If you drive around north Marana, you’ll see clusters of campaign signs promoting Marana Town Council candidates. Some signs are small, with a name and simple slogan. Others are larger, flashier, with a photo.
Campaign signs are not cheap. Neither are mailers or events. Some of the council candidates are not focused on drumming up donations to fund their campaign, but instead put their faith in the power of communicating directly with residents. Others candidates are funding their own supplies or using signs from campaigns past, while others are turning to the community for help.
Only two Marana Town Council candidates have raised any money for their campaigns, as indicated in reports filed mid-July. Challengers Jack Neubeck and Jeff Gray each received donations, with Neubeck’s far exceeding Gray’s.
As of a July 12 filing, Neubeck had raised $14,310, with $1,000 coming from a corporate donor and the rest from individuals. That’s more than any Marana candidate received from donors in at least the last two election cycles. Many individual donations are from developers, executives, farmers, attorneys, retirees and those with careers in real estate. Most are Marana, Tucson and Oro Valley residents.
One donor is Omar Mireles, the CEO of HSL Properties, a construction company with projects in the town, who donated $500. John Kai Jr., local businessman and brother of Councilmember Herb Kai, also donated $500. Neither John Kai nor Mireles returned numerous calls for comment on why they support Neubeck for council.
Neubeck said that John Kai Jr. and his wife support his bid for the council because they know his history and that he’s “done a lot for the Kai family over the years.” Neubeck said he got to know Mireles on one of Neubeck’s last projects as owner of the Planning Center, working for HSL doing a rezoning at Dorado Country Club.
Neubeck said many who donated to his campaign are people he’s done work for over the years, and that he didn’t ask of anyone who currently has a pending project before the town. He said because he’s retired, he has no conflict of interest.
“It wasn’t that hard for me to get money because people respect me,” he said. “People believe in me. I didn’t have to twist arms.”
He spent a lot of the campaign funds on signs, mailers, banners, business cards, ads, his website, a consultant as well as meet-and-greet events, which he held at Gladden Farms, Continental Ranch, Del Webb at Dove Mountain (where he entertained Marana residents with songs from his years on Broadway), Highlands at Dove Mountain and San Lucas.
Neubeck said one of his mailers went out to 6,500 independent voters in Marana, which cost him about $4,500. Although Marana elections are nonpartisan, independent voters don’t receive a ballot during primaries without requesting one. The front of the mailer has a photo of Jack with his campaign slogan. The back has instructions for independent voters to request a Marana Municipal ballot.
“I’m not in this to lose—I’m in this to win because I’m just so concerned to see some of the stuff that’s going on,” he said, referencing the way the town has been handling downtown development.
Gray received $500 in donations from local retirees he said are customers of Prime Pest Control, where he works. Gray also donated $1,000 to his own campaign. He told a Tucson Local Media reporter that’s all the campaign funding he’s going to raise.
The other challenger, Mace Bravin, has neither raised nor spent any money on his campaign. When Bravin lost his bid for Pima County School Superintendent in 2012, he didn’t need to disclose how much he raised because it was less than $500. Bravin said he doesn’t have any money to spend on a campaign.
“I’ve spent nothing, and I’m just going around talking to people,” he said.
Incumbent John Officer, who lost a bid for council in 2016 and was appointed to the council in April, has contributed $100 to his own campaign. Officer said he’s funding his campaign from his and his wife’s retirement fund, as well as asking friends and local businesses to contribute. He’s also using signs from his 2016 run.
In Officer’s 2016 campaign, he received $1,425 in donations and loaned $10,350 to his campaign.
Vice Mayor Jon Post hadn’t raised or spent any money as of his July 10 campaign filing, but he began the campaign with $1,760 leftover from a previous campaign. He said he’s fortunate enough to be able to fund his campaign out-of-pocket. He bought 50 signs and may put out a mailer, but he said he doesn’t like the fundraising aspect of politics.
“It makes me uncomfortable to feel like I would owe somebody something,” he said. “And I’ve also decided that I’m going to keep my expenses to a minimum…. Hopefully with what I’ve done for the town, people will appreciate the work that I’ve done.”
Incumbent Herb Kai gave $5,000 to his campaign. Incumbent Patti Comerford gave $172 to her campaign. She said she’s still using her signs from three campaigns ago and whatever else she needs, she’ll fund herself. She said it feels more transparent that way.
“I’m not beholden to anybody,” she said. “I just feel that that’s the character that I want to represent.”
By this time in the 2016 campaign some but not all, of the candidates raised substantially more than this year.
David Bowen had already raised $8,700 by this time in 2016, and just over $11,000 by the end of the campaign. Roxanne Ziegler had raised $5,740 by this time and by the end of the campaign had raised almost $12,000. As of the June 30 filing in 2016 (the deadlines have changed slightly this year), Mayor Ed Honea had only raised $100. By the end of the campaign, he had raised just over $11,000.
Honea’s 2016 opponent for mayor, Dan Post, who has been on the Marana Unified School District Governing Board for nearly four decades, had only raised $20 by this time in 2016, but had loaned his campaign $30,000.
Marana primary ballots will be mailed out on Aug. 1, and the primary election day is Aug. 28. Historically the primary election determines the winners for the open Marana Town Council seats.