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Democrats sweep Tucson mayor, Council election; 'Sanctuary City' fails

Romero wins mayoral race, City Council to remain entirely Democratic

All four of Tucson Democratic candidates were handily winning Tuesday, taking three City Council seats and elevating Regina Romero to become the city's first woman and first Latina mayor. Prop. 205, the "sanctuary city" initiative, was losing 71-29.

While Romero easily led her mayoral race, 56-40 percent, also elected were Lane Santa Cruz, replacing Romero in the Ward 1 Council seat, Nikki Lee in Ward 4, and Councilman Paul Cunningham was re-elected in Ward 2.

The results mean Tucson's City Council will remain all Democratic.

"Thank you, Tucson; I'm very excited, I'm very humbled," Romero told a crowd of Democrats gathered Downtown.

"No single person can make history on their own," Romero said. The mayor-elect said she would work on climate change, and "act boldly" on economic and social justice.

"Somos uno — we will always be one Tucson," Romero said.

Romero bested independent candidate Ed Ackerley — a former Democrat who cultivated Republican votes in the absence of a GOP candidate — 47,273 to 33,673 votes. Green Party candidate Mike Cease took 3,281 votes for mayor.

About 34 percent of registered voters in the city cast ballots in the general election.

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'Sanctuary city' fails at votes

Prop. 205, the controversial "sanctuary city" initiative, was defeated with an overwhelming margin, with 71 percent of a mostly Democratic voter base rejecting the measure.

58,820 voted against the proposition, with 23,562 casting ballots in favor.

"Tonight, despite our campaign being overwhelmingly outspent by big money, thousands of Tucsonans made clear their desire for new policies that protect the most vulnerable in our community," organizers of the measure said in a prepared statement. "We are incredibly proud of the hard work and inspiring commitment of our team and the hundreds of Tucsonans who made this campaign their very own. Through this effort, we were able to uplift an important city-wide conversation that changed Tucson for the better. People’s Defense Initiative remains steadfast in our commitment to community defense, representation, and direct democracy. We will continue to mobilize our community in an effort to collectively build a Tucson where all families can thrive."

Zaira Livier, one of the organizers of the People's Defense Initiative group that crafted the measure, told a group of supporters gathered at the Saint Charles Tavern in South Tucson that they purposefully "took back" the term sanctuary.

"We say there is nothing wrong with sanctuary. There is nothing wrong with protecting people that are undocumented," she said.

Livier, who said she got death and rape threats during the campaign, said it was all worth it.

"When children are dying in Border Patrol custody, when our families are being deported, pulled over, detained and and incarcerated, there is nothing more important than to say, 'We will not stand for this,'" she said.

The Democratic City Council failed the city in unanimously opposing the measure, Livier said.

"PDI is here to stay. That kind of leadership is for the past. We are here to test you, and we are here to tell you that the bare minimum is no longer good enough. We expect better," she said.

Livier praised the volunteers who operated the campaign on less than $20,000 raised mostly from "broke Millenials" writing $10 checks, joking that the group's next political action committee will be called A Bunch of Broke Millenianls, so ads will say "Paid for by A Bunch of Broke Millennials."

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The effort sent a message to undocumented people in the community, Livier said. "We've proved to them that we love them, that we care for them and they are not disposable members of our community."

"PDI believes in the humanity of everyone. Most of us live and die by the rules that we take care of each other, that we should not be separated, and that we deserve to live and thrive, regardless of where we were born," she said.

Democrats sweep mayor, Council

About 250 Democrats crowded the plaza outside Hotel Congress on Tuesday night, awaiting election returns while listening to a live band.

In addition to the trio of mayoral candidates, there were also three candidates on the ballot for City Council seats in Wards 1, 2 and 4:

Ward 1

Candidate Votes %
Lane Santa Cruz, D 48,518 58
Sam Nagy, R 31,550 37
Matthew Smith, G 4,139 5

Ward 2

Candidate Votes %
Paul Cunningham, D 50,789 60
Ewart Williams, R 29,320 35
William Peterson, G 4,482 5

Ward 4

Candidate Votes %
Nikki Lee, D 48,487 57
Mike Hicks, R 29,320 38
Cara Bissell, G 3,992 5

Cunningham was the only Council incumbent in the election. Ward 1's seat was held by Romero, the mayoral candidate, while the Ward 4 seat was held by retiring Democratic Councilwoman Shirley Scott.

