Mayoral Candidate Rothschild 617x347

Photo: AZPM

Democrat Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson's mayor-elect.

By CHRISTOPHER CONOVER and ANDREA KELLY Arizona Public Media

Tucson Democrats were near a sweep of the mayoral and three City Council seats in Tuesday's election, with Jonathan Rothschild leading the way.

Rothschild will succeed Republican Bob Walkup as mayor, after winning 54.9 percent of the vote over Republican Rick Grinnell in the first election results released Tuesday night.

Democrats Regina Romero and Paul Cunningham locked up their council seats with decisive wins. The only race still pending was that of four-term incumbent Democrat Shirley Scott, who held a lead of less than 2,000 votes over Republican Tyler Vogt. The city clerk's office said there were 8,400 ballots left to be counted, and that it expects to finish the count by the end of the day Thursday.

Rothschild, a lawyer who says he has been preparing to run for and serve as Tucson's mayor for several years, reclaimed the seat for the Democrats after Walkup's 12-year tenure.

He will take office in the first week of December, but said he planned to be at City Hall on Wednesday to meet with Walkup and interim City Manager Richard Miranda. Rothschild said another priority will be hiring a staff.

Grinnell, who got on the general election ballot as a primary campaign write-in after two other GOP candidates were disqualified, had 40.1 percent. Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp had 4.8 percent.

Rothschild's win comes on the strength of Democratic voter registration in Tucson. Democrats make up the largest voting bloc, 44 percent of registered voters. Republicans make up about 25 percent, and independents about 31 percent.

Throughout the campaign, Rothschild out-raised Grinnell, campaign finance reports show. Rothschild ran a privately financed campaign, raising $289,307 as of the last campaign finance reports in October. Grinnell ran as a publicly funded candidate, accepting city funds to match his own fund raising, for a total income of $217,338.

Rothschild, a lawyer, was unchallenged in his party primary and began his campaign early this year. He has promised to make it easier for private entities to do business and create jobs in Tucson.

The campaign focused heavily on Rio Nuevo. Rothschild targeted Grinnell in mailers, pointing out his recent vote to sue the city for $47 million. Grinnell, in turn, spent his advertising dollars attempting to associate Rothschild with the Rio Nuevo district's perceived failures by linking him to the incumbent Democrats on the council.

The closest city council contest was for the southeast side Ward Four seat. Scott was leading Vogt with 51.1 percent to Vogt's 48.7 percent.

Vogt spent money on TV commercials in which he said the city needs a change after Scott's 16 years in office. Like Grinnell did in the mayor's race, Vogt linked Scott to Rio Nuevo. Scott said Vogt practiced dirty campaign tactics in those ads, including his use of city ward email lists for his campaign.

In Ward One, one-term incumbent Romero easily defeated Green Beryl Baker. Romero had 64.7 percent to Baker's 34.0 percent.

Neither candidate ran a high-profile general election campaign for the west side council seat. Romero defeated Democrat Joe Flores in the primary, with 76 percent of the votes, while Baker qualified for the general election ballot as a write-in candidate in the primary.

Cunningham won his first full term on the council, beating Republican Jennifer Rawson with 56.8 percent of the vote to Rawson's 43.0 percent. Cunningham was appointed to fill the vacant seat in the council's northeast side Ward Two in spring of 2010. This is his first elected office.

Both candidates spent money on television advertising. Cunningham's commercials focused on introducing him to voters, while Rawson's ads targeted his budget votes, and tried to link him to former city manager Mike Letcher. The council unanimously voted to fire Letcher in September, in the midst of the election cycle.

The city has more ballots to count, many of which were dropped off at seven poling locations Tuesday. The Pima County Recorder's office is verifying the signatures of the ballots cast on election day, and the city clerk's office expects to finish counting those votes this week.