Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat for Tucson City Council, Ward 1, gives a speech after taking the lead in the primary election during a party at the American Eat Company on 1439 S 4th Ave, Aug. 27, 2019.

With several thousand votes left to count in the city of Tucson’s primary, former Ward 1 council aide Lane Santa Cruz held a commanding early lead over her three Democratic rivals on Tuesday night, with more than 1,600 votes more than any other candidate.

Early results had Santa Cruz with 3,290 votes, 43%, compared to her nearest rival, Rob Elias, who had 1,645 votes, about 21% of the votes. Miguel Ortega was third with 1,527 votes, 20%, while Sami Hamed was fourth with 1,160 votes, 15%.

City officials said nearly 58,000 ballots were counted, and another several thousand had not been counted as of 8 p.m. Tuesday night. That latter number is a mix of ballots that have not been signature-checked by the Pima County Recorder’s Office and provisionals, which require some form of verification before they can be counted.

Reached by phone late Tuesday night, Santa Cruz said she was “speechless” by the results so far.

“I’m just feeling thankful that all the work that we’ve put into the campaign is paying off,” she said.

Santa Cruz said she was “feeling optimistic” that the results will hold. And should she advance to the general, said she’s going to “show up with the same determination that we had during the primary and work for every vote.”

Should the results hold, Santa Cruz is in prime position to replace Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero, a Democrat who is running for mayor. She’s represented the ward since 2007.

Romero endorsed Santa Cruz, a former activist and adjunct instructor at the University of Arizona, after encouraging her to run for her first political office. Romero started the night with a sizable lead in the Democratic race for mayor and her nearest rival, Steve Farley, conceded within an hour of the early results being posted.

Elias is a former University of Arizona and professional independent league baseball player who is also a co-founder of the Oro Valley Musical Festival. Hamed worked for U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva for more than seven years before taking a job as an employment specialist at SAAVI Services for the Blind. Ortega has significant political experience, most notably as chief of staff for former Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

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Tuesday night’s primary also indicated that the Democratic nominee will face a Republican challenger on the November ballot.

The Tucson City Clerk’s office said Ward 1 Republican write-in candidate Charles Nagy received 206 votes, eclipsing the 84 write-in votes needed to qualify for the general election. However, those write-in votes need to be from Republicans living in Ward 1 for Nagy to make the general election ballot.

Democrats Paul Cunningham, Ward 2, and Nikki Lee, Ward 4, had uncontested primary races.