As a real estate developer, Randi Dorman has shaped some of the most notable adaptive reuse projects in Tucson, Arizona, delivering transit-adjacent housing laced with solar panels and water-saving features that make living in the city’s downtown sustainable.
Now she’s running for mayor of Tucson, and Dorman has made improving the city’s transportation one of the cornerstones of her campaign (including electrifying the bus fleet and expanding the streetcar to better serve Tucson’s downtown). She practices what she preaches, choosing active, zero-emission transportation modes—including a bright orange and blue bike, a pair of orange Vans sneakers for door-knocking, and her own solar-powered Tesla (not orange, unfortunately) that runs on the city’s relentless sunshine.
But that sun, paired with blistering summer temperatures, can make getting around southern Arizona uncomfortable. Even in 100-degree heat, here’s how Dorman makes it work, going from job sites to campaign events all over Tucson—and all without breaking a sweat.
Monday, July 8
We live in a loft on the edge of downtown Tucson called the Ice House Lofts. In 2002, we started the process of converting this old ice factory into 51 lofts with two friends of ours, and have lived there since we completed them in 2005. My husband, Rob Paulus, is an incredible architect. He designed our lofts as well as our office right across the street, which we converted from an old auto repair shop. As soon as I’m up, I make the 80-second walk across the street to my office, bringing our dog Squirt along.
My communications firm for my campaign, Brink Media, wants to include some photos of me as a child in a new campaign ad we are doing, so I need to bring the photos over to their firm. I try to ride my bike as long as it’s under 100 degrees, and it’s only 97 out, so I hop on my bike, put my bag in my basket, and ride over. I have to cross the train tracks and there is a long train going by, so I pull up under a tree for some shade. I love my bike. It’s orange and turquoise with a white basket and a parrot squeaky toy instead of a bell. I feel like a kid every time I’m on it, and given how hard I work, I need that!
They love the photos so I leave the whole pile there and bike to Maynards to pick up a salad for lunch; Caesar with a scoop of tuna. The box fits perfectly in my basket and I bike back to the office.
In the evening I have to speak at a Moms Demand Action meeting. Each candidate is given four minutes to introduce themselves and discuss what we would do to reduce gun violence in Tucson. I’ve been coming to these meetings for several months and am so impressed with the tenacity and resilience of the moms. Some of them have been victims of gun violence and some have had family members who were victims. They move forward with passion, and they give me hope that we can get the gun control we need.
I drive over in our Tesla Model 3, which we got at the end of last year. What a car! Our whole family has a passion for preserving the environment. Rob and I do infill real estate development together and make sure everything we build is sustainable. My daughter Skye and I surprised Rob with the Tesla for his birthday at the end of last year. We have solar panels at our office, which is also where we charge the car, so we literally run on the sun. It is an incredible feeling to know we aren’t burning fossil fuel to get around. I like listening to Elvis Costello radio before I have to speak in public. It calms me down and pumps me up all at the same time.
My talk goes well and people come up to me afterwards and thank me for having specific plans instead of the generalities the other candidates have. I drive home around 8 p.m.
A little later, Rob and I get back in the Tesla and drive to Time Market for dinner where I can’t resist a glass of rosé. Time Market is right next door to a 25,000 square-foot office building we are working on. We have worked on this project for eight years and it is exciting to see it come out of the ground, even at night.
Tuesday, July 9
It’s going to be really hot for the rest of the week so I don’t think I’ll be able to do much biking. I take the Tesla and drive to an early spinning and strength class at Let’s Sweat. I work from home in the morning and get dressed for an interview with a local news station. They are interviewing all the candidates to air before the election. Ballots go out August 2 and the primary is August 27, but it is all vote by mail. I walk over to the office and the crew is already there. I work at the office and Rob brings me a pollo asado burrito from down the street. I walk back home around 4 p.m.
At 5:30, people start arriving for the phone bank we are doing for my campaign. We normally phone bank from our office but Rob put together a band for the campaign block party we are having on Saturday and they are rehearsing in the office, so we phone from our loft.
