Paul Durham was the winner Tuesday night in the three-way primary fight for the Democratic nomination in City Council Ward 3.

In unofficial returns, Durham, an attorney and consultant, had a significant lead over Felicia Chew, a teacher, by about 700 votes, or about 46 percent to 32 percent, while businessman Tom Tronsdal was in third place with 22 percent of the vote.

The city still had about 470 ballots that hadn’t been counted. It was unclear how many of those ballots were from Ward 3, Ward 5 and Ward 6, but there weren’t enough left to be counted to make a difference in the Ward 3 results.

Overall, more than 16,000 ballots were cast in the mail-in vote — roughly 20 percent of the registered voters in the three wards.

Durham will face Gary Watson, a firefighter who is running as an independent, in November to replace the retiring City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. There is no Republican in the race.

“Karin Uhlich leaves behind big shoes to fill, but I hope to earn the respect of Tucsonans that she has earned,” Durham said in a statement. “I look forward to running citywide this November alongside Councilmembers Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik and meeting even more people from every corner of Tucson.”

Durham said shortly after the results were posted that he believes walking and talking to residents of Ward 3 was key to winning.

“There was a lot of knocking on doors,” Durham said, estimating the number at more than 4,000. “It is a combination of hard work and issues the voters care about.”

Using “New energy for the Old Pueblo” as a slogan, Durham focused on a pledge to make the city of Tucson more sustainable, embracing solar energy to power city buildings by 2025.

Durham has experience inside City Hall, serving as chief of staff for former Councilwoman Nina Trasoff.

The only other contested primary on Tuesday was with the Green Party in Ward 6. Mike Cease was leading Michael Oatman in unofficial results. However, with the 470 votes outstanding, the race was too close to call.

The city expected to finish counting ballots no later than Friday.

The winner of the Ward 6 Green Party race will face architect Mariano Rodriguez, a Republican, and incumbent Councilman Kozachik, a Democrat, in the November primary.

In Ward 5, incumbent Democratic Councilman Fimbres has no formal opponents in either the primary or general elections.

The general election in November does not follow the same path as the primary, as voters citywide will be able to vote for candidates in all three wards.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Tucson’s method of electing council members was legal, rejecting complaints by Republicans that the system is biased.

In terms of registration in Tucson, Democrats have a sizable lead over Republicans.

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


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.