by Ellie Brecher, Journalist, reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
June 9, 1935–June 22, 2023
When former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard ran for governor in 2014, he asked the man who’d been his campaign treasurer in past races for a reprise.
“Let someone else have all the fun,’’ Paul Barby told him, with enough sarcasm to make the point that being a campaign treasurer is no fun at all.
Goddard calls it “the toughest job in a political campaign. You’re always late on financial reporting, and the treasurer has to juggle a lot of balls. But with Paul, there was no fuss and he was calm in a crisis. He could handle complicated numbers with aplomb. He was what you pray for in a campaign treasurer.’’
Former AZ Rep. Randy Friese thought so too, and lured Barby into his 2014 legislative campaign. Not only did Barby get a tough job done, “He made me believe in myself as a candidate,’’ Friese said. “He was a very genuine, nice man – kind, thoughtful.’’
Also energetic, reliable, and generous with his time and money to people, causes and institutions in which he believed. A gentleman rancher with roots deep in the Oklahoma Panhandle’s red dirt, Barby had been in failing health for several years. He died at 88 on June 22, 2023. Born Paul Marion Barby to Anna Celestine Pearson Barby and Lloyd Barby in Beaver, OK, on June 9, 1935, he spent his final years at Tucson’s Sunrise at River, a retirement community.
An ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, Paul had been a Catalina Democrats-level donor to the Pima County Democratic Party and former Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) steering-committee member. He was active in the arts, the LGBTQ community, literacy projects, and humanitarian efforts at the border.
A live theater fan, Barby served four years on the Rogue Theatre’s board and appeared in two productions: as Morrison in Major Barbara (2011) and Simon Stimson in Our Town (2009).
He spent a decade as treasurer for No More Deaths, which works to stop migrant deaths in the Mexico-Arizona borderlands, and volunteered for elementary-school reading programs.
“Paul was passionate about border issues,’’ said No More Deaths volunteer Jim Marx. He took volunteers to Nogales to see migrant shelters.
Her uncle was “so generous – more than what people knew – silently for less fortunate people. If there was a need, he took care of it,’’ said niece Jean Wellfare, of Edmond, OK. “He was so humble.’’
“He wasn’t shy,’’ said her sister, Maggie Ferko, a longtime Pima County Health Department employee now living in Seattle. “He was a bundle of energy who couldn’t sit still. He was constantly trying to help people,’’ especially local businesses.
“Paul knew every independent restaurant in Tucson,’’ said friend Jenise Porter, a PCDP territory lead. When they served together on the PDA steering committee, “We were trying to find all the PCs in every county, trying to pull them into the Bernie campaign. Paul got that information even if he had to argue with recorders to get it. When he said he was going to do something, he did it.’’
In the early 2000s, Barby settled in Tucson, home to various maternal relatives. In 1974, his mother, an amateur artist and world traveler, commissioned famed Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff to build a landmark mid-Century Modern in Tucson home known as The Barby House, at 7110 North Camino de Fosforo.
In Oklahoma, where the family’s Bar B Ranch produces prized working horses and cattle, Barby had handled the family’s extensive oil and gas leases. A University of Oklahoma graduate, he served as a Regent for Oklahoma Colleges and lobbied the state legislature on behalf of small mineral producers.
In 1996, at 61, Barby made a life-altering decision. The Oklahoma Democratic Party asked him to run for Congress. In a letter to the party accepting the challenge, Paul came out as gay. (Coincidentally, the late Tucson Republican, Jim Kolbe, also came out that year, when he handily won a seventh Congressional term).
Barby was the first openly gay male candidate ever to run for federal office. News accounts of the day called him a “self-proclaimed homosexual.’’ He ran in Oklahoma’s 6th Congressional District, a solidly Red, largely rural swath of the Southern Baptist Bible Belt. He challenged Republican incumbent Frank Lucas, and ran closer than anyone predicted, aided by 96% of the district’s Black vote. Surprisingly, no one “gay-baited’’ him.
”Paul Barby has been campaigning all over the district,” Keith Smith, Paul’s campaign manager, told the New York Times, ”and the worst thing that people have said to him is that they are going to vote for him but keep it secret.”
But Barby’s gutsy decision caused a family schism. Seven relatives, including brother Stanley Barby, released an open letter supporting Lucas. (Paul’s sister, the late Norma Barby Cafky, did not sign). While never mentioning Paul’s sexual orientation, their disdain oozed from between the lines.
“Paul was a brave man,’’ said Randy Friese.
