Southern Exposure

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We will take our monthly look at issues from the Tucson-area in our series, “Southern Exposure” with Tucson Weekly writer Jim Nintzel.

TED SIMONS: Once a month, we take a look at issues from southern Arizona and the Tucson area in our series "Southern Exposure". Here now is Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel. Good to see you again.

JIM NINTZEL: Always a pleasure. I ran into Captain America and Iron Man downstairs.

TED SIMONS: Oh really? Yes, it's that time of year, yes for us here. Alright, let's get to another type of science fiction perhaps, and that is politics. Ann Kirkpatrick announces that she's running for the US Senate. Now CD1, her district, does run in southern Arizona…some of the outskirts of the Tucson area and such. Talk to us about this.

JIM NINTZEL: Well it is a big role of the dice for Kirkpatrick of course, going up against John McCain, who's a mighty titan of politics in the state, but she is probably the most formidable person to announce a campaign against him in perhaps all of his history here. And a lot of questions still remain about what this district is going to look like because of this lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court over whether or not the lawmakers should be drawing these districts instead of the independent redistricting commission. So, all of that said, if the district remains in its current form, you have a number of people - but I haven't heard many southern Arizona names coming up, for people who are interested in this. But you're certainly hearing names on the Democratic side like Chris Deschene, a former state lawmaker, Catherine Miranda who serves in the legislature, Barb McGwire who also serves in the legislature, a lot of lawmakers. I mean, this is the big brass ring of politics - the Congressional seat - and they don't come around that often.

TED SIMONS: Indeed. But you mentioned southern Arizona, and a couple of names have popped up to a certain degree. Now, house speaker David Gowan has shown interest in Congress before, perhaps waiting out Martha McSally, perhaps taking on…who knows how he feels. But my understanding is he might be interested in this.

JIM NINTZEL: There was a rumor earlier this year as this lawsuit was going through that if the lawmakers did get a chance to draw the districts, he was going to draw a very conservative district that he could do very well in and try to move Martha McSally, the former Air Force pilot and squadron commander who just beat Ron Barber by 167 votes down in Tucson this last year, out of that district into Raul Grijalva's district in the hopes of winning that. But, you know, Martha's proven to be an extraordinary fundraiser and is very popular among some of the Republicans down there so I think he'd have a pretty tough shot.

TED SIMONS: What about Jonathan Paton, Frank Antenori…these are names we haven't heard in a while but we're hearing they could show some interest.

JIM NINTZEL: Well, Frank has not lost the bug, certainly. I mean, he's looking to run for the legislature again. He wants to move into a different district than the one he currently lives in in Tucson that's a much more Republican-leaning district to run, again, the district that David Gowan now represents. But Jonathan Paton has moved up to Scottsdale. He could certainly do it again, but whether or not he'd still have the fire in his belly remains to be seen. You also have Andy Tobin who ran last time, Gary Kuhne the rancher has already started a campaign, you hear Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, is thinking about it; he was certainly interested before, until that whole underwear model photo popped up and caused him no end of trouble.

TED SIMONS: Yes indeed. Speaking of politics, the mayor's race…so how's the mayor's race in Tucson shaping up?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, it's looking very good for our current incumbent, Jonathan Rothschild. The filing deadline was yesterday and not a single person filed to run against him. The Republicans were looking around for a candidate. At the last minute one surfaced. Unfortunately, he was a lefty Democrat who had run a few years ago for city council. He didn't get his signatures. There was a film producer who was thinking about doing it but he had trouble getting his signatures and so Jonathan Rothschild is walking into a re-election this year.

TED SIMONS: Is he that strong? What kind of a politician is he? What are his positions? Who is he?

JIM NINTZEL: That's a great question. He's an attorney, a corporate attorney who first won office four years ago and in that race also faced an unusual collection of potential opponents, most of whom got kicked off the ballot for various reasons. And, you know, I think the real problem Republicans have in the city of Tucson is that it's a very Democratic city. There's about three Democrats for every two Republicans. So the odds are against you going into these races. We have partisan elections unlike the city of Phoenix so it is a very tough climb for a Republican.

TED SIMONS: Alright, I want to get to the economy now, and we talked earlier in the show, we did a headline on consumer confidence - it is in the dumpsters in Tucson. I mean, the rest of the state is flat, but Tucson is not showing much consumer confidence from the Behavior Research Center poll. We did find out 1,100 jobs come in to Tucson by way of Comcast. These are call center jobs, so these are not necessarily the highest apples on the tree. What is the economy like in Tucson?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, let me first say, anything that helps me get through the Comcast people a little quicker when I call is good news, but you're right. I don't think these are the best jobs in the world. I mean, a job is a job and it's good to have one, but these are not something to really get too excited about. And the job situation in Tucson is tough. We don't have a lot of really great high-paying jobs. We have Raytheon, we have IBM which is shedding employees, and we have the government jobs, the university jobs, working for the county, working for the city of Tucson, and even those jobs are harder to come by because the governments have been cutting back. The cuts to the university have been pretty severe this last year; we certainly talked a lot about that.

TED SIMONS: Are there efforts? Because indeed, aerospace I think lost 800 jobs over the last year. U of A is losing $28 million in funding. Are there efforts otherwise? Are there groups getting together saying or doing something? Getting some sort of initiative going, getting some sort of drive, public event…what's happening down there to get jobs?

JIM NINTZEL: They're focusing a lot on the biosciences, and that's had some good results. We do have some good jobs developing in the high-tech area but there just aren't enough of them.

TED SIMONS: Alright, before we go, every time we have you on, we play music by Calexico - probably my favorite Arizona band - based in Tucson, for the most part. They have a new record coming out?

JIN NINTZEL: The new record came out last month; it's a really terrific record, recorded in Tucson at WaveLab Studios downtown where Calexico does a lot of its recording. I was able to sit in on a few of the sessions, and it's a terrific, terrific album. They're on tour now. They just announced a Phoenix date in early October, so get your tickets now at the Crescent Ballroom, our favorite Phoenix club.

TED SIMONS: Yes, Charlie Leavy. The Tucson music scene in general…rich history, always strong. We've talked about Tucson being pretty much a college town and college towns usually have a good music scene…Tucson, no exception. What's it looking like these days?

JIM NINTZEL: It's looking good. You know, Calexico is one element of it. Giant Sand, Howe Gelb's long-time band just released its 30th anniversary album on New West Records, so he's still going strong down there. There's Sergio Mendoza who plays with Calexico and plays with Howe from time to time and he has his own band, Orkesta Mendoza, a great party band. A lot of really great acts and they all kind of intermingle with each other. There's a lot of collaboration with these bands, and then at the same time, a lot of really great touring bands will come through Tucson, thanks to the aforementioned Charlie Leavy and my friend Curtis McCrary at the Rialto Theatre, my friend David Slutes at Hotel Congress, really managed to bring a huge amount of music through Tucson.

TED SIMONS: Alright. Well, it's good to see you again. Thanks for driving up, we appreciate it.

JIM NINTZEL: Always a pleasure.

TED SIMONS: Thank you.

Jim Nintzel : Tucson Weekly Writer

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