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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    In two places at once

    History sophomore and Democratic candidate for the Cochise County Board of Supervisors Chris Campas poses with one of the many campaign signs that dot the streets of Sierra Vista.
    History sophomore and Democratic candidate for the Cochise County Board of Supervisors Chris Campas poses with one of the many campaign signs that dot the streets of Sierra Vista.

    While many students struggle with the stresses of a new semester, Chris Campas faces an extra burden today: planning his path to victory in this November’s election.

    As of last night, Campas, a history sophomoreat the UA’s main campus in Tucson, is also the Democratic candidate for the Cochise County Board of Supervisors in District 1.

    Despite the apparent difficulty of carrying a full load of courses in Tucson while also running for office some 75 miles away, Campas takes it all in stride.

    “”It’s not that bad,”” Campas said Tuesday. “”I’ve got classes this afternoon, and then I’ve got to go down and vote myself. Then hopefully I’ll win an election.””

    Despite his age, Campas is not new to the political scene in his hometown of Sierra Vista. When he was only 17 and a senior in high school, he filed for his first race: Sierra Vista city council.

    “”I was the vice-chair of the Governor’s Youth Commission and the senior class president, (so) it was easy for me,”” Campas said. “”I had enough resources and people I could call.””

    His candidacy was prompted by his English professor at Cochise Community College, who saw his interest in politics and urged him to run. The campaign ran through the summer after his high school graduation, and the election itself took place just after he began his freshman year at the UA.

    “”(For) the first day of school, my mom dropped me off at my dorm on Sunday night, and then picked me up Monday at 3 (p.m.) to go to a candidates’ forum (in Sierra Vista),”” Campas said.

    Only three seats were available in the at-large election, and Campas came in fourth, just four votes behind the third-place winner. Because of voting irregularities, however, the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens filed suit on his behalf, and the battle continued for another month. The suit was dismissed due to a technicality, but the resulting publicity raised the young politician’s profile in the community.

    “”The way that election ended left a lot of things up in the air,”” Campas said. “”I spent the next two years involved in the community as the person who could have been on the city council.””

    “”He really is well respected (in Sierra Vista),”” said Michael Marshall, Spanish senior and Campas’ friend. “”He took me down there and showed me all of the important places in town. It kind of became this running thing – I’d meet people, and they’d ask, ‘Do you know Chris Campas?'””

    On the road to the November election, Campas faces some tough challenges. Running as the Democratic candidate, he faces a 2-to-1 Republican edge in voter registration in his district, “”which is the reason I’m running,”” Campas said. Local party officials recruited him to run so that the Democrats would at least have a presence in the race. He easily defeated the other Democratic candidate in the race in Tuesday’s primary election.

    Come November, Campas has to defeat a two-term Republican incumbent in the heavily Republican district. Despite the odds, he believes that past publicity and his continued involvement in his hometown will pay off.

    “”I’m very lucky because I’m not an amateur,”” Campas said. “”I know how to run, and I know the issues. There are all of these different pieces I don’t have to learn, and that makes it a little easier.””

    He also hopes to tap into the national current of political change.

    “”Everyone says, ‘Things need to change, but you go first,'”” Campas explained. “”I said, well, OK, I’ll do that.””

    That attitude reflects Compas’ approach to life, according to Bevan Olyphant, an adjunct lecturer in the Honors College who counts Compas among his friends and former students.

    “”Chris is a great example of what you can accomplish when you’re willing to fail,”” Olyphant said. “”The academic end is important, but it’s not all about grades. It’s about learning, getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks.””

    Despite the apparently conflicting activities in his life, friends say that Campas leads a relatively normal life at the UA. He has been involved in both the UA and Pima County Young Democrats, as well as Alpha Phi Omega and the campus Social Justice League. He also hikes with friends in Sabino Canyon, and takes part in more political activities such as parades and forums.

    Most of his best friendships were forged in his classes, however, including Marshall and Nick Carlstrom, an agricultural resource economics sophomore.

    “”It really blows my mind that the kid can just manage,”” Carlstrom said. “”He’s a born candidate.””

    “”He’s one of the most remarkable people my age I’ve ever met,”” Marshall agreed. “”I’m a Republican, so we obviously don’t agree on a lot of things, but … he’s always interested in having a conversation about ideas. We enjoy giving each other a hard time.””

    Campas’ former roommate and fellow Sierra Vista native, Amy Pressler, a senior majoring in economics and international studies, also finds herself inspired by her friend.

    “”(Campas) motivates people to just go for it,”” Pressler said. “”He’s not a normal 20 year old, and as long as I’ve known him he’s never been normal.””

    With her firsthand knowledge of Sierra Vista, Pressler believes Campas has a good chance at winning his November race.

    “”The dynamics of Sierra Vista have really changed,”” Pressler said. “”I’ll probably do a little canvassing when I have the chance, but I’ll be more of a moral supporter than anything.””

    It’s a role Pressler is used to: “”His roommate certainly has to do more of the dishes.””

    “”I have two toothbrushes, two closets, two phone chargers”” Campas said. “”Often I’m not sure where I’m staying the night.”” Even if he wins the supervisor’s seat, however, Campas is committed to completing his degree at the UA.

    “”Most people bellyache about driving across town,”” Carlstrom said. “”(Campas’) home is both Sierra Vista and Tucson and that stretch of highway between the two.””

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