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Cunningham appointed to Tucson City Council
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Cunningham appointed to Tucson City Council

  • Paul Cunningham faces the media after his appointment.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comPaul Cunningham faces the media after his appointment.

Ward 2 has a new council member: Paul Cunningham.

In a unanimous vote, the council appointed Cunningham, 36, to the seat left vacant when Rodney Glassman resigned to seek the Democratic nod for U.S. Senate.

Cunningham will serve out the remainder of Glassman's term, through December 2011.

"I just have to listen, just take stock of what the people in Ward 2 need," Cunningham says of his first priorities after being appointed.

"We've got to provide for public safety, make sure the roads are paved, make sure our firefighters are supported," he said. "That's the work at hand."

Ward 2 is on Tucson's East Side, generally bounded by Wilmot Road on the west, the Rillito River on the north, Melpomene Way on the east and 22nd Street on south. Neighborhoods near East Fort Lowell Road and North Swan Road are also in Ward 2.

Cunningham expressed support for the council's 5-1 move to sue the state over SB 1070, Arizona's controversial new anti-illegal immigration law.

"I wish the vote (to sue) had been unanimous," he said. "I understand Councilman Kozachik's concerns about cost. But we need to let the people know that all of Arizona isn't Russell Pearce's backyard."

"Are we really going to make a federal case out of jaywalking?" he asked.

Arizona's new law requires police to determine the immigration status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally. Many law enforcement leaders, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor, have expressed concern that the measure will burden police investigations.

Cunningham, who was the odds-on favorite to win the appointment, is the son of former legislator George Cunningham. He has been involved in Democratic politics, serving as the program chair for the Democrats of Greater Tucson.

Cunningham may have to leave his job as a juvenile probation officer; county officers are not able to serve on the City Council.

Incidentally, long-time councilman Steve Leal held a concurrent job as an administrator with Pima County.

Cunningham graduated from Rincon High School in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree from the UA in 1996, and a master's degree in social work from ASU in 2007. He served in the Army National Guard.

14 candidates put applied for the council seat, a group that was reduced to 11: one applicant withdrew and two did not meet residency requirements.

While it was not a requirement that a Democrat be selected, tradition dictates that a resigning council member is replaced by someone from the same party.

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