With today's launch of a U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee website, Tucson City Council member Rodney Glassman has become the first Arizona Democrat to officially announce an interest in running against Republican Senator John McCain.
In an interview conducted shortly after the committee's website went up, Glassman said he started the exploratory committee after receiving calls from people throughout the state, urging him to consider a Senate run. He said the committee's goal, "is to take the temperature, find out where people feel Arizona should be headed."
Glassman's resume represents a mix of education, philanthropy and politics. In his first term as a Tucson City Councilmember in 2007, he successfully spearheaded the passage of a commercial rainwater harvesting law, the first in the United States. In 2002 he founded of the Glassman Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to "raising resources for non-profit organizations that provide services to youth thorughout the Tucson community." Glassman's education credentials are deep, with an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics, Masters in Business Adminstration and Public Administration, and a PhD in Arid Land Resource Management (by his own admission Glassman is "passionate" about water issues and sustainability).
Rumors concerning Glassman's possible interest in John McCain's seat have circulated quietly throughout the state for a number of months. In August of this year when asked about the rumors of a possible Glassman challenge to his friend McCain, Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll (R) told the Arizona Daily Star: "If [Glassman] wants to end his career, that's a great idea. I'll support that."
On the surface the possible match seems uneven, a young relatively inexperienced politician taking on one of the most well-known political figures in the country. But according to F. Ann Rodriguez, Pima County Recorder and a chair of the exploratory committee (the committee is co-chaired by Rodriguez, Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler and City of Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowaski), Glassman's fresh approach is one reason she enthusiastically supports him. "He's energetic, eager to listen and to learn," said Rodriguez, adding: "It would be good for this state to get new energy and new blood."
Rodriguez feels Arizona has paid a price for McCain's national political aspirations: "McCain's been absent a lot," Rodriguez pointed out (McCain's absentee record was raised by Barack Obama during the presidential campaign), but even when he's present Rodriguez feels he let down the state he represents, "because he doesn't seem interested in bringing good, legitimate projects" to Arizona. "I'm not talking about pork barrel," Rodriguez clarified. "I mean good money, money we need to address Arizona issues, including Native American health issues, water issues. He's busy pointing out waste in every other state but he doesn't help us in ours."
Rodriguez says McCain "is so embedded in D.C. politics that he's forgotten what it's like to connect with a community," while Glassman, in contrast "has done outreach throughout this state. He knows what our issues are. Rodney Glassman understands the pulse of the Arizona community."
Glassman also spoke of community in a very personal way. Asked why he is considering a Senate run, he said one reason was indeed personal. "I will be getting married and raising a family right here in this state. A strong, well-funded and accountable school system is important to my own future; that's where my children will go to school" (Arizona's public school system has been nationally ranked as low as 49th in spending and 50th national performance averages).
The possible Democratic challenger to John McCain says he has one goal right now, "to have a dialogue with the citizens of Arizona on the issues important to Arizona: quality jobs, sustainability, education, water issues." And just as he did with his successful race for Tucson City Council, all contributions to the Glassman Exploratory Committee will be limited to $20, to provide "every interested person in Arizona with an opportunity to participate. We want to provide everyone with a seat at this table."
F. Ann Rodriguez feels "it's time for the next generation to take over leadership roles." Glassman said he'll be looking to see "if Arizona is interested in a new, fresh, strong voice, advocating for Arizona first."
If they are, the young Tucson City Council member may be just what they're looking for.