There were no surprises in the final 506 votes for the March 9 Oro Valley Primary Election for Town Council in either the two- or four-year race since preliminary results reported last week.
In the race for two two-year council seats, pharmaceutical rep Conny Culver nosed out retired engineer Kenneth "KC" Carter and incumbent Dick Johnson with 24 percent of the vote. Both men received 22 percent of the vote, with Johnson only 16 votes behind Carter. Incumbent Bart Rochman placed fourth with 19 percent.
In the race for three four-year council seats, retired teacher Helen Dankwerth finished first with 17 percent of the vote; former planner and college administrator Barry Gillaspie came in a close second with 16 percent and Pima County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Terry Parish placed third with 14 percent. Retired art director Richard "Richy" Feinberg received 12 percent. In fifth and sixth place were local realtors Lyra Done with 10 percent and Don Cox with 9 percent.
The 10 candidates all advance to the May 18 general election.
In an election season dominated by concern over development and growth in Oro Valley, front-runners Carter, Culver, Dankwerth and Gillaspie ran on controlled-growth platforms.
Of his primary win in the two-year race, "I'm happy to be number two," Carter said. "It's a positive indicator that the voters want a new direction for the entire town."
A five-seat election became necessary after the council approved expansion from five to seven members last September. Mayor Paul Loomis and Councilmember Paula Abbott are each serving two more years of a four-year term.
The primary race knocked out four of 14 original candidates - Steve Conrad lost the two-year race with just over 13 percent of the vote, four-year candidates Mark Ellis and Al Kunisch lost with 8 percent each and Jon Robson with less than 5 percent.
When ballots were broken down by voting area, two-year candidates Culver and Carter did well across the board, with 20 to 30 percent of the vote, except in the Tangerine/La Canada/La Cholla area, east Rancho Vistoso and Sun City, where Johnson and Rochman dominated. Johnson led with 28 percent of the vote in the Naranja Drive/First Avenue area.
Four-year candidates Dankwerth and Gillaspie led most voting areas, with Parish strong at Magee and Oracle roads and south Rancho Vistoso; Feinberg received 22 percent in his home territory, Palisades.
"I'm really happy with the results because I'm in the running and it appears to me there's a great deal of support for change - support for lower density, lower impact on the environment, quality of life and preserving resources," Feinberg said. "This has been what I've been in support of and worked for since I moved to Oro Valley nine years ago."
With a 34.6 percent turnout, or 6,942 of 20,037 registered voters sending in their ballots, this year's primary turnout was better than in 2000, when only 24 percent voted, but less than the 42 percent turnout in the 2002 primary. Only 31 percent of voters went to the polls in the 2000 general election, compared to 38 percent in 2002 general election who voted by mail-in ballot.
Johnson called the low voter turnout "abhorrent" and vowed to work hard to get citizens out to the polls in May. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I'll continue to work on behalf of the citizens of Oro Valley," he said. He accused Bill Adler and OVCandidates2004 of spreading "misinformation and innuendo," a complaint echoed by Ellis, who thought the group's newspaper ads influenced election results.
Adler denied that the ads, some featuring a big "X" over the campaign signs of incumbents Johnson and Rochman and by association, Ellis, Kunisch, Cox and Done, constituted "negative" advertising.
"We disagree with their decisions - that's fair," Adler said. "We're not saying they're dishonest or that they're crooks. We don't believe that's where the campaign should be decided." The group also ran ads supporting Carter, Culver, Dankwerth, Gillaspie and Feinberg.
Despite his fourth-place showing, Rochman said he'll work for a win in May. "Looking back over the years, the primary election is not necessarily indicative of the final election results," he said. "It gives you a chance to look at strategies and decide what to do for the next phase. I'm going to keep the same positive approach - that's just my style. If people really looked at our accomplishments, I think they would say, 'Hey we want to keep (this council) going.'" He cited the opening of the new library and hospital, multi-use paths, reclaimed water and new parks as just a few examples.