Afterwards, I walk back to the office to meet Malcolm who needs to take a shot of me on our roof next to the solar panels for a mailer we are doing about sustainability. We take some shots and realize we should wait until sunset for the lighting we want, so we climb down from the roof and walk back to the loft where I make more calls. When the light is just right we walk back over to the office, climb the ladder to the roof and get our shots. Before I walk back home I practice one song with the band and we decide to go for it at the block party.
I finish making calls around 8:30, and at 8:45, Rob and I get in the Tesla and drive to Boca Taco on Fourth Avenue. So delicious. Rob is going for a big ride in the morning up Mt. Lemmon so we drive home.
Wednesday, July 10
Today I work from home for most of the morning because I know I have a jam-packed afternoon. My husband and I share our Tesla based on who has to drive the farthest. He needs it for the afternoon—plus it’s so hot it ends up tying the record of 109!—so I hop in our BMW and drive to a radio station about 15 minutes away. I am endorsed by the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce and the CEO, Amber Smith, does a weekly radio show. We have a great talk about my background, why I am running, and what opportunities we both see to move Tucson forward. I really surprise her when she asks about role models and I cite Madonna as one of mine!
Back in the car, I rush to a 3 p.m. meeting with my communications firm. They have been doing an amazing job with my campaign and each week we plan our next steps. I have to leave early, jump back in the car and go to meet Tucson’s current Mayor Jonathan Rothschild to give him an update on my campaign.
Back in the car—again!—and make it just in time for the Tucson Young Professionals Candidate Meet and Greet and the Equality Arizona Speed Dating Mayoral forum. Each candidate goes from table to table and gets asked questions. It was a lot more fun than sitting on a stage behind a table.
I rush home because Rob and I want to go to our favorite pizza place, Anello, but we have to get there before 9. I arrive home and jump right into the Tesla with Rob to go for pizza and the glass of rosé I feel I really deserve!
On the way home we notice that someone has knocked down and mangled a few of my campaign signs, so we pick them up and put them in the trunk. So many of my signs have been stolen or kicked over—I guess this is politics.
Thursday, July 11
This morning I have an interview with UA Local 469, the pipefitters union. It’s only 90 degrees so I hop on my bike and ride to the meeting. Riding with the wind blowing and feeling so free is a great way to start the day. After I bike home, I write some emails and then hop in the car. We have had a ton of candidate forums, but next week is our first official debate and I haven’t debated before. My friend Kim and one of our volunteers, Josh, stand in as the other candidates for the prep. There is so much I want to do for this city but I have to condense everything into one- or two-minute sound bites, and it is hard.
Back in the car to rush home for a conference call I have with our development partner, our investors, and the real estate broker working on our Trinity project, the 25,000 square-foot office building Rob designed that we dined near the other night. Construction will be complete in November and we still have two floors we need to lease.
Around 5 p.m. it has only cooled down to 104 so I take our Tesla to a midtown neighborhood to canvass. I have been canvassing three days a week since February and it is my favorite part of campaigning because it is an opportunity to connect with voters directly, ask them what is important to them, and share how my plans can help them.
We have an app and my campaign manager creates lists of the voters we should reach out to and I go from door to door. We have a great team of volunteers who do it as well, but I love doing it personally, no matter how hot it gets. People have been so kind and engaged. So many have invited me into their homes to tell me about their struggles. I really value these conversations. I especially love when there are kids. I tell them that we have never had a female mayor before and ask if they think it is time. It is so important for them, especially for the girls, to hear about women in leadership roles. The next generation will hopefully have the role models they need so that they won’t have the same hurdles that I had in creating success.
I stop when it gets dark and drive home. Rob and I go to sit at the bar at Maynards for dinner. It is our favorite place and we love Eddie and Annie behind the bar.
Friday, July 12
Early on in the campaign there was so much that needed to be done that I stopped making time to exercise because I barely had time to breathe. That impacted my mental health and now I try to make time for exercise for stress relief. This morning I drive to spin/strength class and it feels so good! I have a really busy day.
Today we are filming our last commercial for the campaign. It is so interesting to be a woman making things happen. I was telling my communications team about how meaningful it would be to be the first female mayor of Tucson, especially given the hurdles I, and every woman, have had to experience.
