Change inside Tucson City Hall will come in the form of a new face on the council but no change in the political party running the city.
Voters Tuesday elected lawyer Paul Durham, a political newcomer, to the City Council in Ward 3 with 59 percent of vote. Durham defeated firefighter Gary Watson, who received 40 percent.
Durham, a Democrat, replaces outgoing Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, who announced she was retiring.
With one Democrat replacing another, the council remains comprised entirely of Democrats.
Two-term Democrat Steve Kozachik received roughly 61 percent of the vote, easily defeating his Republican rival, architect Mariano Rodriguez. Rodriguez received 33 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. Green Party candidate Mike Cease got 7 percent of the vote.
The only other council race was in Ward 5, where incumbent Councilman Richard G. Fimbres, a Democrat, won uncontested. Ward races are decided by voters citywide.
In the Ward 3 race, voters were given a choice between two relative unknowns — Durham, a local Democratic Party insider who once served as the chief of staff for former Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, and Watson, a man who broke ties with the local GOP after refusing to adopt the party’s stances on taxes and solar energy.
Durham occasionally refused to sign onto blanket pledges during the campaign and put forward a slogan of “New energy for the Old Pueblo,” with plans to make city facilities reliant on solar energy.
Watson focused on core issues, including hiring more police officers, better roads and developing internship programs that provide work-force training.
In the Ward 6 race, Kozachik ran a low-key campaign for re-election — refusing campaign donations and limiting himself to a budget of $200.
The community, he argued, would decide if he deserved another term.
Rodriguez campaigned on a platform of bringing back accountability to City Hall, saying the council has been promising for years to address entrenched problems with little to show for it after decades of controlling city government.
On Tuesday night, Kozachik pledged that his top priorities in the new year would be tackling recruitment for the Police Department and stabilizing the city’s budget.
Rodriguez said it is too early to say whether he will stay involved in local politics, but he said he will still be active in the community.
As for his loss on Tuesday, Rodriguez said he believes Tucson will continue to suffer under Kozachik’s leadership.
Four more years of Kozachik in office, Rodriguez said, means more council decisions based on what Kozachik sees as important, rather than what the community wants.
Pima County Republican Party Chairman David Eppihimer said Fimbres was unopposed because it is hard to get someone to run against an incumbent Democrat.
Getting Kozachik out of office was the priority, he said, but it has been hard to convince the community that Kozachik’s polices are hurting the community.
“The definition of insanity is to keep doing what you’re doing and expect a new result, and that’s what the people of Tucson are doing,” he said.
Preliminary figures suggested that the turnout for the primarily mail-in city election was about 30 percent of registered voters.