TUCSON, Ariz (Reuters) – There is no bank of telephones at Mary DeCamp’s campaign headquarters, no volunteers eager to bring her message to the masses.
The Green Party candidate for mayor of Tucson, who is days away from losing her home to foreclosure, is flanked by fellow Occupy Tucson activists as she directs her long shot bid for public office from a borrowed tent in a local park.
“November 10th is my eviction date,” the aptly named candidate said cheerfully on Friday, while unpacking signs after police had pushed Occupy Tucson campers from one park to another a night earlier.
DeCamp could have saved her house, she said, and could have taken handouts from friends and family to keep her mortgage current. But she said she gave up after months of phone calls from the bank hounding her about late payments as she fell further behind.
“I just shut down,” she said.
Instead, she chose to go it alone and walk away from the home she bought for $172,000 at the height of the real estate boom, a home now worth far less than the amount she borrowed.
Although she acknowledges she has little real chance of winning election, DeCamp prides herself as a politician who can give voice to a constituency that lacks one. She ran for City Council two years ago and lost.
While local Republicans and Democrats bicker over downtown redevelopment and budget woes in the southeastern Arizona city, she said she focuses on broader issues.
“I’m advancing a much-needed message that isn’t being advanced by the two major parties,” she said. “I think globally and act locally.”
A friend has given DeCamp a new handmade placard for each of the 21 days she stayed with Occupy Tucson. Her campsite facing a busy downtown street is adorned with banners — one in foot-tall letters asking passers-by to vote. Glittery, colorful signs lean nearby on a borrowed table.
“Democracy is Green,” proclaims one sign decorated with a symbolic marijuana leaf.
RUNNING FROM A TENT
DeCamp kept her distance from Occupy Tucson at first, thinking that her presence might politicize an anti-Wall Street movement aligned with groups around the country protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and corporate greed.
Ultimately she decided politics needed to play a part, and that Green Party ideals aimed at protecting the little guy dove-tailed with Occupy Wall Street goals of speaking out for the so-called “99 percent.”
DeCamp now counts herself among a couple of dozen hard core Occupiers who have remained camped night after night, amassing citations for staying in the park past its 10:30 p.m. closing time. “Oh, it’s about 14 by now, I think,” she said of the citations. “I slept through a few of them.”
Her campaign office consists of two stackable, plastic storage bins outside a borrowed Coleman tent. She takes calls from a cell phone and answers her email at a public library.
The Democratic candidate, attorney Jonathan Rothschild, appears to be running away with the race in the liberal-leaning city. He led his nearest competitor, Republican mining company lobbyist Rick Grinnell, by 17 percentage points in a recent poll of likely voters.
DeCamp, a former adjunct college instructor in communications and math who grew up poor in Nebraska, said she was quickly taken with Occupy Wall Street movement.
“I immediately said, ‘That’s where I need to be. That’s what we need to be doing,’” she said.
A 17-year resident of Tucson, DeCamp said she is in the Occupy movement for the duration and will decide later where to go when it ends, whenever that might be.
“I’ve had offers from six people to come live with them. I always give more than I take, so everyone knows they’ll get a good deal if I come live with them.”
(Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Bohan and Greg McCune)
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