Democrats supported Tucson road-fix measure, Republicans opposed it, vote data shows

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z Democrats supported Tucson road-fix measure, Republicans opposed it, vote data showsCarli Brosseau and Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The strongest predictor of how Tucsonans voted on the Proposition 409 road bond package was who they backed for president.

A Star statistical analysis of election results shows that presidential preference was even more predictive of the road bonds vote than party affiliation.

But on the whole, the picture was partisan. Heavily Democratic areas in the city's core threw their support behind the measure while Republican-leaning parts in the east and southeast largely rejected it.

The city's $100 million answer to the area's crumbling roads passed by a slim 953 votes out of more than 144,000 black bubbles.

The number of votes cast on the measure, which appeared at the very bottom of the back side of the ballot, was far lower than for the presidential race.

Although 75 percent of registered Tucson voters chose a presidential candidate, only 51 percent voted on the road bond measure.

Patterns expected

Party analysts said they largely expected the voting patterns.

Benny White, a Republican Party election observer and longtime party data cruncher, said that, unlike in Maricopa County, "Nonpartisans in Pima County are generally supportive of Democratic candidates and tax-generating measures such as Prop. 409."

The Republican Party put little official energy into opposing the measure. Instead, White said, Republicans are simply choosing to move outside of city limits.

It used to be that you would see a change in party membership that favored Republicans beginning at Alvernon Way and proceeding east, he said.

"Now it's Wilmot. Every year it migrates further and further," he said. "Republicans will tend to move out of the city if they can" because they often disagree with city of Tucson policies.

Still, the vote was close.

Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, expected a squeaker, largely because of resistance to higher taxes and lingering distrust of the financial stewardship of Tucson officials.

"All of these votes are going to be close most of the time because there's always a significant anti-tax crowd out there that is going to rise up in opposition to any kind of increase," Rogers said.

He's hopeful voters are starting to feel more confident in city management.

"There's a new mayor, a new city manager and some new council members," he said. "I think they are going to begin to realize that we have some fiscally careful people running the city now and that they can be trusted with the taxpayers' dollars."

In the end, though, Rogers suspects frustration with road conditions was the deciding factor.

"I think people were very frustrated and were willing to do what it takes," he said. "I think they understood that it wasn't that much money it was going to cost out of their pockets to support these bonds."

The average homeowner is expected to pay about $27 a year, or between $500 and $800 over the length of the bond, depending on how quickly the city pays it off.

Influx of cash

Homeowners aren't the only ones who stand to benefit from the road improvement project.

Local contractors and asphalt companies - many of whom contributed to the pro-409 political action committee - are anticipating a cash influx.

Western Emulsions; Borderland Construction Co. Inc.; Granite Construction Co.; Ashton Contractors Inc.; Tucson Asphalt Contractors Inc.; and We Build Arizona, a coalition of construction-related groups, together contributed $39,500 to push the measure.

"Some of our guys will get to bid on the work so it will keep them busy the next five years," said Ramon Gaanderse, executive director of the Tucson Utility Contractors Association. "And on the other end, it is a good steppingstone for our community to start talking about long-term solutions for maintenance."

Other contributors included financial companies Piper Jaffray and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.; Tucson Electric Power; Diamond Ventures Inc.; and several car dealers.

Jim Click Nissan, O'Rielly Chevrolet, Watson Chevrolet, Precision Toyota and Royal Automotive Group together spent about $25,000.

No anti-409 group registered with the city, but Shaun McClusky, a former Republican candidate for mayor, said he spent $3,000 of his own money.

He questioned the motives of some pro-409 campaign contributors.

"I understand why the auto dealers were behind it. They were protecting their investments," McClusky said. "But Western Emulsion? That's dirty pool. That's pay to play as far as I'm concerned."

On StarNet: For vote totals and results of the 2012 election, go to azstarnet.com/elections

Contact reporter Carli Brosseau at cbrosseau@azstarnet.com or 573-4197. On Twitter @carlibrosseau.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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