“He was way, way ahead of his time,’’ added Jean Wellfare.
In a video by Not Another Second, a Watermark Communities cultural project celebrating LGBTQ seniors, Barby said: “I remember very clearly…looking at myself in the mirror and I thought, ‘You’ll never be able to live with yourself if you don’t run,’ and I did and I’m glad I did. It made life easier for many gay people in Oklahoma.’’ (Watch the video at notanothersecond.com).
One supporter told him: “ ’You know, Paul, you’d make a great congressman for us. I’ll vote for you, my family will vote for you, my friends will vote for you, but none of us will stand up for you.’ ‘’
Barby campaigned as “a crusader for small farms and businesses [who was] upset to see new Super Wal-Marts opening in his district, driving local retailers out of business,’’ a 1996 CNN story said. “In many ways Paul Barby is the perfect congressional candidate, a pillar of the community, a college regent who likes to talk about family values.’’
The latter was a hard sell in Oklahoma’s 6th C.D., as were his support for hate-crimes laws and his opposition to the death penalty.
“…It just almost turned my stomach when he was talking about all these family value issues and there’s a man that’s a gay person that’s wanting to write laws about our family values,” said a man at a Barby campaign event.
“Someone who says they are openly homosexual and continues to live in that lifestyle – that’s a sin. And they need to repent and turn away from that,” another said.
Barby countered: “Let’s make it clear in the beginning that I’m not running because I’m gay. I happen to be a gay person who’s been working out there to make the community better. For all my life I’ve done that.”
He said he stepped up because he was tired of being bullied.
“We were bullied on the school ground when we were kids,’’ he said. “Why are we still being the subject of bullies? Why is this happening? Why don’t people stand up? That’s why I took a stand, because I’m tired of being…put down because of who I am. I’m a strong individual.”
Barby’s late sister’s daughters Jean, Maggie, and Ann Miller, of Norman, OK, survive, as do their children and many cousins. Barby and brother Stanley never reconciled.
While most new PC’s are guided by experienced ones, not all Legislative Districts have an established network. We are here to help! But in case you want a glimpse of what might be involved with becoming a Precinct Committeeperson, here is your starter guide.
Didn’t mail in your ballot? You can still drop it off here!
City of Tucson voters will vote in a May 16 special election on a new, 25-year franchise agreement with Tucson Electric Power. The question is presented as Proposition 412.
Proposition 412 would renew the City’s grant of permission to TEP to build and operate its local electric grid in the City’s rights of way, similar to agreements in place with other municipalities. It would replace TEP’s current voter-approved franchise agreement with the City of Tucson, which expires in April 2026.
If approved, the updated agreement would add a 0.75-percent “Community Resilience Fee” to monthly electric bills of TEP customers within the city. The franchise fee would remain at 2.25%. Customers within the city also pay a 2.25% city utility tax that would remain unchanged.
The revenue generated by that new 0.75% fee could be used to cover the additional cost of building certain electric infrastructure underground, with the approval of both the city and TEP. It also could be used to fund efforts that support the city’s Climate Action Plan, including new clean energy resources, electric vehicle infrastructure and heat mitigation efforts.
The proposed change would add less than $1 per month to the average monthly electric bills of residential customers with typical usage within the City of Tucson. That impact would vary with usage. Customers living outside the City of Tucson would not pay this fee.
The Tucson Mayor and Council voted unanimously on Jan. 25 to call a special election on May 16 that will allow city voters to approve or reject the new franchise, which will appear on the ballot as Proposition 412.
The following questions and answers offer more details about the proposed franchise agreement.
What is a “franchise agreement?”
A franchise agreement establishes terms for a private utility company’s use of public spaces, including streets and public rights of way, for the purpose of providing utility services for the benefit of local residents. Municipal franchises give utilities permission to build, operate and maintain facilities along city streets and other public rights of way, usually in exchange for a fee equal to a percentage of the revenue earned through sales within the city. These fees are paid by customers within those cities.
Does TEP already have a franchise agreement with the City of Tucson?
Yes. TEP has had franchise agreements in place with the city for nearly 100 years. The current 25-year franchise agreement is set to expire in April 2026, and under state law voter approval is required for any new franchise. Proposition 412 gives City of Tucson voters an opportunity to approve or reject a new 25-year franchise with TEP.
How does the new franchise agreement differ from the current agreement?
