Facing eviction from her home two days after the November 8 general election, longtime community activist and Code Pink member Mary DeCamp continues to fight for every last vote in Tucson’s three-way mayoral race.
The Green Party candidate, who fell behind in her mortgage payments after a costly bicycling accident two years ago, isn’t letting her personal financial woes distract from her campaign to become the first woman — and the first third-party candidate — to hold the office of mayor of the 33rd largest city in the country.
Speaking candidly of her impending foreclosure during a recent television interview on Arizona Public Media, DeCamp said that her personal situation makes her a stronger spokesperson for the financially-strapped working class, those most deeply affected by the current economic crisis.
It‘s not that she couldn’t handle her own finances, says DeCamp. “I chose to walk away from an underwater property when the corporation that I was dealing with was unresponsive to the changing value of the home, to the economic climate.”
She makes no apologies for her decision.
“I thought that this was a wonderful opportunity to be a spokeswoman for people who were in my situation, but don’t have the resources to step forward and challenge the system and draw attention to how broken our economic system is and the dire need for change,” she explained, adding that she was inspired by the example of Cheri Honkala, the Green Party’s candidate for sheriff of Philadelphia who has called for a moratorium on home foreclosures in America’s birthplace.
“Dispossessing people of their homes and their properties is not making our community safer or better,” said DeCamp.
Nearly half of all of the mortgages in Arizona are “underwater,” the second-highest percentage in the nation, according to a report issued earlier this year by CoreLogic, a private research firm. According to its study, Arizona homeowners who were underwater averaged $60,000 in negative equity.
Focusing on improving quality of life issues while empowering entrepreneurs, the Green Party candidate said she wants to convert vacant housing and commercial properties in Tucson into community centers for use not only by non-profit organizations, including literacy centers and food banks, but also as support centers for small businesses.
DeCamp, who waged a spirited campaign for the Tucson city council in 2009 — garnering a respectable 4,429 votes, or 6.2 percent, in a race decided by a mere 175 votes — won the Green Party’s nomination for mayor by defeating fellow Green Dave Croteau by a margin of 369 to 127 in the August 30 primary.
A longtime member of the Green Party, Croteau had been the party’s nominee for mayor in 2007, polling more than 28 percent of the vote as the lone challenger to Republican Mayor Bob Walkup, a two-term incumbent.
It was an unusually friendly primary contest — one newspaper called it “a rather chummy race” — with both candidates speaking highly of one another. “We’re trying to adopt a cleaner, greener way of going about politics,” DeCamp said during the primary. “That includes treating your opponent civilly and respectfully, and offering the electorate a positive choice.”
As soon as the primary was over, DeCamp asked Croteau to serve as her campaign manager.
A former communications and political science instructor, DeCamp faces Democrat Jonathan Rothschild, an attorney and political newcomer, and business consultant Rick Grinnell in the general election.
A late entry in the mayor’s race, Grinnell captured the Republican nomination by garnering 7,770 write-in votes in the primary — easily exceeding the 1,060 write-ins required — after three other Republicans failed to qualify for the primary ballot.
Before mounting his write-in campaign for the GOP nomination, Grinnell had been supporting independent candidate Pat Darcy, a real estate broker and former major league baseball pitcher who ultimately failed to collect enough valid signatures to appear on the general election ballot.
DeCamp, who hopes to qualify for matching funds, has been vastly outspent in the three-cornered race, raising about $3,456 as of September 19, compared to nearly $259,000 for Rothschild and $48,000 for the late-starting Grinnell.