Cunningham won with 60 percent of the vote, while Lee and Santa Cruz each pulled in 57-58 percent.

There were no Libertarian candidates running, nor was there a Republican mayoral candidate.

"At a time when our national politics have been sown with division, Tucsonans remain united by our shared desire to promote a safe, just, and sustainable city that provides economic opportunity for our families and future generations," said Romero — who will not only be the first woman to hold Tucson's top office, but the first Hispanic of any gender elected mayor here since Esteban Ochoa was put in office in 1875 on a 187-40 vote.

"Almost a year ago when we kicked off our campaign, we set out to create a people-powered movement that represents everyone – DREAMers, immigrants, environmentalists, workers, unions, educators, business owners, and women’s empowerment and LGBTQ-plus communities," she said. "This is the ethic that I will bring to the mayor’s office – that only together can we continue building the economically vibrant, culturally rich, and inclusive city that we all love."

Ackerley attends GOP party

On the ballot were three mayoral candidates: Democrat Romero, Green Party candidate Mike Cease, and independent Ed Ackerley.

Romero began her victory speech by thanking her opponents for "bringing their ideas and running a good, clean campaign."

While local TV news broadcast video of Ackerley's election night party, Ackerley showed up at the GOP's election party.

"He's the one chance we have tonight, to beat Regina Romero for the mayor's office," David Eppihimer, the chair of the GOP in Pima County, told a gathering of a few dozen people at the county Republican Party's headquarters. "Now, that it's election night, we can announce our strategic move: We've been working quietly on the phones and telling our Republican voters to vote for Ed Ackerley to take the vote from Regina Romero."

With a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump in the background, Ackerley praised the efforts of the GOP in Tucson, and said that he hoped that the Republican candidates would win Tuesday night.

"Let's send Regina home packing," said Ackerley to a crowd of about 35 people.

News that the Udall balloting station had run out of affidavits stopped the speeches, and people began to worry in the room about whether votes would be counted.

One women told Eppiheimer that they needed to "get the lawyers ready."

Democrats also circulated word of lines outside the limited number of voting locations as the polls closed Tuesday. Some locations had reportedly run out of ballot boxes to collect the votes dropped off on Election Day.

Wards 3, 5 and 6 are not electing members of the Council this year; terms are staggered. But Tucson conducts Council elections city-wide after a primary nomination by ward, so all city voters can vote in all of the races on the ballot.

There were also elections being held by the Altar Valley, Amphitheater, Flowing Wells and Sunnyside school districts, and the Golder Ranch Fire District. Those budget overrides were passing in all but Sunnyside in the first returns Tuesday.

Those elections appeared on different ballots than the city election —some residents were eligible to vote in more than one election.

As polls closed, we were getting word of delays and hiccups at some Tucson balloting stations. A reminder for the future: if you're in line at 7 p.m., you can wait until you can turn in your ballot for it to be counted.

Mayor & Council raises snubbed

Prop. 409, which would have doubled the salaries of Tucson's mayor and City Council members (the latter are currently paid $24,000 annually), was rejected nearly as hard as the sanctuary initiative. Sixty percent of voters cast ballots against it — 48,623 to just 32,971 in favor.

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have your say   

2 comments on this story

Nov 9, 2019, 4:01 pm
- +

-Massive tax increases.

-End all deportations of illegal aliens (if you get here, you stay.)

-Drivers licenses for illegal aliens.

-Cut Military funding.

-Voting rights for non citizens.

-Welfare & Food Stamps for illegal aliens. (Warren)

-Increase refugee’s from the third world.

-Non citizens allowed to hold public office.


-Open Borders.

-Sanctuary Cities.

-Decriminalize illegal entry into our country.

-De-fund & terminate Border Patrol & ICE.

-Disarming Americans.

-Green new deal.

-End of Electoral College

-Free medicare care for all including non citizens (taxpayer funded)

-!00% free college for all, including non citizens. (tax payer funded)


-Late term abortions up to 9 months.

Democrat-Socialist 2020 Platform & Goals:

From the Democrat’s themselves. View their speeches / debates on you tube.The choice is yours.-

Nov 6, 2019, 1:52 pm
- +

Well you know what the definition of insanity is. . . four more years of leading the country in poverty, poor education, crumbling infrastructure, not enough cops and firemen.

Thank goodness for the Rio Nuevo Board.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Democrat Regina Romero was elected Tucson mayor on Tuesday night.