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Republicans file for Council races, still no GOP mayoral candidate

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Republicans file for Council races, still no GOP mayoral candidate

  • Tucson City Hall
    Bill Morrow/FlickrTucson City Hall

Three Republicans have filed paperwork to run against the Democratic incumbents on the Tucson City Council, but no GOP challenger has yet emerged to take on Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

The three are Bill Hunt, running in Ward 1 against Regina Romero; Kelly Lawton, challenging Ward 2's Paul Cunningham; and Margaret Burkholder, running against Shirley Scott in Ward 4.

Hunt is a Raytheon employee who volunteers as a pilot with the Flying Samaritans. An Air Force veteran, he hopes to unseat the West Side incumbent, who's seeking a third term.

Lawton is the director of the Tucson facilities of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The Tucson native previously spent 18 years working in customer service for Delta Air Lines. He's planning on running against the Northeast Side Democrat Cunningham, who's seeking his second full term on the Council.

The most experienced electoral player on the GOP slate is Burkholder, who's served on the Governing Board of the Vail School District since 2004. A math teacher at La Paloma Academy, she's set to challenge Scott, who's seeking her sixth term on the Council.

Although the trio filed their paperwork with the City Clerk's Office on Friday, the local Republican Party didn't tout their candidacies until Tuesday.

The three have "put their names on the line for one reason, they believe Tucson deserves better," said Republican National Committeman Bruce Ash in a press release put out by the Pima GOP.

Ash, who lives just outside the city limits in tony Tucson Country Club (his house is on the market, by the way), said of the candidates, "They may all have an 'R' next to their name come election time, but we should know their only goal is to correct the clear mismanagement of the city we call home."

Bill Beard, the county GOP chairman, has repeatedly said that, "We will have four candidates for each of the offices up for election," yet the Republicans have yet to announce a mayoral candidate. The clock is beginning to tick toward the deadline to gather signatures on nominating petitions.

All candidates must still file petitions with enough signatures to ensure spots on the primary ballot in August. In past election cycles, that's been a challenge for some Republican candidates in Tucson. In 2011, the GOP had to run write-in candidate Rick Grinnell in the primary to make sure they had a candidate on the November general election ballot — two other candidates, Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta were found ineligible to run after they did not file enough valid signatures.

That's despite Republicans having a lower hurdle to jump on the ballot than Tucson Democrats.

Because the number of required signatures is pegged to the number of votes for mayor candidate broken down by party and ward, the minority party has an easier path.

In heavily Democratic Ward 1, Hunt must file between 98 and 195 signatures, while Romero needs 350-698 to return to the primary ballot.

In Ward 2, the GOP candidate needs 470-938 signatures from registered voters, while the Democrat needs 436-871.

In Ward 4, with its heavy GOP turnout, Burkholder will need 351-700 sigs, while Scott will need 288-574 to seek another term.

For a potential mayoral candidate, the Republicans would need 1,306-2,611 to find a place on the primary ballot. Democrat Jonathan Rothschild needs 2,047-4,092 voters to sign his petitions.

The filing deadline is May 27, with no petitions accepted before April 27.

For any Libertarians who might wish to seek a Council seat, just five signatures earns a primary spot in Wards 2 and 4 — just three will get you on the ballot in Ward 1.

Perhaps playing a bit part in the mayoral race will be Chuck Williams, an actor and director who's filed to challenge Rothschild in the primary.

In Ward 4, independent Derrick Espadas is running as an independent. He filed a campaign finance exemption, stating that he intends to spend less than $500 on his race.

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