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Tucson minimum wage increase wins 2-1, Democrats dominate Council elections

Measure to increase salaries for mayor and members of City Council narrowly passing

Democrats easily ran the table in Tuesday's Tucson City Council elections, and an initiative to boost the minimum wage for workers in the city was easily passed. A measure to increase the salaries of Tucson's mayor and councilmembers was narrowly winning, by just more than 100 votes.

More ballots yet to be added to the count may change the fate of that measure, but the Council races and wage bump had large margins.

The new member of the Council will be Kevin Dahl, in Ward 3. Incumbents Steve Kozachik and Richard Fimbres were easily elected.

In the race for the open seat in Ward 3, in the Northwest Side of the city, Dahl prevailed in a three-way race. The environmental activist drew on his longtime Democratic Party connections to win with 57 percent of the vote.

After election results came in, Dahl stood on a rock just outside of the beer garden at Moto Sonora, and raised a campaign sign where he scribbled the results on the back to cheers from a crowd of about 150 people.

Dahl talks 'vision'

Dahl said his campaign was one of vision. He thanked Lucy Libosha for running her campaign as an independent, and for raising important issues around race and privilege.

"As things get hotter, we need to make sure people get cold to stay cool, especially the most vulnerable. People who have the least economic ability to deal with these changing conditions we need to protect our neighbors," he said. "Our vision can include affordable housing. Let's get a Democratic Legislature so we can put in rent controls. So that we get we're not pricing working families out of places to live."

"Those of you who know me know that I have helped on campaigns for a long time. And I thank my mentor," Dahl said, thanking U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Dahl added that people should work to use his campaign organization for next year. "We can't stop," he said. "We can take a break, but let's let's come on January and make sure the midterms don't kill us. We need to elect Democratic legislators. We need to make sure that we have Democratic congresspeople and senators and the governor."

Tucson Fight for $15 'elated' by win

Zaira Livier, a campaign organizer with the Tucson Fight for $15 coalition and director of the People's Defense Initiative, a local progressive advocacy group, said she felt "super elated" by the news that Prop. 206 had passed.

"I was very worried to be honest," she said. "I feel much better about Tucson coming out for our hero workers, our most vulnerable workers."

The margin of victory for the proposition reminded her of the overwhelming win for Prop. 206 statewide in 2016, which increased Arizona's minimum wage to $12. The victories, she said, are sign Tucson is "moving in the right direction."

David Higuera, an organizer for Tucson Fight for $15, said Tucson "just took a major step to reducing poverty" by passing the measure.

"It's a great night for Tucson working families," he said.

Higuera said that he hopes to see a $15 minimum wage extended to all of Pima County in the next six months. Because Tucson voters passed Prop. 206 with a 2-1 ratio, Higuera said there isn't "any reason to believe Pima County voters would feel any differently."

Easy wins for Kozachik, Fimbres

Incumbent Councilman Steve Kozachik defended his Midtown Ward 6 seat against an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, Val Romero, who ran as an independent. Kozachik pulled 64 percent of the vote.

"I'm grateful that the community supported my staff and me," he told TucsonSentinel.com. "We have some fundamentally important issues in front of us and it's not the time to hand the baton to someone as unprepared as Romero clearly is."

"I am concerned with the level of rhetoric and what that might mean for next year's midterms," Kozachik said. "People have lost the ability to disagree without hating and we have to get beyond that."

In Ward 5 on the South Side, longtime Councilman Richard Fimbres captured 71 percent of the vote. He faced no challenger on the ballot, and Republican candidate Shelley Cross was only able to capture 1,761 votes to his 52,1940. There were another 4,483 write-in votes for other unrecognized candidates.

Fimbres posted on Facebook, saying simply, "I want to thank the good citizens of Tucson for their vote for my work and I look forward continuing as your Ward 5 councilmember."

The Tucson Minimum Wage Act got nearly 60 percent yes votes, while the pay increases for the mayor and members of the Council was seeing 46.17 percent in favor, with 45.96 percent opposed.

16,500 ballots left to count

About 16,500 ballots remain to be reviewed and tabulated, city officials said Wednesday evening. That includes ballots dropped off Tuesday, and those that were received via mail on Election Day. To allow time for signature verification and other checks, the city plans to release the final results by 5 p.m. on Monday.

The additional ballots, on top of the 73,415 that were tallied by Tuesday night, mean that turnout in the election was about 31 percent.

Election results

Ward 3

Candidate Votes
Kevin Dahl (D) 42,317
Alan Harwell (R) 20,136
Lucy LiBosha (I) 8,852

Ward 5

Candidate Votes
Richard Fimbres (D) 52,194
Shelley Cross (R - write-in) 1,791

Ward 6

Candidate Votes
Steve Kozachik (D) 47,240
Val Romero (I) 21,741

Prop. 206: Tucson Minimum Wage Act

Yes No
44,04223,759

Prop. 410: Mayor & Council Salary Increase

Yes No
33,89333,740

Members of the Council are nominated in partisan primary elections by voters in each ward, and then run citywide in the general election.

Turnout in the election was light, with mostly older residents casting votes and about 25 percent of all registered city voters returning ballots before Tuesday in the all-mail election. The additional votes to be counted will increase that percentage to about 31 percent.

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Bennito L. Kelty/TucsonSentinel.com

Organizer CJ Boyd thanks volunteers for the Tucson Fight for $15 campaign on election night.

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