There has been a report here already about the Nucleus Club meeting featuring the Democratic primary candidates for Supervisorial Districts 2 and 3, and I know the Weekly will be doing a quasi-live blog of the event, so I am not going to rehash everything. I am grateful and glad to see the Weekly doing a bang-up job of covering more of these local political events in more depth. Big kudos to big Jimmy Nintz' and his bloggin' crew of young hotties over at the Weekly's Scramblewatch. They are a welcome addition to the local blog-swarm.
The turnout for Nucleus was huge, clearly indicating deep interest in this race with many Dem activists, journos, and office-holders and their staffs were in attendance. I'm sure the video of the whole event will be available soon (if not already), as the Latas krewe were filming.
The speeches and positions taken were mostly not unexpected, but there were some surprises.
The first result is Bronson revealed her brilliant strategy to defeat Branch-Gilby: paint her as unreasonably adversarial and partisan, and deny that herself ever opposed election transparency - and failing that, blame everything on the lawyers and the Secretary of State.
After her and Valadez's utter failure to stand up to the County Administration on Election Integrity on behalf of their own party, perhaps a little adversarial attitude is exactly what's needed. In any case, Bronson's gambit certainly didn't get much traction in the room. Bronson failed utterly to stop the bleeding. She just made her self-inflicted wounds deeper.
Branch-Gilby hammered at the themes of transparency, accountability, and open government, pointing out that the lack of public input on everything from the budget and planning to elections has left the Board politically isolated, wrong-footed on the issues, and overly dependent on the advice of a far from impartial administrative staff.
Branch-Gilby was undoubtedly the big winner of the evening. She was utterly convincing, supervisorial, and appealing. Bronson came off as defensive, rude, and out-of-touch with her party. She was the big loser of the evening.
Gratuitous and unwelcome advice to Bronson: avoid being in the same room as Branch-Gilby from here on out - you are out-classed.
The other losers of the evening had to be State Representative Tom Prezelski and South Tucson Mayor (and Valadez staffer) Jennifer Eckstrom. Oddly missing from Nintz's "live blog" account is the question Tom posed to the panel.
During QandA Tom rose to make his big contribution for the evening. He asked whether the candidates would pledge that a Democrat would be elected Chairman of the Board if Democrats retained a majority on the Board. His obvious implication being that Branch-Gilby and/or Robuck made a deal with Ray Carrol to make Ray the Chairman if they are elected.
This is a rehash of the rumor (I guess we can tell who's spreading that one now...) that Ray Carrol recruited Branch-Gilby and Robuck to challenge the incumbents in the primary as a means of overthrowing the Board and making himself Chairman. Nintz even fans the flames of this canard by claiming in his "live blog" of the event that Carrol is "is using Robuck and Branch-Gilby as his swords of vengeance against the board’s Democratic majority." That's utter and unadulterated bullshit.
This sort of bullshit may be meat and potatoes to a jaundiced journalist, but it should be anathema to a party loyalist like Tom. It's uncomfortably like the Republican strategy of claiming that Democrats are in league with the terrorists or want to surrender to them. It's pure scare tactic and it's low.
Worse, it implies that Branch-Gilby, who has done as much as Tom Prezelski for the Democratic Party locally, is willing to serve as some sort of patsy or stalking horse for Republicans. That is just unworthy for a guy in Tom's position to imply.
I have a lot of respect for Tom. He's a great public servant and has done some great things in the Lege, and I fully understand the strength and origin of his loyalties to the Eckstroms - and thus by transative property to Valadez, but I question his strategy of so transparently attempting to smear fellow Dems, especially one as staunch, principled, and widely respected as Branch-Gilby. If he thinks making such patently sophomoric and ham-fisted attacks on her character and motives is going to get any traction among local Democrats, he needs to think again. All he's doing is undermining his own credibility in the Party, which is a dangerous thing to do for a guy facing a crowded primary.
Most of Tom's ire, no doubt, is reserved for Bob Robuck, who is challenging his pal and Eckerstrom family policial scion, Ramon Valadez. Robuck pointed out that Jennifer Eckstrom serves simultaneously as the elected Mayor of South Tucson and as a paid member of Ramon Valadez's staff. Robuck thinks that could be a serious conflict of interest. That's not a wild-eyed accusation - his view has merit. There is clearly the appearance that South Tucson could get favored treatment from the County as a result of the arrangement. Whether there actually has been any improper favoritism shown South Tucson as a result is an open question: one that Robuck suggests has an answer with his accusation that the County has been repairing roads in South Tucson that it shouldn't be responsible for. Such an arrangement might suit the people of South Tucson, but Ramon's constituents outside of South Tucson might be troubled by it. Eckstrom and Prezelski denied that accuracy of Robuck's account. I don't know which of them is right.
The Valadez/Eckstrom claque in the corner of the room didn't like Robuck's temerity in bringing the whole subject up at all, and Tom decided to take the soccer hooligan approach to make his rebuttal. When Robuck pointed out the possible conflict, Tom loudly told Jennifer to "kick his ass!" and yelled at Robuck to "sit down!" Jennifer disingenuously reframed Robuck's point, suggesting that he must mean that "nobody in District 2 can work in Valadez's office?" That was so lame, you could actually hear the room cringing at her sad rejoinder. So much for Jennifer kicking Robuck's ass.
This primary is leaving many with feelings of acrimony, and putting up the backs of incumbents who are stewing that anyone would dare question their motives or competence. As rumors of backroom deals with Ray Carrol are flogged by the incumbent's backers, and charges of conflict of interest, lack of spine, delegation of leadership to Chuckelberry batter the incumbents, this primary promises to be a doozy.
Perhaps a good airing of the dirty laundry is just what is needed to educate the voters and bring incumbents (if they retain their positions) back into line with their own party's will. As I noted to a table-mate as the evening took a nasty turn and she lamented the bitterness of the accusations, you have to drain the pus before a wound will heal.