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Election set to increase Democratic majority on Board of Supervisors
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Pima County supervisors race

Election set to increase Democratic majority on Board of Supervisors

From the Election 2020: Here's what Southern Arizona races look like so far series

Candidates leading in the 2020 race for county Board of Supervisors are, from left, Adelita Grijalva, Matt Heinz, Sharon Bronson, Steve Christy and Rex Scott.

With Election Day come and gone, early results project a big shift in the make-up of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, as three new supervisors are set to take over next year, with the Democratic majority likely growing by one.

The results were part of larger “blue wave” to hit Pima County offices, with Democrats leading in virtually every race, including the previous Republican-held offices of sheriff and treasurer.

At least 460,000 ballots had been cast as of noon Wednesday, and it’s unclear how many ballots are outstanding.

In the biggest shift of the night, longtime public-school educator Rex Scott is in line to become the first Democrat since Ron Asta in 1972 to represent District 1, which stretches the northern part of the county, including Marana, Oro Valley and Casas Adobes.

Scott is leading Republican Steve Spain, a political newcomer and IT and hotel management professional, by more than 4,500 votes, as of 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Scott, who would replace retiring Supervisor Ally Miller, expressed confidence but said he would wait until the full results are tabulated before declaring victory.

District 2

In the race to replace longtime incumbent Ramón Valadez and represent District 2 on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Democrat Matt Heinz has secured a victory over Republican opponent Anthony Sizer.

Heinz held more than 69% of the vote on Wednesday afternoon, compared to 30% for Sizer.

“I would like to thank Anthony Sizer for running a respectful, issues-focused campaign,” Heinz said Wednesday. “Political discourse has recently taken a particularly negative turn with baseless, personal attacks becoming almost the norm. I’m pleased that we presented District 2 voters with two clear choices without resorting to distracting and divisive rhetoric. I also want to acknowledge Supervisor Valadez for his years of service to the people of Southern Arizona.”

Heinz’s upset over Valadez in the August primary guaranteed new representation in District 2 for the first time in 17 years. Valadez has represented the district, which incorporates most of South Tucson and Sahuarita, since 2003 and took over as board chairman after the death of Supervisor Richard Elías earlier this year.

Heinz said Valadez has “graciously offered” to guide him through the transition onto the board.

As an emergency-room doctor, Heinz has led a vocal campaign throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, using his medical and public-health expertise to garner votes throughout the district. While building on the accomplishments of Valadez, he said he will continue to be fully invested in helping guide Pima County residents through the pandemic, now as both a doctor and policymaker.

“I plan to amplify the efforts of Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the Pima county Health Department, and fully support the local response including the eventual vaccine distribution so that we can get past this difficult time and return to some semblance of normalcy in the coming year,” he said. “I will also advocate for additional economic assistance to help the many families suffering as a result of the pandemic. With a likely change in federal administration, I am very confident that additional federal relief for county residents will be forthcoming.”

District 3

In Pima County’s District 3, incumbent Sharon Bronson holds 59% of the vote, propelling her into a seventh term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Republican Gabby Mercer’s attempt to unseat Bronson fell short, leaving her with 41% of the general-election vote as of Wednesday afternoon.

District 3 is Pima County’s largest district, representing 7,400 square miles in the western part of the county and sharing 130 miles of international border with Mexico. It’s home to about 47,000 registered Democrats, 31,000 registered Republicans and 35,000 independents.

Since being first elected in 1996, Bronson has played a big role in the development of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and became the first woman to be chosen as chairman of board. As the senior-most member of the board, Bronson said Wednesday that she is looking forward to building relationships with the newly elected supervisors.

When asked how she was able to secure yet another term as a supervisor, Bronson pointed to her ability to set “aside partisan politics” and work with people to improve their quality of life. She said she would continue to serve her constituents with those ideals in mind and help brace residents for challenges that are sure to come as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“None of us could have predicted the challenges that 2020 would bring us. It’s time to get our county, state and country back on track,” she said Wednesday. “As we head into 2021 we need data-driven decisions and public-health guidelines that will help us slow the spread of COVID and reopen our economy. We must invest in our roads and other public infrastructure and preserve our natural resources and water effectively.”

