Mayor Walkup’s Lesson

In a close race – the margin of victory was approximately 1400 votes – Mayor Bob Walkup narrowly defeated challenger Tom Volgy in this year’s mayoral race. Though Mr. Walkup maintained his air of casual confidence, it is unlikely that he exhaled until days after the election, when the final tally was certified. What a change from four years ago, when he trounced Molly McKasson in the same race! Do you think he wonders about that? For the sake of his own political career, he should.

One could point to the fact that Bob Walkup was a virtual unknown four years ago, and now that he has a four year track record he is vulnerable to criticism, but that does not tell the whole story.

Nervous Republicans might suggest that Mr. Volgy was a better, or at least a different, candidate than Ms. McKasson. In reality, however, one would be hard pressed to find two candidates more similar. Both had a long local political history, both served on the Tucson City Council, both had great name recognition, and both were seen by many as Leftist Democrats (I admit that, with the retirement of Zell Miller, this term has become a redundancy). Both suffered from reputations of being arrogant and whiney. Granted, Mr. Volgy did not have fellow Democrats campaigning against him as Ms. McKasson did, but that alone does not explain his near victory.

Delusional Democrats may claim that the local party is finally shaping up. This is clearly wishful thinking. The local Democrat Party was foundering then, and it is foundering still. As recently as two years ago, the only two contested Council seats, Wards III and VI, were won handily by Republicans Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt, respectively. The fact that they chose to run, or rerun, Mr. Volgy this time around shows a distinct lack of both vigor and vision.

What role did “issues” play in the change? None, Tucson’s issues are perennial. Transportation, jobs, and growth are addressed by the candidates of every local election. This year the transportation issue manifested itself as propositions 200 and 201; in the last election cycle it was Grade Separated Intersections (GSI’s) which were renamed Continuos Flow Intersections (CFI’s) – I assume the name change had nothing to do with sexual undertones, but I’m not a marketing expert.

A better question than “What changed this time?” is “Who changed this time?” The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the following: Who suffered the greatest betrayal at the hands of Bob Walkup? Bob Walkup engaged in much shameless lying to constituents when running against Ms. McKasson in 1999, but none suffered from these lies more than the liberty crowd; and the best example of this mistreatment can be found in his dealings with the gun rights people.

While campaigning in 1999, Bob Walkup attended a meeting of the Firearms Action Committee of Tucson (FACT). He gave a good speech to those attending, many of whom made individual donations to his campaign. He spoke with Ken Rineer, the “Rosa Parks” of Tucson, and said that he admired Ken for his work in challenging the ordinance banning guns in City Parks (Ken Rineer arranged to be arrested in order to challenge the ban in court). He shook Rineer’s hand, patted him on the back, and said that, if elected, he would take Ken’s side on the issue. FACT contributed $100 to Walkup’s campaign.

Bob Walkup scooped up the money, left the FACT meeting, and never looked back. After he was elected, he not only failed to support Ken, but also actively worked against Ken in his legal battle. Ken lost his case on appeal, so he shifted his efforts to the State Legislature, where he sought to clarify the principle of State preemption regarding gun laws. Not satisfied with his local victory, Mayor Walkup pursued Ken at the state level by hiring a lobbyist to fight against him in the Legislature. His efforts did not end there. He went to heroic lengths to shut down the gun shows at the Tucson Convention Center; again, taking it to the state level when he failed locally.

Fast forward to election time 2003. What must those of us in the Liberty Movement do? The answer is both simple and clear: reward politicians who defend and protect the Constitution, and punish those who do not. In short, punish Bob Walkup. How is this done? Ken Rineer, in an opinion piece that was circulated widely in the rights community before the election, had a solution. He pointed out that politicians, more than anything else, need votes. Not voting for Walkup would deny him one vote, but voting for Volgy would deny him two.

At first blush, this strategy may seem counter-productive in that a worse candidate, Volgy, might win. Let’s take look at that. Is a stand up, honest, anti-rights mayor worse than a smiling, shake-your-hand-pat-on-the-back anti-rights con man mayor? I think not; and, I can’t imagine Volgy working harder against rights than Walkup did in his first term. Whether or not a worse mayor is elected as a result of this strategy is irrelevant. It is imperative that a political price be paid by the deceiver. Ken Rineer went to the polls and voted for Tom Volgy with a clear conscience, as did I, and as did thousands more.

It was the meting out of punishment to the guilty, by people in the Liberty Movement, that changed the mayoral election from a landslide for Walkup in 1999 to a coin toss in 2003. It is imperative for Mayor Walkup, and all elected officials, to understand this lesson. They ignore it at their own peril.

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