By all indications, it seems as though the Oro Valley town council will have three new councilmembers in November after challenging candidates Bill Rodman, Rhonda Pina and Steve Solomon swept incumbent councilmembers Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner in last week’s primary election.
Since first announcing their candidacies earlier this year and campaigning through the summer, six candidates left their fate in the hands—and votes—of their fellow Oro Valley residents.
One of the primary points of contention throughout the community was the 2014 decision by town council to acquire the former Hilton El Conquistador Country Club and associated amenities to establish the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center. The three incumbent candidates were opposed to the purchase at the time, often citing the cost of running the golf courses as a key sticking point.
Golf remained in the limelight throughout 2015 when the four members of council who voted for the acquisition—Mayor Satish Hiremath, vice mayor Lou Waters and councilmembers Joe Hornat and Mary Snider—survived a recall election.
Seen by some as an extension of last year’s recall, this year’s council election allowed Burns, Garner and Zinkin to continue their criticism of the acquisition and, in particular, the greater-than-expected losses on the town’s golf course operations.
Each of the three challenging candidates stood against the incumbents on several topics,
though the golf course and community center remained a focal point for this year’s election.
At the most recent count available at the Explorer’s deadline, Pina was leading the count at 5,928 votes. Solomon was at 5,828 and Rodman was at 5,322.
Meanwhile, were Garner had 4,325 votes, Zinkin had 4,167 votes and and Burns had 3,944 votes.
“Certainly I am happy, and I am happy for Rhonda and Steve,” Rodman said. “I think that we ran the campaign that we wanted to run—the three of us. I think we tried to stay on the issues and tried to be the kind of candidates that help to heal the division on the council and hope to heal the division within the town.”
Solomon said he was “very pleased and very grateful to the people that helped. We worked really hard to try and get the truth out to the residents of the town. There has been a lot of misinformation and it was hard to overcome it and I think the voters started to pay attention to the facts and voted accordingly.”
Pina said that out of respect until all of the candidates, she did not want to declare victory until the race is officially called.
“I am excited to have the vote of confidence, it’s gratifying but I would like to wait until we have the votes certified,” she said. “I appreciate the support, it has been a big team effort and I can say I am honored to have been a part.”
Zinkin said he was surprised by his loss, as well as the challengers’ margin of victory.
“I cannot say enough about my supporters,” Zinkin said via email. “They were there with donations, passion, energy and a belief that we—Oro Valley—can do better.”
Zinkin said he plans to take a short vacation sometime in September to “get the heck away from the phone and emails.”
Garner, the town’s longest serving member of council, said that he wanted to “thank my many supporters who have not only helped with this campaign but also over the eight years while serving as Town Council member.”
Garner said that he would be issuing further statements once the final results have been tabulated by Pima County.
Councilmember Burns did not respond for comment as of deadline.
For a full breakdown of the primary votes as updates posted last week, click here for that story.