Deja vu? Only 33.45% of registered Tucson voters cast ballots in 2019 election

Latina mayor elected, Prop 205 falls flat

With only 33.45% of registered voters casting a ballot in last night’s election the question arises, what, if any, mandate did newly elected officials receive? Considering the turnouts in the 2011 and 2015, 31.07% and 14.66% respectively, some may have an argument a mandate was reached, at least by Tucson political standards.

The city’s first female mayor, Democrat Regina Romero, received 47,723, or 55.72%, of 84,842 qualifying votes, 16% more than Independent candidate Ed Ackerley’s 33,673, or 39.69%, vote haul.

Green Party candidate Mike Cease received 3,281 votes even though only 939 of qualifying voters registered as Greens, according to a March voter totals report.

With fewer votes cast in the 2015 election, outgoing mayor Jonathan Rothschild received 93.1% of qualifying votes. However, his 2011 election performance was similar to Romero’s first mayoral race as he only received 54.96% of the vote while his competitor, Republican Rick Grinnell, received 39.91% of qualifying votes.

“With tonight’s results, the people of Tucson have stated loud and clear that they are ready for leadership that will act boldly on climate change, that will fight for an economy that empowers all Tucsonans with opportunity, and that will promote a good quality of life and thriving neighborhoods in every corner of our city,” Romero said in an email to her supporters shortly after the results were released.

“Almost a year ago when we kicked off our campaign, we set out to create a people-powered movement that represents everyone – dreamers, immigrants, environmentalists, workers, unions, educators, business owners, and women’s empowerment and LGBTQ communities,” Romero said.

Proposition 205 proponent, Zaira Livier, disagreed that Romero represented immigrants, undocumented individuals in the community and supporters of the embattled petition-initiative otherwise known as the ‘sanctuary city’ ordinance. The proposition only garnered 23,562 out of 82,382 qualifying votes after facing legal challenges and the vocal opposition of numerous city officials, including Romero.

Zaira Livier, executive director of People’s Defense Initiative, proponents of ‘Tucson Families Free and Together’

“We are the luckiest people to have the honor in 2019 to take a stand when our elected officials and the most highest and mightiest progressives, as they call themselves in the city, failed each and every one of us,” Livier said to supporters who gathered at St. Charles Tavern in South Tucson.

“We started, and I promise we’ve never lied to you, we sat around the table and we said we’re making and we’re starting a campaign of truth, of truth-telling.

“There is nothing wrong with protecting people that are undocumented. There is nothing wrong with saying that Tucson Police Department shall not be racially profiling our community members or handing us over to Border Patrol or ICE for any reason whatsoever, and they do so, and they do so really often. Do not let them lie to you,” Livier said.

Some last-minute voters dropping off their ballots at El Pueblo Senior Center agreed with Livier, while others were sharply critical of Proposition 205.

“Hell no,” Scott Hollis said when asked if he voted for the petition initiative. “It’s pandering to [undocumented] immigrants and putting the local population at risk.”

Hollis said California sanctuary cities are the cause of this measure “bleeding over into our state.” He also said city officials’ perspectives on the initiative “were helpful” for him in determining which way to vote.

Alexandra Jimenez, who campaigned against SB1070 said, “The Tucson police force has no business acting as immigration enforcement.”

“Our law enforcement has enough on their plate,” Gabriel G. Cota-Robles said. He supported Proposition 205 because he wants to see an end to unchecked police harassment of people of color and detaining and deporting undocumented individuals, “I have seen families torn apart.”

“This is America, sanctuary is an un-American thing,” a voter who would not provide his name said.

Following in Romero’s Ward 1 footsteps, Democrat Lane Santa Cruz, a supporter of Proposition 205 received 48,518 votes to beat Republican Sam Nagy’s 31,550.

During the campaign Santa Cruz expressed a desire to push for policies that protect the cities vulnerable, including undocumented individuals. Some ideas she offered were a municipal identification card and more affordable public transportation.

On the other ballot measure, promulgated by the current city council, voters rejected pay raises for the 2020 mayor and council.