Of ballots cast in last week's primary, 14 percent (998) voted for a single candidate in the two-year race and 35 percent (2,420) voted for fewer than three candidates in the four-year race. The under-votes probably represent "bullet voting" or one-shot voting to push forward certain candidates, said Brad Nelson, Pima County elections director. "You have a chance to vote for two but you decide to vote for one. It's perfectly legal," he said.
So far, money has influenced the race only marginally. As of Feb. 26, the deadline for political committee pre-primary election reports, two-year candidates Johnson and Rochman, who shared signs and other campaign costs, spent $3,436 and $2,030 respectively. Front-runner Culver spent only $793; Carter spent $938.
First-place four-year candidate Dankwerth, who vowed she would take no campaign contributions and is using her own money, outspent all her opponents with $3,979 reported in the same period. Parish spent $3,385 and Feinberg, $2,054. Second-place winner Gillaspie spent $1,290. Fifth- and sixth-place candidates Done and Cox spent $363 and $1,008 respectively.
"I'm certainly pleased I went as far as I did and I didn't spend any money to do it," said Done. "It's going to be interesting and I'm ready and forward we go."
Last-place finishers Kunisch and Conrad spent $545 and $338; neither Ellis nor Robson formed a political committee, required for contributions or expenditures over $500.
The independent expenditures committee OVCandidates2004 raised $7,868 and spent $5,751 to date, mostly on ads. A labor organization fund, the North Tucson Firefighters, raised $5,665 and gave $350 to Ellis and $300 to Parish and disbursed $3,500 to another independent expenditures committee, the Firefighters and Police Officers for Excellence in Government, which reported no activity to date.
Two additional financial reports are due before the May 18 general election: a Post-Primary report April 8 and a Pre-General election report May 6. A Post-General election report is due after the election by June 17.
Johnson, who received the most votes (57.6 percent) in the 2000 general election after a fifth-place finish in the primary, spent $2,475 in the pre-primary period but $18,343 by the end of that campaign. For the last reporting period leading up to that election, Johnson raised $8,182. Of that amount, $5,334 came from the development community, including Vestar Development Co., Beztak Companies and Vistoso Partners, leading Johnson's opponents to charge that he was too closely allied with developers, a charge he denied. Rochman did not form a political committee in 2000.
Done, beaten by Abbott in 2002, spent almost $3,000 in the pre-primary period that year; that figure jumped to $8,355 by the end of the campaign. At least $5,535 of that amount was contributed by her fellow realtors and the development community, including Vistoso Partners and Diamond Ventures.
In contrast, Loomis spent $1,978 and Abbott $1,421 in their 2002 campaigns, largely from personal funds and individual contributions.
OV Council campaign finance
Oro Valley Town Council Candidates Campaign Finances as of Feb. 26, 2004.
Conny Culver; Votes: 2,910; Raised: $1,055; Spent: $793
Kenneth "KC' Carter; Votes: 2,656; Raised: $1,909; Spent: $938
Dick Johnson; Votes: 2,640; Raised: $5,765; Spent: $3,437
Bart Rochman; Votes: 2,264; Raised: $4,625; Spent: $2,030
Helen Dankwerth; Votes: 2,975; Raised: $4,658; Spent: $3,979
Barry Gillaspie; Votes: 2,767; Raised: $1,643; Spent: $1,290
Terry Parish; Votes: 2,483; Raised: $3,992; Spent: $3,385
Richard Feinberg; Votes: 2,156 ; Raised: $3,156; Spent: $2,054
Lyra Done; Votes: 1,808; Raised: $475; Spent: $363
Don Cox; Votes: 1,585; Raised: $1,500; Spent: $1,008
OVCandidates2004; Raised: $7,868; Spent: $5,751
North Tucson Firefighters; Raised: $5,665; Spent: $4,150
Firefighters & Police Officers for Excellence in Government; Raised: $5,065 ; Spent: $0