Tucson City Hall 

Tucson voters will choose among three Democrats and an independent for the city’s next mayor — after no Republican turned in enough signatures by Wednesday’s deadline to qualify for the ballot.

Incumbent Democrat Jonathan Rothschild is stepping down at the end of the year after serving eight years as mayor.

Three-term City Councilwoman Regina Romero, former state Sen. Steve Farley and downtown developer Randi Dorman each turned in roughly double the number of required signatures — about 3,900. That threshold makes any court challenges to the three Democrats’ petitions difficult.

The trio will face off in a vote-by-mail primary on Aug. 27 to determine whose name will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Ed Ackerley, who co-owns Ackerley Advertising, is running for mayor as an independent. Absent a challenge to his petitions, he will be on the November ballot.

The sole Republican candidate for mayor, Sam Nagy, failed to turn in enough signatures.

In the race for Tucson City Council seats, four Democrats are vying to take the west-side Ward 1 seat Romero is vacating.

They are Miguel Ortega, a business and media consultant; Sami Hamed, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva; Rob Elias, a banker; and Lane Santa Cruz, who works for Romero in her ward office.

With no Republicans or independents running for Romero’s seat, the winner of the Democratic primary in August will take her spot on the council in January.

In northeast-side Ward 2, Democrat Paul Cunningham, who is asking for another four-year term on the council, will face Republican Ewart Williams Jr. in the November general election.

Williams is self-employed, while Cunningham teaches at Apollo Middle School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

The race to replace retiring Democrat Shirley Scott in southeast-side Ward 4 features two candidates, Democrat Nikki Lee and Republican Michael Hicks. Each automatically advances to the November ballot, absent a petition challenge.

Lee ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat in the Legislature, while Hicks is best known for serving on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board.

City Council elections are staggered, meaning members in the other three wards aren’t up for reelection until 2021.

Recently, the city of Tucson sent out tens of thousands of mailers asking registered independents whether they wanted to receive a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian ballot for the August primary election.

Only Democrats have contested primaries, and only in the mayoral and Ward 1 races.

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Tucson City Council races are ward-only in the primary election but citywide in the general.


While candidates were required to file their signatures by 5 p.m. Wednesday, two initiatives that seek to amend the city charter have until July 5 to submit formal paperwork with the city.

One initiative seeks to make Tucson the state’s first “sanctuary city,” while the other proposes significant changes to how City Council members are elected, making them ward-only in the general election as well as the primary.

The signature requirements to get either item on the ballot are significant, requiring a minimum of 9,241 signatures to make the ballot.

Practically speaking, organizers will need thousands of additional signatures to survive any formal challenge in court.

While officials with the City Clerk’s Office do a cursory review of the completed signature forms, a closer look is often performed by political groups and rival campaigns.

Such scrutiny has often led to formal court challenges. The clerk’s office set a deadline of June 12 to file a dispute in Pima County Superior Court for any candidate.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson