South County will remain in firm control of the Gila County Board of Supervisors, with the surprising third-place finish of Ronnie McDaniel for a four-year seat on the board.
A former judge, law enforcement officer and Star Valley resident, McDaniel placed third in a race that hinged on low turnout in the north. The vote split geographically, but Globe’s turnout was more than double Payson's.
No Republicans ran for the District 3 supervisorial seat, so the position will likely go to Globe businessman John Marcanti of Globe. Marcanti won 512 votes or 37 percent; Marvin Mull Jr. of San Carlos, had 481 ballots cast for him (35 percent); and McDaniel had 384 or 28 percent of the vote.
However, challenged provisional ballots may yet decide the election, including many from the San Carlos Apache Reservation where Mull enjoyed overwhelming support.
Residents of the San Carlos Reservation pay no property taxes to the county, but provide a crucial swing vote. The federal redistricting rules protecting the voting rights of minorities ensured the reservation would remain in a single district.
Mull could overtake Marcanti when the provisional ballots are tallied. However, McDaniel seems to have little chance of winning in a race that will decide the political balance on the board of supervisors. The popular, well-financed McDaniel had hoped to take advantage of redrawn district lines to break Globe’s long political monopoly on county policy and spending. Low turnout in the north doomed that effort.
McDaniel might also have suffered from an electoral quirk that allows Independents to vote in either primary — but not to pick and choose the races. Independents comprise a growing block of voters, amounting to nearly one-third in North County. Many of those Independents in North County had to choose between voting for candidates in the Republican contests for sheriff, Congress and county attorney or opt for a Democratic ballot on which McDaniel’s race provided most of the interest.
About 70 percent of the taxes the county collects come from Northern Gila County, which also includes a majority of the residents. However, the county officers and the great bulk of county spending remains centered on Globe.
“It came down to a pretty close race,” Marcanti told the Roundup. With only 31 votes separating him and Mull, he said he didn’t know if that would mean a recount.
McDaniel spent most of Tuesday night at the county offices watching results come in and reflected on the surprising loss on Wednesday.
“I hate to lose, but I have to say I’m the one responsible for my loss,” McDaniel said.
“I should have made sure people voted that day. It was a good, clean race. Again, I hate to lose, but that’s politics.”
McDaniel said he is going back to his retirement and take a rest. He said he didn’t have any other plans for now.
Although he was behind in the polls late on Tuesday, a quirk in the vote counting gave him hope. Due to a mistake at the Payson 2 polling place, some of the voting equipment was locked in the back room of a church overnight. Supporters hoped that would make a difference on Wednesday morning. The ballots were not locked up and were counted by midnight Tuesday. However, although the precinct’s voters gave him lopsided support — the turnout for the precinct fell below 10 percent and didn’t make much difference in the Wednesday morning total.
That abysmal turnout in the north played a decisive role in the outcome. In McDaniel’s race, the three North County precincts that supported him by a roughly four-to-one margin had a turnout of only about 12 percent. Marcanti compiled similar margins in the Globe precincts, except turnout there averaged closer to 25 percent.
The Globe area precincts in the district had about 1,900 voters — almost exactly matching the voters in the Payson end of the precinct. The San Carlos Reservation has about 3,000 voters in the district. Mull, a tribal member, won overwhelming support on the reservation. Turnout on the reservation among Democrats and Independents topped 17 percent, well below Globe, but much better than Payson.
“I think we’ll do all right,” Marcanti said. He said he felt his support from the steel workers in Hayden-Winkelman was important to his apparent victory, as was that from the Globe precinct he represented when on the Globe City Council. Marcanti believes that his stress on economic development also played a role in the number of votes he received.
He said he would like to thank the voters and all the people who helped him in the primary race.
The biggest block of votes for Marcanti, 215 (unofficially), came from the Globe 1 and Copper Basin precincts in Southern Gila County. Most of Mull’s support came from the San Carlos precinct, where he picked up 323 votes. The most votes for McDaniel from a single precinct were 125 from the Star Valley district.
In the Republican primary in Supervisorial District 2, Dave Cook took 58 percent of the vote. He’ll now face incumbent Democrat Mike Pastor. The Globe-based district also reaches up into the Tonto Basin. Cook’s 893 votes gave him a decisive win over Tim Humphrey, whose 639 votes gave him 42 percent of the total cast.
Humphrey said that considering the little money and little time he had to spend, he thought he did really well.
“It was a good, clean race. I was surprised there were so few voters at the polls,” he said and added he wanted to thank his supporters and those who donated.
Attempts to contact Mull and Cook by press time were unsuccessful.
Neither District 1 Supervisor Tommie Martin (R) or Pastor (D) had primary challengers. Martin received 2,390 votes and Pastor earned 1,518 votes.
Martin now faces Independent Halle Jackman of Payson in the general election.
Martin said she is waiting to see what the formal canvass of the primary votes show. The canvass will take place at the 10 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting of the Gila County Board of Supervisors.
“The question I have been asked most often today has been about District 3. It was redesigned to be a rocker district, balancing out the solid north district and the solid south district. Three good candidates were put up, each representing a different constituency — the north constituency; the south constituency; and the reservation constituency.
“It’s been an interesting year all the way around in politics,” Martin said.
Only 10,393 out of Gila County’s 31,615 registered voters participated in the Aug. 28 primary, a 32.87 percent voter turnout.