The new franchise would retain the 2.25-percent fee from the current agreement while adding a 0.75-percent Community Resilience Fee. The fee would raise an estimated $5 million annually to cover the additional cost of installing certain TEP facilities underground and for projects that support the City of Tucson’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
How would Proposition 412 affect customers’ electric bills?
The new franchise agreement is expected to increase the average monthly bills of typical residential customers within the City of Tucson by less than $1. The expected impact for a typical small business is less than $3 per month. The actual impact will depend on usage, and customers who use more energy will see a larger increase.
Will all TEP customers pay this new fee?
No. Only customers within the City of Tucson pay the city’s franchise fees and utility tax as part of their monthly electric bills. Customers living elsewhere may pay a franchise fee or utility tax charged by a different municipality.
What types of climate action projects could be funded from the Community Resilience Fee?
The Community Resilience Fee in the new franchise agreement could be used to fund projects that support the City of Tucson’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, including efforts to:
decarbonize city-owned and operated buildings and facilities;
promote distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar to provide local renewable energy and enhance energy resilience;
pursue additional local sources of renewable energy, including resource recovery and heat exchange;
promote electric vehicles via charging infrastructure expansion;
transition public agency fleets to zero-emission and net-zero-emission vehicles;
establish accessible resilience hubs across all City Wards to provide information and resources related to climate preparedness and response;
bolster City-owned and community-wide heat mitigation resources to reduce urban heat island effect and protect vulnerable individuals and communities;
deploy and maintain equitable nature-based solutions that reduce or sequester emissions, improve ecosystem health, and bolster climate resilience; and
bolster community and regional networks to improve community-wide emergency response and resource-sharing.
How would new funding raised by Proposition 412 be managed?
Proceeds of the new Community Resilience Fee would be managed by a committee that includes equal representation from TEP and the City of Tucson, as outlined in the proposed franchise agreement. Recovering the cost of underground infrastructure would be prioritized during the first 10 years of the agreement, though 10 percent of revenues collected during that period would be used for climate resiliency efforts.
How would the remaining funds raised through the new franchise agreement be used?
Proceeds from the 2.25-percent franchise fee would be forwarded to the City of Tucson, as they are today under the existing agreement. The updated agreement under Proposition 412 provides that at least one-ninth of those revenues would be used to install electric facilities underground, to provide energy bill payment assistance or for efforts that support the city’s climate action plan.
The new franchise agreement would not affect projected revenues for the city, as remittances for both the city’s franchise fee and utility tax would reflect the same percentages of electric sales as they do currently.
When will City of Tucson voters have an opportunity to vote on this proposal?
A special election will be held May 16. Only registered voters living in the City of Tucson can participate in this election. Details about participating in this election are available on the Tucson City Clerk’s website at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/clerks/elections.
Who is responsible for the costs of this Special Election?
As provided by Tucson’s City Charter, TEP is required to pay for the costs of this election.
What happens if voters reject the proposal?
TEP would continue operations under its existing City of Tucson franchise, which will remain in force through April 2026.
Paul Durham, a former member of the Tucson City Council and known for his integrity and environmental advocacy, died Wednesday at age 67.
Durham grew up in eastern Washington and graduated from the University of Washington and Stanford Law School. After law school, he worked as a lawyer specializing in business transactions and securities before moving to Tucson in 2004.
Durham was elected to represent Ward 3 — representing the Northwest Side and a stretch of the North Side extending east to Swan Road — in 2017, and served on the City Council until his resignation in March 2021. Durham announced he was stepping down in February 2021 after missing several Council meetings over the previous months due to family and personal health issues. He had cracked several ribs over that summer, and his husband Philippe Waterinckx was receiving treatment for terminal cancer.
Waterinckx, the founder of Tucson’s Community Supported Agriculture, died last June at the age of 62.
In Tucson, Durham was known for his environmental advocacy, including work to mitigate climate change and seek resilience for the city’s residents.
“It is with a heavy heart that I remember my colleague, Paul Durham,” said Mayor Regina Romero. “He was an incredible partner to me in helping to accelerate our climate action and resiliency work. His public service and dedication to the constituents of Ward 3 and Tucson community will always be remembered.”
“Paul was all about integrity, he wasn’t running around cutting deals behind your back,” said City Councilman Steve Kozachik. “He was an all-around good guy, and its real loss.”
“Representing the constituents of Ward 3 has been a profound privilege. However, in order to attend to personal matters, I am now compelled to resign,” Durham wrote as he left office.
