Democrats vie under the radar for McCain's seat - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Democrats vie under the radar for McCain's seat

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Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010 4:30 pm | Updated: 11:33 am, Sun Aug 22, 2010.

As John McCain and his Republican primary challenger have dominated Arizona's political headlines, four Democrats are quietly wrangling for the opportunity to take on the winner.

They include a retired investigative journalist, a Hispanic community organizer, a former Tucson City Council member and a state administrator.

Each has a different narrative about why he or she is uniquely positioned to take on McCain, the Republican front-runner with millions of dollars left over from his 2008 presidential campaign. They hardly mention former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is challenging McCain in the GOP primary.

The Democratic field is comprised largely of political newcomers who are introducing themselves to most Arizona Democrats for the first time.

The winner of the Aug. 24 primary will have just 10 weeks to mount a campaign against the much-better-known McCain or Hayworth.

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With more than $1 million raised, including $500,000 of his own money, former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman is the front-runner in the crowded field.

Glassman, 32, has taken the brunt of attacks lobbed in the race. His rivals say he has a flimsy resume and accuse him of trying to buy the race.

But Glassman has worked diligently to line up backing from other elected Democrats, liberal interest groups and newspapers. He's trying to foster an aura of inevitability, and he hopes to convince voters that he alone has the political muscle to take on McCain.

"Arizonans haven't had a choice before, a choice that they can get excited about," Glassman said.

He has five degrees from the University of Arizona and spent two years on the Tucson council before resigning to launch his Senate bid. He touts as his accomplishments a first-of-its-kind ordinance requiring new businesses to use rainwater for at least half of their landscaping water.

Glassman, a lawyer, is a Judge Advocate General officer in the Air Force reserves and a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. He said Arizona is missing out on funding for important projects because McCain has repudiated special funding requests known as earmarks.

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Retired investigative reporter John Dougherty says his work exposing McCain's role in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal of the 1980s would give him a unique platform to hammer McCain for his ties to Washington.

His reporting on McCain's relationship with disgraced financier Charles Keating shed light on what McCain has called the worst mistake of his life.

Dougherty — whose reporting has also targeted controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Gov. Fife Symington and polygamist leader Warren Jeffs — wants to unleash reporters on Washington to root out corruption and waste. The only person who can beat McCain, he says, is someone "who's already punched him in the gut."

Dougherty, 54, says the economy can be turned around with a determined commitment to promoting renewable energy, in part by redirecting federal subsidies now given to fossil fuel development.

But he's also focused on discussing issues his rivals aren't talking about. He says the war on drugs is a failed policy that has cost billions of dollars, created a black market for drugs and destabilized Mexico without eliminating drug use. Dougherty wants to legalize marijuana and regulate it closely.

"Nobody else will talk to you about the war on drugs," he said. "One thing I'm not going to be called is chicken."

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The U.S. Senate is the last major glass ceiling for women to crack in Arizona, and Cathy Eden hopes to shatter it. A state that has elected women to Congress, the governor's office and the attorney general's office has never sent one to Capitol Hill's upper chamber.

Eden is bent on cooling tensions in Washington and promoting bipartisan co-operation because, she says, Republicans and Democrats are expending too much energy tearing each other down.

"I think the voters have no stomach for that anymore, so they're going to start sending people with the message, 'Cut that crap out and get something done,'" Eden said.

A former state lawmaker in the early 1990s, Eden, 60, said she remembers when state lawmakers sparred over policy but respected each other's ideas.

Eden later went on to run the state health department under two governors, Republican Fife Symington and Democrat Janet Napolitano. She's also run the state Department of Administration and was the top manager in Coconino County.

It's all experience building consensus among people with different ideas — exactly the kind of background the gridlocked Senate needs right now, she says.

She's proud of her work in the Legislature to pass a bill imposing a tax on high speeding tickets to help treat patients with head and spinal-cord injuries, a tall order for a Democrat in a Republican-controlled body.

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Randy Parraz inspired liberals over his public clashes with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the county Board of Supervisors two years ago. Now he's trying to inspire them again, this time by speaking out against Arizona's controversial new immigration enforcement measure.

Parraz was the leader of a group opposed to Arpaio's illegal immigration policies. This month he filed a lawsuit against the county, five sheriff's deputies and their wives alleging he was maliciously prosecuted on trumped up charges after a spat with deputies over whether he had a right to be on public property. A judge dismissed the charges.

Parraz, 43, is a lawyer, community organizer and former union leader. He says Arizona's new immigration law prompted him to get in the Senate race.

Immigration is a federal issue, he says, so Arizona needs someone fighting in Washington for an overhaul.

Parraz, who is Hispanic, says a race between him and McCain would capture the national spotlight and force McCain to continue talking about his transition from a moderate immigration reformer to a border security hawk.

"Nowhere else can we have this debate except Arizona, because that's where John McCain resides," Parraz said.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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