Richard Underwood, seeking to counter the efforts of OV Candidates 2004 - an independent expenditure committee that has spent more than $10,000 to unseat Oro Valley Town Council incumbents Dick Johnson and Bart Rochman and elect a slate of five new candidates - has created his own independent expenditure committee and begun purchasing ads that assail OV Candidates 2004 and the candidates it supports.
Underwood, part owner of Canyon Community Bank and founding partner of AAA Landscape, has called his committee Citizens for Fair and Ethical Elections and said he has raised about $2,000 so far but hopes to raise more. He said he believes OV Candidates 2004 has not been following state campaign finance law and he wants to infuse money into the campaign in support of Johnson, Rochman and candidates Lyra Done and Don Cox.
OV Candidates 2004 has been publishing advertisements touting candidates Conny Culver, Ken "K.C." Carter, Helen Dankwerth, Barry Gillaspie and Richie Feinberg.
"People are not playing fair and I feel it's really important to get a balanced message out there," Underwood said. "Balanced economic development is good for our community because we don't want property taxes.
"I do a lot of work up in Oro Valley with my landscape company, and also the bank. I've got a vested interest and it's my hometown," Underwood said.
Bill Adler, the chairman of OV Candidates 2004 said he has chosen to inject much of his own money into the 2004 campaign because he also thought a more balanced message was needed in Oro Valley council races.
He said in past Oro Valley elections, he thought the candidates he supported were overwhelmed and greatly outspent by candidates who received large amounts of contributions from the development community.
"The level of expenditures of past campaigns greatly exceeded the resources any of the candidates that I support were prepared to spend on their own and it seemed to me rather clear that if they were to be competitive, an independent organization needed to step in and try to do something independently that would be supplemental, but not a substitute for their own efforts.
"I don't want to react, I want to try to lead to make sure there's a competitive race," Adler said.
Underwood is also chairman of the independent committee Citizens Opposed to Higher Taxes which spent more than $11,000 in the 2000 council race and nearly $4,000 in the 2002 race. Much of the money the committee raised came from Rancho Vistoso.
So far, that committee has not raised or spent any money in 2004, though it has about $1,000 left in its account from 2002, according the latest campaign finance report filed with the town.
Underwood said the money his new committee has raised is also coming from the development community, but not all of it.
"I care passionately about Oro Valley. I like to feel that in 15 years up there I made a contribution. I worked hard to try to help influence the development of Oro Valley in a positive direction. More than a little bit of my heart's up there. If I have a difference of opinion, within the limits of the law, I'm going to try and have some influence," he said.
Town logo snafu
Oro Valley Town Clerk Kathi Cuvelier sent a letter to all Town Council candidates April 29 informing them they couldn't use the town's logo in their campaign advertising or literature. An advertisement in the Northwest EXPLORER April 28 paid for by Culver, Carter, Gillaspie, Dankwerth and Feinberg had an image of the town logo. An ad by Don Cox, also in that issue, showed Cox sitting in front of the town seal which is behind the dais in the Town Council chamber. Culver and Dankwerth have asked Cuvelier to review campaign literature distributed by Rochman in which he is pictured wearing a town of Oro Valley shirt emblazoned with the town's logo. Cuvelier said she has asked Town Attorney Mark Langlitz to determine if that photo violates the town code.
A flier distributed by the ad hoc Land Conservation Committee encouraging people to vote in the May 18 Pima County bond election has been recalled, according to committee chairman Al Kunisch. The committee had failed to file as a political committee before distributing the flier and was told by Cuvelier last week they may be violating state election law.
Candidate forum May 8
The La Reserve Community Association will be hosting an Oro Valley Town Council candidate forum May 8 from 9 a.m to noon at Oro Valley United Church Fellowship Hall, 1401 E. El Conquistador Way. The forum will feature all 10 council candidates who will be answering written questions from the audience.