A CITY DIVIDED
We've been poring over the ward-by-ward breakdown of the Tucson City Council election and have a few takeaways to share.
• The most obvious: We live in a divided city.
As we suspected as the results came in, Republican Steve Kozachik pulled off his upset of Democratic incumbent Nina Trasoff by driving up turnout on the eastside, while Democrats failed to get their voters out on the westside and southside.
That's been the formula for GOP success in overcoming the Democratic voter-registration advantage for more than a decade.
This year, Republicans clobbered Democrats in eastside Ward 2 and Ward 4, while Democrats whipped Republicans in the other four wards.
Kozachik, who beat Trasoff by 1,756 votes citywide, lost in his own ward: Kozachik picked up just 40 percent of the vote in midtown Ward 6.
He also lost his own neighborhood, capturing just 33 percent of the vote at his local polling place, which combined three precincts near Campbell Avenue and Grant Road.
In addition to losing Ward 6, Kozachik didn't fare well in Ward 1 (40 percent), Ward 3 (42 percent) or Ward 5 (38 percent). But in Ward 2, Kozachik captured 61 percent of the vote. In Ward 4, he got 65 percent.
• Those two eastside wards are home to nearly half of the voters who turned out for the city election. More than 35,700 eastside voters cast ballots, accounting for about 48 percent of the roughly 74,000 votes that were cast in the election.
Citywide, turnout was 33 percent (which is high for a city election), but it was even higher in the eastside wards: 35 percent in Ward 4 and a whopping 43 percent in Ward 2. Four years ago, when Trasoff and Karin Uhlich knocked out two GOP incumbents, only 24 percent of voters turned out in Ward 4, and 31 percent turned out in Ward 2.
The difference between those years in the raw number of eastside voters: 9,457—a hefty jump, especially when you consider that this year, turnout across the entire city was up by about 12,700 voters over 2005.
That's a testament to a well-done get-out-the-vote effort, which was coordinated by Maricopa-based political consultant Nathan Sproul, the Arizona Republican Party and the Pima County Republican Party.
On the southside and westside, turnout was typically low. In Ward 5, it was a dismal 21 percent. In Ward 1, it was 26 percent.
The news was better for Democrats in the other city wards. In north-central Ward 3, 30 percent of voters cast a ballot, while in midtown Ward 6, 39 percent of voters turned out.
• The Ward 3 race followed a similar dynamic as the Ward 6 contest. Uhlich won Ward 1 (58 percent), Ward 3 (55 percent), Ward 5 (59 percent) and Ward 6 (56 percent). It's interesting to note that among the four wards she won, Uhlich performed the worst within her own ward, which suggests weakness on the constituent-service front.
Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia won Ward 2 (57 percent) and Ward 4 (60 percent). But he didn't find much support among his neighbors, getting only 28 percent of the vote at his local polling place, which included three precincts north of the UA.
• Democrat Richard Fimbres, who will replace the retiring Steve Leal in Ward 5, outperformed the other Democrats in every ward, which isn't surprising, given that he didn't carry any of the baggage of an incumbent.
Fimbres' support ranged from a high of 67 percent in Ward 5 to a low of 39 percent in Ward 4.
However, his GOP opponent, Shaun McClusky, did better than the other Republican candidates in his own neighborhood. He got 40 percent of the vote at his local polling place, which combined seven precincts.
Here's one more surprise from the city election: Democrat Richard Fimbres, who won the race to replace Steve Leal in Ward 5, was outspent by Republican opponent Shaun McClusky.
Post-election campaign-finance reports show that McClusky spent $90,211, compared to Fimbres' $78,526, through Nov. 9.
McClusky, a political rookie, also managed to outraise Fimbres, despite Fimbres' deep community ties. McClusky raised a total of $49,649, which was matched by $45,822 in city funds.
Fimbres raised just $44,837, which was matched by $38,442 in city funds.
McClusky had trailed Fimbres in fundraising until the final weeks of the campaign. Between Oct. 15 and Nov. 9, McClusky raised $15,420, while Fimbres raised just $5,936. A review of the contributions shows that auto dealer Jim Click apparently put some pressure on associates to kick in to McClusky's campaign.
McClusky spent a staggering $82,330 after Oct. 15, according to his campaign-finance report. The spending included roughly $22,000 on phone calls and $54,500 on a mailer accusing Fimbres of mishandling money when he headed up the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
Those campaign expenditures were paid to Lincoln Strategy Group, which is run by Nathan Sproul, the aforementioned political consultant.
The chattering class is still abuzz about the possibility that Republican state Sen. Jonathan Paton will take on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2010.
After the mess of a special session over the last week, we wouldn't be surprised to see Paton decide that running for Congress sounds like a better plan than trying to figure out how to balance the state budget.
We suspect that if Paton does run, he'll resign from his seat to concentrate on the race. After all, it will take a lot of time and energy just to raise the necessary amount of money.
By getting out while the getting's good, Paton would also avoid having to vote for all those politically unpopular cuts that lawmakers will have to make next year.
That raises the question of who would replace Paton. We would imagine that both District 30 House members, Frank Antenori and David Gowan, would have some interest in moving up, but neither one seems like the kind of Republican who would find much support from the Democrat-dominated Pima County Board of Supervisors, which gets to make the appointment. Could former House member Marian McClure win over enough precinct committeemen to ensure that her name was one of the three that the supes would get to choose from?
Republican Jesse Kelly—who had raised about $150,000 at the end of the last reporting period for his campaign in Congressional District 8—said when he launched his effort that he didn't want to be a politician, and he was only in the race because no other qualified Republicans were stepping up to run.
Nonetheless, Kelly says he'll fight Paton for the nomination if the senator decides to get into the race.
"We've come too far and worked too hard," Kelly says. "Now we are the most qualified candidate, period. ... If the senator wants to get in this race, by all means, the water's warm. Jump right in. I hope he's ready for battle. All that means is that I'll beat him before I beat Gabrielle Giffords."
Kelly argues that tapping someone with legislative experience would be a GOP mistake.
"We've done that before," Kelly says. "We've run the safe politician that made sense from the state Legislature before. The American people are tired of that now. They want somebody new. The biggest benefit I have is that I'm not a politician. That's what qualifies me more."
Find early and late-breaking Skinny at our daily dispatch, The Range.