District 4

Incumbent Steve Christy is leading Democrat Steve Diamond in the race to represent District 4 on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Unofficial results show that Christy holds nearly 53% of the vote as of Wednesday at 4 p.m., while Diamond holds 47%. With a difference of about 6,500 votes, both Christy and Diamond said it’s still too early to declare a winner.

Diamond took an initial lead over Christy on Tuesday night, but Christy pulled ahead about 11 p.m. and has remained the front-runner since then. If Diamond manages to surge ahead and unseat Christy, it will be the first time a Democrat has held the seat since the district was created in 1972. If Christy hangs on to his seat, however, he will likely be the sole Republican board member.

District 4 encompasses eastern Pima County, including parts of Green Valley, Vail, Sahuarita and Mount Lemmon. There are about 56,000 registered Republicans, 49,000 registered Democrats and 42,000 independents living in the area.

In the August primary, Christy got 64% of about 30,000 votes, defeating fellow Republican John Backer. Diamond ran unopposed in the primary, bringing in over 29,000 votes from Democrats.

Christy, who was elected to his first term in 2016, is a lifelong Tucsonan and local business owner. If reelected in November, Christy said his focus will continue to be on business and economic development, improving roads and maintaining a strong relationship with local law enforcement.

Diamond, a longtime Pima County resident with a career in information technology, is the co-founder of the Pima County Democrats’ Labor Caucus and the co-leader of the Justice Alliance: Indivisible Southern Arizona.

District 5

With a commanding lead over Republican Fernando Gonzalez, Democrat Adelita Grijalva has won the District 5 seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, a position previously held by the late Supervisor Richard Elías.

As of Wednesday at 4 p.m., Pima County results showed that Grijalva held nearly 75% of votes in District 5, which incorporates much of Tucson’s west and southwest sides, downtown and south and east of downtown. The area is home to about 56,000 registered Democrats, 16,000 registered Republicans and 30,000 independents.

“We started this campaign under tragic circumstances, after the loss of our dear friend and fierce advocate Richard Elías, and shortly after the stay-at-home began,” she said. “Our community mobilized like nothing I’ve ever seen to get enough signatures to be on the ballot and momentum continued through last night’s general election. Our campaign was grassroots and people-powered.”

Elías, who died unexpectedly earlier this year, held the historically Democratic seat for nearly 18 years. The remainder of his term is being carried out by Betty Villegas. Grijalva said she was encouraged by Elías’ family to run for the District 5 seat.

“It felt like Richard was a part of this campaign from the beginning,” she said. “His signs were in the window and his picture right at the front door. Our community clearly wants our beautiful Sonoran Desert protected, to be safe enough for us to return to work and school without fear of catching a deadly virus and to have economic recovery from this pandemic. I am a lifelong resident of District 5 and share many of the values that Richard represented so effectively as a supervisor. I will never be able to fill Richard’s shoes, but I promise to do my best to protect, advocate and work for the people of District 5.”

As the daughter of U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, she is no stranger to politics and public service. The native Tucsonan has served as the director of Pima County Teen Court for the past 25 years, a program created to reduce the number of children of color in the juvenile justice system. Grijalva grew up in the Tucson Unified School District and received a degree in political science from the University of Arizona. She also serves as a member of the TUSD school board and was recently elected to her fifth term.

Other county races

Around the remainder of the county, Democrats led almost every race. Gabriella Cazares-Kelly led Benny White by nearly 87,000 votes in the Pima County recorder election; Brian Bickel led incumbent Beth Ford in the race for treasurer by 3,500 votes; Suzanne Droubie led Jo Ann Sabagh by nearly 78,000 votes in the race for assessor. Laura Conover won her post as Pima County attorney in the primary election. Pima County Schools Superintendent Dustin Williams was unopposed.

Contact reporter Jasmine Demers at jdemers@tucson.com

On Twitter: @JasmineADemers

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