Voters in South Tucson backed efforts to remove Mayor Ildefonso Green and councilmen Rufino Cantu, Robert Larribas and Carlos Romo from office, early results indicate.
The square-mile city’s voters apparently put their faith in a new regime that includes former South Tucson Mayor Paul Diaz. The other three leading the vote tallies are relative newcomers to South Tucson politics, residents Rita Rogers, Herman Lopez and Roberto Teso.
With only 305 residents returning their ballots in the all mail-in election, challengers were defeating the incumbents by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in early results posted by Tuesday night by the Pima County Elections Department.
However, roughly 75 of the ballots had not been counted by Tuesday night, requiring signature verifications that won’t be completed until Wednesday — leaving a slim chance that incumbents could keep their seats.
The latest count had Diaz with 48 more votes than Larribas, and Lopez with a 52-vote lead on Romo.
Mayor Green was losing by 74 votes to Teso and Cantu was trailing his opponent by 73 votes, making it virtually impossible for them to mount a comeback as signatures were being verified.
The recall election was spurred by a number of issues inside cash-strapped South Tucson. Most recently, roughly half of the town’s firefighters resigned in protest of new, lower daily staffing levels.
Officials made the cuts to shore up a six-figure budget deficit last year and have pledged to increase staffing levels as soon as additional funding can be identified.
However, the city’s finance director has already signaled there is a new budget crisis. Revenue projections indicate another six-figure budget shortfall is expected in the next fiscal year.
A new council majority could make personnel changes inside South Tucson’s upper management, with residents concerned about several high-profile decisions to fire the former police chief and make cuts in the fire department. Three of the council’s seven members were not challenged in the recall election, which attracted about 15 percent of South Tucson’s registered voters.