Crunch Time and the Fur is Flying

It would be an understatement to say that the Ward III race is heating up.

Karin Uhlich, the Democrat challenger, is under enormous pressure to find something wrong with Republican incumbent Kathleen Dunbar that will impress voters – no small task. She needs something more than nit-picking complaints, or vague generalities about “direction”, “powerful forces”, and “taking Tucson back”.

In a recent mailing, Uhlich claimed that Dunbar tried to interfere with the Amphi School District’s attempt to extort $250,000.00 out of the developer to get its blessing on a zoning change. The deal was never struck, because, according to attorney for the developer Lawrence Rollin, there was no opposition to the change. As it turned out, they did not need to buy Todd Yaeger, the associate superintendent of the school district who claims that they had a deal and Dunbar succeeded in foiling it. The zoning change was passed by the council 7-0. Dunbar denies the accusations.

Now, I was not there, so I don’t know. It does seem unlikely, however, that Dunbar would come to the rescue of a developer who neither asked for, nor needed, her help. You do not have to take Rollins word, the seven to zip council vote proves that point. Dunbar was so incensed that she hired an attorney to sue for defamation if a retraction is not offered by Election Day.

I suspect that the Uhlich campaign cobbled together a little wishful thinking that got out of control. Uhlich likened Dunbar to the Bush administration in that she is retaliating with attempts at intimidation (Bush engaging in retaliatory intimidation is a pleasant thought, but, alas, a mere Democrat fantasy).

There is a national parallel though, and it’s the reaction of Uhlich. Instead of stepping up to the legal challenge with a declaration that the truth will prevail and she will prove her point (“Bring it on!” as Bush would say), she repeats the tactic of the national party by accusing the Republican of intimidation and acting like the stalwart, fearless champion/victim.

Frankly, I’m delighted that Dunbar is suing. Many pundits are horrified because it just isn’t done – these are the voices of the jaded. I like it for two reasons, both based on the assumption that the charges are bogus – the more likely scenario in my opinion: 1, It will improve the political process in that people will be held accountable (“accountability” is a term Uhlich uses frequently) for their accusations – yes, I’m suggesting that lying is bad even in political campaigns. As long as people can lie with impunity, issues, debates, and campaigns themselves will be pointless; 2, Now, if Dunbar were to fulfill the pattern that exists at the national level, she would hang her head and “seek a compromise” in the face of adventurous Democrats, encouraging them to hit harder. Instead, she stands up for herself (gasp!). She’s actually willing to defend herself! Why, she has more spine than any three Republicans in the U.S. Senate! This puts everyone into new territory. There is no playbook response for a Republican with dignity. Way to think outside the box!

There is another reason the pundits are dismayed. They often see events through a tactical prism, and they realize that trotting out a lawyer is not in her interest. Non-candidate radio ads are already describing her as a “Playground Bully.” She is savvy enough to know this. So, what could be her true motivation? It couldn’t be that she is trying to right a wrong that she has suffered…could it?

Dunbar herself summed it up well, “How can my constituents expect me to stand up for them, if I won’t even stand up for myself?”

Indeed.