Tucson Crazies

I made a reference the other day to the “Tucson Crazies,” which led to one commenter wanting to know who the heck I was refering to.

The “Tucson Crazies” were a group of liberal legislators elected out of Tucson in the 1970’s. It included Bruce Wheeler, Morris Farr, Jo Cauthorn, Lucy Davidson and Sister Clare Dunn, CSJ. Occasionally, some put John Kromko on this list as well.

Of the five, only Wheeler and Farr are still alive. Wheeler, of course, has remained active in politics and will be ready to start his second stint in the legislature. Farr, who served three terms before being beaten by Greg Lunn (who had his own interesting legislative career), has continued to be active despite retirement to the friendly hills of Sonoita. He has lately been outspoken against the proposed Rosemont Mine.

I was unable to find out much about Lucy Davidson, other than that she lived in my parents’ neighborhood and that she was beaten for re-election by a guy named Jim Kolbe. I’m sure that some of my readers (I’m looking at you, Georgia Brousseau) were familiar with her public career and can tell us more about her.

Jo Cauthorn was one of the early instigators of the Arizona Women’s Political Caucus, and played a major role in the unsuccessful fight to get Arizona to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Cauthorn also led a more successful fight within the Arizona Democratic Party to get more equitable representation for women at national conventions.

My favorite of the group by far was Sister Clare Dunn. Dunn was a Sister of St Joseph of Carondelet who taught at Salpointe Catholic High School. She was a forceful spokeswoman for the plight of the working class and poor in our state. It would be easy for people that are unfamiliar with her career to think that she would have been dismissed as a gadfly, but the force of her moral conviction earned the respect of her colleagues, and her legislative skills were enough to get her elected Assistant Minority leader in 1981.

Because the Rule of her order prevented her from travelling alone, she was always accompanied by Sister Judy Lovchik on her trips to Phoenix. She and Lovchik were killed in a car accident on I-10 after the end of the 1981 session.

Her portrait still hung in the hall the last time I visited the Democratic offices at the State House of Representatives. A remembrance by one of her sisters can be found here.

NB: Special thanks to Bruce Wheeler and to long time Democratic stalwarts Martin Bacal and Pat Poore for some information for this piece.

6 thoughts on “Tucson Crazies

  1. So, they were crazy because they were liberals from Tucson? Pushing for the ERA makes you crazy in Arizona?

  2. Sister Clare had a heart so big that it blocked the street when she walked down the sidewalk. Super intelligent and committed to justice not to political expediency, she remains a person one can truly admire.

  3. Yes, Sister Clare was a shining light to many of us. She fought for health care, education, and community colleges as well as everything else. I will never forget that funeral when Gov. Babbitt led in the AZ legislators to the packed cathedral. She mentored Cindy Resnick who went on to carry the banner for health care and helped build ACCESS. I still think of her when I pass Picacho Peak where her death occurred.
    Lucy Davidson made her name fighting for prison reforms and was unfortunately dismissed as a knee-jerk liberal by those in power. She worked hard and accomplished some improvements, especially for female prisoners. After being defeated by Jim Kolbe she pulled back and fought some form of cancer. I think, but might not be correct, that she left the state in later years. Glee Alberding might know.
    There was also Anna Cullinan who was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee and had to follow the bus around the state in her car because the guys in charge wouldn’t let her on it. She passed away from cancer some years back. All of these folks fought the good fight. Does anyone remember Bucky McLoughlin who went to the Legislature thinking he was a conservative Republican and found out the Phoenix boys thought he was a wild eyed liberal?

  4. How can Tucson gain power in the Arizona Legislature? I’m sick of being disenfranchised because I voted for “Tucson crazies” like Bruce Wheeler and Steve Farley. I’m also tired of the Democrats shrugging their shoulders and saying, “We’re in the minority. We can’t do anything.”

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