With all the votes counted in Pima County, Democrat Rex Scott has won the District 1 seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors by a mere 730 votes.
The district, representing Marana, Casa Adobes, Oro Valley, and the Catalina Foothills, has reliably voted for Republicans in recent decades but with an open seat up for grabs, the voters supported the Democratic candidate over GOP nominee Steve Spain, who had the endorsement of retiring incumbent Republican Supervisor Ally Miller.
The Board of Supervisors is responsible for a wide range of public policy in the county. The five-member board represents each district, approves the county budget, sets health regulations such as the current mask mandate to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The board also oversees development issues such as rezoning and permitting and manages the county sewer system along with roads in unincorporated areas, among other responsibilities.
Scott began running for District 1 supervisor in September 2019, three months before current supervisor Ally Miller announced she wouldn’t seek another term.
The new District 1 supervisor has worked in public schools as both a teacher and administrator for 30 years and said he felt “a combination of honored and humbled” when he learned he won the race.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to represent people in a place that I know very well, and that has deep meaning for me, but I’m also very humbled because of the challenges that we're going to be taking on, especially dealing with the remainder of the pandemic and the recovery from it.”
Coronavirus recovery is Scott’s top priority when entering the office. As a supervisor, he says he’ll start by addressing “people who have suffered the most,” such as those struggling to make rent as coronavirus’ economic toll continues.
“There's some research by the UA that indicates that right around 75,000 people in Pima County have not been able to stay current with their rent payments during the pandemic, so that's going to put them at risk for eviction when the national moratorium on evictions expires at the end of December,” Scott said. “Unless that is extended by the federal government— they might extend it into 2021—but if they don't, that's something we're going to have to look at in terms of a local remedy to that issue.”
Scott also mentioned how the outbreak has hammered small businesses.
“We need to do a lot of outreach and a lot of listening to individuals and organizations within the community to find out how we can best help individuals and different groups of people recover from the pandemic,” he said.
The new supervisor warned that if Congress fails to pass a coronavirus relief bill that addresses lost revenue for local governments, Pima County may be in trouble.
“Less than 40% of the money that funds the general fund comes from local property taxes, the rest of it comes from mostly state shared revenues. If there is not a coronavirus relief bill...that's going to have an impact not just on the state of Arizona, but all 15 of the counties, cities, towns and school districts,” Scott said. “That budgetary impact, which we don't know its extent or whether it's going to be a significant concern, is something that we're gonna have to be mindful of.”
As coronavirus cases continue to increase both state and countywide, Scott says the board of supervisors should rely on guidance from public health experts, and that he’s “100% in support of the local mask ordinance.”
The new supervisor led his opponent Steve Spain by only 730 votes in a largely purple district with 3,193 more registered Republicans than Democrats. Aware of the political landscape of his new constituency, Scott says he will lead the office without partisanship.
“It seems to be that with regard to District 1, especially given the narrow extent of our win in this race, I need to demonstrate to everybody within the district that I am open minded, approachable and willing to listen to all our constituents before I'm making decisions,” Scott said. “With regard to my colleagues, if we keep the focus on service and results, and recognize that each of us represents a different district... but all of us are working on behalf of the entire county, if we keep the focus on service and results, then we're less likely to get bogged down in personal or partisan issues, which detract from the work that needs to be done.”
As he takes over former District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller’s position, Scott says while he admires her “reputation for getting into the details of policy,” he will take on the office in a more equitable manner.
“Where I would like to improve on what people have seen out of the District 1 office, is the level of responsiveness and open-mindedness to everybody within the district, not just people who agree with me politically,” said Scott, who served as a Republican on the Athens, Ohio, City Council in his 20s. “I don't think that's something that you've been able to say about the District 1 office for the last 8 years.”
When he officially assumes the role of District 1 supervisor in January, Scott hopes those who voted him into office—as well as those who didn’t—ensure he lives up to the promises he made on the campaign.
“Hold me accountable for what I said, how I said I was going to conduct myself. Public officials have to be accountable to the people they are representing,” Scott said. “I want people to know that I take very seriously my responsibility to be open-minded and responsive to everybody, and I expect to be held accountable for that by everybody, regardless of whether or not they voted for me.”