Pima County went from three to five county supervisors in 1972. Those original five districts have expanded and contracted following the population into different areas.
County supervisors represent a specific district, are partisan officials, and are allowed to re-district themselves and fill their own vacancies. I haven’t moved since 1973 and have been in three different districts. Even with this ability to “gerrymander,” they’ve had a casualty rate rivaling that sustained during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.
The five chosen in 1972 were Democrats Ron Asta in District One, Jim Murphy in District Two, E.S. “Bud” Walker in District Three, Republican Conrad Joyner in District Four, and Democrat Joe Castillo in District Five. That was the only time Democrats had a four to one advantage.
In 1974, Murphy resigned to become a deputy county manager and was replaced by State Sen. Sam Lena, a fellow Democrat. Arizona law mandates that vacancies in partisan elected office be filled from the party of the winner.
In 1976 two became casualties. Asta was beaten by Republican Katy Dusenberry in the general election and Castillo by David Yetman in his own primary. Walker barely survived a primary challenge. There were no changes in 1980, with Walker again squeaking by, but 1984 saw three of the five incumbents knocked over in their own primaries. Dusenberry lost to Iris Dewhirst, Walker to Ed Moore, and Reg Morrison replaced new appointee Pat Lopez, chosen to replace Joyner, who was removed after a lengthy court fight for violating the state “resign to run” law by seeking the Congressional seat ultimately filled by Jim Kolbe.
The 1988 election saw Dewhirst lose to State Sen. Greg Lunn, newly appointed Dan Eckstrom keeping Sam Lena’s seat, Moore barely surviving challenges in both primary and general, Morrison fighting back a stiff challenge in his primary, and Raul Grijalva winning the retiring Yetman’s position. Then came the first — and last — Republican majority.
Moore switched registration and again barely survived challenges in 1992. Morrison lost his primary to Paul Marsh, and Lunn was replaced by then-County Recorder Mike Boyd. Eckstrom and Grijalva were easily re-elected, but to minority status which switched back after their next election in 2000. Boyd was narrowly re-nominated in 1996, Marsh lost his primary to John Even, and Moore, now an independent, was crushed by both Republican Vicki Cox Golder and the ultimate winner, Democrat Sharon Bronson.
Bronson had two close calls in 2000 in both her primary and general races. John Even passed away in 1997 and was replaced by Ray Carroll, who won election in a 1998 special election and has had no opponent since. Boyd chose not to run in 2000 and was replaced by Ann Day, and Eckstrom and Grijalva were again re-elected. Grijalva resigned in 2002 to successfully run for Congress, and was replaced by Richard Elias, who hung on to the seat after a close race in his own primary, and State Sen. Ramon Valadez was appointed to replace Eckstrom in 2003. The year 2004 was the only year in which none of the supervisors had any opposition.
This year, Day, Valadez and Bronson all face primary challenges from Joe Higgins, Robert Robuck and Donna Branch-Gilby, respectively. The winner of the Bronson-Branch-Gilby race will meet Republican Barney Brenner.
There have been 23 people elected or appointed to the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Nine were defeated trying to remain, five retired, two resigned, one died, and one was removed. Five are still there. That’s 50 percent suffering the political equivalent of killed in action.
That’s also one more reason why you don’t really need term limits.