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What the Devil won't tell you

Supreme Court tells Tucson Republicans to 'play ball'

Local GOP must now understand political reality to win

"This is a simple game.

You throw the ball.

You hit the ball.

You catch the ball."

That's the advice from Durham Bulls manager Joe “Skip” Riggins in a 1988 film about minor league baseball and it's the same advice I will offer the Pima County GOP after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Alliance for Public Integrity's appeal of a 9th Circuit decision upholding the the city of Tucson's hybrid election model.

Tucson runs our elections with ward-only primaries and then citywide elections. Those citywide elections make it hard for Republicans to win because Democrats outnumber the GOP on the whole. The party figured if it could establish a ward-only election system, their candidates would certainly win seats in Wards 2 and 4. Republicans have a registration edge in those East Side wards.

Yes, Republicans did the things conservatives always rail against. They sought activist judges to establish through the courts what they could not win at the ballot. They sought safe spaces where icky liberalism would find no purchase.

Related: Tucson city election system will stand, after Supreme Court rejects GOP appeal

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Their argument was that they were denied equal protection under the law because primary voters in every ward were denied the right to vote for candidates in the other five wards who would stand in the general election. The argument failed at the U.S. District Court level but carried the day initially in the 9th Circuit, which overturned the lower court ruling and there was much Republican rejoicing. Then the 9th Circuit voted to rehear the case en-banc-style after the city requested it. The full 11-judge panel smacked the case down, hard.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has announced its refusal to hear a further appeal without ceremony or explanation. The high court just buried the case in a mass grave along with Davis v. Chicago and Goldtooth v. U.S.

So it's back to the campaign trail for local Republicans and I will offer the “Red Team” advice from the other side of the fight because I'm the columnist who cares.

First off, let's be clear: Their ward-only jones is reasonable. Democracy may mean majority rule but it also should give all sides a seat at the table. Those East Side Republicans should have a voice on the City Council.

On the other hand, regular claims by the local GOP that the citywide system is a relic of Jim Crow meant to marginalize white conservatives is just galling because white conservatives seem to have one message for persons of color facing continuing pervasive discrimination: Get over it.

Either way, they are starting an election cycle facing incumbents Steve Kozachik and Richard Fimbres, plus an open seat being left by departing Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. They have a campaign to run on a field that doesn't favor them.

I'm going to share for Republicans the inside scoop on the reality they now face.

In 2011, when I was working as communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party, we faced an election that could easily have hinged on Rio Nuevo. At the time, it was wickedly unpopular because 12 years after being approved by voters, the Downtown redevelopment plan seemed to be nothing but inside deals and parking garages. City voters hated it. The all-Democratic City Council was widely blamed for this. Not only did I see the polling information, I wrote the polling memo that went to our New York consultants. They never saw any municipal program as unpopular as Rio Nuevo.

The Council should have been screwed. It should have been a bloodbath.

But that summer, something funny/horrifying happened nationally. The Tea Party decided to play a game of thermonuclear chicken with the U.S. debt ceiling.

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At first, not lifting the debt ceiling (allowing the government to pay bills it already rung up) was wildly popular. As the August deadline approached Wall Street began to freak and the public began to turn. They blamed the GOP.

In Tucson, lousy with Democrats, voters were steaming mad at the Republicans.

It didn't take Alexander the Great to figure out how to win this election. Just keep quiet and let the voters take out their frustrations on the national GOP on the local candidates. So tarnished was the GOP brand in Tucson that we were told in a conference call that there was no reason to talk in terms of “radical Republicans,” “Tea Party Republicans” or “extremist Republicans.” The word “Republican” would do just fine. So Democrats just rode in the anti-Republican angst like we were on a bike drafting behind a semi.

The best thing that could have happened to the Democrats running for re-election this year is Donald Trump.

So the advice to Republicans is simple. Resist the temptation to behave locally as you would nationally. I know it's fun to lie and watch the Left lose its mind. I know it gets y'all's motor running to treat the gun like a relic of the True Cross. And White grievance politics is a joyous evangal to preach.

Just iksnay, the azy-cray in ucson-Tay. You don't have the otes-Vay.

Realize this isn't the same thing as giving up on conservative principles. I hate that when national Dems run candidates whose entire campaign seems predicated on abject refusal to profess a philosophical soul. Just tailor those principles to city voters. Focus on what you think needs to be fixed and run on that.

But absolutely none of that matters if the local party doesn't organize, rally and raise the money necessary to win. It's just $55,000 for each race that leverages an equal match. Just once have Republicans managed to do that in the last five cycles — and that candidate won, defeating a Democratic incumbent, no less.

Then Steve Kozachik got chased out of the Republican Party but no matter. It's doable if Republicans try.

This is a simple game:

You throw the ball.

You catch the ball.

You hit the ball.

The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the rules of the game. So Republicans need to stop worrying about pine tar, the designated hitter rule and a short porch in right field favoring a lineup full of lefties.

Suit up, take the field and play ball.

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Flags in front of Tucson's City Hall.