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Voters reject Prop. 205 in almost every precinct, Romero loses to Ackerley on the eastside

Voters reject Prop. 205 in almost every precinct, Romero loses to Ackerley on the eastside

The hotly-contested “sanctuary city” initiative lost in a landslide last week, but there were a handful of precincts near the University of Arizona and in downtown Tucson where the measure found success.

An analysis by the Arizona Daily Star of preliminary results from Tuesday’s general election found five precincts that had majority support for Proposition 205, despite a massive, well-funded third party campaign that poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat the voter initiative, which would have limited the circumstances in which Tucson police officers could ask about the immigration status of people they come into contact with.

Prop. 205 narrowly passed in those districts — primarily east of Interstate 10 between 22nd Street and Speedway — with the five precincts backing the ballot measure by slim margins — while 71% of the city voters rejected the measure overall.

Turnout also likely played a role in the results last week, with roughly 37% of registered voters in the city turning in ballots.

The controversial initiative to make Tucson the state’s first “sanctuary city” is believed to have played a major role in turning out Republicans to vote, as there was no GOP candidate for mayor this year.

A look into election results for the city’s first Latina mayor, Regina Romero, also found that the three-term Tucson City Councilwoman lost in precincts east of Wilmot Road, but won easily in the rest of the city. The map of which areas went for her rival, independent Ed Ackerley, showed him winning primarily on Tucson’s east and southeast sides.

Strong midtown support unsurprising for some

Billy Peard, one of the organizers behind Prop. 205, said the group spent a lot of time meeting with voters on a one-on-one basis throughout the city.

He believes that those conversations resonated with key voter groups.

“They are places where we put a lot of energy, knocked on a lot of doors,” Peard said. He estimated that volunteers knocked on more than 32,000 doors throughout the city during the course of the campaign. State Rep. Andrés Cano, one of a handful of local elected officials to publicly support Prop. 205, represents the precincts that voted in favor of the initiative.

Registered voters in his Legislative District 3, he says, support protecting the immigrant community, noting many of their friends and neighbors are immigrants. “Folks who are undocumented make up a part of my district,” he said, noting he is proud that voters in LD3 backed the initiative.

Cano added that Democrats in LD3 are progressive and have a long history of supporting similar initiatives.

Democrats still show signs of struggle on east side

As for the mayor’s race, Romero’s weakness on the city’s east side could be chalked up to simple numbers — there are more registered Republicans in that part of town, which incorporates the northeast and southeast sides.

Former Pima County Democratic Party Chairwoman Cheryl Cage said the east side of Tucson has long been a stronghold for Republicans — making it challenging for Democrats to win those precincts.

The Republican dominance played a role in the Ward 4 City Council race, enough so to give the Republican candidate a win inside the ward, but not enough to propel him to victory in the citywide race.

Voters in that southeast side narrowly backed former Tucson Unified School District board member Michael Hicks, a Republican, over his Democratic rival, Raytheon employee Nikki Lee.

However, the city charter allows for city residents to vote for all council candidates in each ward in the general election, not just the ward they live in.

Attempts to change the election system, primarily pushed by Republicans, have all failed so far.

So when you factored in the citywide vote in that race, Lee received 57% of the total vote, while Hicks received roughly 38%, giving Lee the victory.

Two-term Councilman Paul Cunningham, a Democrat, had a slightly better showing in his district against his lesser-known Republican rival, Uber driver Ewart Williams.

Ward 2 is primarily on the northeast side.

The latest count out of the Tucson City Clerk’s Office had Cunningham ahead of Williams by more than 3,300 votes, with 35,500 total votes cast in Ward 2. Taking the ward vote gave Cunningham an easy victory citywide.

A final count of all ballots cast in the general election is expected to be released Tuesday, but it is not expected to change the outcome of any of the races.

The new mayor and City Council members will be sworn into office Dec. 2.

Contact reporter Alex Devoid at or (520)573-4417.

On Twitter: @DevoidAlex

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Alex has been with the Star since June 2019. He previously wrote about the environment for the Arizona Republic and he's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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