason, the Editorial Board endorses Juan Francisco Padres for Tucson City Council in Ward 3.

Candidate Kevin Dahl, a lifelong conservationist, is running on a climate-change platform, almost to the exclusion of other issues. There’s no doubt that Dahl is right when he says climate change will make Tucson’s challenges worse.

But Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is already leading on climate change. It was the cornerstone of her campaign, and she’s running an environmentalist agenda with support from the City Council.

Padres offers something the council needs: business experience. He spent six years working in Tucson’s own economic development office and is the owner and operator of a craft beer import/export firm.

Padres says his top priority is mitigating poverty in Tucson. It’s not an original political platform, but it is a herculean and urgently needed undertaking. Business and economic development is an essential part of the equation.

While we think Padres is a little too quick to suggest selling bonds to pay for Tucson’s financial challenges, we do appreciate his nimble thinking when it comes to complicated questions, such as the city’s role in the possible renewal of the Regional Transportation Authority.

This gets a bit wonky, but it’s crucial: Today, every jurisdiction within Pima County has an equal vote on the RTA board that decides which transportation projects will be completed. The work is funded by a sales tax, and Tucson has indicated that it’s not satisfied with the everybody-is-equal voting because Tucson makes up roughly 40% of the population and 40% of the tax base.

The RTA is up for renewal — a public vote — in 2026 and talks are starting about whether structural changes are needed. Tucson has said it’s not getting a fair shake and that voting should be weighted; in other words, Tucson’s vote should count more than South Tucson’s or Marana’s because of population and sales tax revenue.

Padres talked about striking a deal, finding a way with the other jurisdictions to accommodate the imbalance — and that he’s against renewing the RTA as it is. Dahl said it’s time to “fall on our swords” to get weighted voting.

We find Padres’ approach to finding a way to work together more appealing and realistic, and that’s one reason we endorse him for Ward 3.

Ward 6

Political newcomers Miranda Schubert and Andres Portela III are challenging incumbent Steve Kozachik in Ward 6, which includes most of central Tucson and the University of Arizona area.

Schubert and Portela are worthy candidates and against a different incumbent our endorsement might well be different. But Kozachik has distinguished himself as an effective council member during his 12 years in office and Tucson benefits from his knowledge on everything from water contamination to placement of proposed 5G towers to solving problems between student housing developers and neighborhoods.

Schubert and Portela have positive qualities we hope they will continue to use in their civic engagement. We appreciate Schubert’s observation that being a City Council member is “more than fights” and her holistic approach to bringing people into community decisions.

Portela’s emphasis on affordable housing and mobility accessibility — for example, how wheelchair users must travel in the street when Tucson sidewalks are buckled or absent — is a practical approach to identifying and solving problems.

Kozachik’s deep knowledge of both Ward 6 and the city is invaluable. He tackles neighborhood issues head-on and convenes meetings to work through problems together. He’s everywhere, urgently working to protect Tucson’s water from contamination while working with a local testing company to offer COVID testing to UA students living in off-campus student housing.

That kind of record is hard for a challenger to overcome. So while we hope Portela and Schubert remain active in Tucson’s public life, our endorsement goes to Steve Kozachik.

The Star’s Editorial board is comprised of President and Publisher John D’Orlando, Editor Jill Jorden Spitz and Opinion Editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen. Endorsement decisions are made independently of the Star’s news coverage.

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