The Republican Party initially failed to get a mayoral candidate on the November ballot. However, in last week's primary, GOP candidate Rick Grinnell successfully captured more than enough write-in votes to ensure that Tucson will have a real mayor's race this year.
Grinnell will face Democrat Jonathan Rothschild and Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp in the Nov. 8 election after capturing 7,770 write-in votes.
"It's exciting that people are actually going to pay attention to a race this year," said Grinnell, a lobbyist and business consultant whose chief client is Augusta Resource Corporation, the Canadian company whose plan to dig a massive copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains has encountered fierce local opposition.
Grinnell plans to focus his campaign on "getting people back to work. It's all about creating an environment here in Tucson that makes us business-ready and prepared to address the multiple restrictions with sign codes and permitting and all the time delays."
Grinnell said he'd also focus on spending more money on public safety. He suggested he'd look to reduce general-fund spending on the transit budget to boost spending on police, fire and the courts—even if that meant cutting bus routes and raising fares.
Rothschild, who said he was "looking forward" to the campaign, agreed that jobs and economic development would be a key issue in the race to replace Republican Mayor Bob Walkup, who is retiring after 12 years in office.
"I think everybody's got on their minds how to bring jobs and businesses to the Tucson community, how to make city government more efficient and accountable, and how to generate enough money to get us back to basics," said Rothschild, who is stepping down from his job as managing partner at his law firm. "(We need to) get our police and our fire and our parks and our transportation where they need to be."
Rothschild, who received nearly 27,000 votes in his unopposed primary run, said he "would have some ideas about that, and I'm sure that Mr. Grinnell will have some ideas about that. For me, what this campaign should end up being about is: Who is the person who can take those ideas and really get them done, and who has the experience and record of success to get them done?"
As the campaign moves forward, Rothschild said he expected to "keep doing what I've been doing for the last year, which is going out and listening to voters and hearing their ideas and put them all together."
Rothschild, who is not participating in the city's matching-funds program, has a big cash advantage over Grinnell. He had raised more than $214,000 and still had $124,269 in the bank as of Aug. 10, according to the most recent campaign-finance reports filed with the city.
Grinnell, by contrast, had raised only $11,000 and had just $1,671 in the bank as of Aug. 10.
In the Green Party mayoral primary, DeCamp crushed her opponent, Dave Croteau, with 70 percent of the vote, receiving 369 votes to Croteau's 127.
But it was a friendly campaign between the two Green Party candidates. Earlier this week, DeCamp announced that Croteau would become her campaign manager.
Meanwhile, over in the Ward 1 Democratic primary, City Councilwoman Regina Romero easily dispatched Joe Flores, the former pharmacy owner who drew his support from a small group of conservative Hispanic Democrats and Republican tea-party types. Romero captured more than 75 percent of the vote, receiving 4,695 votes to Flores' 1,420.
"I feel really good," Romero said. "We had a good campaign plan. We followed it. We worked hard. We reached voters and told them what I had done and what I felt I needed to do. We canvassed like crazy. We called every single Democrat in Ward 1 several times. That paid off."
Romero, who is completing her first term representing the westside ward, had significant support from the Pima County Democratic Party, which took the unusual steps of endorsing Romero in the party primary and then spending more than $10,000 on an independent campaign that attacked Flores for his connection to the payday-lending industry.
Romero will now face Green Party candidate Beryl Baker, who managed to get 10 write-in votes, exceeding the three that she needed to make the ballot.
Romero said that the city's new vote-by-mail system helped boost turnout.
"Vote-by-mail really helped reach new voters, and that was the intent," said Romero, who added that getting those voters to the polls would be crucial to the Democrats in their effort to win the mayor's race and other council races.
"The mayor's race is going to depend a lot on the turnout in Wards 1, 3 and 5," Romero said. "I told Jonathan (Rothschild) that he's going to have to engage Wards 1, 3 and 5 and make sure that they turn out."
Besides Romero's Ward 1 race, there are two other council races up for grabs:
• In Ward 2, Democratic City Councilman Paul Cunningham will face Republican Jennifer Rawson.
• In Ward 4, Democratic City Councilwoman Shirley Scott will face Republican Tyler Vogt.