It should be obvious, but it bears repeating: An election is a choice between existing candidates, and the evaluation must go beyond checking off party affiliation or stands on litmus-test issues.
Who has the best capacity to approach the complicated and practical problems the Tucson City Council must do its best to solve? Who has the biggest capacity to be effective, build partnerships and dig into issues in a constructive way?
In Ward 3, we believe Gary Watson is the better person for the job. He is a fire captain, teacher and union leader and is running as an independent against attorney and consultant Paul Durham, a Democrat.
In Ward 6, we endorse incumbent Steve Kozachik. He’s proved himself a highly effective council member in his ward and citywide. A Democrat, he’s running against Republican Mariano Rodriguez and Green Party candidate Mike Cease.
Tucson is divided into six wards and general elections are citywide, which means voters outside specific wards can decide races. As a Democrat, Durham has a numbers advantage, according to voter party registration.
But we encourage all voters to see beyond the party labels and look at Watson. Of the two candidates for Ward 3, we find him the better match for the job.
While we don’t think Watson’s desire to move Tucson to a zero-based budget system — start at zero and build each department’s budget from scratch based on need — is feasible, or a potent source of revenue, we were less than impressed with Durham’s reliance on annexation as a way to grow the city budget.
Durham said he thinks the annexation department should be expanded, and added the expanded sales tax and property taxes generated would help the city. When pressed, however, he did not have details other than saying adding more personnel would “double the rate” of annexations and that he was not talking about annexing the Foothills.
Durham’s evasiveness was troublesome again when asked to weigh in on Proposition 204, the Strong Start Tucson initiative that would raise the sales tax for early childhood education. He refused to take a stand, saying education is important, but he had concerns about the proposition language. Waffling might be the political thing to do, but it’s not a leadership position.
Watson has a smart approach to building businesses, job readiness and opportunities, a strong need in Ward 3. Instead of pinning Tucson’s hopes on luring major companies to town with tax breaks, Watson advocates an apprentice or internship program with existing businesses in exchange for property tax incentives.
In an interview with the Star, Durham tried to deride Watson as a Republican, a reference to Watson’s party registration before he changed it to independent — a decision Watson said he made after meeting with the local Republican Party and disagreeing with its view that “there are no good taxes.”
Kozachik was elected as a Republican before he switched parties in 2013 prompted by differences on gun policy and social issues.
A person’s qualifications, temperament, capacity and common sense is far more important than party labels, especially in local office.
And for these reasons, we endorse Gary Watson in Ward 3 and Steve Kozachik in Ward 6.