Karin Uhlich — who held the seat from 2005 to 2017 — was appointed to fill the spot left for Durham. She did not seek to continue in the seat. In November 2021, Kevin Dahl successfully garnered 57 percent of the citywide vote in the general election to represent Ward 3.
“I’ve never run for office before, but I love Tucson, and I love serving my community,” Durham wrote on his campaign website PaulforProgress.com. “My vision starts with the idea that the government works for all of us, and it should respond to us,” he wrote. “If you have a problem in the city of Tucson, I want to you ‘Call Paul.'”
For Eric Robbins, PCDP Chair for the next two years, teaching is a family tradition. He left the business world for a middle-school classroom, following his parents’ career paths.
“Mom was the first Reading Specialist in Somersworth, N.H., in the early 1970s,’’ says Eric, 57. “I used to tutor kids in her Reading Lab. Dad was a teacher and principal.’’
Somersworth is a short walk over a bridge from Eric’s rural Maine childhood home. It’s also an early primary state that presidential hopefuls swarm every four years, offering young Eric a real-time tutorial in retail politics.
“I saw national politics localized: ‘There’s Teddy Kennedy walking down the street.’ I believed that politics was accessible.’’
The Robbins family moved to Tucson when Eric’s dad “got sick of putting wood in that wood stove.’’ Eric graduated from Amphitheater High School. He earned a B.S. in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix and an MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. That program took him to China and Hong Kong, fueling his love of travel.
He spent 30 years in sales, business development and consulting, and owned two small businesses before “pivoting to my family vocation and becoming a teacher, completing some cosmic cycle.’’
“I’ve been in school most of my life,’ he says. “My hobbies are studying new subjects and futures trading, which is a thrilling exercise in managing both math and emotion.’’
Eric may be the first PCDP Chair from South Tucson, where he lives with “a wonderful life partner who enhances my knowledge of women’s issues,’’ eight cats and a rabbit. He’s dad to a high school student, whose future motivates his activism.
“The best world I can leave her is her truest inheritance,” he says.
Eric canvassed and registered voters before the 2016 presidential election but was “so dismayed/traumatized/horrified by what happened that I got much more involved at the LD level…I believe it is an obligation of every citizen to be involved in the body politic to represent their own interests. The degree to which I can help that happen is under threat.’’
Appointed LD21’s 2nd Vice Chair last year, he is “thrilled to be trusted to join the leadership of the Pima County Democratic Party as Chair by a huge turnout of PCs from throughout Pima County.’’ Outgoing Chair Bonnie Heidler “provided amazing leadership and led PCDP through a very challenging time with the pandemic. She did so with grace and professionalism. I am mindful of that legacy.’’
Among his priorities is building and restoring connections throughout Southern Arizona. “A party earns a place in a community by modeling values that are important to that community. It is inverted to think that a community should ‘join’ a party. A party must be willing to join with the community. That means service, commitment, candor, and engagement.”
He and PCDP’s new leadership team will also take a close look at PCDP’s fundraising structure during their first 90 days.
“We will build on the momentum from the recent victories in the mid-term cycle,’’ he says. “Those volunteers at the campaign level have key skills and talents, and we can work on increasing PC training, resources and support to help capture Democratic majorities at the local, state, and national level. Supporting candidates for Tucson city elections will be at the top of our priority list in 2023.
“Politics is a team sport, and I am lucky to have people who have roots in local LDs and a history of accomplishment at both levels of the organization on our team, ‘’ Eric says. “The next two years will be critical.’’
Another agenda item: PCDP’s headquarters at 4639 E. First Street.
“It’s on the market, and although status of sale remains unresolved, selling is still the plan. But in the meantime, I intend to revitalize HQ and make it more welcoming to all Democrats.”
While celebrating the party’s statewide gains in November, Democrats’ most unexpected loss – Superintendent of Public Instruction – stunned him. Voters narrowly replaced a respected Democratic educator with a Republican anti-diversity crusader/politician who never taught.
“Given how close the recent elections were and seeing the superintendent race go to someone so much less qualified than the Kathy Hoffman is massively frustrating as an educator, and I hope to keep it in the forefront of the public mind,’’ Eric says. “Treatment of teachers is foundational to problems in Arizona.”
As for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s switch from Democrat to Independent, Eric feels the great Maya Angelou got it right. “ ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ This was not a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.”
During the PCDP chair campaign, Eric held a series of meet-and-greet Zoom Open Forums. Acknowledging Arizona’s battleground-state status, he titled the last one, “Is Pima County going to be the Center of The Political Universe in 2024?’’
