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Cunningham seeks re-election; other Council candidates file for primary

With two open seats and a handful of Democrats and a single Republican filing so far for this year's City Council elections, there is yet to be a competitive primary race — although that's likely to change in West Side's Ward 1.

The current tally: out of six possible Democratic and Republican candidacies that could appear on the ballot in November, there are just four candidates who've taken formal steps to run. Three are Democrats. Two — one from each party — have previously won office.

Ward 2 incumbent Councilman Paul Cunningham filed to seek another term this week, with the Democrat dropping his paperwork into the hat on Wednesday.

Cunningham was appointed to the Council in 2010, to fill the Northeast Side seat Rodney Glassman left empty when the then-Democrat resigned to run for the U.S. Senate. Cunningham was retained in office in 2011 and 2015, beating GOP candidate Jennifer Rawson 57-43 in his first contest to become the first appointed councilmember to be elected in his own right in decades. In the next cycle, he won over Kelly Lawton 58-42. Each time, he trailed among voters in his own ward but won citywide.

No Republican or other candidates have yet expressed interest in challenging Cunningham this year.

On the Southeast Side, with Councilwoman Shirley Scott leaving the Ward 4 office after decades at the end of the year, there is a general election contest in the making for the open seat. Former TUSD Governing Board member Mike Hicks, who just lost a bid for re-election to that body, is seeking a Council seat as a Republican. He filed his new campaign organizational paperwork on Wednesday. On the Democratic Side, Nikki Lee — who narrowly trailed in last year's LD 10 legislative primary — jumped into the race back at the beginning of the month.

No other Ward 4 candidates have stepped forward.

On the West Side — in Ward 1, the other Council race that will appear on the ballot this year — Councilwoman Regina Romero has announced she's running for mayor rather than seek another term. She filed her campaign papers on Monday.

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With her run creating another open seat, Democratic activist Sami Hamed filed his papers to run on Friday. Hamed, an ally of the Hernandez family (with siblings Daniel and Alma serving in the Legislature) is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva — but no longer a political ally of the congressman. Hamed is a former candidate for the Legislature.

Among those likely to carry a Grijalvista banner in the primary, though yet to file, is longtime Romero aide Lane Santa Cruz, who works in the Ward 1 office and recently earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona College of Education. Also looking at a run is Democratic activist Emily Verdugo, a U.S. Census employee, former legislative candidate and former member of the Coolidge City Council.

Miguel Ortega, a West Side activist who's long been a political opponent of Grijalva and Romero, has made noises about running, but has not indicated if he would do so as an independent or a Democrat, and declined to detail any plans he might have. He has yet to file a candidacy. Ortega was formerly an aide in the office of ex-Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, and made an unsuccessful run for the TUSD Governing Board in 2010.

No Republicans have been put forth to run in the heavily Democratic ward.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify Ortega’s statements about running.

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