Southern Exposure

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It’s our monthly look at the big issues from Southern Arizona with Tucson Weekly writer Jim Nintzel.

TED SIMONS: It's time again for southern exposure, our monthly look at issues from south of the Gila among those issues, the retirement of Pima county's long-time sheriff and a democratic candidate announces a challenge to Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally. Here now is Jim Nintzel of the Tucson weekly. Good to see you again, thanks for coming up.

JIM NINTZEL: It's a pleasure, you know it's 20 degrees cooler in Tucson.

TED SIMONS: I'm sure it is. Alright, let's get to the sheriff. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. 35 years.

JIM NINTZEL: He's been down there since 1980 when he was first appointed to the office and then successfully ran to hold on to it and has held on to it ever since then so a long time, more than a third of a century as Arizona's top elected law man.

TED SIMONS: Compare him to, compare him to sheriffs Arpaio, Babeu, --

JIM NINTZEL: He's very different from the sheriffs we have up here in Maricopa county and sheriff Babeu down in pinal county. He's not a guy who tries to, as he puts it, humiliate prisoners for political gain. He has never tried to use that sort of campaign tactic in order to improve his own ratings, and I think he's very proud of the fact that he's treated his prisoners like human beings in all cases. And of course, he became very famous after the mass shooting in Tucson in 2011 when he got back to Tucson that day and let loose about his concerns about the tone of politics in America today.

TED SIMONS: Will that be his legacy do you think?

JIM NINTZEL: I think that's probably what he's going to be best known for. As he's stepping down, that's what people are looking back at.

TED SIMONS: Did the post-shooting comments, did that change him at all? Because he got quite a backlash on those comments.

JIM NINTZEL: And he continued to stand by them, through the rest of his career. I don't know that it changed him or how people perceived him. To some degree it did, but I think what it did was he probably would have stepped down sooner, but the backlash was so great he didn't want to look like he was going out as sort of a tail between his legs sort of thing. He stuck it out, he ran for another term, and now, halfway through his term, he's stepped down, it will be his last day will be the end of this month and then his handpicked successor has already been appointed to finish out his term and he's expected to run again. So we'll see whether this guy can hold on to the office.

TED SIMONS: Who is this guy?

JIM NINTZEL: This guy's name is Chris Nanos. He's worked in the department a long time. He's been the chief deputy for several years now and Clarence has been grooming him for this job.

TED SIMONS: Real quickly, major prostitution ring busted down there in Tucson, with a bit of a twist here, we got some law enforcement involved and I mean a lot of law enforcement involved.

JIM NINTZEL: Several of Tucson police department officers, some border patrol agents, some other firefighters, very interesting crew were frequenting this establishment. There were several locations. The police spent several years looking into whether or not there was prostitution going on in this massage house, I think you or I could have looked on the online site and figured out there was prostitution going on, but it took the Tucson Police Department a great deal longer. It wasn't until the neighbors were out there video taping Johns coming and going and workers came out and started beating up on the neighbors that the police realized they had to do something about this so eventually the bust came down. The amusing thing is the police then released a list of potential clients to the press but it went far beyond potential clients because they went through the cell phone of a property manager who's also involved with politics who was renting the house to them and as a result, you had a number of city council people, other elected officials, probably me because I've talked to this guy, so I'm probably on the list, I had city council people calling me up and say I hear I'm on this list I've never even gotten to get a massage much less something else and they were very concerned about the reputation.

TED SIMONS: Has this pretty much peaked here, or is this still more revelations and explosions to come?

JIM NINTZEL: I think most of the revelations are complete. We'll see where prosecutions go at this point.

TED SIMONS: Representative Martha McSally has a democratic opponent now. Who is Victoria Steele?

JIM NINTZEL: Victoria Steele is a state lawmaker from central Tucson in the northwest side, has been in the legislature for three years now and is the first person to actually say that she's going to run. We had another state lawmaker Bruce Wheeler say he was interested in running. He has since backed out of the race. You've had a few other former lawmakers, Matt Heinz has indicated an interest in running for this seat as has a pecan farmer and former Washington D.C. attorney Nan Walden. Whose name surfaces a lot when the congressional seat comes open.

TED SIMONS: What happened to Ron Barber, why no rematch?

JIM NINTZEL: Ron decided at his age, which is 69 years old that it was time for him to actually spend some time with his family. Since leaving Washington, he has had some time to spend with his wife, his kids, his grandkids, he's really enjoying that. He wants to be involved in the community in other ways but he's not going to return to Congress.

TED SIMONS: As far as McSally is concerned, she's already raised at or near $1 million in the first quarter as one of the few Republican women in the house, I'm guessing money will flow. Is that going to be A., an expensive race and b, a tight one?

JIM NINTZEL: This last race was extraordinarily expensive between Martha McSally and Ron Barber, I think $13 million was spent when you add up all the outside campaigns and the candidates themselves. So I expect it is going to be expensive again. This time out, Victoria Steele has her work cut out for her to try to match the kind of fundraising that Martha McSally is doing.

TED SIMONS: Tight race, though?

JIM NINTZEL: We'll see. It's a very competitive district. It's one third democrat, one third Republican, one third independent. It's going to come down to whether or not Victoria steel can get her name I.D. up and get the support she needs. A lot of this is those television ads, as you well know. It's that barrage of television advertising that takes up your name I.D.

TED SIMONS: Before you go, I hear that Tucson is looking at some sort of ballot measure regarding red light cameras, speed cameras, what's going on here?

JIM NINTZEL: You have a group of citizens down there turned in roughly 55,000 signatures on petitions. They needed about 12,000 valid signatures. We don't know how many are valid. The city is still figuring that out but it's probably going to make the ballot, it would ban the use of these red light cameras and photo radar vans. Tucson has two photo radar vans, seven intersections with the red light cameras, the folks in support say they save lives, they slow drivers down at these intersections. The folks who oppose them say it is an invasion of their liberty and it is a money making scheme for the city.

TED SIMONS: And we've heard all of those arguments up here before. How likely, though, that Tucson voters are going to say we want them out of here?

JIM NINTZEL: You know, that is a really great question. I don't know the answer to that because I think people tend to like something that calms traffic but at the same time, these cameras seem to really get under people's skin.

TED SIMONS: Yeah, they do. All right, lots of stuff happening down south. Good to have you up here to tell us about it. We'll see you next month.

JIM NINTZEL: Always a pleasure, Ted.

Jim Nintzel:Tucson Weekly writer

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