Monday, October 10, 2005

Michael: Leal scared off taking matching funds

From the Star:

Steve Leal will run his unopposed campaign for a fifth term on the City Council without taxpayer dollars.

In a reversal from an earlier decision, the South Side Democrat won't take about $42,500 from the city's public matching fund program.

"I don't need to," he said, explaining that the cost of his re-election bid will not be as high as initially anticipated.

The move won immediate praise from fellow Democrats and Republicans. "I'm sure it was a tough decision because his goal was to get people in his ward more involved in the process," said Nina Trasoff, the Democratic council candidate in Midtown Ward 6. "I applaud him for doing it."

I don't applaud Steve for caving to frankly rather superficial pressure to forgo almost 50K of legal campaign funding which he could use to counter independent committees and help turn out the vote in Tucson. I think his backing off the point has made a poor precedent that future candidates will feel bound by, and will certainly be judged by. His timidity will hamper cleanly funded candidates in the future.

If his critics don't like the law, they should be challenged to change it, not be allowed to browbeat Clean candidates into surrendering what they are legally entitled to. There will be hundreds of thousands of unaccountable independant campaign dollars sloshing around the Old Pueblo this election season; why should Leal have to cut his life preserver in half just because the GOP fielded a complete idiot, Vernon Walker, who couldn't stay in the Ward 5 race for more than a few days due to his shady past?

Leal's political instinct to compromise to avoid a fight has led him down a primrose path. He's done ecxactly what his opponents and critics had hoped he'd do; unilaterally disarmed with no consessions by his foes. In my book, this is a fight lost before the enemy was even engaged. Leal should have taken the money and busted heads with it. Instead, he's harmed Democratic fortunes in the coming elections, and undermined Tucson's publicly financed elections system by validating the GOP message that the system is wasteful of taxpayer money.


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