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Regina Romero running for Tucson mayor

The first of what may be a slew of candidates for Tucson mayor has announced she's running: Regina Romero will not seek re-election to her West Side seat on the City Council, and will instead seek the Democratic nomination for the city's top post.

Romero, who's represented Ward 1 for 11 years and been easily re-elected each time, announced her candidacy Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said last month that he would not seek a third term. Romero's move means there will be at least two open seats on the Council, along with the open mayoral seat, in this year's city elections. No Republicans have publicly signaled interest in running for mayor.

The progressive Democrat said she's running "because I am prepared to fight for what is right for working families, provide a safe, clean and environmentally sustainable city with access to economic opportunity for everyone."

Her platform includes developing an economic incentive program that will help small businesses, a "citywide climate resiliency plan" and pushing for higher wages to improve the quality of life for city workers and those that contract with the city.

"I was first elected to the Tucson City Council just as the Great Recession was beginning to affect our city. Since then, we have seen unprecedented economic growth because of the many incentives and continued work that I and my colleagues on the Mayor and Council have done," Romero said in an emailed statement. "I look forward to Tucson's continued economic growth and will work in partnership with the business community, nonprofits, neighborhoods and other jurisdictions to make sure we honor Tucson's rich history and retain our unique character while continuing our path towards prosperity."

Romero "feels strongly that dark money should be kept out of politics" and she will run under the city's public campaign financing program, her statement said.

Romero's run for mayor will be co-chaired by Cody Ritchie, owner of Crest Insurance, and environmentalist Carolyn Campbell. Her campaign website, www.votereginaromero.org, was still under development Wednesday afternoon.

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Romero touted her involvement in creating the city's Primary Jobs Incentive Program, support for KIDCO, and work on Tucson Water's service area policy that limits expansion of the municipal utility for new developments outside the city limits.

"Understanding that protected open space is critical for the health of our community, Regina was instrumental in protecting Painted Hills and Tumamoc Hill as permanent open space. She also led the Tucson effort against Arizona's racist SB1070 law and pushed for the creation of a paid Cesar E. Chavez holiday for the city," her announcement said.

Romero has supplemented her part-time city paycheck as the director of Latino engagement for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

The salary for members of the City Council is $24,000 per year as it has been since 1999. Under the City Charter, they are paid as part-time workers, although they consistently put in more than 40 hours weekly. The mayor is paid twice as much as councilmembers.

Romero is likely to face several opponents in the Democratic primary. Former state legislator and Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate Steve Farley is almost certain to run, while developer Randi Dorman is publicly discussing seeking the mayor's seat. Councilman Paul Durham has also floated his name as a possible candidate. He would have to resign to run for mayor.

Last month, Southeast Side Councilwoman Shirley Scott said she would not seek a seventh term. That leaves Ward 2's Paul Cunningham as the sole incumbent seeking re-election this year. On the GOP side, only former TUSD Governing Board member Mike Hicks has signaled any interest in running; he's anticipated to seek Scott's former seat. Also running for that Ward 4 seat is Democrat Nikki Lee.

Romero, the youngest of six children born to immigrant farmworkers, was the first Latina elected to the Council. A co-founder of Las Adelitas, a group that advocates for Latinas to become more engaged with politics and public service, she is a University of Arizona graduate and attended a program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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Romero on election night in 2015.