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.