A number of people have asked if The Explorer plans to "endorse" candidates for Oro Valley Town Council and mayor.
Well, we might. Not before the March 9 primary, and it's not a sure thing come May 18. It depends upon just how strong the urge is.
Newspaper "endorsements" are largely ignored, except by the immediately affected parties. They must be well-defined; some people will deem this piece an "endorsement." They are more "suggestions," based upon observation, than "recommendations."
Endorsements always cause pain for someone. They are seldom persuasive; a look at this writer's track record reveals far more people who've lost, than won, after a favorable word. Any candidate who asks for an endorsement ought to consider just how desirable that really is.
That said, there is a primary election going on right now in OV, and by many measures it is an important step in the selection of leadership at a very critical time. At least two new council members are eventually going to be seated from among the field of, in alphabetical order, incumbent KC Carter, Don Emmons, Mark Finchem, Joe Hornat, Matthew Rabb, Mary Snider and Lou Waters. If someone gets more than 50 percent of the vote March 9, they'll be seated. Is that likely? Not in a field of this size. Otherwise, six of these seven advance to the May 18 ballot.
There's no blatantly bad choice among the group. Snider, Hornat and Waters have been visibly active. Finchem knows some things about business. Rabb is the youngest, Carter most likely the senior. Both age perspectives can help a governing board function well.
KC's been hobbled by health challenges, but he's a tough fellow who understands the duty. In other words, Carter is an incumbent, carrying a mantel that at once can help with re-election, and can hinder it.
Same's true for Mayor Paul Loomis, who faces a very real test from Satish Hiremath and Mike Zinkin. If one of those three gets more than 50 percent of the vote March 9, he's elected. We're not expecting such a majority to occur, in which case two of these three move to the May ballot. But which ones?
Paul Loomis has led Oro Valley through a time of growth, when governing is relatively manageable, and into a time of unavoidable recession, when governing is even more difficult than usual. He points to his experience as an asset; his opponents might call it a liability.
Hiremath is openly a friend of Loomis, not a foe, but he's been critical of Loomis's leadership within town government and for the community. They're not too far apart on plenty of issues, but Satish's belief is that it's time for a different approach.
Zinkin, a hard-liner about spending, and his camp took exception to a recent profile in The Explorer that identified him as a political "novice." Among the 10s of thousands of words chosen for publication weekly, "novice" may not have been the best descriptive for Zinkin.
Politically, though, this might be a good time to be a novice in Oro Valley. The budget's a struggle, and it's only getting worse. The community's funding model is wobbly, and has been exposed as inadequate when the housing market slips and retail sales fall. The public trust is thinner than is truly deserved. But that's how it is.
Oro Valley might be ready to embrace a novice in government, someone who demonstrates good personal skills, brains, common sense, an ability to look at complicated problems in a new way, who can build some level of consensus, who has the courage to make suggestions and decisions that may be unpopular, who is an "outsider" and not one of "them."
Or not. Loomis is smart, personable, reasonable, courageous, experienced. Perhaps vulnerable, too. He knows as much. He knows that in political life, friends come and go, but critics accumulate. Loomis has a number of critics, loudly among them the Let Oro Valley Excel folks, who have endorsed Zinkin and Emmons. As is the LOVE blog's right.
The Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce has come out strongly for Satish. Loomis got the endorsement of the Tucson chamber. Hmmm. The Tucson Association of Realtors is backing Satish, too.
Fascinating stuff, if you really care about where your community is headed. We hope you do. We hope you'll vote by March 9.