Independents On A Roll In Gila County

Registration totals show surge of Independents and Republicans gain and Democrats dwindle

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Each year, Gila County gets a little more Republican and a lot more Independent, according to the latest voter registration figures.

On the other hand, the number of registered Democrats continues to dwindle.

The number of registered Independents (“other”) in the county went from 7,041 in 2010 to 8,138 in June of 2010. That’s a 16 percent increase — at a time when the county’s overall population probably declined.

The Republican registration went from 11,143 to 11,785 — a roughly 6 percent increase.

The Democratic registration went from 11,800 to 11,319 — a decrease of about 4 percent.

The handful of folks registered with the Green Party increased slightly to 27 and the number of people registered as Libertarians went from 152 to 158 in the two years since the last election.

As a result, the two major parties remain in a virtual dead heat when it comes to registration, giving the Independents the role as election tiebreakers.

However, generally Republicans enjoy a pronounced advantage in northern Gila County, with many retirees and few minority voters.

On the other hand, Democrats enjoy an equally decisive advantage in southern Gila County, with its mix of Hispanic, Apache Reservation and working class people from the mining districts — all a potent source of Democratic strength.

That helps account for the dismemberment of Gila County in the most recent round of redistricting.

The map drawers split Gila County up in both the congressional district and the state legislative districts, in both cases largely as the result of federal election laws seeking to protect the clout and cohesion of minority communities. The presence of the large San Carlos Apache Reservation in southern Gila County proved decisive for the line-drawing efforts of the Independent Redistricting Commission.

When it came to the congressional district lines, northern Gila County ended up in District 4 dominated by the cities along the Colorado River, but also including Prescott and the Verde Valley. This created a safe Republican seat, where the primaries will usually decide the election.

However, southern Gila County remained in the old First Congressional District, which enabled the map drawers to create a sprawling district with a large Native American population — since it includes the Apache, Navajo and Hopi reservations. That’s now a virtual toss-up district in which Flagstaff remains the largest city.

The registration report shows an overwhelming Republican advantage in the Gila County portion of Congressional District 4, which consists entirely of northern Gila County. The numbers show 3,722 Democrats, 8,917 Republicans and 4,835 “other” — mostly Independents.

Contrast that to the Gila County portion of Congressional District 1, which includes most of south county. In that case, the numbers show 7,597 Democrats, 2,868 Republicans and 3,303 Independents.

When it comes to the legislative districts, Gila County got parceled out mostly between two districts. Northern Gila County ended up in a district that includes the Verde Valley and Flagstaff. The district leans Republican, but either party has a fighting chance. Southern Gila County ended up as the southern anchor for a district that goes north to the Colorado border and includes the whole northeastern corner of the state. It is also designed to unite the Apache, Navajo and Apache reservations.

The portions of northern Gila County included in that district include 3,787 Democrats, 9,008 Republicans and 4,889 Independents.

On the other hand, the southern Gila County territory included in state Legislative District 7 includes 2,258 Democrats, 219 Republicans and 935 Independents.

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