When I was little I wanted to be on the baseball team, but I was told girls weren’t supposed to play baseball and that was that. I was the best at math in my classes and was always looked at as an oddity because girls aren’t supposed to be good at math. Throughout my career I had great supporters, but also experienced sexism that we were taught to just ignore at the time. Real estate development is an industry dominated by men. Last year I needed to get some plans approved. I was coming from another meeting so Kenneth from our office met me with the plans. This was my development and my money at risk. The planner directed every question to Kenneth, I answered every question and still he looked right at Kenneth every time when asking. I think often about what it will mean for the girls and women of Tucson to finally have a female mayor. We are shooting our last commercial around this theme.
It is too hot to bike so I drive the Tesla to Brink Media at noon. We shoot until 3 p.m. and it goes great.
At 6 p.m. I head over to Councilmember Steve Kozachik’s Ward 6 office for an exhibition of art made by the children of the asylum seekers who have traveled from all over South and Central America to get to the United States. Many of them have stayed in Tucson at a facility run by Catholic Community Services, aided by Steve and his team.
These are families who come from horrendous circumstances and risk everything to get here. They have been processed and are on their way to their sponsors throughout the country, but they get dropped in Tucson first. Before this facility was established, ICE would drop people in the middle of Tucson, expecting them to find their way to the bus station and onto their next destination. Now ICE drops them at the Benedictine Monastery midtown, they are given food, clothing, showers, assistance, and a place to sleep for a few days. It is an incredible operation and the artwork by the children is moving. It contains so much hope, but so much loss as well.
From there I drive to the main plaza downtown for the Light for Liberty vigil to raise awareness of conditions in immigrant detention facilities in the southern United States. The plaza is packed and it is beautiful to see the community come together in this way. Tucson is filled with incredibly kind and generous people and I am humbled by this every day.
Rob and I cook dinner and collapse.
Saturday, July 13
Today is our 17th anniversary but there is no time to celebrate. I drive to the east side for a mayoral forum with the Tanque Verde Democrats. It is a good forum and a great opportunity to show my vision. I get a ton of positive feedback even though it is hard to fit well-thoughtout ideas into one-minute answers!
This afternoon we are phonebanking at the office so I walk over to help. I am grateful for the volunteers helping us reach out to voters. It is not as personal as knocking on doors, but it is much cooler! But I can’t help myself and decide to drive over to a midtown neighborhood and knock on doors for a couple of hours anyway. I love staying within our orange theme so today in addition to my Randi for Mayor t-shirt, hat and stickers, I have on orange shorts and the orange Vans my daughter Skye made me buy when we started campaigning.
I drive home and shower because tonight we have a big block party for my campaign that my friends Renee and Larry are throwing for me, with Councilmember Paul Cunningham joining as well. The clouds are beginning to form which means we might have a monsoon this evening. Tucson only gets 12 inches of rain a year, so normally we welcome the monsoons, but not tonight. The party is supposed to start at 6 p.m. and at 5:15 it is pouring.
We decide to move everything indoors and the band sets up. It is a great night–lots of energy, lots of people, and great music. I am overwhelmed by the love and support and I even get to sing my song with the band. This is our last night event for our supporters and a great way to enter the last few weeks of the election!
After the party we drive over to Charro Steak to meet friends and—finally—toast to our anniversary.
Sunday, July 14
This morning we start canvassing at 9 a.m. on the south side. Sunnyside Unified School District board member Consuelo Hernandez and her sister, Arizona state Rep. Alma Hernandez, have galvanized their supporters to canvass for me and I am so grateful. I love this part of town and speak with so many interesting people with real concerns about how hard it is for them and their kids to get by. This is why I am running for office. I know there is so much more we can be doing to create more and better-paying jobs so there will opportunity for a good life here.
But there are a lot of people who don’t answer their doors. This is the day of the ICE raids Trump announced, and even though Tucson isn’t on the list of cities, there is fear in this neighborhood. I wonder how we got to this place in our national politics. As mayor, I hope to have positive impact for all of Tucson.
On the way home I stop at my favorite taco place, Tacos Apson.
I have a very busy week including another mayoral forum and our first big debate. I always like to be well-prepared so we cook dinner at home and toast our anniversary again while I study up on all of the issues and facts. But Sunday is also laundry day—so I do that, too.