Mariano Rodriguez had already left the room by the time a group of ladies sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in his honor. The results were undeniable—he lost his race for City Council Ward 6.
“This has taught me a lot, and I’m not going to go away,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in the future.”
It may not seem surprising that a Republican, and Trump supporter to boot, would lose to Steve Kozachik, the only Democrat to unseat a sitting Democrat in as long as this Tucson Weekly
scribe can remember (although Kozachik was a Republican when he managed that feat).
It doesn’t take reading the tea leaves to figure out that Tucson is a liberal city. But what may surprise some, especially those of us surrounded by libs and Dems, is that Trump supporters do exist in Tucson, and many of them were at Las Margaritas Restaurant, Tuesday night, praying (yes, literally praying) that Rodriguez would win. That he would represent them in the
all-Democrat city council. That through him, their voices would be heard.
Rodriguez was not alone in starting the night off hopeful, with his message of ending bureaucratic waste and championing the people—not unlike Trump’s massage that won him the presidency (though not in Tucson).
Nadia Larsen says Rodriguez is her Tucson Trump—and she loves Trump. She was out at the Tucson Republican fiesta the night Trump won the presidency, looking stunning with her sharp features, cropped bleach-blond hair and sparkling smile. And she was here tonight, fawning over Rodrigues, taking selfies and posing for the press.
She became friends with Rodriguez after seeing an article about him in the Arizona Daily Star
, during the presidential race. “This Hispanic Tucsonan supports Trump,” the headline read. The article mentioned him catching a would-be thief trying to steal a Trump sign out of his yard. Larsen found his number and called him up.
“I had 20 signs,” she says. So what if she already had 55 stolen out of her yard. She had signs to share with Rodriguez. And now, she has signs in her yard for Rodriguez and Kelli Ward, Trump’s pick to fill Jeff Flake’s Senate seat in 2018.
“Mariano wants to get rid of corruption,” Larsen said. “He thinks of the people.”
Rodriguez lost with 33 percent of the vote. Green Party Candidate Mike Cease lost with 7 percent (Tucson ain’t that liberal), and Kozachik sailed to a win with 60 percent.
Everyone at the Republican hoedown is bummed—high hopes brought down to earth within a matter of minutes as the results rolled in.
David Eppihimer, the Republican Party county chair, wasn’t exactly sure Rodriguez would win. (Kozachik took a vow of poverty and played his guitar at dive bars as his campaign strategy. Does this guy have the pulse of Tucson, or what?) But Eppihimer had hoped for a closer race.
Backing Rodriguez was a focus of the local Republican Party, he said (before the results came in) and so was defeating Prop 204 Strong Start Tucson, the half-cent sales tax that would have raised $50 million a year to send kids to preschool. And there at least, Eppihimer can rest easy, as the proposition lost by 66 percent—also not surprising, considering it was opposed by a wide swath of local Dem leaders. I mean, if you can’t get Dems to support a bill for education, you’re pretty much screwed.
The Strong Start chair Penelope Jacks is sad the proposition lost, but “you live to fight another day,” she said. “It’s a bend in the road, not an end.”
She wants to see all those Dems who opposed the proposition to bring something to the table to address the problem of a lack of affordable early childhood education, something which study after study shows benefits children and families in numerous ways. Jacks wants to see Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Democratic city council “present a better way,” she says. She doesn’t want them to just hold a meeting but to bring a game plan to the table.
Jacks (at least partially) knew the proposition was done for when the Koch brothers became involved, she says.
“There’s absolutely no way to outspend the kind of money that was spent against us,” she said, mentioning Koch money, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and Jim Click. “There’s just no fighting it.”
So, Tucson wasn’t ready to spend a half-cent per dollar on a controversial bill for early childhood education, but they were ready to spend a tenth of a cent on the zoo—right? Both Prop 202 and 203 had to pass for the zoo to get the funding they’re hoping for. One passed by 52 percent and the other by 50 percent. It sounds like a win, but we’ll have to see what happens as ballots continue to get counted today.
And last but not least surprising, the City Council Ward 3 seat was run by Democrat (solar advocate, cyclist and, if you ask me, hippie-at-heart) Paul Durham, beating independant candidate Gary Watson with 60 percent of the vote.
Eppihimer thought Watson would win. “Any Republican who votes is gonna vote for Gary,” he said. “Durham is way too left wing, even for Tucson— and that’s saying something.”
Apparently not. Perhaps Eppihimer forgot that Tucson doesn’t have all that many Republicans to vote. And maybe that means he’s not all that different than the large swath of Tucson liberals, surrounding themselves with those who see the world the way they do.