“Maybe not,’’ he says, “but you’ll be able to see it from there. Pima Dems will be ready.’’
Cesar a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, of Tucson, Arizona passed away on December 2, 2022, at the age of 79, at home surrounded by his family as the rosary was being prayed.
Cesar was born in Ciudad Jimenez, Chihuahua, Mx on April 1, 1943. Cesar moved to the United States August 1970 and became a U.S. Citizen.
Cesar worked as an electrician at San Manuel Mine for 25 years and after retiring from the mine he was a bail bonds agent for 25 years. Cesar was involved in civil right marches, supported political office candidates and was a Democratic Precinct Committee man.
We extend our sympathies, and thank you for his work, to his family. Cesar is survived by his wife, Lupita Flores Shestko-Montiel; his daughters, Lucy Sifuentes and Sonia Ramirez from El Paso, Texas; his stepchildren, Debbie A. Shestko Rios, Diana M. Shestko Lopez, James Michael Shestko and Anna May Shestko Valdillez; 38 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
Please join his family for the following services: The Rosary and the Viewing will be on Sunday, December, 18, 2022 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at FUNERARIA DEL ANGEL SOUTH LAWN. The requiem Mass will be held on Monday, December 19, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave., Tucson, Az 85701. Cesar will be laid to rest, following the Mass, at South Lawn Memorial Cemetery, 5401 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85706.
Hello Pima Dems! I am so excited and grateful to take on the role of Executive Director for the Pima County Democratic Party. I am proud of the work we have all done to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in Pima County during this last Midterm Election cycle. We had some big wins!
I remain committed and humbled to support PCDP. My current priorities:
Making sure our Headquarters building is secure and welcoming.
Coordinating our fantastic corps of dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers – they teach me something new every day.
Implementing a formal training program for new volunteers.
Bringing on several wonderful Interns from the University of Arizona Political Science Department.
Ensuring our digital files stay updated and secure.
Working to help the new Chair and leadership realize their vision for PCDP.
Collaborate with our fundraising teams to develop a bold and creative path forward.
As we pause during the winter holiday; I am reflective of the tremendous effort – this midterm took – by all of our volunteers and activists. We truly cannot do things alone; and we all have value; no matter how we contribute to the cause.
What is going on at HQ?
We had a wonderful Volunteer Appreciation Brunch at the Blue Willow for all of our dedicated HQ volunteers. They do so much more than just answer the phone!
Volunteer Projects: Our Lead Volunteers are immensely talented, networked in our community, and knowledgeable. They have taken on projects such as: Training, Intern Coordinator, Building Coordinator, Events, and Rural Outreach. We have many ideas in the hopper for future events and training that will take place at HQ in the New Year. Stay tuned!
We are also working hard to train all newer volunteers on petitions, Request To Speak (RTS,) Canvassing, etc., we are undergoing a “Train the Trainer” program as we speak!
Lots of updating of our files to reflect our new PCDP leadership team.
General reset of the building post election; taking signs to Councilperson Kozachik’s recycling program, organizing and auditing supplies, some yard work too!
I wish everyone a peaceful and restful holiday season; We will be closed from Dec 19th – January 3rd. Please stop by HQ anytime after that – our door is always open! Happy New Year!
Eric Robbins is the Pima County Democratic Party’s new chair. Elected at PCDP’s Dec. 10, 2022, biannual reorganization, Robbins, 57, will serve a two year term. He will succeed Bonnie Heidler, who did not seek a second term.
A New England native, Robbins holds a B.S. in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix and an MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. He graduated from Tucson’s Amphitheater High School. Robbins spent 30 years in sales and business development and co-owned two small businesses before “pivoting back to my family vocation’’ by following his parents into teaching. He teaches middle-school science and math.
“I am thrilled to be trusted to join the leadership of the Pima County Democratic Party as Chair,’’ Robbins said. “We need to build connections around the values that unite us as Democrats.”
Serving with Robbins are First Vice Chair Carol Schloff, Second Vice Chair Maggie Winchell, Treasurer Brian Bickel, Recording Secretary Kitty Kennedy and Corresponding Secretary Beth Mitchneck.
“Supporting candidates for city elections will be at the top of our priority list in 2023,’’ Robbins said. Looking ahead to the 2024 election cycle, in which Arizona will play a crucial role, Robbins said that while Pima County might not become “the Center of The Political Universe, you’ll be able to see it from here, and Pima Dems will be ready.’’