Dem Quixote

Jim Pederson wants comfy outdoor dining without misters -- something all voters can agree on

NT: I heard you were hiring non-union people to build your malls. I saw someone on the street brandishing a "Shame on Jim Pederson" sign. What was that about?

Pederson:That was too bad. It was a labor union issue, a dispute we had with the carpenters' union. It was really beyond our control. We had a tenant contractor who worked for one of our tenants who used a non-union dry-waller. They picketed me instead of my tenant. We have worked that out.

NT: This is the sort of thing that will come up during your election, though. And you can bet someone's going to come after you about your company, the Pederson Group, having filed for bankruptcy protection during the real estate bust of the 1990s.

Pederson:Yes. But you have to remember that was a pretty heady time. A lot of people got into trouble at that time, partly because of the [savings and loan] crisis. If you were involved in real estate in the 1990s, you were lucky to survive. But it's important to note that we filed for reorganization, which is not a forgiveness of debt. We paid back most of our creditors. I'm not going to hide from that.

NT: I'm not saying yours is entirely a vanity candidacy. But your win seems like a long shot. Don't you think you can better serve the Democrats by getting one into office?

Pederson:Well, I know what you're talking about. You don't run against a two-term incumbent with access to unlimited resources. If we win, it will be based on our issues -- the things that we care about are things that Arizonans care about. Because right now, Arizona is going in the wrong direction, and we all know that the business as usual in Washington doesn't work anymore. People are attracted to candidates who express independence, not ones who are tied to special interests.

NT: Speaking of issues, what the hell are you going to do to get gas prices down?

Pederson:We're going to have to be honest with people. With world conditions being what they are, and with basic supply and demand, we are competing for the remaining supply of fossil fuel resources. The only permanent solution is the development of alternative sources of energy. We can reduce our dependence on foreign oil by making a massive investment in new research toward that end. That's not fantasyland.

NT: If you take office, can you promise me that you'll get Arizona prepared for a terrorist attack or natural disaster? I just know someone is going to fly a plane into Palo Verde nuclear power plant.

Pederson:It's true, it has to be the number-one priority of any government: to keep people safe. We have to invest those dollars wisely, and our resources allocated to keeping people safe have been misspent. I think the recent experience in New Orleans isn't unlike any other part of the country, in terms of preparedness for whatever emergency might occur.

NT: What's your opinion of the sitting Arizona senators?

Pederson:I admire Senator McCain's independence; he doesn't hesitate to stand up to his party and speak his mind. I admire him as a working public servant. Kyl is very partisan. [H]e's a workhorse, not a show horse, but if people don't know you, you're not doing your job. I think people know me, and I think they know, if I'm elected, I'll do my job.

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