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The Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board endorses Democrat Lane Santa Cruz for Tucson City Council in Ward I. Although her Republican challenger, Sam Nagy, is resourceful, Santa Cruz’s depth of political experience, specifically in Ward I, sets her apart.

Green Party candidate Matthew Smith is also on the ballot.

A lifetime Tucsonan and mother of four, Santa Cruz describes herself as a “community organizer,” who twice worked in the Ward I office of now-former Council member Regina Romero, who is now the Democratic candidate for mayor.

It was that first go-round in Romero’s office that exposed a young Santa Cruz to the world of local politics.

“In my early 20s, that whole world opened up to me,” she said, adding she learned “how important it is that we have representation that has the lived experience of Tucsonans.”

Santa Cruz has experience in education, serving as adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona’s Mexican American Studies program. That experience should serve her well in dealing with dual growing pains of gentrification and a need for affordable housing.

In our conversation with the candidates, Santa Cruz said she wants to address gentrification by giving voice to Ward I residents who have been left out of important decisions.

“It’s not just people being put on alert that something is happening, and then they come out against it,” she said. “They feel like they are part of the plan from the beginning, to make sure we’re bringing investment and development that’s right for the community.”

During our conversation, Santa Cruz said she supported the idea of turning the city’s Housing and Community Development department into a one-stop-shop for residents struggling to find affordable housing or fix up their current home.

Any new council member will have a steep learning curve — campaigning is much different than serving — but we are confident Santa Cruz will be a quick study and that her deep roots will provide the insight and acumen needed to serve both Ward 1 and the city.While she may be green in terms of negotiating appropriations for her ward during budget talks, during the end of our conversation when asked what voters should know about her, she paused.After contemplating her answer for a moment, she replied with how she knew, after returning from a year in college at Alabama, Tucson was the place for her.