Election: Sellers surprises, school boards change The Chandler Arizonan

Election: Sellers surprises, school boards change

November 15th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Election: Sellers surprises, school boards change
City News
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By Paul Maryniak, Arizonan Executive Editor

Within days of the General Election, the much-vaunted “blue wave” in Arizona pretty much became a trickle for down-ticket races.

But that doesn’t mean Election 2020 didn’t come without any stunning turn of events.

Nothing was more surprising than an apparent last-minute win by former Chandler City Council member Jack Sellers, who pulled out a victory in his quest for a full term in the county supervisor seat he was appointed to in January 2019.

With only about 1,000 votes to count county-wide on Friday, Sellers in the latest unofficial results apparently defeated Democratic challenger Jevin Hodge by 407 votes after trailing him on Election Night and two days afterward.

Hodge had even declared victory two days after the election but each subsequent day’s results steadily chipped away at his lead in County District 1, where registered Republicans have more than a 20,000-vote edge over Democrats.

A bit less dramatic is the change to the composition of two school district governing boards impacting northern Chandler as voters returned one incumbent and two newcomers to each entity, according to unofficial results.

In the Tempe Union race, while Governing Board President Berdetta Hodge led the field of eight candidates seeking three open seats, two-term member Sandy Lowe fell to 2019 Desert Vista High School graduate Armando Montero and Chandler teacher Sarah Lindsay James. Nintero and James have taken second and third place, respectively, according to unofficial results.

Chandler Realtor Lori Bastian was 1,209 votes behind James and with fewer than 1,000 votes to count in Maricopa County as of Friday, it appeared likely she  will not overtake James.

In Kyrene, incumbent Kyrene Governing Board member Michelle Fahy led the five educators seeking three board seats while Tempe biology professor Margaret Wright locked in second place.

For a while, a nip-and-tuck battle for third place pitted Ahwatukee residents Trine Nelson and Wanda Kolomyjec against each other. But Kolomyjec appeared have won by 446 votes in an election where 96,053 ballots were counted so far district-wide.

No surprises are likely in the Chandler Unified Governing Board race, where incumbent Barbara Mozdzen led the three candidates on the ballot for three seats with 34 percent of the vote. Newcomers Joel Wirth and Jason Olive garnered 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

It was unknown how many votes former CUSD teacher Sharon Tuttle received in her write-in campaign because the Recorder’s Office published no results.

For the most part, the outcome of races below that of U.S. Senator and the President, told a story of Democratic hopes dashed.

One by one, outcomes for county races – which looked initially like a near sweep for Democrats – turned red.

By Monday, the only race that still eluded Republicans, who have had a 4-1 advantage on the county Board of Supervisors,  involved the District 1.

It seemed a blue certainty until results  abruptly U-turned Saturday.

In that race, Hodge, the son of the victorious Tempe Union board president, suddenly saw his lead over Sellers shrink to less than 1,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Legislative District 18, which includes northern Chandler remained firmly blue.

Sen. Sean Bowie and Reps Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine easily beat Republican challengers, holding strong leads from the first release of results Election Night.

Bowie handily defeated Ahwatukee Realtor Suzanne Sharer 58-42 percent with a margin of nearly 21,000 votes.

Reps. Jennifer Jermaine of Chandler and Mitzi Epstein of Tempe coasted as well with 29 percent and 28 percent of the vote, respectively. They led former legislator and ex-Chandler Cioty Council member Bob Robson’s 23 percent and Tempe federal government retiree Don Hawker’s 20 percent.

But when the new session begins in January, it will be deja vu all over again for the three LD18 Democrats as both chambers remain under Republican control.

House Republicans, who reelected Mesa Rep. Rusty Bowers House Speaker two days after Election Day, hold a two-seat edge over Democrats while the Senate GOP holds a one-seat margin.

Democrats had hoped to gain at least one Senate seat, eyeing adjacent LD 17, by unseating incumbent Sen. J.D. Mesnard and installing furniture store owner Ajlan AJ Kurdoglu.

More than $3 million was spent in the LD 17 races – the most among all Arizona legislative races – and more than half of that was spent in the Senate campaign alone.

But when the counting was almost over, all three incumbents won.

Mesnard scored a wider margin, 52-48 percent, than he did when he won his first Senate election two years ago after he was termed out in the House after eight years.

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, the lone Democrat vying with Rep. Jeff Weninger and Chandler Realtor Liz Harris for the two LD17 House seats led all three candidates with 34 percent of the vote, while three-term Weninger edged out newcomer Harris.

One thing that dramatically changed for Arizona is that effective Nov. 30, possessing and selling recreational marijuana will be legal – although the state does not expect to have regulations for stores in place until April.

And in a campaign where advocates and opponents each spent more than $16 million, Prop 208 passed by a margin of 52-48 percent, promising an income tax surcharge on individuals making more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $400,000 annually.

Money from that tax is earmarked for public education, but is not expected to start hitting school districts’ coffers until December 2021 at the earliest.

In Tempe Union, Montero, an Arizona State University sophomore, can be expected to bring a student’s perspective to that board – a promise he made during a campaign.

He won second place in the district board election with 15 percent of the vote – about 1,700 votes less than Hodge received.

Also the Tempe Union race, Kyrene Governing Board President Myrick drew the least number of the 158,264 votes counted so far with only 9 percent.

Lowe caught only 10 percent of the vote in a failed bid for a third term. She suggested that it may have been because hers was the only name that neither major party featured on their slates in the nonpartisan election.

Also out of the running early were Tempe teacher Paige Reesor and Ahwatukee lawyer Don Fletcher, with 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Fahy, a long-time educator who holds an administrative position in Tempe Union, will become the senior member of that board since Margaret Pratt and Kevin Walsh won their four-year terms in 2018.

Fahy, a Tempe resident, captured 23 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results, while Ivan Alfaro of Tempe drew the short straw among voters with only 16 percent. Wright received 21 percent.

Both Wright and Kolomyjec also are educators, meaning that with Fahy, the Kyrene board will have considerable expertise in education-related issues as it begins to work with a new superintendent since Dr. Jan Vesely is retiring next month.

Also due for some change is the governing board for the Maricopa County Community College District.

Dr. Linda Thor racked up a 63-37 percent victory over Queen Creek resident Shelli Boggs for a four-year term on the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board.

Republican Laurin Hendrix of Gilbert lost his bid for another term on that board to ASU Foundation Vice President Jacqueline Smith scored a 55-45 percent win with a margin of more than 35,000 votes.

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